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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!