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Sunday, November 18, 2012

My Island Life: Grocery Shopping

My adventures living on a Caribbean island. Welcome to my monthly, or not so monthly adventures. We try not to commit too soon here on island.

Impression #6
Sometimes in “the states,” we take normal day tasks for granted. We don’t think we are, but when living on a Caribbean island, I find that there are a number of everyday occurrences that don’t always work easily, or at all, occurrences such as electricity, driving, or grocery shopping. Yes, today I’m talking about grocery shopping.

Here on island we have two large grocery chains that consist of two stores each. They are large because, well, their stores are the largest. These are Pueblo and Plaza Extra.  We also have two large K-Marts which help round-out the typical needs for groceries here. However, grocery shopping is not exactly easy.

First, a person must get used to a number of differences. At these grocery stores, you are not allowed to bring your carts out to your car. You may use a cart to shop, but then you must empty the contents onto the belt and then leave the cart at the entrance to the check-out station. A worker will come by and clear carts left in that major aisle of the store. Then the bagger will put all the groceries into a different cart and wheel it out to your car at which point one must then offer a tip. This reminds me a bit of when I went grocery shopping with my grandmother . . . when I was 5.

Next, as you are shopping, you will notice workers with brooms pushing a paper towel along the floor. My assumption is that this is to catch any stray moisture on the floor that could cause someone to slip, but as they do it slowly throughout the entire store, I’m not absolutely sure.

Also, you must get used to not seeing a product you usually buy on the shelves for months at a time. Unfortunately, you cannot simply go to another store and buy it as you will find that store’s shelves empty too. You have to learn that if you see the Cheerios on the shelf today and that is your cereal of choice, you need to buy it immediately as it may be out next week and not be back for a couple months.

But be careful when stocking up. The product in these stores is not rotated. Therefore, all the new items are placed in the front, sold first, leaving the older items behind. This is a particular issue down here because the stock that comes into the island is already close to its expiration date. So even when put on the shelves that day, the expiration date is often within a week or two!

Lastly, so as not to bore everyone with the technicalities of grocery shopping on St. Croix, I will finish with the prices. These are of course, high, as everything must be shipped in (except mangos and bananas :-). So a gallon of milk is $5.99 and a container of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is $6.99. This is why I make my own ice cream every weekend because the 2 pints of heavy cream is only $3.99 and it makes 2 ½ quarts. However, it is the price range that will drive a shopper crazy. The little Fancy Feast cat food cans for my cat are $1.05  at Plaza Extra, but at K-Mart they are .52 cents. That’s more than double! However, buying paper towels at Plaza Extra is $5 less than at K-Mart! It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “shopping around.”  And no, there are no “low price guarantees” here :-)

Lesson #6
Plan on a week’s worth of time to fill grocery shopping needs, own a freezer and have lots of cupboard space for stocking up, and most important, continue to let my husband do all the grocery shopping. He loves the challenge ;-)


  1. Oh, the things we mainlanders take for granted. Knowing my propensity for suffering sticker shock at the checkout counter, I'd probably have fainting spells with each shopping trip!

    That being said, I think I could give up convenience and bargain shopping for some time spent in paradise!


  2. Fortunately I don't like cooking,so I could get used to the shopping-I think! As I use less "particular" items than someone deep into the cookbooks, I have an advantage!
    Alexis, does this make you find island recipes and change what you eat compared to when you lived on the mainland?

    1. Not much. Bob does the cooking as well and he's changed things a bit. Then again, I have made Mango ice cream and Passion Fruit ice cream which I had never done on the mainland :-)

  3. Believe me, it's worth it! (No pun intended :-)

  4. So I can tell you're an ice cream junky! My ice cream season-warm weather-is coming to an end. I don't have a problem replacing it with something else, though.

  5. Would drive me crazy there. I sweated blood until a Traders Joes opened near my home- it's 40 min away, but will take it! I don't know that I'd have the patience, and I KNOW Larry would be out of his mind in about a week, lol. That doesn't mean we wouldn't vacation with you, ;) Someday...

    1. Yes Lyndee, living here means everything takes twice as long and you have to be satisfied with "close" most of the time instead of "exactly." But it does make me realize how lucky Americans have it. You know you are welcome anytime :-) I'm starved for a chance to talk with fellow romance writers. We don't have any here :-(