Mostly Market Shopping

A first step for learning how to survive in another country is grocery shopping: learning food vocabulary, finding what’s available that’s familiar, learning how to use and love what’s unfamiliar. At first, it’s fun to bring home a whole chicken but after a while it’s nice to know that there are other options. 

Grocery shopping in Arequipa has really evolved in the last decade. For a long time, the open air market was the only option. In the last 5-10 years, there has been an enormous increase in foreign (mostly Chilean) urban development which has led to an increase in modern shopping centers and—for the first time in Arequipa’s existence—grocery stores. A city where market shopping has reigned for decades is still getting used to the convenience of having everything in one place and the drawback of many things not being quite as fresh and a good bit more expensive. Oh, and you can't really bargain at a grocery store like you can at a market. 

While we do buy some things at the grocery store, we really enjoy the open air market shopping. Besides feeling more Peruvian, we’ve enjoyed getting the chance to build relationships with the vendors we see week in and week out. If you're a regular somewhere, you're called a "casero" or "casera." The ultimate is when, instead of being called a casero, the vendor remembers your name. We have that sort of relationship with just a few market vendors. 

Katie and I documented our grocery rounds for you below, featuring two different markets, a cooking and baking store, and a grocery store.

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Our fruit lady’s name is Juanita. She’s very matter-of-fact, though we’ve been able to make her smile on a few occasions. She has a son named Jose who works with her to help her run the family business. 

Our vegetable lady’s name is Adela. She’s an incredibly hard worker and cares so much for her clients. Megan McKinzie, one of the missionaries who was part of Team Arequipa 1.0 introduced us to her, and we love buying from her. She makes sure we get the best and freshest vegetables, she can get things that are hard to find other places (e.g. organic lemons, organic spinach, butternut squash), and she always gives us a free bunch of fresh basil, mint, or parsley. 

Here are a couple time-lapse videos of ordering all our vegetables and figuring up the total cost. 

Dairy, Eggs, and Olives

While not in the fresh fruit and vegetables category, other items we buy at the market are cheese, eggs, and olives. For these things we go to a different market, just a few blocks away from Adela and Juanita. Meet Emma: 

Also, you’ve had the opportunity to meet our milk man from Yanahuara, Eduardo. He came twice a week, and we loved getting to drink fresh milk.

Now that we’ve moved to a new district, we’re looking for a consistent milk man. We’ve [gotten some good milk from Jaime](, but it means an early morning trek across several fields nearby. There’s another man (Miguel) who delivers, but after the first batch we weren’t happy with the taste. There’s one other lady that lives nearby that we’ve spoken to, but her cows have proven elusive. 

In the grocery stores and small convenience stores, you can find canned evaporated milk and long shelf-life milk. The latter is what we depend on while we’re in between fresh milk distributors.

The Rest

For the rest, we go to the grocery store or to a specialty cooking, baking, and spice store where we can often get better deals. 

Meet Carmen and Teresita. In addition to Spanish, Teresita speaks Aymara and Carmen speaks Quechua. It’s fun to practice a few words with them before buying sugar, flour, chocolate chips, muffin cups, nuts, and spices. 

In the grocery store, we get our fresh deli meats, pasta, condiments, paper products, and anything in cans or jars. 

Our friends and family are happy to know we're well-fed and taken care of. We're happy to share that the process itself has been fun. I've always loved walking through grocery stores in new places, mostly to see if there's anything from my childhood in Italy that I happened to see on the shelves. But even more fun has been getting to pick a place to buy fruit, vegetables, cheese, bread, and chicken, and getting to return week after week and build relationships with the person whose livelihood depends on yours and others' purchases.