A Trip to the Supermarket: England Edition

As it turns out, we're nearly five months down the road and I still can't find things that I am pretty sure exist somewhere in Birmingham. And I'm still baffled by some of the things I find on the shelves here if I actually take the time to look.

Let's be real, though: I hated going to the store back in the States; I hate it even more here. While I am getting better at it, anxiety loves to strike me when I must forge my way alone. I spend more money than it says on the receipt, I can never find everything in one place, I loathe packing the groceries into my backpack, cloth bags, and our rolling cart, I detest walking home with them all as I feel akin to a pack mule, and I'm still not really used to the nonsensical layout of the stores. When we first arrived, I would spend two hours looking around the store for everything on my relatively small list, only to make half a dozen circles and retrace my steps countless times. Grocery shopping is for the birds. They do offer delivery here, but we haven't tried it out yet - mostly because the majority of what we buy is fresh produce, dairy, or meat, and I'm extremely picky... no grocery boy will be handing me a bag of squishy apples or wilted lettuce, thanks.

Oh, side-note. Every time I say something about going to the store, I get weird looks. The supermarket, guys. I'm going to the supermarket. The grocery store. Those take way too much effort to say, so we tend to cut it down and say "the store"... but be prepared to explain yourself if you say that here. Get on my level, England.

Anyway, back to the point of this post. There are some really strange things that line the shelves of the stores here in England - and when I say strange, I mean strange. Some of them are normal items with ridiculous names (Excuse me, would you like a bag of roasted monkey nuts?), but there are a lot of weird items that I would never dream of eating. Surely there have to be strange things back home that I just never notice, but that's the point - they're so commonplace that I took no notice of them.

(Except spam. I always notice spam. And vienna sausages. And cheese-whiz. Gross. And totally weird. Although I do love me some fake-as-heck Velveeta.)

Here are some photos of what it's like to go grocery shopping for us, and some of the many items that have caught my eye as we've wandered through various stores trying to find our bearings over the past few months. I'm sure there will be plenty more over time, because it feels like we find something new during every trip!

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Even in the early days, I was so grateful to have this shoulder bag from Rachel and her time in Dominica! Despite the fact that I am so not a tie-dye kind of girl, I use it every single time we shop. It's the world's most perfect bag for carrying my precious eggs on the long walk home.

This is from one of my first trips to Tesco by myself and before we bought our rolling cart. UGH. So. Heavyyy. The walk to the less desirable store (think Walmart) isn't that bad, and it's especially beautiful in autumn.

The other store we frequent is Morrison's. It is the more desirable store by a long shot (not nearly as wonderful as Target, but better than Walmart... probably along the lines of a good Buy For Less or Homeland, both of which I despise), but it is a tad bit more pricey. However, the walk is much less desirable - it is far longer and goes through a not-so-lovely part of town, including this bit that goes under the city streets. But because I'm picky about my produce but still poor, we walk the 25 minutes to Morrison's.

We paid too much money for this cheaply-made grandma-style rolling cart, but it is worth its weight and more in gold. Or groceries. We've already had to jimmy-rig it with some duct tape, but alas. At least it works. Time to trek home with the groceries... in the rain!

(That happens more frequently than I would prefer.)

I become especially grouchy when I have to grocery shop, pay while trying to get my groceries back into the cart, strategically pack up the items, and roll them all home by myself. That's if I don't have an anxiety attack first. But again, I'm so grateful for these two carrying conveniences, plus my trusty backpack.

Alright, now for the grocery items. Let it be said that this is in no way a comprehensive list. Not even close. Merely a glimpse. It's just the stuff that I remembered to take a photo of for one reason or another. For clarity purposes instead of story-telling purposes, I'm putting the captions underneath the photos... because you just have to see them first.

They make a lot of pies here, but never the sweet kind. This brand is all over the place, selling everything from pies to boxes of tea. We don't know how to actually pronounce it, so we just say it like so: "Puke-uh." Want some puke-uh pie? No, thanks. (And their vanilla chai tea is terrible, for the record.)

NO. No, no, no. I once had the unfortunate opportunity to eat Marmite-flavored crisps (aka chips for my lovey American peeps). That was disgusting. Thanks for that one, Luke. 

I had read about Marmite before we came over to England. Apparently, the way it came to be was an accident. Let's just say that I don't knowingly choose to eat accidents, especially accidents that taste like that. 
And then you have the wording, which is always said in a hick country accent in my brain...
"SQUIRT ON YOUR SPUD! YUM!" Again... no.

Um... in case you were wondering where you were, the company name might give you a hint. Don't you want canned hot dogs? I never enjoy hot dogs (literally, maybe once every few years when they're being made over a campfire), but this sounds especially unappealing.

Lord, have mercy on us. WHY do humans insist on putting meat in a can?! Ugh. At least these guys don't try to dress it up. Want some canned meat? No guessing games here. We claim that it's something you'll actually recognize - HAM, not something ambiguous like spam or hot dogs - and reduced to canned-form. Actually, I think that might be worse. (For the record, I have no earthly idea why I'm okay with canned tuna and nothing else. I blame my childhood.)

Mug Shot. It's just so dang punny. Maybe they serve these to inmates, because I can't imagine anyone choosing to eat this of their own free will.

Oh, by the way. The whole 85p thing. That's their way of saying it's $0.85. Eighty-five pence, or pennies, instead of eighty-five cents.  But they definitely verbalize it as eighty-five-P. Weird, but I kind of like it.

Oh, Pot Noodle. Just one noodle in the pot, apparently.
"Noodle, noodle in the the pot. Whatcha got?!"
I said it once in a video when we first moved to Birmingham, and I'll say it again: These noodles must be called such not because they're made or served in a pot (which is obviously not the case); it must be because you have to be smoking pot to actually want to eat this stuff. I suspect it's quite popular amongst the college crowd. We were reduced to trying it in our hotel-hopping days, and I have never longed for ramen noodles so much in my life.

Cry for me, friends. Cry for me.

Anyone care to spend $9.00 for a pack of chocolate creme Oreos? Nope, didn't think so.

Mushy peas are a big thing here. Yes, mushy. I'm not a big fan despite my general approval of peas. If you hate peas, I'm sure you'll love them even more in their "mushy" state. Ahem.

What is this, a store for ants?

Okay, I have some serious beef with these metropolitan Brits and their inability to sell items in bulk - or even in a normal size. Guys, in order to make one batch of chocolate chip cookies, I have to purchase three teeny bags of chocolate chips for about 85p each, and it still comes out to less than one bag of normal chocolate chips back home. It ends up costing about the same amount as it would back home, but I feel like such a glutton buying bags upon bags of chocolate chips at one time! I'm not going to eat them by themselves (okay, I might), but I don't need them snack-sized! And this teeny tiny bag of flour? They have that size for flour, sugars, everything. You can get slightly larger bags, but if you have to share your kitchen with three other adults you won't have anywhere to put it. A baking-lover's nightmare.

This is the craziest looking vine of tomatoes I have ever seen! If it wasn't 4 pounds per kilo (I think that's right...), I would have purchased it just because it was so outrageously awesome. They looked pretty dang delicious, too.

Cock-a-Leekie soup. I'm such a middle schooler when it comes to my sense of humor sometimes... but I'm guessing this is chicken and leek soup? Anyone?

About mid-October, the mince pie and fruit cake frenzy starts showing up. Maybe I was disillusioned to it back home and I just didn't realize we did this, but there is a plethora of decorated cakes and pies just sitting out on the shelves. Like... legitimate Frozen birthday cakes and such, but they're not in the bakery section of the store; they're next to the processed snacks and breads. And they sit there for what seems like months because they're always in stock, but I know people must buy them. Goodness... 

We found this guy recently amongst the cheeses. Tube-cheese. But not just cheese. 
Cheese with ham. In a squeeze-tube. Because that sounds absolutely delightful. Why???

I might as well finish off with some Monkey Nuts, because who doesn't love those? They're "Great for snacking and sharing." I love sharing my nuts. I just love grabbing a bunch of monkey nuts and taking them home for later enjoyment. Do you prefer your monkey nuts plain or roasted?

Guys, the wording is everything. And monkey nuts? I'm pretty sure they're just unshelled peanuts, and you're hurting the feelings of elephants worldwide. Come on, England. Get with it.


  1. Where is the part about Salt and Vinegar Kettle Chips?!

    1. Sea Salt and BALSAMIC Vinegar Kettle Chips - get it right! Haha. That is obviously going in the post about the *best* parts about living here. ;)

  2. I just sent you an instagram message about this, but it's not enough. I got to the end and have to comment again. "I love sharing my nuts. I just love grabbing a bunch of monkey nuts and taking them home for later enjoyment. " I CANNOT QUIT LAUGHING. I miss your wit and sunny disposition!

  3. I want a barrel full of Monkey nuts!


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