When Lisa and I travel, there are a few things we’re guaranteed to do:
- Argue over whether I should carry the heavier bag (I always stubbornly want to but I shouldn’t, I got weak shoulders 😅)
- Listen to Escape (The Pina Colada Song) at least once.
- Lug around a book even though I’ll have no time to read (but just in case!)
- Check out the local grocery store.
We love visiting the local supermarkets at every destination. It could stem from our love of our own stores; I think we spend more time at our Aldi than we do cooking each week. On occasion, we even drive out to France just to swing by the grocers to pick up cheese, wine, and some other French snacks. Despite our obvious obsession, here are some reasons why we think you should add “scouting the markets” to your go-to travel list:
- It’s budget friendly! This is our one-size-fits-all budget tip. Whether you’re traveling in the warm picnic-friendly months, have access to a kitchenette in your BnB, or just need some snacks for on the go—you can save money by skipping the restaurants or corner shops by going straight to the super market.
Keep in mind: that doesn’t need you need to “rough it.” We usually source one meal from the supermarket per trip, such as grabbing an array of antipasti in Italy for a light dinner or starting our day with breakfast from the fresh-baked goods aisle. You can also save money on after-dinner drinks by purchasing a beverage to enjoy at the sights, such as taking a bottle of wine to the Spanish Steps in Rome.
- Experience Food like a Local
That’s right, this budget tip doubles as a cultural exchange exercise! When you travel to a new city, you have an idea of what dishes are representative of the area, but grocery stores can give you insight into how the average local lives. Find out their guilty pleasures, the current “trendy” flavors, or the price of a liter of milk. Try to read the ingredients on a box of what you think are cookies but might actually be gluten-free dog biscuits. See what food brands from your country made the cut and consider giving them a try (for scientific, not nostalgic, investigative purposes of course!).
- Interesting Finds
As someone who lives abroad, I find grocery stores to be full of local goods you wouldn’t normally see on the average tourist path. Some are ingenious, like juice boxes full of wine in Italy or pretzel baguettes in my local grocer. Others are more entertaining, like the offerings of Aldi’s themed “American Week” which includes hotdog buns, a variety of berry flavored pancake syrups, and an unappetizing-looking microwave meal called BBQ Mac N’ Cheese.
- Affordable (and Delicious) Souvenirs
Not only can grocery stores save you a buck on a meal, but they can also provide some affordable, great treats you can take home. Instead of buying a pack of Stroopwafels or chocolates at the souvenir shop, you can find these treats at lower prices at the local grocery store. One cool idea in a lot of European countries are decorated jars of Nutella which can be used as a glass afterwards. You’d have to pack them in your checked bag (unless you need to eat the entire contents of the jar so you can take the glass in your carry on, which sounds like absolute torture 😂).
Do you love grocery stores as much as we do? Or are we just weird? / What’s the coolest/weirdest thing you’ve seen in a grocery store? Let us know in the comments!