Our Cruising Life – Grocery Shopping

I thought that I’d start including posts about our cruising life, and how we live and do things here aboard Sea Life. I use the term “our” cruising life, because I’m sure that all boaters do things differently. These random posts are about our life, and the routines that we’ve developed.

First up…groceries. At typical trip to the store in the U.S:

Get into (air conditioned) car, drive to (air conditioned) store, buy groceries on list, buy groceries not on list (that you either forgot or just want), check out and bag groceries, load everything into car, drive home (with air conditioning on), unload groceries (in air conditioned house) and put them away.

Now, a typical trip to get groceries for us while cruising:

Gather backpacks and various bags to hold groceries;

perform circus balancing act while loading bags, trash and selves into Aluminum Princess, usually resulting in wet feet, bumped head and spray from Scott’s flinging of wet lines; choose place to tie up, and perform another circus act, combining balancing with acrobatics to climb onto pier (higher piers usually result in the act ending with a “finale shove” by Scott, to get me onto solid ground); walk to store-of-the-day (if lucky, ride bike, resulting in less time of copious sweating); arrive at store, where the only cooling is provided by fans hanging from the ceiling; stand under one of said fans, to try and dry off sweat-soaked body; perform Sherlock Holmes investigation to find items on list (if lucky, mystery search will also result in finding familiar items from home!); check out, pay and watch elderly bagger put a riduculous amount of myriad items into each small, plastic bag (seriously, boxed milk, tomatoes, two packages of chicken, bag of snacks, bakery items, cans of coke and eggs in one bag); tip elderly bagger for this “service”; walk outside and repack bags (freeing poor fragile items), then place into backpacks and additional bags; sweat like a prize-winning pig on walk back to Aluminum Princess; perform circus aerial act getting back down into boat with groceries, while trying not to crush or break fragile items; slog back through chop to Sea Life (because it always seems to be choppy); perform final circus act in climbing back onto boat with groceries; find available nooks and crannies in cabinets, fridge and freezer for said stuff; cross fingers that food lasts as long as possible, to delay next grocery outing.

Food specifics: Some things are packaged differently than we’re used to, and we have also found new items that we like. Some examples:

Boxed Milk: This seemed weird to me at first, and I wasn’t keen to try it. However, the taste is just like the refrigerated milk we get at home and there are just as many varieties, if not more.

Since the wording is in Spanish, here is how Scott has interpreted the different types..The woman feeds  her growing child whole milk. The young man, who Scott feels is most like him, drinks reduced fat, and active women choose skim. The couples are lactose intolerant (he’s recognized lactose in Spanish), with more active couples drinking the low fat lactose intolerant kind. We go with Scott’s Spanish version of himself, and what we think is the reduced fat.

Eggs: Found on the shelf as well. It’s always surprising to find far less cracked and broken ones in the packaging than I do at home.

I can buy them in packages of 12, 18, 24 and also in bags of 6.

They range in size, and mix up more easily (both whites and yolks not as thick). We  have been told to turn them every few days, and that they’ll keep for a few weeks. Friends of ours who circumnavigated for 15 years have told us if you coat eggs in Vaseline, sealing the porous shell,  they’ll keep for much longer.

Tomatoes: The only type we’ve seen so far are ones similar to plum tomatoes in the U.S.

This guy didn’t appear rotten on the outside, but when I slice through, it seemed to be sprouting..maybe I should have thrown it in some dirt!

We’ve found that vegetables and fruit in general have a much shorter shelf life. If I wait more than a few days, things rot. Fresh produce and fruit are delivered once a week. I’ve been in the store on days just before a delivery, and the rotting tomatoes could be smelled twenty feet away..ick.

So far, the varieties of fresh stuff that we have to choose from is good. Lettuce and herbs sell very quickly, and are hard to get, but most other items are plentiful (I was chastised harshly for buying packaged spinach when I saw it recently..pricey, at 6.00 a container!) It definitely calls for a bit more menu planning day to day than we’re used to.

Snacks: The selection is limited (we are definitely bagged snack-crazy in the U.S.!) Once in awhile, I’ll find something familiar from home (Cheetoes, and surprisingly Snyders of Hanover pretzels!). Scott likes potato chips with his sandwiches, but we’ve learned to buy them in a can. The stuff in bags are even more crushed than in the states!

Drinks: Things like diet soda and seltzer water are hard to come by. And we miss a larger selection of juices and flavored teas.

It’s also getting harder for Scott to find Coke in cans, as bottles become more and more prevalent. He swears that the carbonation in a can is better. Unfortunately, he has found (and we’ve been told by others) that throughout the Caribbean, it’s flat coke from a bottle when you order a drink. Which has him thinking of byoC (can-of-coke) to the bar!

Packaged Food: We’ve found it strange that things like cereal, crackers and cookies don’t taste the same. Most cookies and crackers, with a few exceptions, are tasteless, and Scott hates the Cheerios that he recently bought. They become mushy immediately, and have no taste. I was excited to find Hellman’s mayonnaise, only to find that the taste wasn’t nearly as good, and the consistency is much more “loose.”

Media Crema: Although I’ve never tried it, crema has become a popular item in the U.S. recently. This media crema has been compared to half and half, but I find it thicker. It’s everywhere, and we have seen it on the shelf and also refrigerated (Hans uses a version that is fresh made for his white pizzas).

I have learned that you can use this to make sour cream. Mix the contents of a small box with two teaspoons of white vinegar (mixing thoroughly after each one). Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, and voila…sour cream!

The check out process is stressful. We are always amazed at how much they cram into the little bags. Even if we try and separate things on the belt, they still get crammed in willy-nilly…and they’re fast little baggers! Scott is thrilled when there’s no one waiting at the end of the belt, and he can load things into our bags as they are rung up.

Walking back to the boat is the most fun. You never realize how heavy your groceries are, until they are loaded on your back and hanging off of each arm. Even when we set out for a lighter shopping trip, the bags still seem to fill up. We end up regretting the six pack of beer, bottle of wine, or cans of coke as we trudge along!

So think of us with a smile, the next time you come out of the store, load 15 plastic bags of groceries into your trunk and hop into the air conditioned goodness of your car to head home!

As we travel, I’ll post about groceries/stores in each location, keeping you in the loop on our quest for food.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”





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