The weekend starts busy in Maastricht. In much of the Netherlands, stores are closed all day Sunday and at least half of Monday, so a lot gets pushed into Saturday. One of the first lessons that I learned on moving to Arnhem in 2006 was that if I didn’t have food in the ‘fridge on Saturday night, I wouldn’t eat until Monday evening.
So, Saturday is the day to take the big green shopping bag and head forth. Usually the first stop is at the recycle bins, sorting the week’s bottles, tins (blik), plastics (kunststof) and papers into their separate slots.
Grocery shopping is an extended process. Depending on whether I’m in an upscale or discount mood, I head to the Albert Heijn or Jumbo (respectively) to prowl for meats, dairy, and staples. The grouping of things varies from store to store and tends to be different, both in logic and allocation, to what I grew up with. So it’s up and down each aisle, reading ingredients, comparing prices, making notes before checking everything off the list. In the beginning, this could easily take an hour or two as I struggled with the language, but a bit of reading skill and confidence puts me through to the checkout in half an hour.
Fruits and vegetables come from the Green Shop or from the market stalls in Markt Square. There’s usually a crowd of shoppers, all waving to attract a clerk, then calling out a rapid list of produce. I’m always surprised when six of seven items come to less than ten euros: it seems like the volume should cost more. I haven’t gotten into the habit of doing breads, eggs, and fish the same way, although lots of folks do their entire shopping at the market.
Saline, aspirin, toothbrush, vitamins from the Kruidvat.
For some reason, this is always the hardest store to find anything.
Valentine’s is coming, so there are chocolates to buy from the confectioner past the Vrijthof. Abbing-Nolle is a small, family owned shoppe that makes its chocolates in the back in amazing Belgian tradition. The owner always explains how long he’s been making them, what the various types are, and how he only accepts cash (debit cards and web sites are not on his radar): there’s a focus in that which leads to great chocolates.
Valentines is checked off.
The bike generator will have to wait.
Everything gets secreted away into the big green bag, growing ever-heavier as I make my rounds. With the list exhausted (and me getting there), there’s time for a wafel and a koffie before dragging everything home to stock the ‘fridge and sort receipts.
‘Not the fastest way to do things: a Safeway or Tesco would likely have all these items in one stop. But part of the charm of city life is the Saturday morning hustle, almost a treasure hunt, a social routine, and a nice change of pace from the weekday workdays.