These are my comparisons between the American supermarket and the Dutch supermarket. You can click on all images in this blog entry to view them larger in a new window.
First of all, this what I'm sharing about the supermarkets is all strictly my opinion based upon countless observations and experience while living here in the Netherlands, comparing to my own experiences while growing up in America. Secondly, I don't mind at all the smaller choices in the Netherlands at the supermarket. As long as they have in stock the milk, bread, eggs, butter and whatever else on my list, I'm happy. Typically I go to the supermarket on my bicycle. And with the weather lately, going to the supermarket can be more of a challenge. When I get to the store, I hope they have everything in stock which they normally carry on my list. Otherwise, the larger assortment found in America I no longer miss. Except for when it means better selection of some products, of course.
When I first came to the Netherlands, I had the impression that all Dutch supermarkets were 7-Eleven-sized. It was because my then-nearby supermarket was a corner market in Amsterdam, and I never had the time to go anywhere else. Then we relocated to Small Town, NL where I found larger supermarkets. A larger variety which was sufficient-enough to fill my needs, but at the time most still seemed smaller somehow. I'm not sure exactly why I felt that way, but perhaps it was simply because I was used to the super-sized variety found at the supermarket in America.
Now I am OK with what choices I have at the supermarket in the Netherlands because I know everything I need is typically available. My tastes have adjusted as well, and I tend now to eat a lot more freshly cooked foods rather than meal prepared with the help of boxed mixes or added frozen portions. I've found sufficient replacements for most ingredients used in American recipes, with the exception of a few favorites like Brianna's poppyseed dressing. But I found out Jumbo supermarkets may take your order for products you can't find [doesn't hurt to try], and some companies have international distributors. For example, Brianna's has a special help to give you where to find abroad through international distributors. Or, if you can't always wait around, you can just try to make it yourself.
I wonder if there is anything you used to love and want to have or eat, but you can't find in the Netherlands? If so, what have you done to replace this?
Inside of the supermarkets. . .
From the looks of this, I guess you could say Americans like breakfast cereal:
I know I do. In the Netherlands, the choices are there as well, but they are very simple. Good enough, I feel, but there are a few favorites missing. . . A few of my all-time favorites in America were Golden Grahams, Lucky Charms and Peanut Butter Crunch from Cap'n Crunch.
You can buy some cereals similar to Lucky Charms online or at expat stores, so it's still possible to get some cereals in the Netherlands. Keep in mind it will cost more than what you would pay for the same in America.
The dairy section is quite large in America. . .
Here you see, left, yogurt and other dairy products, milk products, coffee creamers and then juices. And this was not the full aisle. Next image is a close-up of the milks:
Those 3 bottom shelves all have a variety of gallon-sized milk [3.78 liters].
Compare this to the typical dairy section in the Netherlands:
There is a mirrored end to the wall of dairy here, if you notice. What looks from this angle to be the last approximate meter of dairy products is really just a reflection. Here is also another image example of a typical Dutch supermarket dairy section.
What I notice to be the largest difference between America and the Netherlands: America's supermarkets carry more cottage cheese and sour cream, while the Dutch carry more vla/pudding and yogurt products.
Why so much milk on the shelves in America, you may wonder? American families typically consume a lot of milk. Especially on those breakfast cereals, like what you see above. The Dutch drink milk, but they eat more cheese, vla and yogurt. Just check out this cheese section at a typical Dutch supermarket, for example.
Some American families buy an average of two of the large gallon-sized milks each week and use it all. Most singles or couples in America will only need a quart-sized or a half-gallon each week. . . Unless they eat a lot of breakfast cereal. Americans grocery shop usually once a week, buying a massive load, while the Dutch may shop once a week for a large load or up to three times a week for smaller loads, on the average. I notice the difference with the Dutch buying in smaller portions is typically because they want to buy fresh, more often, or because a Dutch household has both a smaller refrigerator and freezer than what the average American household will have. Most American households have in their kitchen a large refrigerator with freezer built-in, while some have also a deep freeze or an upright freezer in their garage.
What was it like in your home country compared to how it is for you now in the Netherlands? And how often do you need to visit the supermarket for regular shopping [not including trips to buy the milk you forgot to buy]?
Some Americans shop at a larger wholesale warehouse store like Costco or Sam's Club:
The Netherlands also has their own wholesale shopping at Makro. I don't know anyone personally who shops at Makro in the Netherlands, but almost everyone I know personally in America can shop at Costco or Sam's Club.
I scream, you scream. We all scream for ice cream!
In a typical American supermarket, there are two aisles which have these upright freezers. One aisle has them on both sides, while the other aisle only has them on one side of the aisle. Each row of freezers is typically about 25 upright freezers-long. In the Netherlands, there are typically only about 5-20 upright freezers per supermarket and some also have the waist-high freezers [click here for an image sample I found via Google Image search of the frozen food section in a Dutch supermarket]. At this American supermarket below, this whole side of an aisle is ice cream, frozen desserts, popsicles and other like Cool Whip. You can see here clearly in this photo, in the first two freezers, the Cool Whip varieties and frozen berries:
Now the ice cream itself. The variety and choice in flavors varies very much in America. Yes, Hertog does make delicious ice cream with a few great choices of flavors, and yes you can also get an ice cream cone at a stand in the Netherlands where there are a variety of flavors. Also ice cream bar varieties are nice in the Netherlands. But I'm talking strictly about the ice cream you buy in the store to bring home and serve in a bowl or on a cone. It seems there is not even a ¼ of the selection you'd find in America, but I have found one brand of mine, Ben & Jerry's®. They sell a few of the flavors in the Netherlands, which is great! And it's expensive. Take a look at these two photos below. Top photo is America's version and bottom is the Netherlands:
For the same:
€4,77 in the Netherlands at a Dutch supermarket, currently converted, $6.82 for each.
The superabundance of flavors is not yet available at the supermarket in the Netherlands, but it doesn't bother me. For those who are aficionados of ice cream, I see the choices growing larger. Slowly but surely. Even some Dutch supermarkets have their own [Dutch: merk] which mimics the Ben & Jerry's® flavors, as seen on the top shelf in this photo above.
What is your original favorite flavor of ice cream, and have you been able to find it in the Netherlands?
Fruits and Veggies. . .
I have noticed produce in an American supermarket is typically of a larger variety than what is found in a Dutch supermarket. In America, you may find individual pyramid piles built high with apples, oranges, tomatoes, potatoes, onions and more. A wall of produce as well, like seen in the first image above in this blog entry, where the produce is misted automatically. I will never forget when my mother-in-law first stepped into an American supermarket with me. She was dazzled by the thunder sound effect used to caution customers that the mist was coming on. As she walked by the endives [Dutch: andijvie] and kale [Dutch: boerenkool], she turned to me and said happily, "If I lived here, I could still make stamppot andijvie and stamppot boerenkool!"
A produce display in an American supermarket:
She was flattered by the variety of produce. You can find good variety in the Netherlands too, but here is an example of what I mean: A few varieties of potatoes are available in the Netherlands at the supermarket, but typically the choice of apples is limited to an average of two varieties, or maybe more on occasion. But sometimes you may need to go to a few supermarkets before you'll find Granny Smith apples. Here is a typical produce section in the Netherlands, and here below is another view of how produce is displayed in an American supermarket.
However, again I think supermarkets in the Netherlands overall have enough choice in produce. Some supermarkets where I shop have remodeled and the produce section seems larger. But if I ever desire to get a wider array of choice in fresh fruits, I just head to the market where produce is sold at a stand [Dutch: kraam]. It's also a good excuse to go wander around in the city, and there I can also visit the toko where I buy the best green tea, typically find baking soda for baking cookies, and there or the market is where I often can find sweet potatoes. Do keep this in mind if you can't find what you are looking for in the produce section of your supermarket in the Netherlands: the market set up by venders in your city center or local shopping center [Dutch: winkelcentrum] may have what you are looking for. If not, ask them and they may know exactly where you can find it.
What are your thoughts on the produce in the Netherlands? Have you been able to find most of what you would normally buy in your home country?
More images of produce sections in America, via Google Images:
· One good view of a produce section.
· A large layout.
· Another typical yet good example of a view of a produce section.
Another interesting topic I once wondered about:
In Dutch, egg is ei and eggs are eieren. Interesting to pronounce for the first dozen times!
But also interesting to me was how they don't keep the eggs in the refrigerated section at the supermarket. You can see them for sale in the photo above of the breakfast cereal available in the Netherlands image. They are on the shelves in the background, on the right. I have seen this as well in Germany and hear this is how it is done throughout Europe. I grew up in America eating eggs which were not refrigerated, unless we were not going to use them within the first few days. My grandparents live in the country and have several chickens which roam freely on their property. My grandpa would give us often fresh laid eggs and my mother would store them in a basket on the counter top in the kitchen at home. If we didn't use them soon, my mom would refrigerate them. We also bought eggs from the grocery store which were refrigerated, and we always kept those in the refrigerator. Never had I really thought about the difference until I began living over here. I found online this piece about why store-bought eggs need to be refrigerated in America. Though I've been told I also could keep them on the counter in my Dutch kitchen, I have always refrigerated the eggs I've bought in the Netherlands. Without a question and especially during the summer months.
Does anyone have any thoughts they'd like to share concerning this?
About the image of the eggs above, I learned more about stamp [Dutch: stempel] on the egg here, in Dutch. The stamp is used to help identify where the egg has come from, in effect since October 2002. This egg above in the photo is a maïs ei [English: corn egg], it is free-range and it comes from the Netherlands. The expiration date of the eggs should be printed on the outside of the egg carton.
The supermarket shopping process itself in the Netherlands is also in some ways different from how we do it in a supermarket in America. I've covered about the shopping carts with the winkelwagenmuntje here and about the process shopping at a typical Dutch supermarket here.
Drowning in a pool of products!
One last topic of comparison: During my last trip to America, I found myself almost often facing so many choices on the shelves. . .
For this example, I actually reached into my purse while standing in the store over there & took this above photo to show what I wanted to share about. It took me 15 minutes to sort through several shelves high of only Garnier® brand hair cleansing, conditioning and styling products. You face a large variety of hair products in the Netherlands as well, but there seem to be never more than 20 Garnier bottles to choose from. Click here for an image example I found via Google Images of what the selection of similar hair products is in the Netherlands [Garnier products are on the second and third shelves up, from the bottom, on the left. They are the green bottles and you can see only about 15 products or so. That's all for women and men. In America, I couldn't even count the Garnier products. And I hadn't even made it to the Clairol®, Aussie® or other hair products both in front of me and behind me on that same aisle. I had still another 3 or so meters of hair products to sift through, and this is not counting the approximate 4 meters of similar products behind me. There is actually more than enough to choose from in the Netherlands, if you ask me.
Now onto "Dutch" things found in American supermarkets!
A few products I found were Reese® brand Dutch rusk crisp toast rounds [Dutch: Beschuit]. Not just for the Dutch, but they do like to eat white asparagus spears and I found them in a jar in America. Another favorite I've seen many Dutch eat fresh from the bakery are the Belgian cream puffs or mini eclairs [Dutch: roomsoesjes], and I found them in the frozen desserts section of the American supermarket. One Dutch friend of mine, who lives in America, visits the bakery as well where they make taartjes and gebakjes. Slightly different than the Dutch versions my friend grew up with, but close enough because the bakery is operated by Dutch descendents who use old family recipes. I've noticed over the last few years in visits to America as well some treats at the bakery very similar to the Dutch versions. But some didn't taste quite as similar. . .
Marie Callender's® "Dutch" Apple Pie:
No raisins, which I have been told by a few Dutch ladies is a "must" in a Dutch appeltaart. And as for any Dutch appeltaart I have eaten in the Netherlands, the apples have always been diced.
And, of course, cheese!
Boar's Head® brand of Edam and Gouda, mixed together for sale with a variety of other choices. The prices ranged from $6 to $10 per triangle or wheel-portion, depending on size.
Below, some Gouda cheese. $4.69 [at the time, this was approximately €3,15].
Beemster® Vlaskaas. Each cost between $5 and $8. Also, in the back, some Rembrandt® cheese. I wonder if anyone bought that half-wheel of cheese? I also never bothered to look to see how much it or the other Rembrant cheeses cost.
I have a question for those of you who now know how to properly pronounce Gouda. When you think it to yourself, do you still pronounce it the way you used to, or do you pronounce it the way it should be said? How did it sound to you when you read it above before the image?
To close this long blog entry off, my favorite store in America is this place:
Target sells food, but also they sell housewares and more [as you can see]. . .
What is your favorite store either in the Netherlands or in your home country?
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