If you’re living in Spain then you’re going to need to eat in Spain! Your Spanish villa or Spanish apartment will be fully equipped with a kitchen, but where will you get the food you need to fill it? Food and drink are an integral part of the Spanish culture, and when you’re not busy filling yourself with tapas and exploring the region’s thriving café culture, you’ll need to go to the local supermarket or grocery store to secure it. With that in mind, here’s your guide to grocery and supermarket shopping in Spain:
Before You Start to Shop
Before you head straight to the nearest supermarket, you should consider that this isn’t the only place to buy food in Spain. If you’d prefer a shorter supply chain, you can also secure produce such as fresh fruit, vegetables and meat from local producers directly, or in local marketplaces. If you’re cash rich but time poor, you could have meal kits delivered directly to your door and don’t forget that Spain is famed for its great restaurants for those days when you don’t feel like cooking at all.
Spanish supermarkets come in many forms: from the oversized out-of-town hypermarkets (such as the ones you might find in America) to smaller city centre based grocery stores that only stock the essentials. No matter how big or small the supermarket (and whether it is a chain-store or run independently) you’re likely to find a mixture of Spanish products and more recognisable international brands. Supermarket shopping in Spain is generally an affordable experience (in comparison to other European countries) whether you’re looking to pop into a small store for bread and milk, or need to visit a larger, out-of-town version that will sell you your weekly shop and a whole new outfit at the same time!
Choosing the Right Supermarket For You
Still not sure what you're looking for, when you head out for your first Spanish supermarket shop? The four main supermarket chains in Spain are:
- Mercadona: This is Spain’s largest supermarket chain, which also has stores in Portugal. Highly regarded, and with an affordable range of produce, the size of the store can vary depending on its location.
- Carrefour: The French retailing giant has the second-highest market share in Spain, with over 1,000 stores. Again, the size of the store can vary depending on its location.
- Alcampo: Part of the French-owned Auchan group, Alcampo is a chain of hypermarkets, meaning that you will generally only find these stores in out of town locations. Because of this the range on offer is huge: from something for dinner to a new TV!
- Eroski: Eroski is a cooperative that has around 1,000 outlets throughout Spain, ranging from hypermarkets to convenience-style stores, depending on location
Just like in other European countries, there are also discounted supermarkets you chould choose if you’re trying to stick to a tighter budget. Still offering high-quality food, but arguably a more basic shopping experience, these include Lidl, Dia and Aldi, and you will find at least one of these brands in every major town or city.
When to Visit the Supermarket in Spain
The opening times will vary, depending on the supermarket you want to visit and whether it is a chain or owned independently. One thing you do need to know is that when it comes to time keeping, the Spanish march to their own tune! But as a rule of thumb, most supermarkets open any time between 08.00 and 09.00am, and close between nine and eleven pm. Most supermarkets do not respect the local siesta but some do, so this is something to be aware of before you head out to shop. Most supermarkets don’t open on Sundays; if you find yourself needing to buy a vital ingredient on a Sunday, you are advised to seek out a smaller convenience store instead.
Whichever store you visit, and whichever time you choose to arrive, don’t forget to bring your own bags! If you do need to restock or replace your shopping bags, you can find them in store but you will be charged for them.
Other Spanish Shopping Options
As mentioned above, although supermarkets are convenient and readily available, they aren’t the only places you can shop in Spain. Here is a list of other Spanish grocery shopping options that may better suit your needs:
Local Food Markets: Visiting the local food market is more than just an opportunity to grab fresh food and veg. It is an exciting sensory experience! Markets are hugely popular throughout the country and they are almost always busy, vibrant and exciting places to be. With so many market locations, a search engine is likely to be the best place to find the one closest to you.
Specialty Stores: Some foods are best brought straight from the producer, and this is where Spain’s specialty stores come in. There is no better place to buy bread from the bakery or meat than from your local butcher. Visiting these specialty stores is also a great way to support and introduce yourself to your local community.
Foreign Food Stores: If you want to make a dish from back home, and desperately need authentic ingredients then head to your local international food store. Most major cities will have an international food store where you can find much better selection of international products at cheaper prices than the main supermarket chains. Larger hypermarkets in Spain also often carry British or American brands and snack products: this is especially true in places with large Ex Pat communities, such as the Costa del Sol.
Health Food Shops: Is your body a temple? Whilst the Spanish aren’t as health-conscious as other European nations, you will find health food stores in some of the country’s larger cities. The bigger supermarkets are also increasingly stocking healthier products and have dedicated health food aisles in store.
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