The grocery guide – All about food shopping in Madrid

grocery shopping madrid

For me, a stocked kitchen is one of the easiest ways to make my house feel like a home. And even though Madrid’s grocery stores aren’t likely to give you culture shock, there is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to your weekly grocery trip.

Right off the bat, know that it’s likely you’ll do it more often. The city center and apartments aren’t set up for monthly monster shopping trips. Most people walk to their local market so immediately, you’re limited to what you can carry. Also, apartments just don’t have the storage or giant refrigerators needed to buy lots at once. I have a nice big kitchen by European standards but my refrigerator looks like it belongs in a college dorm room.

So the first piece of advice: get yourself a little rolling cart to make your frequent trips easier. Then, keep reading for everything else you need to know about grocery shopping in Madrid.

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How to eat like a local – The when and what of Spanish mealtimes

spanish mealtimes

One of the neatest parts of life abroad is seeing all the different ways people do life. Also cool is how while you’re bouncing from one place to the next, you’ll inevitably pick up a few of these habits. I quickly adopted a few in Bogotá and I see it happening again here in Madrid.

Except, Madrid will take over your entire life. I tried to resist and still get up at 5:30 am to workout and take care of my errands bright and early. No chance. Shops remain shuttered until late morning because—another newsflash—no one goes to bed before midnight. Madrid lives according to its own schedule and in order to save yourself some headaches, it’s best to follow the locals.

The quickest way to get the hang of life in Madrid is to zero in on their meal schedule. Once you adapt to this the rest of your life will seamlessly follow. Because while it’s true that the people are laid back, there is no getting around the specific routine of Spanish mealtimes.

Sure, if you really want dinner at 7:00 pm you can eat rubbery chicken wings at the Hard Rock Cafe with the fanny-pack wearing tourists. But if not (and let’s hope not), keep reading for what and when to eat when you’re in Madrid.

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Seven reasons the Spanish stay slim (even while eating all that ham)

My first few glances at Madrid’s restaurant menus gave me major anxiety. Yes, part of it was that I had a whole new list of food words to learn. But after that, I started worrying how I was going to live here for the next few years and not have to buy new jeans every six months.

Because Spanish food is the delicious cliche you think it is: all varieties of ham, creamy cheese, peppery wine, and olives stuffed with everything you can imagine. There’s really no way to avoid these foods and besides, I didn’t want to! Unfortunately, unless I was going to develop insane self-control (not likely), I was going to have to develop some new eating habits.

Thank goodness the Spaniards are already pros at this and all I had to do was follow their example. Keep reading for seven habits I copied from the locals so I could have my ham and eat it too.

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Sembrando Confianza: Organic eats with a social impact

sembrando confianza

I come from California, the birthplace of fancy—but unregulated and therefore technically meaningless—food buzzwords like local and natural.   That said, my first reaction at these kinds of terms is a little bit of an eye roll.  Moving to Bogotá, I wasn’t too concerned with finding an organic or local label. I find little buggies in my broccoli every week, which says to me that what I’m eating is probably more on the natural side.  However, if I can directly support small operators who really are doing their best to organically and sustainably farm, all the better!

This past week I learned about a really cool non-profit organization who is using a CSA-type program in order to make a big social impact here in Bogotá.  Sembrando Confianza, which translates to Seeds of Confidence, is a non-profit which seeks to help Bogotanos in two specific ways. Firstly, they provide education on healthier food habits and help neighborhoods in Bogotá install self-sustained, organic gardens. Secondly, they support already operating urban farmers by connecting them with a market.

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Adventures in eating, the Colombia edition

A few weeks ago we were ordering appetizers with some friends at Bruto, a lovely tapas restaurant, when they said they were a bit surprised at our choices—we voted for the morcilla and octopus, which a couple of years ago I would have completely brushed over in search of sliders.  It got me thinking how I’ve really changed at the dinner table since we’ve moved here: I would never have considered myself a picky eater in the past, but then I remember how often I’d refuse to try new things because I always wanted to go for the option I already knew I liked.

Eating out in Bogotá—or any country where you’re not a native speaker—is a bit like culinary Russian roulette.  I quickly got used to thinking I ordered one thing but having something completely different appear in front of me and I can’t count the number of  times I’ve eaten something with unknown ingredients because I didn’t understand what I was ordering (see my blurb below about mondongo…).  Sometimes I’ve eaten things I wasn’t so sure of because I didn’t want to offend a host.  

Learning to just enjoy the moment and whatever comes is a lesson I’ve learned again and again since leaving my native country, but doing it in a food-y way has probably been the most fun. Keep scrolling to see my most pleasant surprises.

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Andrés Carne de Res: A Bogotá institution

andres souvenirs

After a year I feel like Cody and I have this “hosting visitors” thing down pat…based on who you are, how much time you have with us and what you like, we can pretty easily whittle down the list of tourist attractions into a nice itinerary of things you have to see while you’re with us.  However, there are a few places so synonymous with Bogotá and so crucial to experiencing the city that they make the cut no matter who you are.  Andrés Carne de Res is one of those places.

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When you can’t find it, make it!

creamer

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned that you should think ahead and stock up on your ‘must haves’ before your big move. That’s great advice, but what’s a girl to do if you love fresh items like goat cheese, lemons, and french vanilla Coffeemate? I practically hold my breath each week as I walk into the grocery store, hoping that I’ll see mountains of yellow citrus!

I’ve already had to adjust my kitchen habits by learning to use dried beans and make hummus from scratch, so I had a feeling there was something I could do about the creamer…

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Cevichería Central

central menu copy

Continuing with things we love about Bogotá, today’s post is about the best restaurant and is probably long overdue.

If you have talked to Cody and me since we’ve moved to Bogotá, Cevichería Central has probably come up in our conversation. If you’ve visited us, either we took you there to eat or—if you aren’t a big fan of fish—I spent a good 15 minutes convincing Cody that it wouldn’t be the best place for dinner. We go there so often that the hostess greets us with the customary kiss hello and the waiters all shake our hands. And I don’t mean to brag, but sometimes we get a free dessert.

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