Grocery Shopping – 5 Useful Tips!

Supermarket "Loyalty" Cards

Shopping – The survival guide and more…

…or should I say a stress free guide?

1. Write your shopping list in Portuguese. This is really useful if you are unable to find a product and you do not speak Portuguese. You can at least point and grunt to the item on your list when asking a shop assistant for help.

2. Check the prices/offers on the shelves relate to the product you are looking to buy. Sounds obvious but you can easily be caught out, especially on Special offers!

3. Take advantage of, and understand, how the various loyalty cards can be used to your advantage

4. Try the supermarkets own brand products. These will considerably reduce your grocery bill if you are working to a budget. The easiest option when you move to Portugal is often to buy branded products just because you recognize them! Be brave –experiment!

5. Buy fresh Portuguese produce in season and support local farmers markets whenever possible.

I loathed grocery shopping in the UK but in Portugal it has taken on a whole new dimension with the additional challenges of language and unfamiliar products.

My weekly shop was, and often still is, a challenge. A quick visit to the supermarket can result in a 4hr expedition! Until you are familiar with the various brands nearly every product you pick up needs to be scrutinized carefully. There are, of course, no English instructions on the packets so you just have to hazard a guess as to very basic things like cooking instructions and to the suitability of cleaning products etc. I often hear English tourists debating the meaning of a particular label and I now help them as best I can. I have ‘that’ t-shirt, as they say, so I might as well wear it!

Another challenge to overcome, is pricing. Unfortunately, I have learnt the hard way as prices on the shelves above or below a particular product often bears no relevance. Indeed, after careful scrutiny of all the pricing labels the only one you are interested in is often not actually displayed.
I usually find a helpful assistant and ask the price “quanto faz este preço ?” (How much does this cost please?” I don’t know if is this grammatically correct Portuguese but it has the desired effect

If you do not speak Portuguese I suggest you learn a few basic words to help you at least resolve some of the mysteries you will encounter while shopping.

For example, on my first shopping expedition all I needed were a few basic items such as washing powder, toothpaste, butter and low fat milk. I quickly located the isle for the washing powder/liquid and was presented with a whole array of unfamiliar products. I studied each product for absolutely ages looking for inspiration and finally decided on a product with a picture of a washing machine and some clothes on the front of the packet. OK good start. However, I don’t know what made me hesitate before putting the washing powder in my trolley, but lucky I did. I eventually found a young assistant who could speak English. I explained what I was looking for and showed him the box I’d selected. He shook his head. “This product is not to wash clothes it is to clean your washing machine and will bleach your clothes.” Whoops, lucky escape. He then kindly escorted me to the correct isle, asked a couple of questions as to coloreds and white washing and duly suggested a couple of reasonably priced products.

I was so impressed I showed him the toothpaste I’d previously selected and apparently it was for dentures!

At this point you may be asking yourself WHY I was not selecting branded products such as Persil or Colgate? Yes, that would have been the easy option but branded products are very expensive in Portugal and often the Supermarket brands are just as good and a lot cheaper – and as they say “Every little helps!”

Below is a very brief overview of some of the supermarkets I have used. The list is by no means complete but at least provides you with some examples along with their website details

Mini Preco
Low prices and good offers on their Cartaõ “Clube Minipreços”

‘Dia’ is equivalent to their own brand products and are really good value. They have a loyalty card “Clube Minipreços” It’s still a mystery as to how it works but when I receive a till receipt it lists several products on special offer. The offers are only valid for so long so it’s worth noting the “VALIDO ATé date” near the top of the till roll receipt. Product discount offers – are highlighted in yellow on the shelf price label.

This link offers and excellent explanation (Portuguese only) as to how the “cartaõ clube minipreço”

Don’t worry – there are plenty of pictures so it’s self explanatory.

Continete or Modelo
A massive range of own brand products. They also have a loyalty card Cartaõ Continete
and we are often sent discount vouchers and special offers through the post. There are also many in store half price promotions for card holders. You also receive petrol discount vouchers to be spent at some Galp petrol stations who in turn you receive a discount voucher from the petrol station to be spent at Continete/Modelo. These are on the receipts so hang on to them and present them at the till.
There is also a time limit on both offers.

Pingo Doce
Good selection, plus quality own brand products at reasonable prices. I have not seen a loyalty card advertised. This needs further investigation on my next shopping trip and have made a note to update my blog with info…(update 15/09/10 – I went to Pingo Doce today and was advised they do not have a loyalty card)

Needs no introduction. Lots of German products many good offers and low prices.
I rarely shop at this supermarket so I am unable to comment as to prices, quality etc. However, they do have a loyalty card
O Cartão E. Leclerc

A good variety of products plus they offer a loyalty card.

Please share your “shopping” experience in Portugal, along with any useful tips and supermarkets I can add to the above list! I look forward to reading your suggestions!


11 thoughts on “Grocery Shopping – 5 Useful Tips!

Add yours

  1. Having a read of some old posts I came across your shopping tips, I just wanted to mention that “quanto faz este preço ?” (How much does this cost please?” is actually not correct. You should say “Quanto custa”? But whatever you say I´m sure someone will make an effort to understand, I always found Portuguese people quite helpful in helping out non-Portuguese speakers.


    1. Hi Sami,
      LOL I used to say Quanto custa and then someone told me it was incorrect! thanks for letting me know.
      I have always found the Portuguese far more obliging and forgiving than the French for example…


  2. you forgot to mention Aldi 🙂

    Aldi is our main supermarket (we are lucky enough to have one here in Lagos) and I can buy most of the things our family needs and make some significant savings.
    Obviously, as in other countries, there are things Aldi doesn’t sell so I also make a trip to Pingo/Modelo every 2 or 3 weeks also but Aldi is most definitely worth a mention IMO.


    1. Hi Tracey,
      Good point – I will have to go in there and check it out! Thankyou 🙂
      Do you feel they are much cheaper than Modelo and Pingo? Perhaps I ought to do a list of 10 items and do a price comparison between them all. It’s amazing what you do to keep yourself amused and out of mischief when you are retired 😳 🙂


      1. well, we have our regular stuff that we buy in Aldi that is certainly cheaper but there are some things that aren’t.
        It’s all about making that list (oh, I’ve already BTDT LOL) and making sure you’re getting the best deals all round 🙂


  3. Hi Piglet,
    Don’t forget to add one of the (apparently) favourite pastime of PT shoppers is to take something off the shelves, study it in great depth for say 20 minutes while blocking the aisle, then carefully replace it on a shelf in entirely the wrong place…….!!

    the Mad Horseman


  4. Hi Carolina,
    Thank you so much for your positive feedback. It’s really appreciated.

    The three areas you are considering are so different! so you are very wise to rent before you buy. Porto I understand is far wetter and colder than the Algarve.

    I will investigate the rough cost of a 2bed apartment and see if I can find some contact details of agents, websites etc and will send you details by email. It may take a few days…

    Please let me know if there are any other aspects you would like me to research and cover on the blog.

    Kind regards


  5. I so appreciate your blog. I have tried to get info online about cost of living in Portugal but it is difficult to find. My husband and I are planning on retiring in Portugal in late 2011. We are from the USA, Brooklyn, NY. So I know it will be different for us. We are considering the Algarve, Lisbon area, and even Porto. We have decided to rent until we know where we want to settle. Can you tell me the cost of renting an apt. in Algarve. Basically a 2 bedrm. I don’t think we want a house. PM if you would like at

    Thanks so much for your wonderful blog. I am subscribed.


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