I haven’t done a grocery shopping blog in awhile, so here is what I bought today at Hanamasa. This was a pretty big trip for me… about 3500¥, and about the maximum that I want to carry for a kilometer back to our apartment. Again… I usually have to shop about 5 days per week, because I have limited storage for food with my tiny refrigerator. So now… I will go through the items I purchased today.
Beverages. I have to stagger my purchases of milk, juice and alcohol, because it can really add to the weight that I have to carry home. It is a bad shopping trip when I have to buy milk, soymilk, and juice all on the same day… Too heavy! In suburban Japanese supermarkets, I am sure that they have larger sizes, but in all of the stores near our apartment, a liter size bottle or carton is the biggest you can buy for milk and juice, so I need to shop frequently.
Wine options are generally limited in the smaller stores. My supermarket sells a lot of Chilean and Argentinian brands, and sometimes Australian (along with domestic Japanese wines.) The California wines and French wines are pricey. There is also a large assortment of Japanese beers, sake and shochu, and a small section of Japanese and imported liquor (mostly whiskey — which is very popular in Japan.)
The cans you see in the photo, are “highball” drinks. These are very popular, and are actually a really nice light drink for the hot weather. Varying from 3 to 9% alcohol, and mixed with a carbonated soda, they are “ready-to-drink!”
Meat/fish. Tonight’s dinner. A small piece of salmon… 124 grams, 370¥. Hanamasa has the best prices for meat and fish in my area. We aren’t big meat-eaters, so I don’t buy it every shopping trip. If I buy pork or chicken, I divide the package into meal-size servings, and freeze it. The pork and beef is mostly sliced thin or in small bite-size pieces. Remember… we eat with chopsticks here, so the meat is usually in chopstick-friendly pieces!
Veggies. Today Hanamasa had asparagus on sale. Two small bunches for 380¥. That will be two meals-worth for us. Then, I bought half of a Japanese pumpkin for 290¥. Japanese pumpkin is good in curry and stews, or just boiled and eaten warm or cold. The skin in left on, and you just cut it in bite-size chunks. Tasty! Produce is generally more expensive here than in the US… it is all beautiful and perfect quality. It is somewhat seasonal — for instance, oranges (mikan, mandarin oranges) are cheaper and plentiful in the winter months. Apples are cheaper in the summer, and so are peppers and tomatoes. This red pepper cost me 100¥ today. Kiwis are in season right now too… very large and imported from New Zealand. Most places are selling them for about 100-120¥ each.
Cheese. Cheese is different here. It is not a huge part of Japanese cuisine. Japanese cheese is softer, and not as flavorful as cheese we are used to in the US. Probably not aged as long. You can buy imported block cheese, but it is fairly expensive. We have just gotten used to eating less cheese here. This 300 gram bag of shredded cheese cost me 398¥. I made pizza the other day, and it worked… just not as tasty as cheese in the US.
Misc. On the left is a package of soba (buckwheat) noodles. Makes a fast and easy dinner when combined with a dashi-based soup broth and veggies. Yum. About 4 servings in that package, for 128¥. In the next photo is a large jar of jam, and a bottle of tonkatsu sauce. Hanamasa has the best prices for jam that I have found. Jam and jelly is a fairly recent addition to Japanese breakfast. Traditional Japanese breakfast is a savory mix of fish, rice and veggies. Sweet breads, pancakes, muffins, toast with sweet toppings, is not traditional, but gaining popularity. This HUGE jar of jam only cost 298¥! I could hardly beat that price in the US!
Tonkatsu is a fried pork cutlet, and often served with a sweet and savory, soy-based sauce. This sauce is also a popular topping for other grilled meats, and also on okonomiyaki (kind of a pancake cooked with egg and veggies inside), and takoyaki (a ball of pancake batter with veggies and octopus inside.) Tasty, multi-purpose sauce. About as popular as ketchup is in the US.
Snacks. Kim-chi is really cheap here. Kim-chi is a fermented mix of cabbage and veggies with a spicy red sauce. Korean in origin, but very popular here as well. Love this stuff! And this container was only 189¥ for 330 grams! Can’t get it for that price at home! Then there is the small bag of snack food peas… We don’t eat as much snack stuff here as at home. Tortilla chips and potato chips, crackers, etc, are not as common here, and if imported, are very expensive. The Japanese have their own snack foods… mostly different types and flavors of rice crackers and snacks. We just don’t eat very much of it. Also, candy and sweet snacks are not as popular here. In general, the Japanese consume a lot less sugar than we do in the US. Savory snacks are much more popular.
Buying and preparing food here in Japan is very different from at home in the US, and we are still discovering new foods, and new ways to prepare food. We have had to alter our diet to accommodate the different foods here, and it has become part of the adventure of living in this foreign culture. Yes… the food is different here, but the food is delicious! Sugoi oishii desu!
** Roughly, 100¥ = $1 US.