Sunday, March 31, 2013

Will that be cash, check, or credit card?

Let's take a quick trip to the supermarket today! : )
I remember the scarcity of supermarkets (or any store in which you could actually handle the merchandise) in Siberia several years ago, but Ukraine is definitely up-to-date when it comes to shopping. There are membership-only warehouse stores, discount cards, coupons, shopping malls, you name it. The only thing I haven't seen so far are self-checkouts.

Of course, if you're hoping for fresh fruit and veggies, your best bet is a local farmers market.
These markets can be found in every neighborhood. If you're too lazy to look for one, you can at least find a babushka selling apples or pickles on the steps of the metro entrance.
The year-round Central Market (open every day except Mondays)
Seasonal market in Freedom Square (look at the fresh fish!)
Lots of clothing and plants at this market. That's Derzhprom in the background.
To see a real market in action (and the reason I don't photograph markets these days), read about Kharkov's Horse Market.

But- back to the supermarket!

Out of the long list of local supermarkets and grocery stores (including Billa, Rost, Klass, Daffi, Spar, Target, Silpo, ATB...), we've settled on Karavan. Billa was too pricey and unsanitary, Spar had cool but weird things -ostrich eggs, anyone?-, and ATB is always a madhouse. Karavan was the answer. It's just right; low prices and a calm atmosphere. Note: not the Karavan in the mall though! That place is like the airport on Chrismas Eve!

Shopping at Karavan is really easy. There's a bag-and-price-your-own bread section. Fruits and vegetables are all weighed and labeled by a cashier. The stock tends to be rather consistent, versus some other stores where you never know what odds-and-ends will be on the shelves. The only things that don't remind me of home are the cubby holes to store your stuff while shopping (see right) and the glowering security guards.

The chocolate aisle promises salvation for anyone with a sweet tooth. Ukraine is full of ingenious and cheap chocolate creations.

Likewise for the alcohol.

This is only a small section of the vodka aisle!

If you want something ready-to-eat, there's a deli with lots of mysterious salads and dough-y things.

I recommend the Korean carrot salad and the sirniki. The women behind the counter will even heat food up for you in the microwave! Just try to not notice that they heat it up in a plastic bag and wrap it in napkins.

Next to the deli is the raw meat counter. We're here every shopping trip to buy scraps for our ravenous cat.
Nothing too odd today, except perhaps for the turkey necks. I've seen everything from chicken heads to cow udder.
Speaking of meat, there's quite a variety of sausages for sale. It's not surprising- this is the country where three different sausage stands can operate profitably next to each other. We usually buy sausage at Central Market but I've been meaning to buy it here since the store will slice it for you. There's also a brand of hot dogs-wrapped-in bacon that I really want to try. (Seemed like overkill the first dozen times I noticed it, now it just looks tasty!) You can even find "students' sausage" and mini-hot dogs marketed to children.

Onward to dairy- this usually takes several aisles in Ukraine: milk, sour cream, yogurt, kefir, tvorog, and ряженка. Remember that many of these products are sold in bags instead of boxes or jars, requiring an awkward form of storage in the fridge door.
Milk in bags is visible on the bottom two shelves
Not sure what this is.... the label says "Sour milk product I run"

And since we're still in Lent and many people are fasting, signs like these have popped up all over the store.
все до посту = everything you need for Lent
Easter hasn't come to Ukraine yet (Orthodox Easter will be on May 5th, 2013). Instead, we got to "celebrate" Daylight Savings Time today. For those of you who celebrated Roman Catholic Easter today, Happy Easter! : ) Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go look for my missing hour.


  1. Student sausage? Turkey necks? Milk in bags?? I loved learning about all of these Ukrainian supermarket finds!

    These sorts of daily-living posts are terrific--they give a real feel for life abroad, with a depth that reaches beyond a city's main photo ops. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hola Cassandra! Thanks for reading and thanks for sharing this on Twitter! Spain must have some unusual supermarket finds of its own too. What's the weirdest thing you've come across so far?

  2. I am Cassandra's papa and I followed her Twitter link here.

    Pretty nifty. I can get more pleasure just perusing the aisle of an ordinary grocery store or market in a foreign country than I can from seeing the top tourist site. I love to see how ordinary people live.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Michael! Thanks for coming by : ) Your daughter has an awesome blog, btw!
      I completely agree with you- visiting a local grocery store always tells more about a place than even a guided tour does. It's unabashed real life.

  3. Ayran is salted, watery yoghurt, mostly Turkish but popular in other Middle Eastern countries, too. I quite like it, great after a heavy, greasy meal. Now you tell me please, have you ever tried ряженка? I'm yet to figure out what it is, how is it different from yoghurt but especially kefir? Do you like it?

    1. No, haven't tried ряженка yet. I've only just gotten used to tvorog (especially when it's bought from the market, pre-mixed with sugar, sour cream, and raisins, yum). D says he really likes ряженка though. Apparently when he was a baby his parents would buy fresh milk from the same cow. After several years, that milk became unavailable and they switched to store milk, which he refused to drink. For all those years, then, he drank only ряженка. Eventually he added kefir to his diet. In America, when I met him, he only drank buttermilk because it was the closest thing he could find to what he drank before. He even put it on his breakfast cereal until one day we ran out of buttermilk and he tried milk again. Haha, a long story but I'm really glad you asked about ряженка or I never would have known this about him. I guess I'll try ряженка one of these days but I'm not a fan of kefir so not sure how well it's gonna go... Do you like it?

    2. Okay, tried the ряженка. Eh, not going to go for it again. It's like buttermilk gone bad. It did seem awfully similar to kefir but I think kefir has a slightly more pleasant taste.

    3. This is hilarious. Must be an American gene that makes y'all dislike kefir-like products. So when I was a kid, my parents used to buy milk from the same cow, and I refused to drink milk from the stores (still hate it), but I also loved kefir and ряженка. Sounds familiar so far? :)
      Then when I moved to the States I was extremely happy to find Kefir in my usual grocery stores (sometimes). Then I was even more excited, when I found ряженка in the tiny local Russian grocery store, and started to buy either one of those products from time to time. One morning I come to the kitchen and Sarah asks me with a really disgusted face as if she'd just seen a roach:
      - What is that thing in that bottle and how many months has it been there?
      - Oh, that's ряженка. I just bought it at the russian store and I'm so happy they sell it here.
      - What do you mean? Is it supposed to taste like that???
      - Yeah, did you not like it?
      - It tastes like baby food that's gone bad last year!
      Needless to say that from that day all kefir and ряженка are all mine :)

    4. Haha, I can just see Sarah making that face :p Funny stuff!

  4. Katya, the sour milk product is most likely a liquidy form of yogurt. In my country we usually drink it in the morning with a slice of burek (a thin dough stuffed with spinach, feta, or meat or nowadays many different things). It's basically a thinned out yogurt that you can drink rather than eat with a spoon. And plain yogurt that is. Some stores in the US have it too, I have not tried it. I too run, because I am not sure about it, as it is not a specialty here, so I don't trust it to be the yogurt I know. And some are also carbonated, mostly if it is a middle eastern yogurt. That I tried once, and didn't like it. Maybe that is why I now run.

  5. Karavan is also our store of choice, but mostly because it is right across the street from our building. We're there often enough that I think all of the cashiers and security guards recognized us by now ;) Also, that song, the one that plays ALL THE TIME in Karavan (тридцать, сорок, набирай...) is constantly stuck in my head! But, it's a good place to get basically everything and anything we need!

    1. ...э мобильно э такси! I know EXACTLY what song you're talking about :p It's like a torture device after the 40th time you hear it!