Shopping Around, Moscow Style

>> Monday, 19 March 2012

I popped into a certain Moscow store this morning for the quickest of pit-stops to pick up two packets of breakfast cereal (total cost; 340r) and came out 1 hour later, 4,500r poorer. That’s approximately £96, or $150 dollars. And all because I needed a couple of packets of Weetabix. How did that happen?



Now, if you live in Moscow (or perhaps, even if you don’t) and are responsible for doing the weekly shop for a family of four, at this stage you will probably be thinking “That’s not bad. I wonder where she shops?” but the thing is, I didn’t do the weekly shop. This was just a top-up trip.



Food shopping in Moscow may not be as expensive as in cities like Tokyo (a friend visiting there recently speaks in hushed tones of finding a punnet of 6 strawberries on sale for $200), but it’s not easy to do if you are at all budget-minded.



This is - for the time being at least the blog of an expat. So I freely admit that whilst I do on occasion frequent the kiosks and markets you find everywhere in Moscow, my food shopping is done mostly at supermarkets or hypermarkets. Life, I’m afraid, is just too short – especially in the cold weather – to traipse from one stand to the next in pursuit of a stall holder who actually takes the tomatoes you’ve asked for from the perfect and glossy specimens on display, rather than from the bargain basement poor relations (bruised, wrinkled and spotted) nestling out of sight behind the counter.



However, that does not mean that I frequent the chandelier-decked stores at the premium end of the market instead. There’s profligacy, and then there’s shopping for your staples in some of the swankier supermarkets on offer in Moscow. No, generally I join the masses at a certain French chain of hypermarkets, which may be less ruinous on the pocket but is not for the faint-hearted. I have been known to walk into one of the bigger hypermarkets here, take one look at the chaos inside, and turn around and walk out again, unable to face it.



Mostly, it seems to be Russians who shop in this outlet. Certain expats of my acquaintance pale visibly when I mention it's name, and I have to admit that if one’s only experience of a Russian hypermarket is of a late afternoon or weekend visit, I can see why. Russians en-masse can be formidable enough, but come between a babushka mid-afternoon and her choice of banana in a self-selection fruit and veg section and she won’t be the one carried out on a stretcher.



So I do my shopping early, when I can. And when I can’t? Well, if you should find yourself in downtown Moscow at a hypermarket carpark, and notice a woman sitting behind the wheel of her car chanting ‘Om... Om... Om...’ before gathering up her assorted plastic bags and entering the fray, don’t judge me please...



This post first appeared on my other blog, 'Diaries of a Moscow Mum' over on The Moscow Times Online

4 comments:

MsCaroline 19 March 2012 at 08:09  

What is it about little old ladies in other cultures? Like you, I shop the markets occasionally, but - even only having been here for 8 months, I already know better than to come between a sharp-elbowed Korean ajumma (that's our version of babushka)and the object of her desire.

Irene 19 March 2012 at 19:51  

I take it that you have to be a real survivor in order to shop in Moscow. I'm sure I would not enjoy it. I do like my little luxuries and hate to suffer. You're a brave woman for taking it on.

The Expatresse 20 March 2012 at 15:57  

I went to the French Store ONCE. On a Tuesday afternoon. I've never seen anything like that in my life. I never went back. I stuck with the Seventh Continent in my neighborhood. They were nice to me there, and I could see it from my apartment.

Anonymous,  12 June 2012 at 11:51  

nice posting.. thanks for sharing.

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