It's the little things that you encounter while living abroad, that really remind you that you're in a different country. For me, that little thing is grocery shopping. Seriously. I go to the grocery store every day or every other day (thank you tiny fridge). So, with my almost two months of living here under my belt, here are the ways that Scottish grocery stores are different then their American counterparts.
1. Bring your own bag or pay 5p. I carry bags everywhere now. I stuff the lifelong ASDA bags in my big bag and trot off to the stores so I can save that 5p. When I forget, I try to stuff it all in my large handbag and sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't.
2. You bag your own groceries. Nobody will bag your groceries for you here! And, since most everyone brings their own bags, it's like this great game of Tetris, but with eggs, sugar, flour, and milk.
3. You pay for your cart, sorta. Most of the carts can only be released by a coin. When you put your cart away, you get your coin back. Since I walk to the grocery store, I resist using the carts because I don't want to end up with more then I can carry!
4. Produce is different but the same. I can buy the usual suspects: apples, oranges, grapefruit, pears, but they'll also be alongside figs, parsnips, Brussel sprouts (SO MANY BRUSSEL SPROUTS!) and twenty different types of potatoes. Broccoli is hit or miss here; I had a bad experience at ASDA with bug covered broccoli so now I inspect the stuff very carefully. I also can't find pumpkins anywhere, except at overpriced specialty stores in Glasgow and I don't want to carry a pumpkin onto the train...
5. Meat and fish can be bought at the grocery store or the nearby butcher. I prefer to go to the butcher, because I like knowing where the meat came from. Our butcher is very friendly and always asks how I'm adjusting to Scotland. We can buy pheasant, duck, version alongside haggis and tripe at the butcher. Yay?
6. Pre-packaged meals are very popular here. Most stores have several aisles dedicated to TV style dinners that can be refrigerated or frozen. Savoury pies are also extremely popular. Most meals have a mashed veg (like peas) alongside a meat and carb.
7. Eggs are not refrigerated. Works out well for us, because once again, tiny fridge. Also, the eggs are sold in containers of 10 or 15, not 12.
8. Many stores have sugar, unrefrigerated milk, and tea all on the same aisle. Priorities.
9. Juice is difficult to find, if you're picky like me. Much of the juice is actually squash, or a thick concentrate. A lot of the juices are "sugar free" and filled instead with fake sugar and the taste isn't remotely close. I haven't been brave enough to try orange juice here, but I finally found that Ocean Spray original cranberry juice in the box container is the best one can get.
10. Some of the more odd foods I've founds: beetroot everything, pate, cream of tomato soup (not to be confused with regular tomato soup which cannot be found over here. We've tried.), crumpets, milk chocolate digestive cookies, canned mincemeat (without the meat), hot dogs in brine in a can, and a whole, two foot long fish (with the head on.)
11. If you wish to spend an extra pound or two, many grocery stores will deliver your food to your door. Great if you don't have a car and are needing 6 bags of potatoes.
Grocery shopping has been a great adventure overall. We use both the nearby Food-Coop (which is just a tiny little grocery store but the sales there can be spectacular) and the nearby Morrisons (which is more in line with a Bilo). Marks and Spencers is far pricier and comparable to a Whole Foods, but with considerably more pre-packed meals. ASDA is basically a Walmart. We do have Aldi, but the nearest one is a train ride away. We don't have a Tesco nearby or a Lidt, both popular British brands. And lastly, Waitrose is the supreme queen of grocery stores, as the prices can attest. I really enjoy my daily walk to the grocery store and it's always an adventure because who knows what you will find. :)