Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Shopping in Doha

Over our time here I have learned that shopping here is an experience. You can get pretty much anything in the stores over here. There is the struggle to find fabric softener that has a decent smell and there is the other problem of finding one that doesn't look like a science experiment inside. Another difficulty is finding soft bathroom tissue, but going to Megamart you can get something that doesn't remind you of sand paper.

Those were some of my first challenges here but grocery shopping is always a challenge. So here are some things I have learned along the way.

  • Don’t expect to get everything in one store. This is probably the biggest pain for expats. If you go around a store with a list of ingredients, the chances are that you won’t get everything. It’s incredibly frustrating, and nearly drove me to tears one week as Zach and I wondered around with a list in our hands, and didn’t manage to get all the ingredients for one of the meals I wanted to make. It took us three stores to get everything to make Mexican Bean Lasagna; I was on a mission to make a meal from the recipes I made us bring over here. I was told to try to adapt my cooking to be local, but the reality is that there is no such thing as ‘local food’ over here and the grocery stores (hypermarts) try really hard to appeal to all of the expats here.. 
  •  Look at the prices. I know I was used to doing this back home to make sure we stayed within our budget, but you really have to be careful. The grocery stores do their best to import goods from all over the world, to satisfy the various expats, and the prices vary a lot. For example, if you are looking at the frozen bagels you will see different prices on the bags. Also you will see labels listed on the side of the compartment and you have to figure out which one applies to which package. I have a hard time trying to figure out how much something is per kg so I can find the best value. First I have to figure out what the kg to pound ratio then do math on how much it is in dollars. I ask Zach a lot when we are walking around how much something is in dollars. (I am sure he is annoyed by that). In Megamart, I stumbled across a bag of Peanut M&Ms and did the math and it was nearly $20 for the bag, you can get the same one back home for at most $6. Also you can treat yourself to a small bottle of Dr Pepper is $3. Also the prices aren’t always shown on some products so you have to take a gamble on what you’re paying. Megamart is a great place to find a lot of the imported things you are wanting and craving, it maybe a little more expensive but it might help you find a piece of home.
  • Don’t forget to get your fruits and veggies weighed! This is such a stupid system - You have to wait at counter to get your items weighed and priced before going to the checkouts. 't quite understand why they do not have self service weighing points. Well actually it is probably because the locals don’t like to have to do anything themselves. Or I think they could just weigh it at the checkout as they do in the states.
  • If you see something you like - buy a lot of it! Because the stores are focused on importing items to please the diverse customers they have, their stock can be somewhat erratic. So if you see something you like or something you haven't seen in awhile, it is a great idea to stock up. Plus seeing something you haven't seen since you were back home can get you to do a happy dance in the store and have your husband look at you funny.