Early into our stay in Chișinău we had a friend ask if we had mastered grocery shopping yet, as this is a critical piece to feeling at home in a new country. It’s funny, because I hadn’t expected grocery shopping to be too much of an adjustment. It’s not like we are slaughtering our own animals to eat, or navigating large open-air markets (though those do exist) for our weekly groceries. Chișinău has both small corner markets and large grocery stores with a large selection. And yet….grocery shopping was truly a challenge at the beginning. Now that we are a few months in, I feel like I have some experience to back up my list of the best, the worst, and the weirdest in Chișinău grocery stores.
- Milk in a milk pitcher – I get an absurd amount of joy from my milk pitcher. We buy our milk here in a weird triangular pouch thing. So, early on, I realized that I needed a container to put it in. I went to the large outdoor market by myself (which I love because of all the older ladies who run the stalls), and I bought a little pitcher from one of the aforementioned adorable ladies. This was months ago and the magic seriously has not worn off. Marie Kondo would definitely tell me to keep the milk pitcher.
- Fresh bread – The grocery stores here bake bread fresh every day, and they bake different types of bread on different days. My favorite bread at our closest grocery store is made on Mondays. The bread is so good and it is
realcheap. Like 70 cents per loaf cheap. There will be no keto dieting for us in Moldova ….I can tell you that.
- Lots of sweets – Speaking of anti-keto…every grocery stores has the most amazing selection of cookies, candies, and fantastical cakes you can buy by the slice. I came to Moldova thinking that I would have time for lots of baking…but the only thing I have baked in the last 3 months is chocolate chip cookies. (You can’t find an American-style chocolate chip cookie here and I wanted to share that experience with a Moldovan friend.) Why would I bake when there are such magical dessert sections here in all the grocery stores?
- Groceries are inexpensive by our standards – This is very true except for a few imported exceptions (ie peanut butter). Granted, it is not something we like to emphasize in front of our Moldovan friends. Groceries are cheap based on an American salary, but not necessarily cheap based upon a Moldovan one. But for all of our American friends reading this blog, I’ll give you an example: An average kilogram of apples cost ~9 lei….which is 25 cents/pound.
- So much Russian! So it turns out a lot of the food is imported from Russia. And though shopping would have been difficult enough in Romanian, it actually was much harder at first because I don’t know Russian. Let me give you an example:
It took us an absurd amount of time to realize that most items imported from Russia have a sticker on the back in Romanian that lists what it is, the ingredients, and the nutritional value. (Don’t get me started on nutritional value labels here…I still haven’t figured that one out.)
- Buying tampons and pads (again with the Russian!!) To be fair, this task is kind of difficult in the U.S. Let’s be real – there are like a zillion options that are all in some way pretty much the same but then again the differences actually matter. So throw that mentality along with new brands and different languages together, and I basically stood in this aisle of the grocery store for like 10 minutes just staring. I picked something up….put it back down….and then
- Having to weigh fruits and veggies – This uses a lot of plastic bags!! Each type of fruit or vegetable needs to be put into a small plastic bag, brought to a store employee who then weighs it, and they then print a little sticker out from their scale and put it on the bag. If you get to the checkout without your produce already weighed then they send you back. However, please note: you are not allowed to weigh the fruit on its own. You are also not allowed to reuse plastic bags because they all have a sticker on them from their previous use. So whereas I thought I was cutting down on my carbon footprint by not having a car….it actually turns out that I’m right back to where I started by using approximately 3 billion plastic bags during my time in Moldova. (Maybe not quite, but you get the idea). And honestly, it’s just annoying to have to find an employee. There can be some intense eyeing and jockeying in line to get to one of those employees and their scale. (P.S. Did I tell you about the time a
10 year oldgirl totally cut in front of me in the check out line like it ain’t no thang?!)
- The unreasonably extensive selections for fish (dried, smoked, raw….you name it) as well as sour cream
I believe the following pictures speak for themselves and no further words are required on this topic.