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Shopping for Food and Groceries in Bangalore: Expiry Dates and Crazy Pricing

It’s Sunday night in Bangalore.  The weekend was fun and busy, I even made some new friends and found a new spot that serves AMAZING and diverse green salads (I know this sounds lame but they are really hard to find here…I can’t even find lettuce to buy at the shops!).

The electricity in my building keeps turning off every 10 minutes for no apparent reason, which is starting to drive me insane.  I’ve just returned from yet another unsuccessful visit to my refrigerator…I suppose every time I look in I suspect something new might pop out at me but sadly this is not the case.  The fridge has fresh ginger, 7Up, coconut juice and bottled water.  The freezer has frozen bread and vodka.  A half empty (or for the eternal optimists, half full) bottle of vodka, which reminded me of a funny thing that happened last week on my way out with friends.  After they collected me we decided to go for a “road soda” (Nicole that term always reminds me of you!) — in case you don’t know, a road soda is basically a drink for the road.  We pulled over, my mate jumped out and returned a minute later with a small bottle of Pepsi and an open, 1/4 full bottle of vodka.  haha…I was cracking up it was so funny.  You see, here in India the smaller liquor stores also serve up drinks to patrons.  Or maybe it is actually that miniature bars also sell bottles of alcohol.  Anyway, the one we went to was literally the size of a walk-in closet and had 5 or 6 men standing around it on the sidewalk drinking.  And since the bar/store was on their last bottle of vodka, we just bought that.  I love it.  Viva Bangalore!

Here is our 1/4 bottle of vodka from the local liquor store! What a laugh, I love it though…better than nothing!.

There are so many fun and unique discoveries I make like that throughout the course of my day.  Some of the crazy differences in the cost of living here include big ticket items (like my rent which I won’t discuss here), others are smaller ticket items that I am shocked to discover are either super cheap or ridiculously expensive.  Here are some of my favorites:

  • Toilet roll: No I’m not joking! haha  First, let me be honest and say that I still haven’t made it to one of the monster huge Tescos or SPARs here in Bangalore that are so popular with expats.  I have only gone to small local spots close to the flat and my local grocery store in Frazer Town called Spencers.  But so far the toilet rolls I’ve found aren’t all quilted and most are sort of rough and fall apart at the slightest touch.  And on top of it, they cost about $1 per roll.  Crazy!  I miss the snuggly soft rolls I bought in Spain that came in 40 roll packs and cost 7 euros.
  • Shampoo, conditioner, bath gel: It’s easy to buy “non salon” hair and skin care products at most pharmacies and grocery stores here, same brands as you’d buy in the US or Europe.  There are even some fabulous cheap-but-cheerful Indian brand that are really great that I’ve tried for my face masks.  But what isn’t good are the prices.  If you consider, as an example, that the MONTHLY salary of my housekeeper/cook who comes everyday is Rs. 5,500 ($120 / 87 euros), then the idea that the cheap brands like Fructis/Pantene/etc shampoo should cost Rs. 187 ($4.14 / 2.91 euros) is insane.  How would a family with a few kids afford shampoo?  I find this ridiculous, especially when it costs about 3 or 3,50 euros in Barcelona.
  •  Contraception: From buying condoms to birth control pills and especially the “morning after” pills…everything is quite expensive in Spain: 10 packs of Durex cost around 7 euros, a one-month pack of birth control pills is around 15 euros and the “morning after” pill cost close to 40 euros.  Here in India, the price difference is amazing and makes me wonder how the pharmaceutical companies really get away with charging what they do elsewhere around the globe.  From what I see at my local pharmacy, a 10 pack of Durex is $2, a one-month pack of birth control pills costs just $2 and the “morning after” pill branded here as iPill costs Rs. 100 ($2 or 1.70 euros).  In fact, I have read several blogs about how women are using the morning after pill several times a month instead of normal contraception — and at that price I can imagine it being a feasible option here.
  • Pet supplies: I about had a cow when I realized that a standard littler box for my cats was going to cost me about $40.  Honestly, what is that all about?  In Spain we had a walk-in litter box inside a box with filters, a little swinging door, etc that cost around $20.  I shopped online, I checked out a couple of shops…and not only was it impossible to find the one I wanted (I know they are here but I didn’t find it in time).  In the end I found this amazing guy near my office in Banaswadi that will deliver same-day, directly to my flat and his prices were the same as the other larger shops (Bhuvan Pet Shop: ask for Manjunath, +91 93425 76228,  But the kitty litter pan was indeed about $40 and it has no lid.  Kitty litter itself comes in monster 25 kilo bags and is also quite expensive, costing over $35.  Food is also expensive, a normal 2.5 kilo bag cost about $7!!
This is what my housekeeper/cook comes home with when she runs out to buy the ingredients for my lunch. It’s wonderful. I come home with Cheerios, bananas, cheese and yogurt and juice. What a difference 🙂

I remember the first time I went to the shop and stocked up the kitchen…actually, haha, I think it was the only time I have gone and “stocked up” hence the barren wasteland in there right now!!  When I came back home and started trying to sort out which cupboards would be perfect for the cereal, for the rice and noodles, for the spices…I happened to catch a look at the expiration date of a couple of things and everything I had bought was already expired.  I couldn’t believe it.  I didn’t go to a little hole in the wall shop, I went to a nice little grocery store.  I was so bummed and then I looked closer.  It turns out that here in India we don’t have expiration dates, we have manufacturing dates and then a qualifying statement printed close by with a “best by” time.  It’s not quite as dumb-blonde proof as an expiration date since one has to actually calculate the time manually but I find it interesting and pretty cool.

Ahhh enjoying an evening glass of wine and tapas at 100 Feet restaurant, upstairs on the terrace. They serve the most amazing pitted, breaded and deep fried Kalamata olives and Australian wine! Yum yum!
Second, all products are printed with their MSRP on them so one shop can’t jack up the price above and beyond what it should be.  Lordy lordy, this would be amazing at gas stations and “colmados” back home in Spain, which tend to jack up the prices on everything 2x or 3x.  I don’t know if the price is printed at the manufacturing level or distribution level but either way I love this system.

The week ahead at work will be quite fun.  We are starting direct marketing campaigns, initiating programs and starting development the new company website.  I go a bit crazy when i am not multi-tasking like a crazy person so I should be in heaven from here on out.

XOXO from Bangalore

© Angela Carson, Angela’s Adventures in Bangalore blog and photos, 2011

Angela Carson

At 21 I left uni, jumped into my Jeep Wrangler, and drove from my native California to live an adventure in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I've explored 37 countries on 4 continents, residing in 8 of them (currently Indonesia's Riau Islands is my home). I even have a private pilot's license and was shot at once by bandits!

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. clivejd

    Hmmm… Can’t find lettuce in Frazer Town ? U should try out Namdharis Fresh on MM Road close to the mosque on mosque road. I think it’ll cost you 60 Rs a kilo.

    PS – Cat food is expensive cause we like to feed our cats with boiled rice and fish bones.. ;-).

    1. angela_carson

      Cool, I will check out Namdharis Fresh. I have been to a few shops trying to sort out lettuce near work at here but no joy so I really appreciate the heads up 🙂 hehe, and yes I have heard that the cats are prepared food here, very posh 🙂 I am a bit more into the “fast pour” of food into a bowl 🙂

      1. clivejd

        HahaHa… Your Welcome ! Love your blog. Keep them coming.

  2. Sameer

    Wow Angela,

    It was awesome to read this blog of yours. Even though at places I felt you went overboard but still I enjoyed it. Keep up the good work and Congrats on your new walk to Fame. You will be listed as celebrity of the yeat by the end of 2011 in DNA for sure


    1. angela_carson

      okay, I have to ask… where do you feel I went overboard? I really must know or I will not be able to sleep 🙂

      PS. Thanks for kind words!!!

  3. Bibi

    Well,despite what you see in Bollywood movies talking about sex & contraception in India is a bit taboo. Especially if you’re a blonde firangi (I’m a big blonde firangi too) Just so you know us white women are considered to be excessively sexually liberated & often attract unwanted male enquiries thereof. Don’t be surprised if asked whether you’re a prostitute, or are interested in fulfilling some unsophisticated male’s fantasy (this has happened to me several times despite being modestly dressed & or with my Indian husband, even in rather swish 5 star hotels!)
    Anyway isn’t the pharmacy system in India great!!! All prices on pharmaceuticals are set by the Indian government with a set profit margin, keeping those medication prices very affordable compared to western countries.
    Check out Hypercity for a bigger selection of cosmetics & western foodstuffs, they have everything!

    1. angela_carson

      haha, that made me laugh, thanks for commenting and for the shopping tips. You are spot on with the comments about the unwanted male enquiries…I can’t even leave a table of my friends at a bar to run to the restroom without being stopped pretty much everytime. It is beyond annoying as I’m sure you know. I haven’t been mistaken for a prostitute yet but will email you just for fun once I am 🙂 hehe Are you Australian? Love the term swish and only my Aussie mates say that 🙂

      1. Bibi

        No, I’m not Australian, I’m a Californicator like you but from up north (Sonoma). Most of my friends here in Nepal are Aussie or Kiwi expats so I guess I picked ‘swish’ up from them, come to think of it a ‘swish’ in California is usually an effeminate male as I recall. 😉

  4. angela_carson

    Ah funny, I just read your other comments and put two and two together my fellow Cali girl. Not sure about swish in California actually but you may be right. I love it when the aussies say it.

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