After years of cheerfully p(l)aying with physical money, the duck and I switched to using our debit card instead. Shopping has felt slightly less exciting since – even as a child, I would opt for coins to pay for my pretend shop. The duck was always happy helping out in the filling-our-shopping-basket-to-the-brim part of our shop and then sitting back and watching while I paid for our groceries. Clearly, the switch has been easier for the duck.
So, to return the favor from two months ago, the duck accumulated some local grocery store flyers for me to study – I hadn’t assembled applicable offers for our detailed shopping list for the week yet. Then, the duck asked for some paper and a pen from our neverending stash and collected bullet points for a list of advantages of paying by card. After finalizing the shopping list, I would get to compose one more list together with the duck – what a wonderful late new year’s present! Because it was so much fun, the duck suggested I share the outcome (of the latter). Voilà:
When I shop, I consistently choose shopping baskets over shopping carts. If there are no baskets, a shopping bag from the stash inside my backpack will have to do. But I prefer baskets. Can you imagine my disappointment when one of the few local basket-carrying grocery stores had seemingly run out? It was mild but memorable.
During another shop, I overheard an exchange between the cashier and an acquaintance of his, presumably a civilian-clothed (former) coworker. It went roughly like this:
Civilian: “Where did all the baskets go?”
Cashier: “They were (getting) stolen!”
Then, a shared knowing look and a chuckle (I might owe an embellishment credit to my memory for this part).
I wish I could recall the exact wording of the cashier’s statement, as there is a difference between: “All the baskets were stolen. There aren’t any left,” and “The basket supply was dwindling. We removed the remaining few”. The former sounds more exciting, though I suspect the latter to be true.
A few weeks later, when I entered the store, shopping bag ready, I was shocked to see the baskets had returned. I had expected their removal to be a permanent solution, especially after the overheard exchange. Then, I wondered: Had the baskets been removed to install anti-burglary chips? Had they been held hostage until a decision about their future was made? Maybe the no-basket period was simply a parenting tactic to teach the criminal neighborhood a lesson on appreciating the things it takes for granted? The more I thought about it, the more I believed in this sequence of events: The cashier and his friend, fed up with the regular disappearance of shopping baskets, had planned this stunt well in advance. First, they would hide all baskets. Then, they would stage several performances of the shopping basket conversation to ensure most patrons would witness it. Maybe, they multi-cast the role of “Civilian” to reduce suspicion. Either way, they must have done extensive purchase behavior studies beforehand so they wouldn’t hit the same clientele twice. Perhaps management was in on it? Maybe they hired professional actors? Possibly, this has the potential to become a new ducktective case. Probably, I’m overthinking this. Obviously, I need to know.
Asking outright would be too embarrassing. Maybe I could hire the duck to infiltrate the store and investigate the staff through some offhand new coworker questions? What do you think?
It’s been a while since the duck and I last professed our undying love for grocery shopping. Since then, there have been a few changes. Let’s start with the obvious one: In the last three years, various rules concerning store capacity, face visibility, and personal space were introduced and adapted. However, the biggest one for the duck and me was paying for our shop – we finally learned about checkouts and ceased walking out of the store, bags almost bursting with free groceries- ouch! The duck’s bad joke nudges have become more forceful. I should probably look into limiting the duck’s regular yoga master drills to five per day. Bad jokes aside, I used to love playing store with miniature groceries, plastic money, and cash register sound effects. The only reason I stopped was a halt in playdate invitations. Fortunately, real grocery shopping turned out to be nearly as fun. Can you imagine my delight when I get to use self-service checkout machines? Even at a regular register, paying for my purchases in cash, ideally with exact change, was fun. As a bonus, I always precisely remembered how much I had spent on my shopping trips.
When shoppers were asked to kindly pay cashless in 2020, I acquiesced. At first, I used the chip readers and was called back to fetch my card several times. Once, I left it at a self-service checkout. When I returned the next day to retrieve it, I was scolded by the employee as he returned my card. I have since progressed to touch-to-pay. Fortunately, I’m naturally frugal (which is what I should call my stinginess from now on), so I’m never severely surprised by the total on my receipt. But that’s because I already am when I see the price tags in-store and internally exclaim: “I remember a time when bread was basically free… because I was a freeloading child-” ouch! When we saw that most of our staples were spared from intense price hikes, the duck and I boldly declared our fortunateness. Unsurprisingly, inflation caught up with us. Now we cry whenever we buy oatmeal at a 40% higher price than before. We’re still shopping cheaper and healthier than in Japan, so we shouldn’t complain.
What’s your stance on grocery shopping? Do you have a preferred way to pay? What is your favorite country/city/store to shop in?
It is still winter. It is still too cold for the duck and my liking. It is the perfect time to write more about the one outside activity the duck and I enjoy all year round. The last time we dedicated a blog post to our adventures in grocery shopping, the duck and I were living in Tokyo. We had set off on our first grocery trip full of hopes and aspirations. We returned with a bag filled with confusion, sensory overload, and a little bit of food. Don’t get me wrong, we loved going grocery shopping in Tokyo. It felt like an adventure until our last days in this exciting city (the sunglasses and imaginary leather jackets we were going to use as our regular grocery shopping outfit once we’d figured out every aspect of it never left our wardrobe). Now we live in Berlin, which, surprisingly, is not at all like Tokyo. When it comes to grocery shopping here, I’m much more optimistic. Now that the duck and I have been educated about the burning ambition of the common pantry moth, not much could stop us on our quest to grocery shopping mastery.
Just look at the duck’s exploits! Those who have read about our grocery shopping adventures in Japan might already suspect how much we love buying our food in German supermarkets and grocery stores (and sometimes even drugstores). Gosh, we love grocery shopping so much that we could probably write a post about it every week for a year and never run out of topics. This is why the duck and I decided to limit ourselves to writing a comparison (in many, many words) between our experiences grocery shopping in Tokyo and in Berlin:
It is winter, the season that allows the duck and me to stay in without feeling guilty. The only outside activity that we do enjoy despite the cold temperatures (fortunately there hasn’t been any snow yet as the shoes from the duck and my totally unsuspicious trip to Hikarigaoka two years ago have finally become leaky) is going grocery shopping: When I put on my newly holey shoes, don my 108 yen winter hat and grab my tote bags I’m already in a wonderful mood for food despite the prospect of having to go outside. Add a nice podcast to the mix (Reply All is my current favorite walking to the shops podcast while I’m waiting for the new season of Flash Forward) and there’s not much that can make my day any better, apart from a lack of rain and the opportunity to use a loyalty card or app for some nice little bonus points or discounts while I’m buying my chocolaty essentials. Since my phone is counting down the days until it can retire, the duck and I much prefer physical cards; there’s just something magical about scanning stuff (I have enjoyed working at a cash register way too much in the past! I think video games may have conditioned me to feel happy whenever I hear a ‘beep’ of success).
Look! The duck has found a few physical cards to pose with! In order to share with you just how much we love loyalty programs (there aren’t many airlines we haven’t joined the loyalty program of – I suppose we’re playing their game wrong), the duck and I decided to, once again, compose a beautiful piece of fauxetry (also because we so regret not having signed up for any loyalty programs in Japan because our Japanese skills were, and still are, horrendous). This time we decided to go with a free verse poem since we’re finally embracing our laziness this year and can’t be bothered with too many rules:
We’ve been gone for a while. Life has been busy and there hasn’t been a lot of time for the duck and me to laze around lately. In fact, we are still a bit short on time, but we just couldn’t stay away any longer. So, here is a mini-post (which is a rather rare occurrence in our collection of infinite blabbering about very interesting things) on… salad – our one true love on hot summer evenings for a semi-healthy affordable refreshing vitamin boost after a full day of work and a little too much commuting for our liking (crazy, Iknow). Actually, Germany is one of our favorite countries for grocery shopping on a budget. Just imagine our excitement when we see grapes on sale for about 1.50€ in a different store each week – our Japan-selves would have been soooo jealous! Sure, German grapes (well, you know, the imported ones you can buy in the stores) aren’t nearly as cool and delicious as the ones we fell in love with in Japan, but at this price point- who cares?!
After having had to ration out our fruit and veggies for many, many months back in Tokyo (those Japanese price tags still give the duck and me nightmares from time to time), being able to prepare a colorful salad for under one Euro per bowl is amazing! This is one of the main reasons the duck and I have sworn to only ever move back to Japan if we are rich enough to afford the vitamin lifestyle!
What are your favorite foods to buy at the grocery store? Did you ever realize how much you love a certain food only after you moved to a completely new place? We’re looking forward to hearing your food appreciation stories!
Oh dear! Because we’ve been gone for so long, you almost missed the entire life span of Cutie-pie’s grass! It’s as if the times of his glorious greenery never even existed!
* The duck and I know that our salad is a very poor representation of food that is actually rich in vitamin B. However, we just couldn’t resist this play on words, as in German the term ‘Vitamin B’ also refers to interpersonal connections that give you all the important things in life. The duck and I are quite bad at networking, even though we have worked A LOT in these past few months – so we just had to use this title… in an attempt to remind ourselves of what we are working so much for? Maybe? Who knows? (Shoot us a message or something if you do.)
The duck and I love shopping for groceries (maybe even a little too much, but to each their own, right?), and grocery shopping in Japan is no exception. Once we have managed to get our lazy behinds out of the house (and mentally prepared ourselves for a journey beyond the extensions of our home that are Konbini), there is no stopping us!
Let’s go back a few weeks. We had just moved into our new place and were excited to fill that empty refrigerator of ours. So, we quickly compiled a shopping list (= we added one more item to the list that we had started before even moving in – that’s how much we love grocery shopping), memorized the way to a more or less nearby grocery store, and set off on our first grocery shopping adventure – dreaming of bags filled with beautiful and nutritious food.
And we did return with something that would at least guarantee us to not starve for the next few hours. But shopping for proper food in Japan (for the first time) turned out to be quite a bit of a challenge. Let me explain why: