My Life in Viña del Mar, Chile: Part 3, Food Shopping
If you’ve been following these posts, and I assume you have, you know that arriving down here in the middle of summer has had its advantages. The local market (feria) on Saturdays and Wednesdays is filled with scrumptious fruits and vegetables at incredibly low prices. It’s like the Riverfront Market, but 3 to 4 times as big and none of the food is organic and it’s much cheaper. We’ve generally been going there on Saturdays and stocking up, and filling in as needed later in the week.
The feria is one metro stop and about a 10 minute walk away, or about a 20-30 minute walk. That part has been great, and we only worry about what happens later in the fall when things aren’t in season anymore, although we’ve been told that Chile is such a long country that something’s always in season, so we’ll see.
Why Does the Best Grocery Store Have to be Walmart?
There are two main grocery chains here, Lider and Santa Isabel. The Lider’s are nicer, and there’s a small Express Lider about 5 minutes away, and a Hiper Lider at the same metro stop as the feria, about a 20 minute walk away. Sadly we have discovered, after several trips there, that they are Walmart owned, so no more Lider for us.
Santa Isabel stores are a bit more prevalent, generally smaller, with a poorer selection and not as nice. I did find a larger & nicer one today, at the very same metro stop we’ve been discussing (Viña del Mar stop, if you’re interested), although still not quite as nice as the Hiper Lider. There is a closer one that’s undergoing a major expansion, so there’s hope.
Once Again, It’s the Little Things
Often once you’re in one of the stores you might think you’re in the states, or any other country with supermarkets, except for the signage and labels (actually an interesting thing I’ve noticed is that some signs all over are in English or both Spanish & English). But there is generally a smaller variety within each product category; in other words, instead of 8 different brands of pasta, there might only be three, or one if you’re at a smaller store. Two brands of potato chips (one of which is Lay’s), and to my great distress, NO PRETZELS AT ALL, my snack of choice. That means even MORE fruit for me at snack time, and cheese and crackers. With a smaller selection of crackers, and no Triscuits, our cracker of choice.
As mentioned in a previous post, milk comes by the liter in cartons but powdered milk is popular; Cecile’s Half & Half for her tea? Nope, she’s having to make do with thick rich cream, which also comes in small cartons. Parmesan cheese is difficult to find, and softer than what we’re used to, and there are no Organic sections in any of the stores. There are Gluten Free sections however.
Now I know we’re in a big city and all, and we’re right in the heart of it, but there are 5 grocery stores within a 20 minute walk of our apartment. In Peoria? Haddad’s might be within 20 minutes, not sure, and everything else is not in the least walkable. Plus here there are little markets every few streets selling different combinations of fruits, vegetables, cheeses and meats, and the occasional sidewalk fruit stand. And the panaderias selling fresh bread and the pastelerias selling fresh pastries (sometimes they join forces in a giant carbohydrate and calorie dream team). All in all not a bad way to shop, just different.
So on the whole it might be slightly less convenient, and things in the supermarkets are more expensive than in the States, but if you can get your stuff fresh at the feria or a corner market, it’s generally cheaper, and more fun.