This is the question I asked myself the other day as I struggled yet again with a trolley (a.k.a “trundler”) whilst doing the shopping at Countdown (a.k.a “Woolworths”). It’s been years since I’ve had to suffer a truly dodgy shopping trolley but it seems to be commonplace here. In fact, since we’ve arrived I can’t recall getting a single one that doesn’t have at least one wheel that a) wants to go in a different direction from the other three or b) doesn’t want to go at all. They look new which begs the question of why they’re so shite? Are they shipped here from Oz once they become troublesome?
However, that’s probably the worst of the adjustments to make when grocery shopping here. As I’ve said before, there’s many similarities between Australia and New Zealand, which makes it much easier for Aussies to acclimatise, especially with the mundane-everyday-routine stuff. Most of the brands are familiar and the layout of shops are pretty much the same. It’s almost like being home.
Countdown is the NZ version of Woolies, complete with same logo, Select brand items and jingles playing over the sound system as you shop. New World is similar to Coles and Pak’n’Save is very much the old Franklins, which I don’t think I’ve seen in about 20 years – huge no-frills warehouse style shopping but still good quality stuff.
Fruit and vege is pretty good – much better quality and reasonable prices but I may be unduly biased due to living in a rural area in Australia where our fruit and vege was trucked to us over great distance after spending time in a warehouse in Brisbane.
And oh my gosh BACON. Holy Dooley. There’s a huge supply of Streaky Bacon and done the old fashioned manuka smoked way without the nitrites in it. Absolutely bloody delicious, without a word of a lie. The bacon here is one of the reasons why I started doing lots of walking. Besides passing the time and becoming familiar with the city, it lets me justify eating so much.
To be honest I haven’t noticed much difference in our grocery bill but like I said we’ve come from a rural area with slightly inflated prices. And it’s just the two of us now. This was really highlighted to me when I realised that a block of cheese lasts weeks instead of merely days in our fridge. Not mentioning any names, boys.
The deli section prices their wares slightly differently. For example, rather than a label saying “$18.49 per kg”, it’s “$1.85 per 100g”. The first time I saw a label like that, I did a double-take because I only registered the price and not the amount. I worked in a deli for a few years and can honestly say I’ve never seen items labelled this way, but I do acknowledge that maths-impaired people like myself would appreciate not having to do complex calculations in our head. Or in my case, saying ‘bugger it, I’ll just have it and won’t worry about the cost”.
Organic stuff is a lot easier to get too. For the past few years I’ve bought organic, non-homogenised milk for a few reasons. One is that the amount of fat in milk is really quite low percentage-wise and the processes it goes through to homogenise and remove the fat render the milk not only inedible (in my opinion) but also not entirely good for your body. Another reason is that it’s usually supplied by a small independent company and I like to support the little guy. If I’m honest though, it’s really just because it tastes so nice in my tea. The last few years have been easier to source it in Australia, but here in NZ I’m spoilt for choice.
The second best thing about grocery shopping here is that you can buy beer, cider and wine in the store alongside your groceries. They police it by having to get staff override when you scan it, giving staff the opportunity to scan you to make sure you’re over 18. Funnily enough, I never get asked for ID anymore. Possibly the grey hairs give it away.
The best thing of all is how cheap the alcohol is. The same brand of wine I would regularly purchase in Australia is half the price here. I’m not sure why that is but there’s some things in life I don’t like to question and how much I’m spending on alcohol is one of them.
It’s the same with beer prices. NIH is becoming quite the beer connoisseur – he blames me for this development. Before we lived together he never drank on weeknights at home. I call it ‘mature behaviour’. He calls it ‘bad influence’. Whatever. And even though you’re buying it in a grocery store, there are all kinds of boutique beers and regular specials. It’s a veritable smorgasbord. Of course we only have a wee tipple at night because it’s so cold. So, really, it’s like, ‘medicinal’ and stuff …