Ozzie in Oregon



Last updated:    January 27, 2008 (PST)

Winco grocery store

I find shopping one of the most daunting aspects of American life.  Especially since my husband dabbles in the arcane art of "coupons".  He'll sit down  with the specials, er sales pages from the Sunday paper and a great big folder of old coupons, and - abracadabra - an hour later we are ready to go shopping with all sorts of bits of snipped-out paper called "manufacturer's coupons", "store coupons" and "double coupons".

When I first went shopping, I didn't recognise any brands except perhaps Yoplait, Colgate and Kraft.  And I couldn't find anything.  However, there are (usually) staff available to ask.  They are not only happy to answer questions, but will nearly always offer to take you to the aisle and help you find the specific thing you're looking for.  Great when I have a coupon for some weird product I have never heard of (yes, they have air fresheners here that you plug into your power point, er, electrical outlet!).

You'll hear two commonly-asked questions at the checkout counter, er, checkstand: "Did you find everything ok?" and "Paper or plastic?".  This last means that you have the choice of having your shopping packed in plastic bags or paper "sacks".  Paper is much more common over here, and sacks from some of the stores have dinky little handles on them!.

You will also be asked to show a store loyalty card, and using it will automatically reduce the price paid on all sorts of goods.  Present your coupons here too, and your recycling slips (from recycling soft drink, er, soda pop bottles and cans at 5c apiece) and at the end you'll hear the attendant say, "You have saved 42% today, ma'am!".  Oh, and you won't have to show them your credit card either.  Just pop it back in your wallet once you have swiped it through the machine.

But beware - make sure you get exactly the size and flavours specified on the coupons, otherwise you are up for full price! It took me more than a year before I could reliably be sent out to coupon shop at Safeway and come back with the right stuff at the right price.

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Where I come from...

Over here...

shopping trolleys in a carpark shoppng carts in a parking lot

Nine times out of ten, the trolley you choose will have a dodgy wheel, and you'll be constantly fighting it to avoid going round in circles.  Never choose a lone trolley as it has doubtless been left by someone who tried it out and didn't like it.

Hey, all the carts run smoothly! It is so rare that there is a problem with one that you can confidently take the next one in the line without taking it for a test drive.  And they seem to be bigger than those in Oz.

Woolies supermarket Albertsons grocery store

Shops are shops.  Those which sell food products, fruit and veges, etc are supermarkets.

Shops are stores.  Those which sell food products, produce, etc are grocery stores.

Wow, what a selection of coffee!

Many stores sell foods in bulk, especially Winco, which doesn't have coupons or a loyalty card.

The deli area has a wide range of ready-to-eat foods.  The first thing I saw at my first grocery store experience at Haggens (aside from the brownies) was rows of salads and cooked snacks.  There was even a place to sit down and eat!

If you like baked biscuits, er, cookies, you are in luck over here!  Every grocery store has a bakery with really yummy bendy but crunchy cookies. My only complaint is that I can taste the extra salt in them.

Depending on the store, you can find a vast range of items.  Go into a New Seasons store and you can get cheeses from around the world, and salamis from around Italy!

There is one aisle that I call the American aisle.  It will have ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, all kinds of salad dressings and all kinds of pickled cucumbers (some are called "dill pickles").

There will be a section for Hispanic foods, too, and you will see a lot of chilis (jalapeños, etc), salsas, tortillas and mucho más!  Puts the Aussie "El Paso" taco range to shame, though that can also be found on the shelves.

All the grocery stores have restrooms!  This is great, especially as shopping can take all afternoon what with traffic, a long list of errands to run to save on gas and the longer time it takes to find the correct items for the coupons.

Food culture shock

For the first year, I complained bitterly at the lack or shortcomings of some of what I regarded as basic foods.  I have made a start on a list below, but remember that the gulf between Oz and US foodwise is enormous:


Produce (Fruit and Veg)



Spreads and stuff


Ozzie in Oregon