February 20, 2009

A Trip to the Grocery Store

Something I've come to tolerate is the trip to the grocery store. This is typically the place where I am most overwhelmed, for various reasons. First of all, I am by nature a comparison shopper. I can't get past my compulsion to break the prices down into what I'm paying per unit, in order to find the "best deal." This seems easy enough at Bi-Lo, where they've posted the price per ounce, or per cookie, or whatever. Here, it means I'm spending a lot of time with my little handy calculator.

There is also the difference in currency. If something is $2.50, the pricetag here reads 12,625 Gs. It's so hard to hand over that paper bill that reads 100,000, and I'm constantly reminding myself that 100,000 guaranis = $20, to avoid the impending heart attack when the cash register gal tells me my total.

I am getting better at speaking and understanding Spanish, but food is a whole different thing. There isn't always a picture on the package, and sometimes the pictures are deceiving. And things can have a million different names. Many of the grocery items are imported from Brazil, so those packages are written in Portuguese. It's enough to make someone (me) a bit confused.

Couple those things I just mentioned with the fact that this is also still new to my daughters, and you have a mental meltdown in the making. Our girls have never been ones to try to talk me into candy at the counter or crazy stuff on the aisles (I have a low tolerance for whining, so we nipped that long ago), but they are amazed at all the strange things they find here (like freaky looking fruits and cans of weird stuff near the jelly). Or they find something familiar but rare here and are amazed that it's available in that particular store (like canned green beans, Caroline's fave veggie). Or they find something gross (like pig heads or cow tongues) and have to share their discoveries. It's innocent enough, but in the middle of my attempt to decide if 400g of cereal for 10,275 is better than 350g for 9,992, it's enough to drive me crazy. Their daddy is great about walking the aisles with them to give me some "space," but sometimes we all end up together anyway.

Some things I've learned that help out a bit:

1. So what if 10,275 is better than 9,992? To me that seems like a big difference because we're always talking about money here in reference to THOUSANDS or MILLIONS of guaranis. But that difference equates to a nickel. Sometimes it's just easier to go with the brand we've found we like, whether it's 5 cents cheaper or not.

2. The goods made in Paraguay (vs. Argentina or Brazil) are lesser priced but sometimes lesser quality, it seems. I still prefer to buy the product made here b/c it helps the Paraguayan economy, and the package is in Spanish.

3. If I can get past my inhibitions about food out in the open, I can save a bundle by buying the bulk foods. Many things come in giant open trashcans with or without a plastic bag inside. A million varieties of breads/rolls/buns, flour, sugar, cookies, rice, beans, laundry detergent, pet foods, yerba for terere, pastas, and more. There are plastic bags nearby, which you take over to the bin, fill up using the big scoops, and then take over to the employee standing at the scale. She weighs your bag, prints out a price sticker, and sends you on your way. I get a bit nervous because it's all just sitting out in the open, with whatever bug wants to crawl in, having free reign to do so. I am getting less fru-fru about these things and if the store seems clean, I dig through the bin and scoop out my sugar. The pasta doesn't matter as much b/c it can be rinsed, and the laundry detergent doesn't matter at all. I haven't gotten my nerve up, though, to buy bulk from the store that has the slab of raw meat with its accompanying flies right by the bulk bins of flour and sugar. Mrs. Economical has to draw the line somewhere.


  1. I can totally understand the meat thing. I would never buy that kind of offer either!
    But it´s nice of you to buy "made in Paraguay" because you want to help the economy!

  2. I buy things made in Paraguay as often as I can as well, but I avoid open meat counters and the bins. I think we have to put a price on health as well.

    Great picture. :)

  3. I take a calculator to the grocery store while in Paraguay too! It is a fun experience!

  4. I am SO much like you, it makes me laugh. I have gotten over price comparisons here, though because there's usually only one of any product!

    Way to help the local economy. We do that as much as possible.


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