Tuesday, October 26, 2010

10 Things I Learned About Food Shopping

Today's topic is Shopping in Israel. It is dedicated to my Tired friend who, during a discussion about food shopping, said, "You know, this is a total blog post." Sometimes you need a friend to point out the blogginess in your everyday life.


Now, I had the luxury of not doing the food shopping for the first many years of our marriage. Donny did it for a long time, and then when he started working out in Nowheresville, Long Island and had to stop, I became very good friends with Peapod. However, since moving to Israel, I have been solely in charge of this dreaded task. I have had ample time - because I always pick the wrong line - to ponder and reflect on the nature of food purchasing.

I do my main food shopping at either Supersol or Rami Levi, depending how Israeli I am feeling.
(Rami Levi = very Israeli.)


1. Best food shopping day: Monday morning at opening time. It's early in the week, shelves are stocked, cashiers are just sitting there waiting for you, lines are empty. It's a beautiful thing.


2. However, do NOT go Sunday morning at opening time. No lines, true, but also no food. The stores are just getting in their deliveries on Sundays, so until they figure out how to display the food, you're stuck with a lot of last week's leftovers. I have been shopping on Sundays and seen the chicken counter completely empty. Or the cheese guy tell me he hasn't set up shop yet.


Digression; an actual wondering: I know my mother used to go early Sunday morning to the kosher supermarket in Baltimore. They should have had the same problem, since they hadn't gotten deliveries since Friday. Yet, it didn't seem to be a problem. They had food. Milk, meat, chicken, even cheese. Maybe it's a mentality thing. Here, if the store opens at 7:30, then at 7:30 - and not a moment before - the workers start to stumble in, clean the floors, unpack the food, and toss it onto the shelves. (The cucumber toss is my favorite.)

3. Avoid Rami Levi at all costs in the immediate days before a chag. For some reason, RL shoppers are insane. We're talking lines for carts, stalking people to their car to claim their spot, fistfights over leeks. I'll admit it's invigorating, but if you are in need of some invigoration, it's safer to sniff some Vick's VapoRub.

4. There is a wonderful store here that delivers produce. You call them up, tell them what you want, and they bring it to your door. You don't even have to be home when they come. This is a beautiful thing. Of all the things I have to buy at the store, produce is the worst. Elbowing people for a spot at the cucumbers, sifting through peaches to find the good ones - it's very overwhelming and time-consuming. So cutting that entire section out - it's a good feeling.


5. Speaking of produce, when choosing a line, you do not want to be behind Mr. or Mrs. Bags 'O Veggies. Produce takes the longest time to scan, because it has to be weighed, then a code must be entered in ("Hey," shouts the cashier, in no rush, "Can someone tell me the code for beets? No, not meats, beets! Cleats? Do we even sell that? I said BEETS! Oh, okay. But what was that? 0542? No? 0642? I can't hear you. Ok, I'm getting up and coming over." At that point, once the cashier has upped and left, you are done for. Get out a book and construct a seat out of the little gum boxes, because it's going to be a while.


6. More about lines. Do be behind men - they tend to be fast and efficient baggers. Now, perhaps when they get home, their wives complain that they put the laundry detergent on top of the flimsy yogurt containers, causing the yogurt to squelch out and now there is a strawberry mess all over the bags, and why didn't they pay attention when they bagged, but remember - this is not YOUR problem. Men are fast. The end.


7. If you can, avoid getting in line behind people doing a delivery. Now, I admit that it is hard to know ahead of time who is getting a delivery, and it may be too late, because you've already put half your items on the belt when you see them start to write out their address on a slip of paper, and they like to write v-e-e-e-e-ry slowly and clearly, and people who weren't alive when you entered the store have been born, gone to school, finished college, got a Master's degree, toured Romania, got married, had some kids, and are now finishing bagging their groceries in the line next to you.


8. There is a certain segment of the population that is notorious for line-holding-up. Not wanting to make sweeping generalizations, of course, I will not name this segment, only say that DADZ is now a proud member.

They tend to come equipped with coupons and argue over the price of oil ("The sign said it was buy two, get one free." Then the mistrustful cashier has to call one of the store lackeys over to go to the aisle and check it out for himself. The lackey saunters - it's the only way he knows how - and wanders up and down the aisles till he finds the one that says "Oil." Then he saunters back and there is a heated discussion because the sign was supposed to have been taken down today, because the sale was over last week, but it wasn't, and both sides are very angry at each other until the manager has to be pulled from his coffee break and he saunters over and the argument continues and your gum-box chair is starting to become very uncomfortable.)

Naturally, this population also likes to pay in cash. Preferably coins. If you see someone whipping out a change purse (well, "slowly retrieving" would be a better description) run the other way.


9. Mivtza'ei kupah. These are special "sale" items that are only available as you are checking out, and you need to make a snap decision about whether you want them and how many you want. For the sake of your sanity and the sanity of those behind you, JUST SAY NO! (This applies to sale items at the pharmacy also.) Once you start engaging in a conversation about these items ("Today we have soy sauce, bathroom tissue, and carrots!"), it's years before you can extricate yourself. There are specific rules about how many and in what combination you can get these items, and if they don't have the item handy at the counter, then you have to run around the store finding them, fending off evil glares from the people behind you on their gum chairs. Or, worse yet, the Lackey is sent to saunter off in search of your tissues. Just say no.

10. In Israel, your most breakable item is not your eggs - it's your bags of milk. They are easily punctured, so make sure they are not put under or next to anything sharp or heavy, or you will end up with a trunk full of spilled milk, and trust me, you will cry.

21 comments:

SaraK said...

So informative, should be required reading for all new olim. Get thee on the NBN website!

Kathleen said...

I have learned much about Israeli food shopping now!
I can see how the milk bags could be a problem. I would cry if faced with a trunkful of spilled milk.

Another reason to avoid those of the population notorious for line-holding-up is that they tend to like to "chat".

trn said...

people who weren't alive when you entered the store have been born, gone to school, finished college, got a Master's degree, toured Romania, got married, had some kids, and are now finishing bagging their groceries in the line next to you

This is just too funny!

faith/emuna said...

very good list, but not complete, next time you can discuss how to spot someone who left a family memeber on line with a buggy/wagon/cart/trolley (my husband and i debated what one calls it most of the first yr of our marriage) thats half full, but she is still shopping; and if you dont feel israeli and go to supersol, how you manage to tell them you are NOT getting their charge card without getting into a fist fight.
oh and number 3 shouldve been in all caps dadz style (HAPPY BDAY DADZ) if youre in need for an idea b4 pesach you can devote a whole post on the subject

Leah Goodman said...

this was a fantastic post!!! Should get its own hall of fame or something!

Rachel Inbar said...

I must be in Israel too long... BTW, my brother Ben studied cashiers (informally, during some of his longer stays in line) and came to the conclusion that if you don't know any of the cashiers, the ones who are heavier are faster checker-outers on average...

Anonymous said...

Oh too funny!

Love #7.....

Handmade in Israel said...

What a great post! You definitely forgot about the cart/queue thing though! I major deterrant wit Rami Levi.

ditza said...

i have never laughed so hard at a blog post. thank you for swiftly plunging into the world of isreali shopping analysis!

Gila Rose said...

SaraK - I don't know, NBN is so earnest and helpful. I just make fun of stuff. But thanks!

Can't believe I forgot the whole leave-your-cart-in-line trick! Or the people that just park it randomly in the aisle and leave it there while they do their shopping. I'm totally going to need an addendum.

Any other additions I forgot? We can have a follow-up post. Also, I seriously need a catchier title.

OneTiredEma said...

Did I ever tell you about the time I literally abandoned a cart (w/the 5 NIS) full of cereal in RL? It was a Friday.

Hannah tipped me off to shopping early afternoon, when kids are home from gan already. (NOT noon--more like 1:30-2.) I'm not brave enough to try this past Tuesday, but I do it on Monday or Tuesday.

The produce weighing thing is so true--never would have occurred to me. The checkout really gums up the works. Even on Fridays it's possible to get in and navigate the store...you just can't get out.

(And leaving the cart in line is not just for the supermarket. Trust me.)

Anonymous said...

Rami Levi may be more "Israeli" than Supersol, but you can make the SS experience more authentic by pronouncing it correctly: "Shufersal".

Anonymous said...

Gila, such a funny post! We missed you yesterday!
Leah

Anonymous said...

How about the "express" checkout aisle? That deserves its own post.

Deanna said...

I absolutely love this. I wonder though if these are only things that we, Olim, notice. Original Israelis are welcome to respond.

Israeli Mother said...

The one thing you could add is to be very vigilant for people who come after you are already in line and say that they were here before you and insist on getting in front of you. Their usual modus operandi is to come when the store is very crowded and there are carts haphazardly standing in a crush packing the check-out area and to push their cart near yours and then claim that they were ahead of you even when you saw them come to check out half an hour after you got into line.

This also happens at the bank, the post office, and everywhere else there is a line.

Anonymous said...

People who park their cart at teh checkout, *then* go and do their shopping, and say "but I only left to get one thing I forgot" when you've seen them arrive 6 or 7 times with armsful of stuff. I tell them that I left my gum (or chocolate, or whatever) at teh line before their cart was there. Then I pick one up off the display. Costs me a couple extra shekel, but saves me a half hour (and hey, the chocolate's going to get eaten, isn't it?)

Gila Rose said...

I do stand corrected re: "Shufersal" not "Supersol."

These are all good additions. We are definitely going to need "Shopping in Israel: The Sequel."

Yael said...

Did you check if they have 1 shekel/kilo vegetable/fruit day on Tuesdays??

I found that our local Rami levis here don't (rumor is Maaleh Adumim was does)...but the local mister zol does...
so I'm trying to buy 100 shekels worth on Tuesdays to get 10 kilo of 1 shekel fruits/veggies..

Isobel Phillips said...

Ok, Vicks VaporRub was definitely a decorate-the-screen-with-coffee moment.

The other week I picked up a deodorant spray for 21 NIS and 2 packs of face wipes for 8 NIS each. When I got to the checkout (SS), the cashier pointed that I could get two deodorants for 25 NIS as they were on special, and promptly disappeared to get them for me. She took my face wipes as well, and returned with the extra deodorant plus a double pack of face wipes for 12 NIS. THAT would never happen in the UK, where the cashiers don't seem to have a clue about what the store even sells, never mind how much it should be ("ooooohh, that looks nice, where did you find it?" "Umm ... on your shelves?")

I'll put up with the waiting to get service like that :)

Gila Rose said...

Thanks for the positive spin, Isobel!