by Julie Espinosa
SPECIALTY SHOPS: For fresh, affordable fruit, meats, seafood and bread, compare prices at competing fruterías (fruit and veg), charcuterías (delicatessen, ham, cheese etc), carnicerías (meat), pescaderías (fish) and panaderías (bread) in your neighborhood and at local mercado (market) stalls. Check the euro/kilo price at the specific supermarket section, but know that fruit is always cheapest and bread always freshest at individual fruit shops and bakeries.
At small shops, customers mill about chatting or looking at the merchandise. Upon arrival, ask “¿La última?” The last person will pipe up; now you know when it’s your turn. The shopkeeper takes and fills orders so you will never touch the food; you may get the occasional bruised fruit, but not many.
SUPER… and HIPER-MARKETS: Save the supermarket for prepackaged items like coffee, yogurt, beans, spices, ice cream, cereal, etc. or hard-to-find imported items.
Some supermarkets charge for plastic bags. Do as the locals and bring your own carrito (cart – see bottom right photo above) or at least reusable canvas bags. At the entrance lockers, lock up the carrito and anything else you brought. Insert a 50-cent piece to release the key (you’ll get it back). Shopping carts are coin-released too. For large purchases, home delivery is available. Popular chains include Día, Mercadona, SuperSol, and Carrefour. I recommend Mercadona.