The Stress of Grocery Shopping in Germany

German Grocery Store

After watching all of the Youtube videos of expats talking about grocery shopping in Germany, I still didn’t believe the fuss. But now, here I am, advising you about the stress of grocery shopping in Germany!

Paprika Potato Chips
Paprika Flavour is Germany’s
most popular potato chip!

I used to love grocery shopping. Once I was old enough to drive, my mom sent me to the store for her so that she wouldn’t have to go. I loved being able to find the best deals as well as being inspired by the food and what I could make. But now, I dread going to the grocery store.

As much as I tried to fight my feelings on this one, it is different grocery shopping in Germany compared to Canada. I wanted to love it. I loved it at first, but that’s just not the case anymore. Maybe it has something to do with navigating a baby and stroller through the store, but it’s more than that. While it can be a bit trickier if you’re a tourist trying to find snacks for a picnic compared to a newbie who has just moved here, there are some tips I can recommend. All of this planning and preparing before/during grocery shopping makes me feel so German, it hurts.

While I do find it more stressful to grocery shop now, one of the positives of Groceries in Germany is that it is generally cheaper than in Canada. You do, however, pay taxes on food here, but overall you’ll still be spending less money. So grab that 1 Euro coin you need for the shopping cart and los geht’s! (let’s go!)

Know Where & When to Shop

Different stores carry different things. This is true everywhere, but there are discounter stores like Aldi and Lidl that, in my opinion, are unorganized and don’t carry everything that I need. They are, however, cheaper (a little bit…). Even within my town, I can find some things that I’m looking for at one normal grocery store and not the other. When making my shopping list, I always decide which store I’m going to shop at first.

Once you’ve figured out where to shop, deciding when to go is also important. If you have the ability to be flexible, whatever you do, do not go to the grocery store on a Saturday afternoon! I actually witnessed a man with his 2 sets of twins, plus other children, trying to shop on a Saturday afternoon. Bad idea! On Holidays as well as Sundays the stores are closed, so the day before is always really busy! Now imagine there’s a holiday on a Saturday! When people know they can’t buy food for two whole days, it’s almost like the apocalypse!

Don’t Expect a lot of Options

Unless you’re wanting to buy a package of sauce mix, in which case you’ll be standing in the sauce isle for roughly 10 minutes trying to figure out which one to get, don’t expect selection. The first few months grocery shopping here I would spend so much time trying to find other options of products at cheaper prices. But you probably won’t find it. While the headline is still a bit of an exaggeration, the product selection of cereals, chips, peanut butter, etc, is nothing like you would find in Canada and I’m sure the US as well.

I also spent a lot of time looking for items in bulk sizes, and it’s just not a thing here. Gone are the days of buying 1L jugs of Maple Syrup or large tubs of Peanut Butter! I think this has to do with Germans having smaller fridges and storage space for food. If you’re a German reading this, do you wish you could buy larger quantities of items? What’s your take on this? Leave a comment!

Expect to See Things That are “Strange”

There are always going to be products that are different from what we know that stand out to us, but I find it interesting how much “American” products you can find here as well. But there’s not always things that Americans would eat, such as jarred hot dogs. It baffles me, really. You think to yourself, “Would someone actually buy that?” But today I saw a lady buy 4 jars of “American Style” Hot Dogs!

Besides the interesting “American” products I always see, I took a few photos of other foods that are different to me.

The Dreaded Checkout

Basically what this whole post has been waiting for, the reason for me writing this: the Checkout. If you’ve been to any store where they don’t bag the groceries for you, you can empathize a little. But it can be a little overwhelming at times. But I, along with a lot of other Germans, come prepared with their shopping baskets. A similar idea to the ones you find at Superstore. The differences between the Superstore and German grocery stores is that there is only one, small area where the scanned groceries go for you to pack, and no divider for the next customer. There is no time to be methodically packing a grocery bag and a lot of times we just throw everything back into the cart and pack it off to the side. I understand that there are a lot of customers to get through, but the stress of it just really makes me dread going to the grocery store!

I didn’t really think that I’d have so much to say about this topic, and perhaps I’m being a little overdramatic, but I could go on about it! Leave a comment below about something you’d find in your country’s grocery store that a foreigner might find a bit odd. I actually can’t think of anything for Canada, so someone please help me out!

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If you’re looking for more info about what it’s like living in Germany, check out 2 Things You Need to Know about Renting in Germany!

See you next week!

14 thoughts on “The Stress of Grocery Shopping in Germany

  1. This is interesting. Did you ever go grocery shopping in Italy? I remember picking up fruits and vegetables with my bare hands and the locals looked horrified. One of them eventually showed me the little plastic gloves. These things that you never think of when shopping in a foreign country.

    1. All I remember from Italian grocery stores was not being able to find “normal” salad dressing!
      In Germany, the only time I’ve noticed that you’re not allowed to touch the produce is when cherries are in season. Then there is someone to pack them up for you.

  2. The Aldi store in our little town of Muswellbrook, Au. is much the same when thinking of selection. Not many options…a little of every thing. Although it is well organized. I’ve gotten used to the market shopping culture in Australia, when we’re there. Actually, I rather enjoy dropping into the shops once a day or two to pick up thinks for lunch or dinner. Of course this is necessitated by the small refrigerators that they sell there. I too remember shopping in Italy. Don’t try to shop on a Sunday. Almost everything was closed. Lucky we found that superstore in Florence.

    1. Thanks for sharing! When Mom and Dad were visiting, we (they) went grocery shopping a lot more too since we don’t have a lot of space! But I think Dad enjoyed going!

  3. When we lived in Saudi I could find North American foods in the international section, and all of the foods that you would find in a North American international section we regular every day foods. It was a total reversal. Also the selection was always inconsistent so if you found something you liked you would buy as much as possible then tell your friends so they could get it too before the store sold out. Your stories bring back memories…

    1. I’ve also seen small sections of American products here, but it’s not very extensive. I’m glad I can bring back some memories for you!!

  4. Hi Carmen,
    Finally I managed to subscribe to your blog….better late than never .
    This week you wrote about one of the most important things over here and it was big fun reading it!
    At first I have to inform: I HATE grocery shopping!!!
    I have to do it ever SATURDAY. Being full time employed and living in a rural part of the country, shopping during the week is almost impossible (I stop by the supermarket on Wednesdays to get fresh fruit, salad or bread, that´s all).
    Living in the city with supermarkets open for long hours it has been much easier.
    But…you´ll get to deal with Saturdays shopping, together with children, water crates to be exchanged and empty plastic water bottles, which must be returned to the supermarket, I promise, it will get better with the years . I learned to cool down, because there is no need to stress, what for?
    I´m even one of the kind who puts the shopping neatly in the basket (the same as in your picture by the way, but with colored spots). I don´t let myself be stressed by others…
    And I would also like to tell you why we are not able to buy items in bulk sizes. The fridges might be one thing, although many households have big ones. We have an extra freezer by the way and one fridge only for our drinks. It´s because of our way to live. As you might know, or not, the majority of our households are single households. Mainly in the cities. I don´t know if it´s the same around the world, but it´s very common over here to live on your own. A single person does not need to buy big bags of something, otherwise it will be thrown away after a while. Sometimes you can find special offers with slogans as „20% mehr Inhalt“ (20% more content) or „Nur für kurze Zeit“ („Just for a short period of time“).
    The only thing I would buy in a big glas would be „Nutella“. This stuff is best consumed, almost intravenously, in my family .
    I also have to comment about the things we are able to buy in our supermarkets, as sausages in cans, pre-made burgers, ready-to-eat-hotdogs and potatoe snacks in paper cans…we ourselves never bought these things and will never do, but…a lot of people who are buying these kind of „food“, have either no time, are not in the mood, can´t cook (most of them might have a „Thermomix“ in their kitchen ), are lazy or simply don´t care about good taste. And they don´t care about their health either. I´m sure you have such kind of food in Canada as well, or not? I would love to know.
    I found an interesting link about the free trade agreement CETA where you can find the differences between Canada and Europe regarding food. Unfortunately it´s in German. But nevertheless interesing. https://shop.vzhh.de/ernaehrung/520337/vzhh_Freihandelsabkommen%20CETA_final.pdf
    The best part of your blog was, writing about shopping before holidays. I will NEVER understand, why people over here are going mad before public holdays! I´ll have to add that living close to the Netherlands, our neighbours will be here as well on those days! The other way round „we“ will ride over there on our public holidays to shop in the Netherlands.
    One tip: Just go out looking (not shopping!) when the sale of fireworks starts (around December 27th I guess). Most people within the stores will be speaking Dutch! And they will buy a hell of a lot! It´s funny.
    I try to avoid to go shopping in this period of time, but it´s not always possible (working Mom, you know). But, yes, the stores are all closed on Sunday and on holidays, so for most people it seems as they gonna starve to death, if they are not going out and run to the grocery stores to buy large amounts of food. And we all know…THEY WILL NOT DIE, if they wouldn´t go shopping! Anyway, it´s an adventure to go to the supermarket before a public holiday.
    Let´s take Christmas, which is coming up soon. I am very lucky to be on holiday myself one week before the festival season. YES! I will do my shopping in peace! By the way: Please think about coming over the 24th…we will have the typical German Christmas dinner with „Raclette“. I´m sure, you´ll love it. A lot of different things to eat and cosy sitting at the table (we have a new one!) And you don´t have to think about preparing something to eat on your own .
    And you shouldn´t miss Santa…he will be there as well!
    Sorry for my long reply to your entry, but this one was far to good for me and I had to answer to this!
    Looking forward reading more about your expereience and please step by from time to time. We would love to see you all more often!

    1. Thank you for your response! I think it will be nice for other people to read this and hear from a German’s perspective! Of course, we also have a lot of unhealthy ready-to-eat foods in Canada as well. I find now that I’m just more aware of everything since I’m in a new place. Next time I’m back in Canada I will definitely pay more attention and write about it as well for all of my German and other readers! I appreciate you taking the time to write this and we will be seeing you soon, I’m sure! I would love to try the Raclette!

  5. Hi Carmen it was much nicer just shopping or looking in stores for no particular reason but to compare our life- style with where you are visiting so it was Fun—- can’t imagine the stress it could become if living there ,but an experience you will never forget . We found while in England they shopped almost every day too ,customary to them .

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