The Groceries Edit: Hits and Misses at Basel

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After a month of being a Swiss resident and living in Basel, I’m going to talk about, yep, you guessed it, grocery shopping at Coop.

Running your house depends heavily on your grocery store 

A month ago, we arrived in Basel on a somewhat cool Saturday. It was an informed decision after my husband told me many grocery stories, including Coop, maybe closed on Sundays. So when we landed in Basel, we made a pit stop at Coop to buy some essentials for us and our baby girl (Niyati) before stepping foot in our service apartment. 

I think one of the most important aspects of “settling in” is understanding how you’re going to run your home, run your kitchen and feed your family.

Major Grocery Stores: Coop and Migros

I believe, a grocery store becomes a part of your being. Broadly speaking, there are 2 major grocery store chains in Basel: Migros and Coop. There are some other players like Denner (sister concern to Migros) as well, but I haven’t had the chance to visit those.

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All grocery stores remain closed on Sundays and most of the grocery stores close down at 6.30 pm daily. If you live in Basel, hit The Coop & Migros at the Basel SBB on Sundays.

General Grocery Store behaviour in Basel

If you read my last post, you know that life in Basel isn’t easy for me since even the basic culture is different.

There are rules and protocols defined for everything, in the city. The trams are on time, there are appointments scheduled at banks, and grocery stores are a lot more organised. Nonetheless the difference in the culture is that there are no helpers to help you navigate through the store, or help you pick up the bags till the tram/car.

Most of the times I use my Google Translate App to make sure I am picking up the right things on my grocery list. It’s been a month, so I know most of it, but since I don’t speak German, it definitely helps bridge a gap.

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After entering the supermarket, you pick up your basket, you weigh your vegetables and fruits, you put the items on a tray, bill it for yourself, and pack what you bought. 

Always carry foldable cloth bags in your purse/bag. Most locals invest in a small trolley bag/stroller which, I believe, is a godsend. 

Quality and Freshness

Talking about the quality, there is no comparison – it is absolutely the best, the healthiest and initially quite overwhelming. The bake section, the frozen food section, the salmon, the juices and the fruits (to name a few) are the most colourful sections in the store. In the usual stores, you don’t find the Indian vegetables like lady finger, methi, palak etc. however all the Indian stores stock it.

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If you’re an Indian living in Basel, or just enjoy Indian food, head to the main SBB station (opposite Hotel Victoria) and walk towards a quaint lane sandwiched between  a Burger King and a watch store. There is an Asian Grocery store which keeps the same brands you have grown up with or are used to. 

How to be smart when you land in Europe?

Indian meals are elaborate and they require a lot of washing, chopping, cutting, kneading. Since I cannot afford help here, I feel there is a lot of help hidden in the grocery stores.

If you’re living alone, ready-to-eat meals are worth a try. What I have found the most helpful are the readymade curries, curry mixes and gravies. They usually have all herbs and spices, and are freshly stocked.

So if I have to make chicken,  I buy the chicken breasts and set them to tendering while I put the gravy to the boil. Then I chop a few fresh veggies, also from Coop, sautee and add it to the sauce that’s brewing. We are open to Asian, Continental and European palettes, so if you want me to do a post on this, drop a comment below.

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Heavy on the pocket?

In a word, yes. It takes time to stop the conversion in your mind, but then one does get over the stage. After all, who’s going to do so much mental math? On a serious note – there’s always a higher price you pay for quality, so then you make your peace with it. While my brain is wired to do a *70, I seriously recommend not doing it, not for long.

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Bulk Shopping in Germany

If you’re living in Basel, Germany is right around the corner. Once a month, make a list of essentials (not just groceries) and go shopping to Germany. Sounds fancy right? Going to another country for shopping?  Tram #8 takes you to Well Am Rhein and tram # 6 takes you to Riehen Grenze. The grocery chain REWE, is huge and the price differences are evident. Having said that, these visits take up half a day so schedule these in advance.

Get your bills verified at the border checkpoint and get a 19% discount on your present bill value during your next visit. This particular rule applies to all purchased goods and not the services.

Putting in a process?

Want to feel at home? – Learn all things local and adapt to the process driven culture. Be it planning visits to Germany or the local stores, be it creating to do buy lists, be it utilising the public transport system or be it carrying back the things you purchased. A couple of mistakes later, you do get used to it – it might not come into your DNA but like the saying goes “Jaisa des visa bless”.

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