Spanish supermercado: three coming – three going

6205163-Great_Ham_and_Meat_Selection_at_El_Corte_Ingles_SevillaThe first time you step into a supermercado in Spain you may be surprised by it’s seeming lack of ‘super’. But all is relative. Compared with ‘un autoservicio’ (a closet sized convenience store),  and ‘una frutería’ (a tiny greengrocer which may offer a few, well, very few, comestibles), a supermercado is a paradise of abundance. It will have a wide variety of products on offer just not as wide a variety as you may be used to. Here are a six tips for shopping in a supermercado:


  1. In a grand supermercado, such as El Corte Ingles you will drop off your packages and backpack at the guardaropa (coat check) the attendant will give you a number in return. Pay attention to what pocket you put that number in!
  2. Make sure you have some 1 euro coins In supermercados like Carrefore and Mercadona make use of the available lockers to store your, packages, backpack, carrito (granny cart), etc. You will need a coin for that. Pay attention to what pocket you put the key in!
  3. You will also need a coin as a deposit on a shopping cart. You will get the coin back when you return the cart.


  1. While you are in line watch what people in front of you are doing. When they get to the cashier, do the costumers put the money or card on the tray? If they do that then you do that, too. Also pick up the change or card from the tray.
  2. For the time being, single use plastic shopping bags have not been banned. But you will be charged for them and you may be asked how many you want.
  3. You are expected to bag your own groceries. Do you remember the best way to pack a grocery bag? Watch the baggers at home if you don’t remember.

AND remember to pick up your packages, carrito, and backpack at the coat check or out of the locker. I don’t know how many times I have been so distracted by the novelty of the experience that I did not pay attention to where I put the coat check number or the key to the locker. A couple of times I completely forgot I had left anything behind until I was back out on the street.