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Eating is fundamental, and if you don’t want to spend a fortune eating out every day of your life, then at some point you will venture into a grocery store.  The good news is that unlike in the States, here, civilians can shop on the base at the commissary and the BX.  And I have to admit, it does make life easier.

For the most part, it’s exactly like shopping at a store in the States.  Except for two things:

1.  You must show (or swipe if you are at the do it yourself checkout) your CAC card. You must have it with you every time you plan to buy anything.  That goes for shopping at the BX too. No exceptions to this rule, so get used to it.

2.  The commissary is like a regular Italian grocery store in one respect:  when you want to buy produce, you will have to keep track of a two or three digit number that  is on the sign in front of whatever you are buying.


See the #58 for the peaches?


So when you get your fruit and put it in a plastic bag, you have to find one of these weight machines that are scattered around the produce section.  (Ignore the Nilla Wafers behind the machine.)


You’ll find the number series for your item, tap on it, and each number will correspond to a fruit/vegetable.  You tap on whatever you bought and…


Voila!  A tag comes out with the exact weight and price for you to stick on your plastic bag.  It takes a minute to get used to, but I do think it’s convenient.  Especially if you are in the habit of buying exotic produce that the cashier has a hard time recognizing.

Now as for shopping at Italian stores, there are a few things you have to know going in.  One, make sure you keep a one euro coin and a 50 cent euro piece on you at all times.  In fact, just leave them in your car–that way you always have them.  The reason?  Italy is exactly like Bottom Dollar in the States.  That’s the only store I ever heard of where you have to put a coin in to get a shopping basket. But all the store in Italy do it.  This is why the shopping carts are all outside.DSCF0086

So have your coin ready to pop into the slot…


The coin releases a lever so you can then pull the chain out.


Now you are ready to roll 🙂

For the most part, shopping in the city isn’t that hard.  For every clerk with an attitude, 20 more are perfectly pleasant.  So don’t be afraid to get out there and shop–like I’ve been doing nonstop.  Setting up house is exhausting.  But do try to learn some Italian.  Today I had to return a bunch of curtains that just didn’t work in the room I’d bought them for.

So I wrote out on a piece of paper in Italian that I wanted to return the curtains.  Actually what I wrote down was that I wanted to return some items because they didn’t work for the house.  When it was my turn, I carefully read what I’d written and I guess they understood.  I got my money back.  Be advised though–not all stores will put the money back on your card, so you may end up with a wad of cash in your jeans.


Hey–gotta start somewhere right?  And I figure someone will have mercy on me if they see that I’m trying 🙂

Next time I’ll take some pictures of the shopping malls.  They are interesting.

Happy Sunday!

And yes, I had a fabulous Fourth, thank you for asking!! 🙂

**I debated with myself for 30 minutes about whether to write a new post or just add to this one. Finally my Yankee sense of order won out.  Okay so yesterday, I forgot to mention shopping bags.  Italy is a country all about recycling (in fact I will dedicate an entire post to that subject soon).

So when you go to any store, but especially the grocery store, you are expected to have your own bag with you.  If you make a mistake like I did and ask for a bag, you may get a snooty look and be told they cost 20 cents or whatever the going rate is for plastic shopping bags.  Department stores are a little more forgiving and will put your purchases in a bag for you unless you tell them not to. But for your sake, just keep a large canvas tote in the car with you so that you are always ready 🙂