As a little kid growing up in Australia, I enjoyed going grocery shopping with my mother. Although I always found it a little stressful, I had a vision of myself as a cool 25-year-old doing my weekly shop and actually enjoying it. You know, that person in the supermarket that just looks like they have it together. I thought that could be me.
I moved to the U.S. for college at the start of my freshman year. Having traveled within the U.S. before, I thought I had fully experienced supermarkets here. Alas, I had much to learn about buying food across the pond, and the most notable thing I learned is that America is all about BIG.
This applies to a whole smörgåsbord of things related to US culture. There are big trucks (I’m serious, one of my friends calls her truck “House”), big houses and big food – in every sense. I’m not saying this is a bad thing; a lot of the time that’s one of the most fun things about living here.
Good and bad, there are a lot of differences between shopping for food in the US and shopping abroad, and here are a few examples.
Fruit is BIG and This is a Wonderful Thing
Since coming here for college, I have developed a profound love for what my local supermarket calls the Colossal Honeycrisp Apple. It’s big. REALLY big. Like, hold it up and compare it to the size of my face big. Bananas are also big here, and this makes me happy because my favorite breakfast these days is Nutella and banana on toast. Plus, one banana can provide that perfect 1:2 banana to toast slice ratio. P.S. you should totally check out this Nutella and banana grilled cheese – it looks absolutely amazing.
So Much to Choose From
The snackfood aisle always leaves me feeling overwhelmed. I don’t know what it is. For one thing, I once counted 23 different kinds of Oreos in the same section. I also recently discovered that what I thought were standard pretzels are in fact ‘tiny’ pretzels. And many, many brands. At my local supermarket in Australia, I can think of one pretzel brand. Seriously, there is one brand.
I also find it tough to buy peanut butter (my personal favorite midnight snack) because there is half an aisle dedicated to one spread. If you’re after 100 percent peanut butter, there are a lot to choose from. At home, everyone I know buys the same peanut butter. When I’m at school it’s a whole different game: I stand in front of the selection for five minutes trying to figure out which one to buy, and I always leave with the exact same kind (Adam’s 100 Percent Natural is the only way).
Americans Are Missing Out On This…
Hummus, guacamole, and five-layer bean dip are pretty much the only dips that I have encountered during my two years in the US. Oddly enough, one of the things I miss most from home is the wide selection of dips. The photo above was used in an advertisement, but that is seriously how many dips you can find in a typical Australian supermarket, and it is a beautiful thing. My personal favorites include roasted capsicum and feta; garlic tsatziki and baba ganoush.
I have yet to learn why Australians seem to be more devoted to the dip aisle than Americans, but I will report back on that if I ever figure it out. In the meantime, you can make your own tasty dips with these awesome recipes.
I’m probably not alone in the fact that I typically leave an American supermarket feeling extremely overwhelmed. Packaging is bright, advertisements tend to be in-your-face, and there is just so much choice.
Interestingly, it can be just as stressful when I shop at home. I find my local supermarket is generally more organized but I still feel pressured to buy certain things because there are giant yellow signs telling me to at the end of each aisle. Maybe supermarket shopping is a globally stressful experience after all.