Saturday, April 4, 2015


One of the things I find both good in bad about Japan is the food at the grocery store.  It is all extremely fresh.  This is a good thing.  Japanese food companies use far less preservatives than American food companies.  Fish and meat are never colored to look fresher.  It is all actually fresh!

The down side is that they run out of things.  Often.  Even staple items like orange juice, milk and butter.  It is really hard to meal plan when you don't know what type of fish they will have at the store that day.  They only have what is fresh so they don't always have the same things.  Same with vegetables and fruits.  The selection in the winter is pretty sparse.  Now that its getting in to spring the variety is much better.  There is a small produce section where they have off season fruits but they are crazy expensive.  I would like to eat a cantaloupe but not for the equivalent of $20.

This insistence on freshness definitely has an impact on how Japanese cook.  They do not live in the world of leftovers that many Americans do.  Back in the US, my husband and I would go to the store once a week and do the majority of the cooking on the weekends and then have leftovers all week.  This worked great for us and our busy schedules.  This is really difficult in Japan since food comes in such tiny containers (and is stored in a tiny kitchen and refrigerator).  Here are some examples that have totally cracked me up:

  • the largest container of milk is 1000 ml container, about 1/4 of a gallon
  • spices come in a jar that is about 2.5 tablespoons
  • bread comes in loafs that are only 4, 5 or 6 slices of sandwich bread
  • asparagus comes in a bundle that is only 3 stalks of asparagus
  • ground beef comes in a package that is less than a quarter of a pound
  • ice cream only comes in single serving size, and that's not a pint, it's a little less than half a cup, tiny!
  • chocolate chips come in a package that is less than a quarter cup.  To make a tiny batch of cookies I'd need to get about 5 packages.  Thank goodness Costco has chocolate chips!
 It is safe to say that because of this I often have to buy multiples of an item.  For example, to make a pot of chili, it takes 1 whole container of chili powder and 4-5 packages of ground beef.  Beans are hard to come by and have to be purchased at a foreign food store but I'll save that for another blog.  To make a small stir fry for the two of us it usually takes at least 2 packages of fish and two packages of snow peas.

It has definitely lead to a different way of cooking and shopping.

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