GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — When we first moved here, I was focused on living a truly authentic German lifestyle. We ended up in a private rental off post, and my goal was coming to fruition quite nicely.
After unpacking and getting settled in, it came time to stock the fridge and pantry. We were big Aldi shoppers back in the States. So, assuming it would be similar, off we went for our first grocery store shopping trip.
Well, we couldn’t have been more shocked. The experience wasn’t bad, it was just different. The wine and beer selection was stellar, and they had the basic essentials, like milk, eggs and a few of our usual produce items.
A few of our favorite things, however, were nowhere to be found.
After giving in and getting the leftover items on post, I was not ready to give up. We tried Lidl, Norma, Edeka and Real, and I must say, I was pleasantly surprised to find many products I was skeptical about finding. For instance, Real’s ethnic food aisle is brilliant.
As our time here progressed, there were still a few things that were missing, or not quite the same as back in the U.S.
Here’s a list of items I think are best found on post:
1) Flavored liquor: On warm days, I turn to my “Warm Day Drinks” Pinterest board and attempt a few recipes. You know, the ones with vanilla vodka and pineapple juice, or cherry vodka and citrus soda with a maraschino cherry on top? Well, still to this day, I have hunted around, asked around and have done my fair share of research — with no luck. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few options, but it just isn’t the same selection as stores in the States. So, if you want to indulge in a fun fruity drink, then head to the Commissary or Exchange.
2) Propane tanks: These tools are a key component in our household. We use them for the grill and heaters on our deck. With the weather warming up, we enjoy spending our evenings outside watching the sunset, but we have to have our beloved heaters ready to go. Upon moving here, we were once again on a mission to find the German equivalent and make it work. There are propane tanks on the economy, but they require an adapter, which is more hassle than it is worth. Once again, stick with what you know, and head to post to any gas station.
3) Snacks: Let’s face it, snacks are my best friend and worst enemy. It wasn’t until a month or two into our time here that I started craving my old reliable Cheese It’s, Triscuits and Lay’s potato chips. Usually, not at the same time. The economy definitely offers similar items, but there is that word again — similar. When it comes to snacks, I want it to be exact. Many name brand U.S. products that are near and dear to our hearts are few and far between over here. Thankfully, there are plenty of places on post to cure my cravings and help me keep my sanity.
4) Baking Goods: Restocking everything up until this point has been pretty flawless. When it came time to find the typical baking ingredients needed, however, a challenge ensued. It can be difficult to find the German equivalent of particular American baking products. If you find brown sugar on the economy, seriously, buy it all and bring me some. Bless my husband’s heart, we searched high and low, near and far, with no avail. I drag him along on all my shopping trips, and he loves it! I think. Another tricky item is vanilla extract. Now, I found vanilla “aroma,” but it’s just not the same. When it comes to homemade cookies, this girl can’t sing the praises of the Commissary loud enough.
5) Frozen Foods: I know these aren’t the healthiest option compared to their fresh food counterparts, but who doesn’t love a good toaster strudel or ready-in-minutes waffle? The frozen food selection on the economy just doesn’t do the aisles and aisles of frozen foods in the U.S. justice. My favorite pastime includes staring at the 50 million different ice cream flavors, trying to decide which one to get. I just don’t have that same luxury on the economy.
Now, for every missing component in life here, this experience living in Germany is unmatched. Giving up the convenience of a few fan favorites is a small price to pay for this experience. But, who am I kidding, we have Doener kebabs, and what more could we possibly need?