Chris said he could stay home until 10 a.m., so I rapidly made my list and decided that the best use of my shopping time alone would be to go to the "rinok" (market--part indoors/part outdoors) to get fruits and vegetables. Other things that are sold here include: cheap plasticwear for your house, cheap clothing and shoes, underwear... When I say "cheap" I don't mean "bargain"; I mean poorly-made, low-quality. For some items, like a colander or bucket, this is fine--but this isn't where you'd go "shopping." (This place is also hard with kids--narrow, winding paths, and I have to barter with each different merchant). If shopping in our neighborhood, I have to make a list divided into what I'll buy at these three different places: the fruit/vegetable market; Ramstore, the Turkish supermarket; the elite fancy grocery store, Azbuka Vkusa. Armed with my list, I rushed to the market.
I first bought cashews and pine nuts from the lady on the left. Then I bought basil, mint, spinach and leeks from the man on the left. The merchants inside this hall cost more than those outside, and I only buy here what I can't get outside.
I then had no choice but to bring both girls with me to complete the shopping. (I can't go tomorrow since the man we're paying to register the car will have it with him all day). We headed to Ramstore, the Turkish supermarket. When we first moved here, this store hadn't yet been built and it was soooo hard to shop! I also had no car! My only choice was to shop at the fancy grocery store and pay exhorbitant prices, or use taxis/hitchhike to get to other supermarkets. Sometimes I'd take the subway and transfer to a bus to get to the Auchon, the French discount market--and then take a cab home completely loaded up. (That was very hard, though, since the shopping carts aren't large enough to be able to purchase all I needed--and I didn't initially have anyone to help me with the kids). We were thrilled when this Ramstore was built. It's a big box-type building with other shops inside, too: a Russian version of the Body Shop; Swatch; a video/ music store; a sparcely-stocked pharmacy; a sock store; an eyeglass shop; a mobile phone shop; a dry-cleaner; a Hallmark; an Accessorize (English chain); and other random shops that sell flowers/high-heeled boots/sewing supplies.
The "Ramstore" part of my grocery list usually includes non-perishables such as detergents/household stuff, water, juice, milk, cereal, bread, pasta, frozen food (n.b. the first year the store was open, the frozen stuff seemed to have been thawed and then frozen.... the quality of the frozen dept. has definitely improved, though, so I'll buy frozen veggies and nuggets here now). My list today included laundry detergent, cleanser for floor and toilet, dish detergent, trash bags, rice, juice, olive oil, pasta, popcorn, canned tomatoes, canned peas, cocoa, 3 chocolate bars, 1/2 % 1/2, nuggets, kleenex, cough drops, cheese for the girls, yogurt, coffee beans, iced tea, whipped cream and tomato juice. I bought multiples of many of the items and the bill here came to 3,500 rubles ($134.82). Leaving Ramstore, we drove by this corner stand. The girls noticed a pineapple and Katya begged me to get it. Considering that she's sick and has no appetite, I was glad to buy her whatever healthy item she'd like. The pineapple cost 290 rubles. I also found a real rare treasure: zemlyaniki, miniature wild strawberries. I got a pint for 150 rubles. They are AMAZING. These stands are convenient and the prices are usually good--but the food sits out all day uncovered and exposed to pollution... At least the produce doesn't come from Ukraine anymore, so no one brings a radiation meter to test the food (after Chernyobl). Total spent: 440 rubles ($16.95).
We then drove to Azbuka Vkusa, the elite "boutique" grocery store where I usually buy meat. I go to this store last to get whatever I couldn't find elsewhere. My store of "last resort" for a hard-to-find item is usually to Stockmann, the luxurous Finnish chain, but it's in the city's center and it takes another 1 1/2-2 hours to get there and back (but that is sometimes necessary if I need to make a particular recipe and I've located all ingredients except for one... UGH!!!!).
Everything in this store looks sooo nice. It's all arranged as if in a gift shop. You can definitely find some basic items at only a slight mark-up (regular white sugar and herbs, for example), but most things are significantly or MUCH more. It's quite amusing to see the high-end items they carry; check out these colored sugars for 879 rubles ($34.20) and the strawberries for 1, 478 rubles ($57.51)! I can't understand buying strawberries from California when you can get Russian strawberries for $2.39/lb. Granted, I bought some of those local strawberries and 1/3 turned rotten within four hours, but considering the price, they were still worth it...
Today I got miso soup mix (only soup Katya will always eat), parmesan cheese, cannelini beans, apple-filled blini (Russian crepes), a baguette, chicken breasts, sundried tomatoes and olives. I had also need cornstarch and a turnip, but couldn't get them in any of the stores. Given how sick Katya is, I can't now go to the Finnish store to get them. The veggie soup just won't have a turnip and we won't be able to make chocolate pudding from scratch afterall (instead I found a mix here). Bummer that I already bought all the other ingredients to make the pudding at Ramstore! Total bill here: 2,000 rubles ($77.04).
Edited on Tuesday, June 19th. I just went to cook the chicken breasts that I'd purchased at Azbuka Vkusa (the last grocery store visited on Sunday--the one where everything looks so fancy and the prices are quite high). The chicken is only three days old, yet when I took it out of the packaging the smell knocked me over. It was DEFINITELY rotten. Katya was still home sick, so I couldn't bring it back to the store for a new pack (doing so wouldn't have been as simple as in the US, either). Since the trash bin is quite far from our building (perhaps 1/4 mile?), I'm now stuck with the rotten meat until tomorrow afternoon when someone will come to be with Katya.