My friend Crystal and her husband moved to England just a couple weeks before we moved to Ukraine and she wrote a blog post about what grocery shopping is like in the UK. It was so fascinating that I was inspired to tell you all about my grocery shopping experience in Ukraine! Are you ready for this? Let’s do it.
One thing you need to know is that there are several different types of grocery shopping experiences available here in Ukraine. It all depends on how how much you want to dive in to the culture and how much you want to try out your language skills. 🙂 First there are the old Soviet type stores that are on just about every corner. They are always close by and often times are even in the first floor of apartment buildings! The majority of Ukrainians don’t have a car, so it’s extremely important to have grocery stores close by. The Soviet stores sell milk, bread, eggs, water, candy, mayo, salami, and cheese…you know, the basics. People refer to them as the old “Soviet” style because back in the day of the USSR these were the only types of supermarket stores around. When you walk in there is generally one big counter, or two counters with an aisle in the middle. The employees stand behind the counter and get you whatever you ask for. You can’t just browse and fill your cart. Each section of the counter has an employee responsible for that section and that certain employee is the only one who can help you with those products. You pay each employee separately, even if you are buying several things from different sections. Stores were set up in this way during the USSR to control how much of each product was allotted to each family.
These stores get an A+ for accessibility, but a D- for American ease of use. I mean, I have to know what something’s called to be able to ask for it…right? Luckily our corner store ladies are getting to know us and they know the things we like. Also, we are getting better at asking for what we want. These stores are good for us, but also a bit intimidating. 🙂 I didn’t take pics of these stores because they are tiny and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to be that discreet. You’ll just have to use your imagination! These are the stores we go to pretty much daily for the basics that go bad quickly.
The second type of grocery shopping available we affectionately call “You know those Babushkas on the side of the road”. Ha! On our main street there are several grandmas who bring in produce and homemade canned items and they sell them on the sidewalk. I’ve bought pumpkin from them a few times. That one’s a little difficult because you need to pretty much have exact change for what you want. But, the food is fresh and good!
Babushkas get an A+++ for accessibility, but a C for ease of use. (Bonus points for extreme cuteness)
The third type of grocery shopping is shopping at the big open market. That shopping deserves a post all it’s own. I’ll get right on that!
The Market gets a C for accessibility (we have to take the bus to get there), and a C for ease of use (much Russian required), but an A for freshness and quality of food. It’s worth the hassle at least once a week. 🙂
The fourth type of grocery shopping is the one I’ll describe in detail for you today. This is your basic supermarket shopping. This is most like American shopping, and the type of shopping we do at least twice a week. Food goes bad more quickly here, and like I told you before, we have to carry all we buy, so we shop a lot more frequently here than we did in the US.