Shopping at the Wochenmarkt


Taking a trip down memory lane! Not only does the below make me think fondly on my first timid excursions around town, I also long for the day the € was only $1.10 at its highest. This was also back when we were still making meat a focal point of our diets, something we no longer do, and this particular shopping trip I took would have been much cheaper had we not eaten so much meat.

The original version of this post can be seen here.




Today’s post is inspired by a celebration: I was approved and received my visa today! I have been given a visa for freiberuflichen Tätigkeit, freelance work, which also includes an Aufenthaltserlaubnis, a resident permit. No more coming up with multiple plan B’s as to which country I would have to go “visit” once my tourist visa expires (Americans have 90 days to visit any country in the Schengen area, but once that 90 days is over, they must leave the Schengen zone for 90 days before coming back). When we get home tonight we’re going to finally pop open the champagne my good friend Blair gave us at our engagement party (the original plan was to have it the day I got here, but when we got home from the airport, all I could do was eat Zach’s leftover Pad Thai and pass out…at 3pm).

Since I arrived two months ago, I’ve taken over household duties such as the shopping, cleaning and the budget. Not only are we living in a foreign country, we’re also living together for the first time and learning more about our living habits. But, since this is not a relationship blog, I’ll end it here with we love not having to rely on an internet connection for a conversation and I’m discovering I’m a tidier person than I realized, and that the placement of towels in the bathroom is suddenly very important to me.



Shopping and eating like Germans do was an important goal of mine, and it’s taken some time and research to figure out what exactly that means. I’ve made a multitude of German friends of all ages so the opinions are varied, but there are common themes. If you saw the link my mother posted on my Facebook a few days ago you’ll know that Germans will shop almost everyday, and they prefer markets to grocery stores (we do have grocery stores here, but they are quite small with not a lot of variety. They are, however, much cheaper than stores in DC). I went to the largest farmer’s market in town today and I’d been planning this for a while. I let our supplies dwindle down to a handful of pathetic snow peas and an avocado to have plenty of room in our little fridge.

Also, we’re going to need a latte and cash, since Germans do not use cards except on the rare occasion. So first we stop at CommerzBank and Illy café, pick up the necessities and then we walk into the market square.



The Market

First things first: you need a bag. Germans charge for bags in stores so I’ve gotten used to having some kind of tote wherever I go. I’ve also saved an egg carton because I’ve finally figured out it’s cheaper to buy by the egg rather than a carton at a time. The grocery stores have large barrels of eggs with cartons next to them, but I feel wasteful getting a new carton every time. I’ve discovered others feel this way as people pull cartons from home out of their baskets. I do have some plastic bags, and I brought these along to put in the meat I knew I would be purchasing.

This particular market is here Wednesdays and Saturdays from 1000-1400. It’s crowded but very well laid out and has a map of all the vendors. When I think of farmer’s market, I think of the small, 5 vendor stands that sell some overpriced vegetables, someone’s baked goods, some flowers and maybe jewelry and homemade clothing items back home.

Generally I’d look at some apples or a pastry pie while I took a walk with my Starbucks and wish I could afford to purchase all my fruits and vegetables from local farms. Here, the markets are massive and crowded with produce so there’s generally no room for jewelry or other goods. But they do have flowers and plants like herbs; decorating homes is important and they really like having fresh flowers. There are entire, separate markets that sell home goods and clothing so that’s for a different trip. I’ve planned out a few meals I want to try out (all hail Pinterest) so I know what I’m looking for. I’ve taken out €50 and I have some spare change in my wallet so I’ll be keeping track of prices to compare them to the grocery stores I’ve been using. Also, I converse in German as much as I can so the plan today, like most days, is to rely only on my mediocre German, even when they eventually pick up on my accent and switch to English.


The chosen bag




I’ve decided to pick up all my meat first since it’ll be heavy and I don’t want it to crush the other produce I’m getting. The meat stalls are generally divided by animal and represent either one farm or a group of farms that sell their product to one company who then runs the stall. We always have chicken in the house and though I’m planning on mostly pork dishes this week, I head to the Hähnchen (chicken) stall for chicken breast. The meat looks incredibly fresh and besides cuts of meat, the butchers also have various brats and smoked meats. Brats are in every meat stall and there is such a variety it’s overwhelming. Someday I’m going to experiment with adding them in to our diet. When my turn comes, I ask for 2 Hähnchen-Brustfilet; obviously my accent is a little too thick to understand because she points at the breasts and asks “noch zweimal oder einmal?” (“two pieces or one?”). I realize now the breasts are butterflied and not split like in the store and ask for one, while making a Tarzan motion to confirm I’m looking for chicken breast. She laughs and wraps it up for me.

Next stop is pork. I know I want the schnitzel cuts, because I’ve figured out that’s the closest to pork loin. I also spot some tasty looking sandwich-cut meat that’s peppered and spiced. I ask the lady for a half a kilo of the schnitzel and 100g of the deli meat.

She picks up the largest piece of pork and says (in German) “This is not 8 kg, but it’s close, I can cut more if you really want.” I’m confused, “I only wanted half a kg, is it not possible to have just one?”

“Oh sure of course you can but you said you wanted 8 kg” and she goes to cut my order. I’m guessing my “halb ein kilo” came out as “acht kilo.”






Eggscellent conversation

First meats acquired, I also always like to have ground beef on hand so I go searching. Turns out, it’s a hard item to find and in fact in the stores the ground meat is always mixed with pork, I haven’t actually found pure ground beef yet. So time to move on to the eggs. The egg stalls also have other products like whole chickens, chicken parts, farm made honey or jams and one had lamb, which is something I’ll try next. The lines for eggs at the two stalls is huge, so I have plenty of time to rehearse my request for “zehn Eier bitte.” The eggs are roughly the same price as the grocery stores, €0,22 for regular grade A eggs, €0,24 for Freilandhaltung (free range chickens), and €0,35 for Bio (organic). Eggs are €0,23 at the grocery stores and that is for the regular eggs. I’m going for the free range because €0,2 more per egg is worth it to me. My turn comes and I hand the man my carton with my “zehn Eier bitte,” which he hears as “7 eggs.” The lady behind me says “ney sie ten gebeten” and turns to me and says “ja?” I smiled and thanked her, totally not catching the English she used.

“So where are you from, I know you’re American, I am too and I’m married to a German”
“Oh, I’m from the DC region, how long have you been here?”
“Years and years but I’m a Georgetown grad and spent quite a lot of time in the area.” I am not surprised at all, because this is the third person this week (and it’s only Mittwoch) that comes from NOVA. I thank her, chat a little bit more, and take my eggs to search for vegetables.





The produce & a discovery

I’m most curious about buying vegetables and fruit, because there are so many stands to choose from that all sell the same, or nearly the same, choices and I want to make sure I get the best price. I choose cauliflower and pears to be my samples, as these are what I’m looking for especially. Turns out, the prices are the same if not off by a few cents. So I take my time and look around for the most appealing choice. While I’m looking, I check out the fish vendor, tons of choices and it appears they’ll de-bone and cut off the heads for you.

They also, like other stalls, have prepared foods from the animal featured; today it’s shrimp. I’m going to get to seafood soon, but in that tiny fridge it’s going to take a little more planning.

I pass by several cheese stands and pick the one that has chunks of cheese pre-wrapped. I pick up some Emmental to have for sandwiches. He also was a friendly guy and told me he had the freshest cheese in all of Germany. I’ll just take his word instead of traveling the country tasting cheese, but honestly it’s not the worst idea I’ve had.

While choosing a vegetable stand, I passed another butcher who had a bowl of ground beef! Finally. I made a beeline as if every other shopper had discovered him at the same moment I had and proudly announced I wanted ein kilo bitte. No misunderstanding, just immediately nodded and started measuring. I try my luck with more conversation.

“Sie nur Rinderhackfleisch heute hier haben.” (“You have the only ground beef here today.”)
“Wirklich? Es ist auch die frischesten.” (“Really? It’s also the freshest in the market.”)
“Ja? Der Kuhl war hier huete?” (“Yeah? The cow was here today?” I have no idea if this joke will translate)
“Ach ney” (“no”).
Long, awkward pause.

“Seit eine Stunde” and a laugh (“An hour ago”).





All meat and cheese acquired, I finally settle on a fruit vendor, pick up some bananas and pears, and then the vegetable stand for cauliflower and asparagus. I haven’t bought asparagus yet, though it is in season and people here are absolutely insane about asparagus (also strawberries and rhubarb, they have festivals dedicated to these).

Germany has a special variety of asparagus, weißer Spargel, which is much larger than the normal type and is also, obviously, white. I’ve had it once before and since I don’t remember the taste, and I’m pretty sure Zach’s never had it, we’ll be picking some up soon. I’m running out of geld and the cauliflower is €2,50 while the bunch of asparagus is €7,50, which seems suspiciously high to me. I have no idea why it’s so expensive, and I say to the woman “Ich möchte den Blumenkohl, aber ich habe nur acht euro “ (“I want the cauliflower, but I only have eight euro.”) She nods and says “ok, acht ist ok” and just like that, I haggled! Such a thrill. Then I turn the corner and see in the same stall a bigger bunch for €3. Turns out I purchased special organic, ready prepared stalks.

I could probably quite happily get another coffee and find a bench to enjoy being outside a bit more but I have meat to get to the fridge and a somewhat busy day ahead so it’s back home to write this post.



The Reckoning

For roughly €50, here’s what we got:

  • 7 bananas (1kg/€1,50, ~€3,50)
  • 4 pears (1kg/€3,50)
  • 1 large cauliflower (€2,50)
  • 1 bunch of asparagus (super special asparagus) (€7,50)
  • 1 block Emmantaler cheese (~€3,50, not sure of the weight)
  • 1kg pork cutlets (€11,90/kg)
  • 102g pork deli slices (€18,90/kg, €1,93)
  • 1kg ground beef (1kg/€10,00)
  • 2 chicken breasts (500g, €11,50/kg so €5,82 total)

1kg is 2.2lbs, today’s exchange rate is approx. €1,00/$1.10, a little on the high side, but I took Euro out of the bank so no loss of transaction or exchange fees from credit cards.




Since Zach works during the day, we see different sides of day-to-day life in Germany so I’m inspired to write a little more about the small differences I’ve encountered. I will be starting a new job soon as well as taking on more coaching responsibilities and I will add these experiences in as well. Don’t forget to come visit us and experience some of this yourself!


Our tiny fridge with its shoebox freezer

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