About a week into our Aliyah, we realised that we would have to succumb and visit the supermarket to start stocking our home properly rather than buying bits here and there and delaying the inevitable. Here are some things that we learnt very quickly about the supermarkets in Israel.
1. You need 5 shekel for the trolley. This was not a surprise for us to have to pay for the trolley as we had to do that in England but most Israelis seem to have a token that is the same shape and size as a 5 shekel coin and for the life of us, we have no idea where to get one from. In the meantime, we are doing it the old school way and stashing a 5 shekel coin in our wallets, specifically for the supermarket.
2. You can buy meat in the supermarket. This is nothing for most people but to us it was huge being the big meat eaters that we are! There are even places online where you can print off the different names and cuts of meat and chicken and so you will never be at a loss when browsing the huge selection of meat at the supermarket.
3. Supermarket membership cards (Cartis Moadon) are great and give you lots of extra deals and savings just for members. We have one for every supermarket near where we live!
4. The supermarket workers have sections where they work so they are experts on their section of the supermarket but have no clue what goes on beyond their aisle! I once asked the fruit guy where the pasta was and he looked at me as if I was mental (and it wasn’t my basic Hebrew that stumped him either!)
5. If you can, avoid Thursday evening/Friday shopping. The beauty of living in the Jewish homeland is that you are surrounded by Jewish life but it also means that everyone wants to shop for Shabbat! Interestingly, when I did go on a Friday morning once (at 7.30am), it was full of men clutching on to shopping lists from their wives!
6. Get used to seasonal fruits and vegetables! Our daughter loves grapes but we could only buy them when they are firmly in season and therefore reasonably priced and tasty. Expect citrus fruits in winter, melons in spring, peaches/plums/apricots in summer.
7. Fun fact…Israelis are not big cereal fans in comparison to Anglos. There is a huge selection of cereals but they are pretty expensive so our cereal collection as halved since coming here. Compare the cereals to the price of a kilo of cucumbers and you understand why Israelis have lots of TCP salad for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
8. It is perfectly acceptable to do most of your shopping, leave your shopping trolley in the line to pay and then continue doing the rest of your shopping. There seems to be an unspoken agreement that you do not move an abandoned trolley. Just embrace it!
9. You can pay for your supermarket shop in instalments or in one payment. This was a strange idea to us but very much part of the Israeli culture for those who need it.
10. Finally, as you leave the supermarket, you need to hand your receipt to a sixty something year old security guard who looks at your receipt, glances over at your bagged shopping and then stamps your receipt. Not really sure what this does and how this prevents theft when he can’t see inside the already packed bags but again, go with the flow!
Deep breath…good luck!