When I first arrived in the Netherlands, I really had to downshift my habits. Gone were the weekend trip to Costco, buying vast quantities (of bulk) in bulk for pennies on the dime. I used to squirrel it all away in the abundant cupboards, 6-foot freezer fridge, and bottomless icebox against future visits from my son or the possibility of nuclear apocalypse (I already have my 8 kW generator installed back in Seattle).
Life, instead, became much more like like a sailboat charter. The stores were closer and the storage was markedly reduced (‘large galley’ ). Trips to the store became both more frequent and less burdened. I also shifted towards buying fresher thing since I’d use it pretty soon. Healthy habits dawned (although not quite a Dutch physique).
A trip to the store now routinely means a circuit of the green grocer, the bakery, the butcher, and the deli. I have my big green sack, and it gradually fills up with a couple of day’s goods within a couple of blocks…a chance to say ‘hi to the storekeepers and to browse the specialty items. It’s a throwback, but it’s wonderful.
My local Albert Hijn is tagged “3” ( the chain designates stores as 1 (tiny) through 5 (mega) over the entrance). It’s a one-stop center within walking distance, but I do feel like I give up freshness and quality on some of the items. Meats are prepackaged and pretty limited, but the cheese counter is pretty good. Fruit and vegetable selection are very limited, fresh-baked breads are adequate, and there’s a wide dairy selection.
Still, there are times when the staples have been exhausted and I really want a real roast.
The French hypermarket chain has a store located10 minutes across the border in Leige, and I spent 150 euros the first time through. It replenished everything I was missing (although Tortilla Chips (3 euro) and El Paso Guacamole (5 euro) was a mistake I won’t repeat: I plead that it was Superbowl weekend). Now I go with a list and a budget, once a month.