This is our refrigerator/freezer. The refrigerator part is about the size of a college dorm room refrigerator, but it has a pretty nice sized freezer drawer underneath it. So far, I have plenty of space in the freezer — I haven’t bought much frozen food here — but the refrigerator part is pretty cramped.
Food shopping, food storage, and cooking here are very different from what I am used to in the US. Obviously, the Japanese people have a different kind of diet and eat different foods from what most people eat in the US, but it goes much deeper than just the selection of food items in the supermarket. Everything is different.
Food packages are much smaller here. No “super economy size” here. Partly, that is due to this being an urban living environment. Most people living here in Shibaura do not have access to a car. We all walk or take the subway wherever we go. Some people have little carts to carry their groceries and other packages. Some people ride bikes and carry their packages in bicycle baskets. some people carry everything in grocery bags… which is what I have been doing so far. And, I have found, that pretty much I can only comfortably carry about 2500 yen-worth of groceries at a time — less than $25 worth. So, it is nice to have the small packages because they weigh less, and they take up less space in my tiny refrigerator and cupboards. I have to be careful not to overload my shopping basket, or I struggle to carry everything back to the apartment.
So — it means that I have to shop much more frequently than I am used to. Living in US suburbia, I shopped once a week… twice at most. I stocked up on items when they were on sale. I bought larger sizes to save money. I had a nice big pantry to store things in. I would routinely buy $100 or more worth of groceries, load them in my car, take them home and I had plenty of space to store them. This is really different for me, and I am still feeling uncomfortable with the process… I feel like I am at the grocery store all the time!
Another difference… Most people use cash here for smaller purchases. We have used the credit card at the grocery store, but most of the stores seem to prefer cash. At home in the US, I used plastic for everything. I rarely carried much cash. Now, when I shop, not only do I need to keep track of how heavy the items are so I can carry it all home, I also have to keep a running total in my head so that I am sure I have enough money to pay for everything. Grocery shopping used to be such a mindless activity… and at times, it was very impulse-driven. I would buy stuff on a whim, not stick to a list, and buy what looked good to me at the moment. Now, I have to carefully consider each purchase to make sure I really need to buy it.
It hasn’t exactly been a problem… Just a different way of doing things. I don’t mind doing it this way, but it does take some getting used to. I think we are eating healthier, because I seem to buy more whole foods and less processed stuff. I am buying different things — today I bought daikon, and leeks — things I rarely or never bought back at home. Also… we are possibly eating less, because I prepare less. No room to store the leftovers.
I like the food here. We were mostly vegetarian back in the US, and it is very hard to eat totally vegetarian here — especially eating out. We eat fish here a couple of times per week. Tofu (which we enjoy) is very cheap here. And we eat more eggs here. (Side note — the eggs here are amazing! I have never seen such beautiful, rich, orange yolks! Yes… you CAN tell a difference. These eggs are delicious! Even buying the premium $4/ dozen eggs back in the US, these are so much better!) There are things that we are missing from home, but mostly things that we are better off without anyway. We miss popcorn, peanut butter, peanuts, tortilla chips, and salsa. They sell these items in some food stores, but they are very expensive. I can’t find artificial sweetener — and I will be happy to get used to not using that. Oatmeal, and other breakfast cereals are very expensive. I plan to load my suitcase with oatmeal when I am home for a visit. Silly things I miss… snack foods are very different here.
I wonder after we go back home, how many of these new habits will stick, or will we revert back as soon as we are there. We will see… Tonight’s menu? Soba noodle soup, with egg and fresh shredded daikon, carrots and leeks. Yum.