Monday, December 14, 2009

Got Food?

Shopping is one of the national past times in Singapore, but grocery shopping is of course required.  When I first arrived, the struggle was to figure out how to shop without my car.  Back home, just lugging the groceries from my car to apartment was a pain.  Imagine then navigating the bus/train with all of your first-time grocery needs.  Not fun :).

My cupboards were bare for quite a while.  While they still aren't that full, it's not for lack of shopping but lack of cooking enthusiasm.  I've found a few options for me:
  1. Make many small trips where only 1-2 bags need to be carried home.
  2. Buy groceries and take a taxi home.
  3. Order online and have them delivered.
  4. Shop in the store and have your purchases delivered.
I have tried all four to some extent, each with their positives and negatives.  I tend to do a mixture of 1 and 4 - perishables require individual trips and get carried home themselves; non-perishables get bought in bulk and delivered.  The taxi can work, but you still have to carry all your purchases from checkout to the taxi queue (pronounced "Q"; British word used here for line) and then wait for a taxi, which may or may not be quick.  Option 3 is similar to 4, but I don't like it because I don't feel that my options are the same online and I just really enjoy shopping in the store (I'm not a big online shopper for non-food items either). 

This past week was a prime example of my new shopping habits.  Tuesday night I took the bus to a nearby grocery store that has a good deli. 

Sidebar: There are 3 main grocery stores in Singapore - FairPrice (similar to a Cub foods or Sullivan's - cheaper store with the basics), ColdStorage (similar to Kroger - big chain with a little nicer experience and greater selection), or Jason's Market Place (similar to Schnuck's or another high-end organic grocer - it has the best shopping experience along with the most expensive prices).  With each step-up, the variety and availability of Western/American food items increases along with the prices. 

I like to go to FairPrice for generic items - bread, milk, juice, fruits, sweets, etc.; but when it comes to deli meat for sandwiches and real cheese, I go to Jason's.  On any given trip, it probably takes about an hour for me to get there, look through all the aisles, check-out and get back home. I try to keep it to one bag and bring my canvas bag to re-use.  Tuesday night I needed deli meat and therefore went to Jason's.  Came out with wheat bread, raisin bread, shaved turkey, feta cheese, two large roasted red peppers (called capsicum here), oranges, apples, tomatoes, an avocado, salsa and Tostitos.  I think that was about it.  Total bill ~S$40  (cheese and peppers were almost S$10 a piece).   Carried in one bag to the bus stop to get home.  *This store is near the #2 on the map below.

Saturday I went to Carrefour for my non-perishables.  Carrefour is our local equivalent to Wal-Mart (i.e. it has more than food).  I found out that if you spend more than S$150, you can get free delivery; otherwise, it is S$8 - which isn't too bad.  Saturday I loaded up on drinking water, milk (I get UHT boxed milk that sits on the shelf), juice, honey, cereal, peanut butter, laundry detergent, softener, cans of soup, new trash can, paper towels and hangers (along with some other little things).  I've been slowly changing out my closet hangers since the move - about 5-10 per trip to Carrefour.  I think I should be almost complete by now.  Space is limited in Singapore, so Carrefour is a two-level store.  Foods and personal products on the top, clothing, hardware, toys and electronics on the bottom.  There is an escalator to connect the two floors.  When you go down it, the cart wheels lock into place on the floor, so no concern about rolling away and smashing into someone.  Then at check-out, simply say it's for delivery.  Everything comes out of the cart to be scanned and goes back into the cart without being bagged.  Then you go to the counter right outside, fill out the paper work, leave the cart and wait for it to be delivered in about 24 hours.  My shopping trip ended ~8:30pm and was to be delivered between 4pm and 9pm on Sunday (actual arrival was a little past 5pm).

I left the store with nothing but my receipt and purse.  It was wonderful.  It was a nice evening out, I had on my tennis shoes and I decided to walk along my bus route until I was ready to hop on the bus.  I've included the map below (courtesy of the "route mapping" function from Nike+), which shows where I started on the right (took the bus here) and where I end (at home) on Alexandra Road.  The walk was good and so I never made it to that bus.  All in all, it turned out to be a 3.2 mile walk home.  I did stop for a snack pack and fountain Coke at McDonald's around mile 2 (the numbers are the mile markers).

Sunday, I only needed to be home when my purchases were delivered.  The only issue is that I have to do this shopping on Friday night or Saturday so that I'm actually home to receive it.  It's a great way not to have to carry around a bunch of crap though.  And here's my to put it away :).

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