Mastering Grocery Shopping

Rachel Musetti
March 20, 2020
Farmers market

Grocery shopping in a foreign country can be intimidating. Everything looks different, things are located in unusual places, and the labels are in a language you don't yet understand. But don't worry, grocery shopping in Freiburg isn't as scary as it seems. Here's how I make grocery shopping simple.

Know what to look for BEFORE you get to the store!

Like I said, products look different in other countries. You may think you're only going to buy olive oil and I mean, how hard can that be? Well, believe me, Germans love their oil, and there is an entire aisle dedicated to a hundred different types of oils, and almost none have a picture. It can be especially complicated if you're like me and don't speak fluent German, as most employees in grocery stores don't speak much English. What I've found to be helpful is googling every product I want to buy before I arrive at the store. For example, if I want something like glass cleaner, I'll type that into Google Translate to see what it's called in German, and then use Google Images to search that name. This is really helpful for me, because now instead of trying to translate every bottle in the aisle I can just look for something that resembles my Google search! 

Save your bottles!

In Freiburg, nearly all glass bottles can be returned to a grocery store for a credit on your next purchase. Plastic bottles that have a black and white logo on the back that features two bottles and an arrow mean you can also return these for credit. When you walk into most grocery stores there is a machine right by the door where you can exchange these bottles for quite a bit of money. My favorite part is because they issue a paper receipt, you can save them for your next purchase. This is helpful if you get a bottle at a cafe and want to recycle it on your way home but don't need any groceries yet. However, these receipts are only valid at the store you returned your bottles to.

Bring your own bag! (And be ready to use it!)

Freiburg is the most sustainable city in Germany so it shouldn't be surprising that they charge for bags in all stores. Nearly everyone I saw simply brought a basket or a bag to bring their groceries home in, however. I have a reusable tote bag that folds into itself so I always have one on me in case I need to buy something. Unlike cities in the United States, cashiers in Germany are there to ring your items up and tell you what you owe, they will not under any circumstances bag your groceries for you. Instead, it's up to you to quickly bag your items, as once they've finished you're expected to pay and then move on. If you're still bagging after you've paid you've thrown off the system. Some cashiers will just start scanning and putting the next person's items with yours, but some will make the entire line wait, and speaking from experience, it isn't enjoyable for you or those waiting.

Choose the store that's right for your needs!

There are a ton of stores in Freiburg to chose from, but you won't find what you're looking for at all of them. For fresh produce, I prefer Edeka or the Münster Markt. There is an Edeka located almost everywhere you go in Freiburg and each store is a little different, but their selection of produce is always great and inexpensive. The Münster Markt is a public farmer's market open every morning except on Sundays. 

If you're looking for something similar to Target or Walmart to buy utensils, cleaning supplies, or other inexpensive items for the home, I recommend going to Real. It's quite large and you can find most of the objects you're looking for here. If you want furniture or potted plants to decorate with, there is an IKEA located on the outskirts of Freiburg and your RegioKarte ticket works for the tram and bus you need to get there. The Freiburg equivalent to a Walgreens is a DM, and it's the only place I was able to find feminine hygiene products. Finally, on every street, there is a pharmacy, which you can always spot by the large glowing "A." This is the only place you can buy any kind of medicine, though they also sell sunscreen and moisturizers. 

Grocery shopping is necessary as you won't have a meal plan, but it really isn't as scary as it seems. My first couple of trips were definitely a learning experience, but I learned people in Freiburg genuinely don't like seeing others struggle, so don't be worried about asking for help if you need it!

Rachel Musetti

<p>Originally from rural Pennsylvania, I'm currently a third-year at Emory University studying Environmental Sciences and minoring in Sustainability. I'm really excited to spend a semester in Germany's sunniest and most sustainable city! Hiking and camping have always been passions of mine, so I'm ready to go explore Europe!</p>

Home university:
Emory University
Hometown:
Damascus, PA
Major:
Environmental Studies
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