Grocery Shopping in Tel Aviv

7 Jan

The Produce Shack

The Produce Shack

The Stop! Market

The Stop! Market, a large supermarket located in an upscale mall

Grocery shopping in a foreign country can be a challenge. Especially when you don’t speak the language and the language uses a strange alphabet. Here, I’ve found that, oftentimes, if you scrutinize an item you may find one line of English identifying the contents. This is helpful when trying to determine whether the can you are holding contains whole peeled tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce or tomato paste. Pictures on the label don’t often tell the whole story.

Another phenomenon is that certain items you are accustomed to finding in the grocery stores in the U.S. become rare commodities in a foreign land. For example, I have yet to find a grocer in the Tel Aviv area who carries chicken stock or broth (in a can or carton). I’ve been advised by folks who have lived here a long time that you must find someone who is nice enough to mail you chicken broth. Either that or use bouillion cubes (gack!) or make it from scratch.

There are many different kinds of grocery stores in our area ranging from the small shops that specialize in produce, baked goods, meat or dry goods to large supermarkets. I much prefer the small shops. The produce is fresher and of higher quality. The prices more reasonable. And the vendors much friendlier. Most of the cashiers in the large supermarkets are surly while the vendors in the small shops will smile and even share a joke or two.

Don’t expect to find pork products in most grocery stores here. Some of the large supermarkets carry pork but it is probably worth a trip to the Russian grocery store, Tiv Taam, if you are seeking pork products. Tiv Taam also has quite an impressive selection of imported cheeses.

Many of the grocery stores have loyalty cards, just as they do in the States. Well, not exactly just like the U.S. Most of the stores require you pay a yearly membership fee. The fee is usually about 40 shekels (approx. $10) per year. In exchange, you get discounts on certain items.

So far my favorite store is the produce shack. Yes, it is a shack in a dusty clearing just off one of the highway interchanges. L. took me there recently before a visit to Tiv Taam. As we approached the shack, empty cardboard fruit boxes came swirling out of the front entrance and landed near our feet. We each grabbed an empty box and headed to the entrance at the rear of the shed. An impressive array of fresh produce lined the sides of the shed: persimmons, broccoli, green beans, eggplant, zucchini, white potatoes, sweet potatoes, lemons, limes, pummelos, squash… Above our heads hung brightly colored plastic bags. The protocol is to place your empty box on the floor in the center of the shed. You pull down plastic bags as needed, bag your produce and place it in your box. When done, one of the workers will carry your box (or boxes) to the front of the shed where you can select other items like parsley, basil, mushrooms, garlic and strawberries. Each patron is checked out by a little old man at the entrance to the shed who tots up your purchase on an adding machine. One can pay in cash only. Then one of the workers carries your box of produce to your car for you. A tip of 5 shekels (about $1.40) is appreciated.

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One Response to “Grocery Shopping in Tel Aviv”

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  1. A Taste of the Exotic « Volare Via - January 26, 2011

    […] tried pomelo for the first time today. It’s the fruit that looks like a giant grapefruit in this picture. An Israeli woman I met raved about pomelos so I thought I had to try one. The rind of the pomelo […]

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