Expat grocery shopping abroad - Expats in Chennai!

Moving or even visiting a new country always causes a few challenges, for me one of them was grocery shopping. Back home in Australia, I could go to my local Woolies and literally do a grocery shop with my eyes closed, here it has taken me 2 years and I still find it exhausting.

Expat shopping abroad

The biggest challenge faced by many who are so accustomed to heading to supermarkets in western countries is that you may not always find everything you need in one place here in India, and if you do the quality of fresh produce may be good at one place, but their meats & poultry will be of lesser quality. So, travelling to a Butcher, a Fruit & Veg market, a grocer and then a bakery soon becomes the norm if you aren’t one to settle.

The other challenge you face trying to do an activity that for so long was relatively simple & most of the time seamless, is that you should never go to the store expecting to get what you go last week a second time around. The restocking of items in stores if they aren’t local, doesn’t really have a schedule so to avoid disappointment, I would suggest either bulk shopping perishable items or go with a backup brand/item.

After 2 years of trial and error I decided it was time to share a glimpse of my shopping list of the basic grocery necessities and the brands I use, with the goal that you may skip the trial and error process or at least speed it up a little and achieve success with your shop faster than I did.

1. Milk

We were told all milk needs to be boiled before consumption here in India, which seemed like a lot of work for a me. So, for 2 years we bought our milk in a box by Nestle, long life milk that can be kept for years & drunk straight from the box.

A few months back we were introduced to Arokya milk which just happened to be the company one of our trusted members worked for, so we just had to give it a go. After long chats about it with him & his assurance that it was already pasteurised, which meant we could drink it WITHOUT boiling, we gave it a try. It is delicious and I for one will not be going back to carton milk anytime soon.

You can purchase Arokya from most little shops along the road and some of the major grocers just look for their signboard outside the store which is an indicator that they stock Arokya.

2. Bread

Now I don’t know about where you are from & the quality of bread you get but Australia has a huge variety of the most delicious breads and bakery items. So, when I first took a slice of bread out of its packet and it crumbled in my hands, you can only imagine my horror. Since then I have discovered 3 spots where the bread is bread & not a crumbling mess.

The Farm have yummy Baguettes, Paos (which I use for burger buns), Multigrain Loaf & Milk Loaf. They are all very reasonably priced which is why its my regular stop for my carbs.

Brod Bakery just opened their doors this week & are located on ECR Road. They make a range of different bakery items & deliver as well. Their sourdough is to die for, toasted with a thick spread of butter is all you need.

Pumpkin Tales can be found in town and they too have a little bakery that’s packed with so many varieties of breads, pastries, cookies and more. They even have cute little bread bags you can purchase to keep your carbs fresh and tasty.

3. Fruit & Veg

You can get your basic fresh produce from almost all grocery stores you walk into, the only problem is that if you are like me and picky about the way they look then your selection of shops will be reduced drastically.

A few months back I stepped out of my comfort zone and visited a local market at the end of ECR Road, near the Thiruvanmiyur Bus Station. While it may look daunting from the outside, it is fresh produce heaven when you go inside (just don’t look down). It’s all so fresh and its straight from the farmers, making it more than considerably cheaper than your supermarket chains. I have personally found that not only is it cheaper & looks fresher; it also lasts longer in the fridge as well.

4. Greens, Herbs & Exotic Vegetables

Looking for Kale, Spinach, Asian Greens, parsley, basil etc, you won’t get these at the fruit and veg markets so locating your nearest “Greens Guy” is a must if you consume its daily like we do. I have found a few places that will have one or 2 items, but these are the handful of places where you can find them together.

Gourmet Garden – These guys are amazing and have all your leafy greens and herbs, perfect for salads. If you make a delivery on the Tuesday they can deliver on the Wednesday, just let me know if you want to place an order and I will send you their pricelist. We are regulars of these guys.

Terra Earthfoods – This little shop is like entering heaven, they have some amazing fresh greens without the packaging.

The Farm - All fresh and delicious, whilst the Kale is not as crunchy for a salad its perfect for soups and stir fries.

5. Meat

When you are used to having a barbie every weekend where big, juicy delicious steaks and sausages are a staple to then coming to India and having to adjust to the lack of availability of meat as well as the lack of quality of beef, it takes a huge adjusting to.

I personally trust & enjoy the meat from 3 places only, we have reduced our red meat intake as to enjoy quality meat comes at a price, and when you are a family of 5 big eaters it quickly becomes a special occasion/once a week food.

Five Star Akkarai – These guys have possibly the best quality mince I’ve found, and their fillet steaks are also worth trying. They are reasonably priced but make sure to buy in bulk and stock up as they get a shipment from Bangalore once every few weeks from my knowledge.

Grandpas Fresh & Frozen – Unless you go with someone who knows where this is, you can easily miss it. Located in Adyar on the first floor of a building, this butcher has got it all and will text you when fresh pork, beef and chicken is delivered. You can make an order and get it delivered if his delivery man covers your area. A favourite by many expats, this butcher is a must try if you are a big meat eater.

Tryst Gourmet - Neatly stocked in a fridge, Tryst Gourmet has a selection of beef steaks in all the different cuts. Whilst on the slightly higher price mark you will enjoy the quality, so if you are looking to treat yourself then this is certainly a must try.

If there is anything else you would like to know more about please feel free to let me know, I am more than happy to share some advice or even take you for a tour of town. I hope that the above helps narrow down where to grab your weekly shop, life’s already challenging in a new city grocery shopping doesn’t have to one of them.

Mary Smilovitis


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