From Pan to Pimiento: A Guide to Grocery Shopping in Spain

Photo courtesy of Mercadona

As an expat or tourist exploring the vibrant culture of Spain, grocery shopping becomes an exciting part of your culinary adventure. Spanish supermarkets, hypermarkets, and markets offer a diverse range of fresh and flavorful ingredients, providing a unique experience for those accustomed to North American grocery stores like Safeway and Save-on-Foods. To help you navigate the shops with ease, we’ve prepared a FREE handy guide, “From Pan to Pimiento: A Beginner’s Guide to Spanish Grocery Shopping,” which includes English-Spanish translations of the most commonly used words, such as types of fruits, vegetables, spices, and cuts of meat. With this guide in hand, you can confidently immerse yourself in the local shopping scene, from El Corte Inglés and Auchan (Alcampo) to the local Mercados and savor the rich flavors Spain has to offer.

Supermarket (Supermercado)

A supermercado, or supermarket, is a compact and convenient grocery store commonly found in urban areas and neighborhoods across Spain. These stores offer a wide range of everyday essentials, including fresh produce, dairy products, canned goods, household items, and toiletries. Supermarkets are known for their efficient layout and organized aisles, making it easy for shoppers to find what they need quickly. They are perfect for everyday grocery shopping and are typically open seven days a week, with extended hours for added convenience.

From Pan to Pimiento: A Beginner’s Guide to Spanish Grocery Shopping” will help you communicate with the staff and find your favorite items in these well-known supermarket chains.

Mercadona

Mercadona is one of the largest and most popular supermarket chains in Spain, known for its extensive range of products and competitive prices.

The Hacendado brand, exclusive to Mercadona, offers a wide selection of high-quality own-brand products, including pantry staples, snacks, and beverages. Look out for their delicious Hacendado olive oil and cheese.

Mercadona supermarket in Alicante

Front entrance to a Mercadona Supermercado in Spain. Photo by ©suitcaseinspain.

Lidl

Lidl is a German-based supermarket chain with a strong presence in Spain, offering a mix of household goods and groceries at affordable prices.

The Milbona brand, exclusive to Lidl, is well-regarded for its dairy products, including creamy yogurts and a variety of cheeses. Be sure to try their Milbona Greek yogurt for a creamy and nutritious treat.

Front entrance to a Lidl Supermercado in Spain. Photo by ©suitcaseinspain.

Aldi

Aldi is another German-based supermarket chain operating in Spain, providing a limited but carefully curated selection of products to ensure quality and value.

Aldi’s unique own-brand products include a range of organic and gluten-free items. Don’t miss their popular Aldi-brand chorizo and specialty chocolates.

Photo courtesy of Aldi

Photo courtesy of ALDI supermercados.

El Corte Inglés – Hipercor and Supercor

El Corte Inglés is Spain’s largest department store, offering a comprehensive shopping experience. Hipercor and Supercor are its supermarket chains, providing a diverse range of groceries and other household items.

Look for fresh produce and quality meats at Hipercor, while Supercor offers convenient locations for quick grocery runs.

El Corte Ingles Hipercor
El Corte Ingles SuperCor

Photo courtesy of El Corte Ingles.

Consum

Consum is a cooperative supermarket chain with a focus on fresh and locally sourced products.

With a strong emphasis on organic and eco-friendly items, Consum’s own-brand products cater to health-conscious shoppers. Try their Consum BIO line for a selection of organic goods.

Photo courtesy of Consum.

Dia

Dia is a budget-friendly supermarket chain with an extensive network of stores across Spain.

Dia’s own-brand products offer great value for money, with a variety of options for everyday essentials like canned goods and pasta.

Photo courtesy of DIA.

Spar

Spar is an international supermarket chain with a presence in Spain, offering a mix of national and international products.

Spar’s range of products includes both its own-brand items and well-known international brands, making it a convenient choice for shoppers seeking variety.

One of the neighbourhood Spar locations. Photo by ©suitcaseinspain.

Hypermarket (Hipermercado)

A hipermercado, or hypermarket, takes the concept of a supermarket to the next level, offering a vast shopping experience that goes beyond groceries. These expansive stores are usually located on the outskirts of major cities and provide a one-stop shopping solution. In addition to a wide selection of fresh produce, meats, and groceries, hypermarkets also offer clothing, electronics, home appliances, and more. They are popular for bulk shopping and offer cost-effective options for stocking up on household items.

Auchan (Alcampo)

Auchan, known as Alcampo in Spain, is a prominent hypermarket chain offering an expansive shopping experience. Located on the outskirts of major cities, Alcampo provides a wide range of products, including fresh groceries, household items, electronics, clothing, and more. Shoppers can take advantage of bulk buying opportunities, making it a convenient destination for families and those seeking a diverse shopping selection. With a focus on competitive prices, Auchan (Alcampo) is a go-to destination for an all-in-one shopping experience.

one of the aisles in Alcampo in Alicante

One of the many aisles inside Alcampo, Alicante. Photo by ©suitcaseinspain.

Carrefour

Carrefour is a leading hypermarket chain with a strong presence in Spain, providing a comprehensive shopping experience for customers. Apart from groceries and fresh produce, Carrefour offers a wide selection of electronics, home appliances, clothing, and household essentials. Shoppers can benefit from loyalty programs (including a special one for those 65 years and older) and various discounts while exploring the diverse range of products available. With spacious aisles and friendly staff, Carrefour is a favorite destination for a convenient and varied shopping trip.

inside entrance Carrefour

Inside entrance of Carrefour. Photo by ©suitcaseinspain.

Eroski

Eroski is a Spanish hypermarket chain known for its emphasis on quality products and a commitment to sustainability. With a wide selection of fresh produce, meats, and groceries, Eroski caters to diverse tastes and dietary preferences. Customers can also find organic and locally sourced products, contributing to a more eco-friendly shopping experience. Eroski’s friendly atmosphere and commitment to responsible practices make it a popular choice among conscious shoppers.

fresh fruits and vegetables inside Eroski Hipermercado

Photo courtesy of Eroski Hipermercado.

Public Food Market (Mercado)

A mercado, or public food market, lies at the heart of Spanish culture and culinary tradition. These vibrant, bustling indoor markets house an array of stalls, each offering an exquisite selection of food products that reflect the richness of Spain’s gastronomic heritage. Beyond their culinary allure, many mercados also boast stunning architectural beauty. Here are some of our favorite mercados that not only cater to food enthusiasts but also captivate with their captivating design and history.

Alicante

Mercado Central de Alicante: Designed by Spanish architect Francisco Fajardo Guardiola in 1915 and completed by Juan Vidal Ramos in 1921, Mercado Central de Alicante is a bustling market in Alicante. With over 300 stalls, it offers an enticing selection of fresh seafood, local produce, and other culinary delights.

Click here to visit their website.

Joaquín y Elisa Frutos Secos stall inside Mercado Central de Alicante

Joaquín y Elisa Frutos Secos – one of the many stalls inside Mercado Central de Alicante. Photo by ©suitcaseinspain.

Barcelona

Mercado de La Boqueria: Built in the 12th Century and operating as a public market since 1836, Mercado de La Boqueria is an iconic attraction in Barcelona. Designed by architect Mas Vilà, the market features over 200 food stalls, offering a dazzling array of fresh produce, meats, seafood, and local delicacies.

Click here to visit their website.

outside Mercado de La Boqueria
Outside Mercado de La Boqueria, Barcelona. Photo by ©suitcaseinspain.

Mercat de Sant Antoni: Built in 1882 by architect Antoni Rovira i Trias, Mercat de Sant Antoni is another popular market in Barcelona. With over 50 food stalls, it offers a delightful selection of fresh ingredients, artisanal products, and regional specialties.

Click here to visit their website.

Madrid

Mercado de San Miguel: Inaugurated in 1916 and designed by architect Alfonso Dubé y Díez, Mercado de San Miguel is a historic gem in Madrid. With over 20 stalls, it has become renowned for its tapas offerings, providing a perfect spot to savor a variety of Spanish flavors in a lively atmosphere.

Click here to visit their website.

Mercado de la Paz: Inaugurated in 1882 and featuring a wrought iron structure designed by August Eiffel, Mercado de la Paz is a classic Madrid market. With over 60 food stalls, it offers a delightful shopping experience for fresh produce, meats, and artisanal products.

Click here to visit their website.

inside Mercado de la Paz, Madrid

Photo courtesy of Mercado de la Paz. 

Oviedo, Asturias

Designed by architect Javier Aguirre, the market’s charming building was completed in 1885, boasting an architectural elegance that captures the essence of its era. Housing 34 stalls, Mercado El Fontán offers a delightful selection of fresh and locally sourced food products.

Click here to visit their website. 

inside Mercado del Fontán, Oviedo, Asturias

Inside Mercado del Fontán in Oviedo, Asturias. Photo by ©suitcaseinspain.

Valencia

Mercado Central, Valencia: Construction of Mercado Central began in 1914 and was completed in 1928 by architect Enrique Viedma Vidal. This iconic market boasts over 1200 food stalls, making it the largest market with fresh produce in Europe. Here, you can find an impressive variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and specialty products.

Click here to visit their website.

The dome - inside Mercado Central Valencia

The iconic dome inside Mercado Central de Valencia. Photo by ©suitcaseinspain.

Visiting a mercado is not just about shopping; it’s a sensory experience, where you can interact with friendly vendors, sample local delicacies, and immerse yourself in the vibrant Spanish way of life. Whether in Alicante, Barcelona, Madrid, Oviedo, or Valencia, these markets are a must-visit for anyone seeking an authentic and flavorful glimpse into Spanish culture.

Weekly Outdoor Street Market (Mercadillo)

Mercadillos are open-air street markets that take place on specific days of the week in different neighborhoods. These markets offer an eclectic mix of products, including fresh produce, clothing, accessories, and household items. Bargain-hunters will love exploring the mercadillos, as you can often find unique items and fresh, locally sourced produce at more affordable prices.

Looking to make the most of your time in Alicante or Valencia? Don’t miss our comprehensive listing on the Weekly Outdoor Street Markets (Mercadillos) in these vibrant cities. Discover the hidden gems and unique offerings at these open-air street markets, where you can explore an eclectic mix of products, from fresh and flavorful produce to trendy clothing and accessories. Bargain-hunters will be delighted to find affordable prices and locally sourced treasures that reflect the true essence of Spanish culture. Whether you’re a seasoned market enthusiast or a curious traveler, our guide will ensure you have an authentic and rewarding shopping experience. Embrace the local atmosphere, interact with friendly vendors, and immerse yourself in the lively spirit of these weekly mercadillos. Happy shopping and exploration!

Outdoor street market - Babel, Alicante

Mercadillo Babel, Alicante- open on Thursdays and Saturdays. Photo by ©suitcaseinspain.

Corner Fruit and Vegetable Stores

On many street corners in Spain, you’ll find small, family-owned fruit and vegetable stores, known as fruterías. These charming little shops provide a delightful alternative to supermarket produce sections. The produce in fruterías is usually of excellent quality, and the owners often have a deep knowledge of the seasonal products available, giving personalized recommendations and suggestions for recipes.

Individual Meat Shops (Carnicería) and Fish Mongers (Pescadería)

Carnicerías and pescaderías are specialized shops where you can purchase high-quality meat and seafood. The butchers in the carnicería can offer you specific cuts of meat and give cooking advice, while the pescadería provides a wide range of fresh fish and shellfish. Shopping at these individual shops ensures you get the freshest and most authentic products, perfect for creating traditional Spanish dishes.

Wilson y Silvia carniceria

Our favourite butcher in Alicante – Wilson y Silvia Carniceria. Photo by ©suitcaseinspain.

Discover a Healthier Food Experience in Spain

As you explore the vibrant culinary scene in Spain, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that the food offerings are inherently healthier, thanks to stringent European Union regulations. This means that many Spanish-made products, including bread, cookies, soda, and other processed foods, are free of numerous potential cancer-causing ingredients commonly found in North American products.

Spain’s commitment to adhering to strict food regulations ensures that you can savor the rich flavors and indulge in delicious meals without worrying about harmful additives. Unlike in the US and Canada, where food regulations may vary, Spanish grocery stores are devoted to offering products of the highest quality, prioritizing the well-being of consumers.

While Spain boasts an impressive array of health-conscious choices in almost every grocery store, if you truly desire a shopping experience similar to Whole Foods, look no further than Herbolario Navarro. At Herbolario Navarro, you’ll find a dedicated range of organic options, gluten-free alternatives, vegan snacks, and much more. This health-oriented store not only aligns with Spain’s dedication to providing healthier food options but also ensures that your journey through the world of a wholesome lifestyle is fulfilling and delightful.

Embrace the abundant selection of healthier food offerings in Spain and explore the richness of Spanish cuisine, knowing that each meal supports your well-being and complements your conscious approach to eating. With Herbolario Navarro and other health-conscious grocery stores, Spain beckons you to enjoy a delectable culinary experience that nourishes both body and soul.

Online and Delivery Services

In an increasingly digital world, online grocery shopping and delivery services have become integral parts of the grocery store experience in both Spain and Vancouver.

In Spain, many supermarkets and mercados have embraced the convenience of online shopping and offer robust online platforms for customers to browse and purchase groceries from the comfort of their homes. Customers can conveniently select their desired products, choose delivery or pickup options, and schedule a convenient time slot. Some supermarkets also provide mobile applications that offer additional features such as personalized recommendations and digital loyalty cards. Home delivery services are often available in urban areas, allowing customers to have their groceries conveniently delivered to their doorstep.

These online and delivery services have become especially valuable during times when convenience and safety are prioritized. Customers can easily shop for groceries, compare prices, and access a wide range of products without leaving their homes. The flexibility of delivery and pickup options allows individuals to tailor their shopping experience to their specific needs and schedules.

Loyalty Programs and Money-Saving Tips

Loyalty Programs:
In Spain, many grocery stores offer loyalty programs to reward regular customers. These programs are designed to provide additional benefits and exclusive discounts to loyal shoppers. When you sign up for a loyalty card, you can earn points with every purchase, which can later be redeemed for discounts, special offers, or even free products. Some supermarkets, such as Mercadona and Carrefour, have their own loyalty programs, while others may participate in broader schemes like the “Club Card” from El Corte Inglés, which offers rewards for purchases made throughout the department store.

Coupons and Discounts:
While coupon culture might not be as prevalent in Spain as it is in some other countries, you can still find occasional discounts and special offers to save money on groceries. Keep an eye out for promotional flyers, mailers, and in-store displays, as these often feature limited-time discounts on popular items. Additionally, many supermarkets have websites and apps where you can find digital coupons and personalized offers based on your shopping habits. Embrace these opportunities to save on your grocery bill and discover new products at discounted prices.

Bulk Buying and Special Deals:
Buying in bulk can be a smart way to save money in Spanish grocery stores. Look for special deals and promotions on larger quantities of items like rice, pasta, canned goods, and cleaning supplies. Shopping during sales events or seasonal promotions can also yield significant savings. Remember to check the expiry dates, especially for perishable items, before purchasing in bulk.

Comparison Shopping:
To get the best deals, consider comparison shopping between different supermarkets and hypermarkets. Prices may vary on certain products, and certain stores might have exclusive promotions or discounts on specific items. Exploring nearby markets, mini-supermarkets, and specialty stores can also lead to unique finds and potentially lower prices for specialty items.

Seasonal and Local Produce:
Eating seasonally and opting for locally sourced produce can be a cost-effective and sustainable way to shop. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are often fresher and less expensive, as they require less transportation and storage. Visit mercados and local markets for a wide selection of fresh, locally grown produce that reflects the authentic flavors of the region.

Navigating loyalty programs and employing money-saving strategies in Spanish grocery shopping can help you make the most of your culinary adventure without breaking the bank. Embrace loyalty programs to earn rewards and exclusive discounts, keep an eye out for coupons and special deals, and consider bulk buying and seasonal produce for additional savings. By utilizing these money-saving tips, you can fully enjoy the rich flavors and diverse offerings of Spanish cuisine while staying within your budget.

Sustainability Practices and Community Engagement

In Spain, grocery shopping goes beyond just purchasing food; it’s an opportunity to support sustainability practices and engage with local communities. Many grocery stores in Spain are increasingly conscious of their environmental impact and are taking active steps to promote eco-friendly practices.

Eco-friendly Packaging: Several supermarkets and hypermarkets are reducing their use of single-use plastic bags and promoting reusable alternatives. Customers are encouraged to bring their own bags or purchase eco-friendly options made from recycled materials.

Locally Sourced Produce: Embracing the “farm-to-table” concept, many stores prioritize locally sourced produce to support regional farmers and reduce carbon emissions associated with long-distance transportation.

Sustainable Seafood: Responsible fishing practices are gaining importance in Spanish grocery stores. Look for eco-labels or certifications, such as the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) label, which ensures that the seafood you buy comes from sustainable fisheries.

Food Waste Reduction: Several grocery chains in Spain are proactively addressing the issue of food waste and taking significant steps to minimize it. One of the key initiatives is offering discounts on items that are close to their expiration date, encouraging customers to purchase them before they go to waste. Moreover, these supermarkets actively participate in donating surplus food to local food banks and charities, ensuring that edible but unsold items reach those in need. To further combat food waste, some grocery stores have embraced innovative solutions like partnering with Food Waste apps like Too Good To Go, which allow customers to purchase surplus food at reduced prices, preventing it from ending up in landfills. These efforts demonstrate the commitment of Spanish grocery chains to promote sustainability and contribute to more responsible food consumption practices in the country.

Community Involvement: Spanish supermarkets frequently engage in community-oriented initiatives, such as sponsoring local events, supporting schools, and participating in charitable programs. This fosters a sense of community and collaboration between shoppers and the stores they frequent.

By being conscious of sustainability practices and actively engaging with local communities, both shoppers and grocery stores contribute to a greener and more inclusive future. Embrace these initiatives during your grocery shopping in Spain and become part of the collective effort to create a better and more sustainable world.

Embrace the Vibrant Grocery Shopping in Spain!

If you are moving to or traveling in Spain, your grocery shopping experience promises to be an exciting and enriching part of your culinary adventure. From the vibrant mercados to the convenience of supermarkets and the extensive offerings of hypermarkets, Spain offers a diverse range of options to satisfy every palate.

Armed with our handy guide, “From Pan to Pimiento: A Beginner’s Guide to Spanish Grocery Shopping,” which includes essential English-Spanish translations for commonly used grocery terms, you can confidently navigate the aisles and interact with local vendors. Embrace the differences and similarities between Spanish and Canadian grocery shopping, and let the rich flavors of Spain captivate your taste buds.

Whether you choose to explore the bustling mercados, immerse yourself in the offerings of supermarkets like Mercadona and Lidl, or enjoy the one-stop shopping experience of Auchan (Alcampo) and Carrefour, each excursion will unveil unique and authentic flavors.

Additionally, you’ll find that Spain’s commitment to quality and sustainability extends to organic food and healthy alternatives, eliminating the need for dedicated Whole Foods equivalents. Spaniards take pride in adhering to strict European Union regulations on food additives, providing reassurance about the safety and quality of the products you’ll find on the shelves.

To make the most of your grocery shopping experience, consider enrolling in loyalty programs, keep an eye out for special discounts and promotions, and explore the benefits of buying seasonal and locally sourced produce. Comparison shopping across different stores can also help you discover hidden gems and save on your grocery bill.

As you embark on your culinary journey in Spain, let “From Pan to Pimiento” be your trusted companion, guiding you through the diverse world of Spanish grocery shopping. Embrace the vibrant culture, immerse yourself in the local shopping scene, and savor the rich flavors Spain has to offer. Whether you’re looking for everyday essentials or seeking specialty items, Spanish grocery shopping promises to be a delightful experience that will leave you with cherished memories and a deeper appreciation for the country’s culinary treasures. Happy shopping and buen provecho!

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