Where Can I Buy That? Food Edition
I know you've been wondering about the best places to shop. Let me start out by saying that cost-effective shopping in Spain (like anywhere) involves knowing the best places to buy specific products. While it’s a trial-and-error process, as well as a personal decision as to what matters most to you, these are some tried-and-true tips that we have discovered while living abroad in Spain to help you start out on your shopping adventures.
Shopping with Dani:
Mercadona for the Win
You can choose from among a variety of options when it comes to supermarkets—some of the most notable and widespread being Mercadona, Día, Coviran, Supersol, and Carrefour. I am personally a Mercadona kind of girl. I simply feel it has the best variety and quality-to-price ratio. Additionally, I am always happy with the generic store-brand products. Surprisingly, I actually miss the old Mercadona song that used to be played there every ten minutes. It was an obnoxious but comforting tune. (As you can see, I have been properly brainwashed by the chain and so my bias on this topic should be taken into consideration...but I stand by my words!)
Pro-Tip: While chains like Eroski and El Corte Inglés tend to be more like Sam’s Club and a department store, respectively, keep in mind that this convenience and availability of international products comes at a cost. You may find that it is totally worth it to get your hands on some Sriracha sauce or Old Spice Cologne but I advise you to buy your commonplace items at a different establishment.
Fruterías = Freshness
Although I am a loyal Mercadona shopper, there are very few fresh fruits and vegetables I buy at the supermarket. For the record, what makes my list as equivalent-quality are bananas and pre-packaged vegetables like salad mixes. Everything else I buy at the frutería. Why? Because fruterías are one-stop closer to the farm and the people who run them tend to be locals who buy directly from local (or at least Spanish) farmers. That means you’ll get fruit and veggies that are tastier and of higher quality, while supporting local commerce. Another plus is that traditional fruterías require you to interact with your frutero and order your purchases verbally—real-life Spanish practice with someone in your neighborhood who you can practice your small talk with!
Shopping with Claudia:
Try local markets!
Even though big supermarkets will have everything that you need, sometimes I like to buy local (like with fruterías) at local markets or at eco-stores. This is of personal preference, but I like to shop around and not buy all my stuff at the same store. At the same time, I like to buy local and organic when I can, so I have scouted out a few stores and markets in my city that allow me to buy the type of food I like while still keeping to a budget.
Pro-tip: Be willing to shop around for best prices and quality. Don’t expect that everywhere has the same stuff at local stores/stalls because they don’t!
Like I said, I don’t shop at one place only. I love that you can buy reasonably-priced organic products at the local Lidl...in addition to fresh pretzels (and the frozen ones at Aldi are delicious!). I also buy my frozen berries here because they are so much cheaper than anywhere else in the city. Because these stores are German-based, they carry products that cater to a different demographic than ‘normal’ Spanish stores and, therefore, I often find things I want there that I cannot find in other places.
Asian or Arabic stores for weird stuff (that I eat all the time)
I love to use soy sauce, sesame oil, or peanut butter on a regular basis, so don’t be surprised that I spend a lot of time at the funny-looking Asian or Arabic stores around the city stocking up on my normal-but-not-Spanish-normal staples. I also love Asian noodles, Indian spices, and stuffed grape-leaves. These are things I cannot find in ‘normal’ stores here, but are available all around the city.