Italian Grocery Shopping 101

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Jules Katz
October 23, 2023

When I was planning my trip to Milan, I wished I had a food shopping guide because it can be really daunting and anxiety-inducing. Take your time looking around and becoming acquainted with the new products and item placements because Italian grocery stores differ from those in the United States. Because each store offers distinct products, shopping could include visiting 1-3 stores. Here are some helpful tips to know before grocery shopping abroad!

  1. Weighing your own Produce

When I went to the grocery store for the first time, I discovered the hard way that cashiers do not weigh and price the fruits and vegetables at the register. Next to the fruits will be a scale where you will have to bag, weigh, and price your own food. 

  1. Bring your own Bag

I would strongly advise you to bring or purchase your own reusable shopping bags when you go shopping. Bringing your own bag is a cultural norm in Milan, which encourages sustainability. To do so, I bought a three-pack of baggu bags, which are easily foldable and transportable. You will be charged for plastic or paper bags otherwise. Why not save money and the environment at the same time?

  1. Prepared Foods

Many grocery stores in Milan sell ready-to-eat items such as chicken, potatoes, ribs, and pasta. These are very convenient, quick, and usually fresh lunches for when you're too lazy to make one yourself! They also include pasta, rice, dumplings, meats, and other items that can be quickly heated in the microwave. Of course, since we're in Italy, there's also fresh pasta that's both fast and delicious to eat!

  1. Bagging your own Groceries

We're no longer in the United States. It is not the cashier's responsibility to bag your groceries. When you initially approach them, they will ask whether you need a bag, and as soon as they begin scanning, begin bagging. The people behind you will likely become frustrated if you are not efficient.

  1. Self-check Out

Conad, for example, has self-service checkout. Where you bag your groceries will be weighed and highly sensitive, just like in America. I recommend weighing all of your things, paying, and then bagging them, or else the register will panic and alert a service member. And who wants to be the center of attention in a challenging new situation? I would recommend going to the cashier during the first few days until you know what to do and know a few Italian phrases!

**Once you’re given your receipt, keep it out because you’ll need to scan it to exit**

My Rankings of the Grocery Stores?

  1. Conad has the biggest stores and the most variety. It can be crowded, but it has everything you need, including an international isle with ramen, salsa, and other foods. This store includes a home goods section that sells paper towels, soap, beauty products, cleaning products and other items.
  2. Express—a smaller store that will have almost all of your essentials!
  3. Pam—a small store that has some fresher options and most importantly, POPCORN!

How long does food typically last?

Because Italian foods include no preservatives, they will perish faster. Every other day or so, Italians go to the grocery store to purchase only what they need for the day. We're used to stockpiling a week's worth of food in America since it won't spoil!

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Jules Katz

I am a Gender Studies student at Skidmore College :) I'm a graphic designer for Lunchbox, a lovely school magazine incorporating fashion, art, and writing. I also love to bullet journal, listen to music, take photos, create art, and dance!

2023 Fall
Home University:
Skidmore College
Gender Studies
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