One of the questions we get most is about how our diet may have changed since we moved. Here’s some thoughts in no particular order:
* The ONE and only item we’ve not found locally is corn tortillas. The shops have multiple “corn” tortillas but they’re flour tortillas with cornmeal added. I’m honestly shocked that we’ve found every other possible food here, even ones we heard may be harder to track down. (Many people heard peanut butter is hard to find here – nope, they’ve got loads of it including bulk American types at Costco, and so many seed butters as well.)
* Produce here is so inexpensive, shops have weekly sales where at least 5 produce items are ___ price (usually £.29 to £.59) which is great to try new things, but apart from that even the stuff we eat all the time is always a good price. Berries are slightly more expensive in winter, but nothing like the huge mark ups we see in the US when stuff is out of season. I love, love, love the produce. Giant avocados, like Texas sized but less expensive! I’ve not found anything missing – oh, wait, I’ve not found fresh artichokes, but I’ve also not been looking hard.
* There are two grocers within .4 miles of our house, and 3 superstore type groceries within a mile or so. Costco is 12 miles away, it’s in the next city over. So the kids can walk to the shop to buy something, or we can drive if we’re doing a BIG stock up trip.
* Yes, the Grocery stores all deliver, but we’ve not actually tried that option yet. They also have click and pull so you can just go to the store and have your stuff ready to be loaded up for you. (Also not tried that.) I’m not sure why… I guess we’ve not planned ahead that much?
* We have a college dorm size fridge, which is normal here – but we’re lucky in that we have TWO fridges and a freezer so I feel very fortunate. One is in the kitchen and it’s our main fridge and where the produce is and kids’ stuff, the other two are in the utility room off the kitchen and we keep the dinner/big meal stuff in there.
* We’re at the grocery store at least 2 times a week – which in the US would have made me nuts, but I don’t mind here at all! (Okay, and Kit does 3/4th of the trips.) The stores are smaller, you can dash in and out quickly, and the foods don’t have preservatives so you do need to use it up and then go get more plus the fridge is tiny so you can only store so much.
* There are markets, but only certain days/locations and I’ve not researched them yet but will in the spring. There are also speciality shops – bakeries, cheese shops, butcher or fish shops, etc. We’ve looked into some, but don’t use them for our main stuff. There’s also milk delivery to your home, but we don’t do that much milk.
* It’s so much easier to find vegetarian options here than in Texas, which is not surprising. Every restaurant has veggie options (and not just a baked potato and salad) and many have vegan. The grocery stores, even the littlest ones, have vegetarian prepared meals and meat alternative dishes (like “sausage” rolls, shepherd’s pie, curries, etc.) And there’s a lot of different lines of meat alternatives, like Korn. Which really confused me when people kept telling me Korn is good. Not corn. 🙂 The places will also list if their foods are kosher or halal, and foods will list if they have pork or beef gelatin so you know if they are safe depending on your own dietary guidelines. Though happily for me, many items use gelatin alternatives like pectin – they just seem a lot more mindful of being vegan/veggie here. C said at his college cafeteria they also always include veggie entree options. More on that below.
* Kit says everything seems to have more flavor here. And the cheese selection is “bewildering.” All of the kids also talk about how much they love the food here!
* The EU has guidelines about food that seem stricter than the US, and in general the companies seem to have stricter guidelines themselves that they market, like no artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners in kids’ stuff, no preservatives in some things, etc. Allergens are very clearly labeled and put in bold print, and they list more allergens than I see in the US.
* Though oddly, finding soda without artificial sweetener can be tricky! They advertise that they are low sugar or no sugar, but even the regular Fanta has aspartame! Which makes me sad, as I liked Fanta as a kid.
* We have a curry of some sort at least weekly – in the US they have huge aisles for tomato based pasta sauces? Here it’s so many delicious curry sauces, too. We’re slowly trying it all, and there aren’t giant shelves of tortillas but there are lots of naan breads and baguettes! The Indian Community Centre Association has meals for under £4 Mon-Fri and we’re hooked. Not all of the kids share my love, but we’re working on them.
* We eat a lot of bread here. 🙂 My favorite is the “seed” breads, which in the states were like $5 loaf! Here they’re under £1, and I adore them. The kids aren’t fans, as they don’t like the half dozen whole seed types thrown in like sunflower seeds, poppy, sesame, etc. Joseph’s a baguette lover, we eat those several times a week. He’s also a fan of crumpets, we have to ration those to him. And scones. Or croissants. Are we seeing at theme? I eat a pain au chocolat at least weekly – most every grocery store has them, or at least the ones with bakeries in house.
* Tea is a serious thing here. And the biscuits that go with it. There are lots of opinions, and traditions. That’s gotta be another post.
* The crisps (potato chips) are wonderful, but I cannot figure out why they only seem to come in individual size bags in larger bags. It’s a lot of bags! It’s not a standard Lay size family bag, it’s 6 (or 12 or 26) individual bags in a bigger bag. It’s odd, since in so many other ways they are very careful about package waste. Doritos and tortilla chips are in one bag… though the tortilla chips are strangely small bags, like our family would need at least 2 entire bags to make nachos. 🙂 There are lots of flavors like prawn cocktail, Worcestershire sauce, salt and vinegar/malt vinegar/balsamic vinegar, then meat stuff – bacon, roast beef, chicken, etc. I think that’s their version of BBQ? Because it’s almost impossible to find BBQ chips here, I do miss those and sour cream & chives chips. They have sour cream and onion flavor, but they are mostly just onion flavor. However, the other crisp flavors make up for the missing BBQ.
* Oatmeal is porridge. But with quick oats, not old fashioned oats. I cannot explain Weetabix but all my children and Kit seem to love them. They look bizarre to me.
* Lemon curd is delightful. And makes delicious lemon turnovers with the puff pastry here that I’m hooked on, and it’s also a fraction of the cost vs. the US (£1 box vs. $4.) Oh, and wrap a brie in the puff pastry and you can spread it with raspberry jam or cranberry sauce – amazing! (The brie is also crazy cheap, like £1 a wedge.)
* There’s a LOT of prepackaged meals available at shops, but not scary ones like I’ve seen in some places. Like pastas and salads and prepped veggies (like a pound of root veggies already washed, chopped, seasoned) so you can buy a meal, or buy the ingredients prepped to make your own. I love that! Stir fry veggie mixes fresh and ready for £.79 or ones with noodles also included for £1. Fresh pasta for £1.50, curries, samosas, quiches, veggie rolls. We still mostly cook from scratch, but we’re also buying prepped veggies and we never did in that in the states – but here it’s so cheap!
* And it’s not just the produce or bread, but packaged stuff is really cheap. Honey! Which is crazy expensive when we left the states. Jams and lemon curd for under £.50/jar, pasta, curry sauces, soups, cookies. Or hummus, it’s £.50 package here and every shop has it. All under £1… it’s like a pound is the limit for any grocery item. 🙂 Okay, I exaggerate, milk is more than that if you get the largest size container. And some chocolates, or cheeses. But not many! (Meat is more, someone asked so I looked at the prices – it’s comparable to stateside prices.) The veggie burgers are like £1.50/box of four. So there is still that’s more, but I rarely pay more than £2 for any food item unless it’s bulk like a whole bag of apples, a box of grapes or clementines, etc. We’ve still not figured out why food is so much less expensive here.
* The prices here in our town are comparable to London – I was curious and checked, we went to some of the same shops there vs. here in our town, and the prices are almost all identical. So it wasn’t my imagination, when we went to London last year for a week our grocery bill really was less than in Texas, and it still is here.
* Nuts! Pecans are crazy expensive, but we can get 125g roast cashews for £.75, and 325g pistachios for under £3.
* C eats at his college, and he said most meals are £1.50-£2.50 for something like quiche, curry, shepherd’s pie. Chips are a side for £1, fish is £1.50. (French fry chips, that is.) I don’t know school lunch prices in the states, but that seems good to me and he said it’s good food.
* You bring your own shopping bags. They have to charge you at least 5 pence per bag, it’s the law. (And not just grocers.)
* Livy says, “Do not take the Marmite! It tastes terrible.”
* J ate an American peanut butter cup at a farewell party for some friends’ here and he said it’s too sweet. Which made us laugh, that their tastes have changed and now they’ll stop eating something and tell us it’s too sweet. Ha! My children??
* Christmas you don’t leave out cookies and milk for Santa, you leave mince pie and brandy. We have tried the mince pie (mincemeat does NOT have meat in it, we’ve been asked that often) and Kit’s a big fan. (Friends invited us for a mince pie and mulled wine holiday party – their homemade pies were awesome!)
I think that answers all the questions, but let me know if I missed any!