Surviving the American Grocery Store: A Guide for Expats

American grocery stores can be overwhelming for expats, with their vast selections, unfamiliar brands, and unique shopping customs. This guide aims to help expats not only survive but also thrive during their shopping adventures in the US.

Surviving the American Grocery Store A Guide for Expats

American grocery stores tend to be much larger than those in other countries, offering a dizzying array of products. Make a shopping list beforehand to stay focused and save time. Familiarize yourself with the store layout and keep an eye out for sales and discounts.

Understanding Units of Measurement

In the US, groceries are measured in pounds, ounces, gallons, and quarts. Familiarize yourself with these units and their conversions to avoid confusion when buying produce or following recipes.

Decoding Nutrition Labels

American food products come with detailed nutrition labels. Learn how to read these labels to make healthier choices and understand serving sizes, daily values, and nutrient information.

Discovering New Ingredients

Embrace the opportunity to experiment with new ingredients. American grocery stores often carry a wide variety of international foods and seasonings that may be unfamiliar but can add a unique twist to your home-cooked meals.

Our experience has been generally positive whenever we try new ingredients in the US.

Shopping for Produce

While fruits and vegetables may look similar to those in your home country, they might taste different due to variations in growing conditions and farming practices. Give yourself time to adapt to the new flavors and seek out local farmers’ markets for the freshest produce.

While the farmers’ markets can be more expensive, the produce is generally very fresh so it is worth it.

Buying in Bulk

Many American grocery stores offer bulk-buying options, allowing you to purchase large quantities of dry goods like rice, pasta, and beans at discounted prices. Investing in reusable containers can help you save money and reduce plastic waste. Check out Costco or Walmart for any dry/canned items, etc.

Adapting to American Tastes

Some popular American products, like peanut butter and ranch dressing, might be unfamiliar to expats. Give these items a try to better understand the local palate and expand your culinary horizons. While I write this, as a family, we still like Asian taste more 😛 and so it is really a personal choice 🙂

Coupon Culture

Americans love their coupons, which can offer significant savings on your grocery bill. Look for coupons in newspapers, store flyers, and online to take advantage of discounts. It is typical for you to receive coupons in the mail too.


Grocery shopping in the US can be an exciting adventure for expats, offering a chance to discover new ingredients, understand American tastes, and learn valuable shopping strategies. By following this guide, you can navigate the American grocery store with confidence and ease, making the most of your culinary journey in your new home.

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