Learning another language is hard. And one of the hardest things, in our opinion, can be finding the right vocabulary and phrases for when you are doing different things. That is why we are slowly putting together mini-guides for “easy Spanish” targeted at specific situations. So far you can find Easy Spanish for Traveling and Easy Spanish for Restaurants. We have also shared our favorite places to shop for different types of food and budgets in this article. And, as we think that food is an important way to integrate yourself into the community and culture around you, today we would like to talk about some words and phrases that might come in handy while shopping at a supermarket.
This article is based on the main sections you will find at a Mercadona, one of the most common supermarkets that you will find across Spain. However, the words and phrases you learn here can help with whatever food shopping you are doing, regardless of the shop. So, let’s look at some sections you will find at your local supermarket:
This section of the grocery store is dedicated to selling fruits and vegetables. Oftentimes, we will buy our fruits and vegetables at a local (small) shop, but the same terms apply. You will often pay for things by kilo (2.2 pounds) unless otherwise specified—either by piece or in prepackaged amounts.
Pro-Tip: In many larger supermarkets, you will have to weigh your veggies with a scale provided and use the barcode that is printed at checkout!
las frutas: the fruits
las verduras: the vegetables
This section of your grocery store, which may also be known as horno or oven, is where you will find bakery goods. Again, although it is common to buy these items at a larger supermarket, it would not be unusual in Spain to buy your bread or other baked goods at a specialty shop. While we have shared a short list here, you will probably find many other types of bread as well depending on where you are shopping and what the clientele base is! Some things you will find in this section include:
panecillo: little bread
pan de molde: sandwich bread
pan integral: whole wheat bread
pan de semillas: bread with seeds
napolitana: any flakey pastry filled with something (either sweet or savory)
tarta de manzana: apple tart
La carnicería y charcutería:
The carnicería and charcutería are the sections where you will be able to find fresh and cured meats at your local grocery store. However, you will also be able to find small stores that only sell meat and accompaniments around town as well. Either way, the vocabulary below will be useful for you. Again, depending on the store you are at, you will be able to find many other types of meats. These are the basics:
ternera (y buey): beef (and ox)
carne picada: ground meat (usually whatever type of animal(s) indicated on the package)
chorizo: Spanish chorizo
jamón curado: Spanish ham (see our introduction here)
jamón cocido: lunch meat ham
lonchas de pavo: lunch meat turkey
This section of the supermarket is where you will find fish and other seafood. You will also be able to find individual stores around you city called pescaderías. Either way, you will probably find that you will purchase your seafood products by the kilo and, although they appear otherwise, you can always ask to have it cleaned. You will probably find lots of other types of fish at your local store. The in-depth specifications, however, are enough for another day!
Lácteos and Quesería:
In the section of lácteos you will find all your milk products—except for the cheeses which you will find in the quesaría.
Pro-Tip: In many places you will not find fresh milk but milk that is outside of refrigerators. This is because in Spain they use Ultra High-Temperature Pasteurization (or UHT) which allows them to keep their milk at room temperature until opened.
leche entera: whole milk
leche semidesnatada: semi-skinned milk
leche desnatada: skim milk
queso: cheese (check out our beginner’s guide to Spanish cheese for more)
sin lactosa: without lactose
Other things you might be looking for include:
arroz integral: brown rice
aceite de oliva: olive oil (read our introductory post here)
copos de avena: oats
cafe molido: ground coffee
cafe soluble: instant coffee
patatas fritas: potato chips
pimienta: black pepper
cominos (molido): (ground) cumin
pimentón rojo dulce: paprika (sweet)
pimentón rojo picante: paprika (spicy)
This section of the grocery store means perfume shop but this is the place where you will find all your toiletries. We have a whole post on what you should bring to Spain and what you should buy here, but just in case, here is some basic vocabulary to know:
protector solar: sun screen
toallitas de maquillaje: make-up wipes
base de maquillaje: foundation
lavado de cara: face wash
delineador de ojos: eyeliner
pasta dental/pasta de dientes: toothpaste
enjuague bucal: mouth wash
maquinilla de afeitar/cuchilla: razor
gel de baño: body wash
You should also know that most Mercadonas, like many other supermarkets in Spain, offer “servicio a domicilio” or house service. This means that they will be willing to pack up your groceries and deliver them to your home (for a price, of course). This is a great service if you want to do your shopping online from the comfort of your couch or you are looking to do a really big shop and don’t have any way to get it home.
Additionally, a new thing that Mercadona is trying out is “listo para comer” or a section where people can buy food that it (literally) “ready to eat.” We have never tried this service, but have heard good things—if you try it, let us know!
And there you have it, our basics for supermarket shopping! Let us know what you usually buy and if we are missing any vocabulary you think is key!