First of all, my apologies to those of you who received this post blank the other day. I accidentally clicked on update instead of save draft (these buttons are not in the same spot, nor are they the same color or in any way or shape similar-looking… oh dear).
That being said, some of you already knew the theme for today! A guide to Swiss grocery stores. I’m only going to talk about the main ones.
The most popular national chains that can be found throughout Switzerland are the Coop, Migros, and Manor. These are also the more expensive chains, but they generally only sell top-quality products. In fact, something you’ll notice at any Swiss grocery store is that there is a very limited selection (in our village Coop, there are only two brands of hair conditioner in the cosmetic section, for example). Yes, I have found the Swiss to favor quality over quantity in many regards, and the selection at their grocery stores is no exception.
If you don’t want to break the bank when doing your weekly shopping, head to an Denner, Aldi, or Lidl. These stores offer (maybe not top-notch) items at a cheaper price than the previous three. Maybe being in Switzerland has made me a bit of a food snob, but I don’t shop at Denner often unless we are buying fruit juice, and I’ve never been to an Aldi or Lidl. So, this post may be slightly biased…
When you go to the grocery store, there are two important items to bring from home: a coin and a bag (or bags). You will need a coin in order to use a cart. Whoever thought of this system clearly didn’t want to run all over the parking lot finding random shopping carts; carts are chained together, pushing a coin into a certain slot on the handlebar releases the coin, and (here’s the genius part) you get your coin back when you return the cart.
You also need a bag or two because Switzerland goes green. BYOB isn’t just for beer anymore, folks. You are expected to bring your own bags (small plastic ones are provided but they don’t hold much). You are also expected to bag your own groceries. I have gotten so used to this that when I go back to America, I have complete reverse culture shock. It seems strange for someone else to bag my groceries in a way that’s not handy for me later. I even once, without realizing it, started bagging my own groceries in an American Safeway (where people are hired especially to bag for you). I got a lot of stares from the cashier, the bagger, my mom, and even some of the customers nearby…
Ok, enough embarrassment! Let’s get back to our Swiss grocery guide. Another thing to note is that you must weigh your fruits and veggies before checkout. Fortunately, the produce section is typically right next to the entrance/exit, so if you forget, you can go back without wasting too much time.
A post about buying food in Switzerland just wouldn’t be complete without talking about local products. Our little village has a butcher shop, a bakery, a cheese shop, and another shop with basic grocery options. Prices (as would be expected) run high, but to us, it’s worth paying for local shops like these to stay open (especially in the face of big chains that open stores everywhere).
Finally, local products can also be found at open-air markets! I, for one, love going to the market. Saturday morning is the traditional market time (some villages and towns have an additional morning mid-week), and designated plazas/streets are filled with stands of fruits, veggies, bread, meats, fish, and (of course) cheese. So much local goodness.
Well, there you have it. A quick look at the grocery options available in Switzerland. Just don’t try going to a grocery store on Sunday. It WILL be closed. If you absolutely must have something on a Sunday, check out your nearest gas station. They’re bound to have something to tide you over until Monday.