I feel that up front I should admit that I have a granny trolley – one of those ones you wheel to the market to stock up with food. It’s not tartan though, so I feel like it’s ok. And the reason I own it is really because I get carried away when it comes to food. One of my favourite weekly excursions is to my local market. I’ve heard people say that you can tell a lot about a country from going to the local supermarket. I disagree, well I do when there are markets around. There is some great food around, and some easy ways to shop depending on your needs so here are some options.
1. El Cortes Ingles is probably the best food store. And the most expensive. It’s like popping to Harrod’s Foodhall or Paris’ Bonne Marche for your weekly groceries. However it is easy, there are El Corte Ingles’ all over the city, and the food is good quality. El Corte Ingles is open at normal times too, which makes life easier.
2. Supermarkets: If you are on a bit more of a budget, trial one of the local supermarkets: Eroski and Dia are the cheaper brands, plus there is Carrefour (also good value) as well as individual local stores. These are often good (although some don’t stock fresh milk, just the UHT Spaniards seem so fond of). I usually stock up on my household and standard stuff here. Beware of the Spanish siesta too – many places close between 3pm and 5pm, although most stay open until around 9pm. Supermarkets, like other shops, are closed on Sundays.
3. Markets in Madrid: each area in Municipal Madrid has its own market. They are permanent, covered markets that are usually open every day during the week, plus Saturday mornings. The hours are usually along the lines of 10am to 2pm yes, the good old siesta again) and then they reopen at 5pm until around 8pm. On Saturdays they are just open in the mornings.
I keep getting told off for touching the fruits and veg to see if it is ripe….if you do this, try not to get caught. I’ve also had market stall holders drop veg on the floor and then still put it in the bag with the things, so make sure you keep an eye on the stall holders too. But sometimes the same rules apply as with other countries – if you see a stall with a long queue…go there! The locals know the best places to go for food so follow them and you will likely be rewarded. As I said, this is one of my favourite weekly tasks and it helps my Spanish no end. Given that my Spanish isn’t fantastic, conversations at the market can be hilarious, but this is the best way to learn a language and I’ve only had one major cock-up to date (my friends enjoyed a ‘chunky’ chilli one night as I couldn’t ask to have the beef ‘minced’). Besides, I have to say that Spanish people are generally friendly and they seem to have been incredibly patient with me. One guy even used props of a bag of beans and a frying pan when he was trying to work out how I was going to cook the morcilla that I was trying to order.
I often find that I can stock up on British goods from the steady stream of visitors (I give them a weekends accommodation so don’t feel the odd jar of marmite is too much to ask) but for those from across the pond, there is an American store called Taste of America – which is near plaza de Argentina.