Salamanca grocery stores
When we first arrived in Salamanca we lived very close to the Plaza Mayor, so when we went to the grocery store we didn’t see carts. Like everyone else that we saw shopping there, we’d only purchase what we could carry home in our hands. We thought that this was the norm for purchasing groceries in Salamanca. But now that we live further out from the plaza and have seen the larger grocery stores, grocery stores like Mercadona, we see people fill their carts and take their groceries out to their car in the garages. We’ve also seen people stock up groceries in bulk (not quite like Sam’s Club and Costco but bulk still). We don’t have a car here, so we still only purchase what we can carry home.
For us, the most helpful thing that we’ve had with us is our foldable, reusable bag. The one that we have unfolds into a backpack. For the treck home and up the several stories to our apartment, having a backpack to carry our items have been very nice. If you don’t bring a reusable bag to the grocery store, the store charges per each bag, I think it’s about 3 cents per bag (bolsa), so not too expensive.
Speaking of bulk purchases… Kyle and I keep seeing people get in the grocery lines with a mountainous cart of groceries. After they pay, they leave the store, leaving their full grocery cart behind. The first time that we saw this, we thought, “man that poor lady had to abandon ship after all that scanning.” But now we’ve seen it happen a few times. We’re wondering if it’s a donation cart or a pre-pay for a delivery to their home kind of deal. Not sure. If anyone out there knows, please let us know.
One thing that I like about the Salamanca grocery stores, at least at the Mercadona, is that when the cashiers need money or change, they have these suction tubes that they put their money into and then it sends up to the manager and returns the change that they need. They are pretty much like the suction tubes at drive-through banks in the US. It’s a genius idea. I wonder why US stores don’t have these? Instead they have to page the manner and everyone has to wait for the manager to waddle over to the register and he/she asks how much change the cashier needs and then we all have to wait for the exchange. When I was standing in line at Mercadona, I saw the cashier just shove a fifty euro bill into the tube and send it up, and then she just carried on with scanning my items. It was one of the coolest things I saw. So clever and seamless.
The first few times that Kyle and I went to a grocery store in Salamanca, we had no idea what the attendants were asking us. Their Spanish was too fast and it was so frustrating. But we’ve finally got grocery shopping down.
To better prepare you, here’s our list of questions that the cashiers are usually asking, or saying to you:
1. Do you need a bag? How many bags do you need?
2. Do you have a [insert store name here] loyalty card? (This question is asked at the ‘Arbol’ grocery store and is usually asked first)
3. Your total bill amount.
4. Credit or cash?
5. You need to put a sticker on your fruit and/or vegetable.
The only time number five won’t really apply is if you’re buying fruit/vegies from Los Cisnes or one of the places that specialize in selling fruits and vegetables. Or if you grab a fruit or veggie pack that already has a scanner sticker or price tag on it. Usually at the grocery stores, when you get vegetables, you don’t just grab them and take them to the cashier. You have to weigh them on the scale and print a sticker to give to the cashier. We have more information on fruits in vegetables in our article about buying produce in Salamanca. Overall, Kyle and I found it cheaper to buy vegetables at Los Cisnes so if you have an option to go there for those, do.
Here are other differences we noticed between US grocery stores and Grocery stores in Salamanca:
We also noticed that the portions that you buy aren’t quite the same size as what you get in the US. Now that we’ve been to somewhat larger grocery stores, you still won’t find pounds of sandwich meat. Unless you go to a carnicería.
Something else we saw that was different from the US is seeing milk out on the shelves. This took a while for us to get used to. We have seen milk in fridges and both shelved and cold milk taste just fine.
While we were in Salamanca, we also happened to eat a lot of cereal. We noticed that most of the cereal is pretty similar. Corn flakes, chocolate corn flakes and Cocoa Puffs. So before you arrive in Salamanca, fatten up on Trix, Cookie Crisp and the variety you find in the US before you get here. We did however find a box of Golden Grahams at Carre Four.
We really like going to Carre Four and Corte Ingles. These are closer to target/walmart shopping because it can be our one stop shop to get other small items we need for the apartment. Carre Four doesn’t sell furniture or anything but it has a decent amount of kitchenware, towels, and etc. Corte Ingles is more like a Sears in the mall. You’ll find housewares, kitchen, groceries, furniture, appliances, etc.
Grocery stores aren’t usually open on Sundays so get your grocery shopping done before Sunday. However, if you forget and need to get food on Sundays, the market runs early in the morning. We haven’t done this yet so we can’t really speak to it. Our professors just talk about going a lot on Sunday mornings. Corte Ingles is open on Sundays and you can get groceries from there.