Grocery Shopping (Fare la spesa)

Grocery Shopping (Fare la spesa)

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

While it’s nice to shop at a lot of little stores, sometimes I really just want to go to a supermarket. Buying stuff like toothpaste, butter and eggs can be done at the little stores but the prices tend, naturally, to be higher and you generally can’t buy everything in one place. There’s a little supermarket near Porta Saragozza but it’s pretty small, has limited choices and what seems to me lower quality. So I did a Google search to find something more substantial that’s not too far away. I found a Coop (the name of a supermarket chain here). It’s ¾ of a mile from my house with poor bus service so I took my little backpack and walked there and back. This is quite a large supermarket with all kinds of great stuff. They have packaged stuff of course but they also have a section with fresh bread, very fresh fish, a meat market, a cheese section, a gastonomia and a pretty good selection of wines. I forgot to take my camera but the place was very crowded at 10:00 am and it would have been difficult to take pictures anysay. I’ll go earlier next time and take some photos. While I was there I noticed some people were carrying around a little apparatus the size of a large cell phone and were scanning the bar codes on items before putting them in their shopping cart. I’m curious about how that system works when they get to checkout. Certainly in the U.S. many people would succumb to the temptation to scan, say a small can of tuna at $1 when they actually put a premium $4 jar of anchovies in their cart and generally I’d say that the Italians succumb more readily to such a temptation. I’ll ask someone how the system works.

There are a some difference between a supermarket in the states and one in Italy. The first thing that I noticed is that in addition to a bag for the produce there are dispensers for cheap plastic gloves that you are requested to wear when you handle the produce along with a container to deposit the gloves when you’re finished. The second is that you must weigh and label your produce. Each produce bin has a number. You go to a scale that has a touch screen, put the bag on the scale and enter the number of the produce. It prints a bar coded label that you then stick on the bag. Woe to anyone that arrives at the checkout counter with several people behind only to be told that “you idiot, you didn’t weigh and label your produce”. Actually they’re more polite than that but you get the picture. The final difference is that, yes, they do provide bags (plastic with handles) but charge about 25 cents (U.S.) for each one. You are required to bag your own groceries. That’s part of the reason that I knew to bring the backpack. So the items below were almost all bought at the Coop (note the box of shelf-stable milk). The strawberries and bread I bought at little stores on the way back. I think that I mentioned before that the strawberries are incredible but I doubt that they are as good at any supermarket.

There is an interesting side note that I discovered this morning when I made an omelet. The eggs were all individually stamped. This is only done with high quality eggs, but it is really amazing. The code identifies the country and comune (kind of like a county in the states), the actual farm where the chickens were raised, how the chickens were raised or fed (caged, allowed to run around inside a building, free range or organic) and the date that the eggs were laid. So my eggs were from Italian chickens,  uncaged but inside and  laid in the comune di Ferrare (not far from Bologna) on the 16th of April. And they were indeed very good.



8 Responses to “Grocery Shopping (Fare la spesa)”

  1. Lorelei Lee Says:

    Enjoyed the blog about shopping in Italy, especially the part about the eggs. Cage free is the only way to go-wish they were cheaper here in the states.

    Oh! I would be the “idiot” who forgot to weigh and lable my produce! lol

    Fanno voi gradicono il mio racconto?

  2. Joe Says:

    Well, the great eggs are not particularly cheap here either but I don’t eat much of them so that eases the pain.


  3. Jan Says:

    I want an omelet.

  4. Joe Says:

    OK, when I get back.


  5. Jamie Pillers Says:

    Hi Joe,
    Good to see that you’re feeding yourself well! Your writing reminded me of how lucky we are here in Oakland/Berkeley to have such a bountiful supply of great food at places like Berkeley Bowl, Monterey Market, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Safeway… amazing.

    Note my new e-mail address.
    Buon Giorno and Arrivederci,

  6. Joe Says:

    Well, I personally wouldn’t particularly include either Trader Joe’s or Safeway in the list of great places to shop, but of course I’m in love with Berkeley Bowl. The ingredients here are really hard to beat.


  7. Dana Says:

    I still have a bag from a Coop store somewhere around Firenze. My friends there told me that for a supermarket, there was none better! I wish we had one like it here…

    I’m enjoying your posts! Keep them coming!


  8. Joe Says:

    Well, on your next trip you’ll need to try an Essalunga.


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