As we moved in Virginia less than a week ago, we went shopping for basic stuff, particularly food.
Most people outside the US know of Wall Mart as the biggest retailer in the world. That's all true, but the actual experience at Wall Mart is very different from what I expected.
I expected Wall Mart to be something like Carefour in Europe - a gigantic mid-level highly diverse supermarket (hypermarket). Wall Mart is more of a super-sized Aldi (in the Netherlands) or Penny Market. It's an oversized low-cost / low level supermarket.
The place that resembled what we expected from a hypermarket is Shoppers. There are also Harris Teetter which is a premium supermarket and Trader Joe's which, after a short visit, looks like a bio-healthy-(a bit snobish) oversized grocery store.
In all our shopping experiences in the past days, there were some things that surprized us.
First, the prices for food in Virginia are roughly double than in The Netherlands (where we lived for 5 years).
Second, food packs are similar to condoms: the smallest size is "Big". Whereas the smallest condom size is named "big" in order to not offend the buyers, the food packages in the US are litteraly big, huge, irrationally oversized etc.
In the Netherlands one could buy half a cicken breast for a meal of one. In the USA you have to buy half a dozen (6) cicken breasts, because that is the smallest pack. Maybe it's four, not six?
It's not wonder that there is an entire industry on producing and selling preservation solutions. This includes freezer bags, oversized fridges (our current fridge is about 3-4 times larger than the one we had in The Netherlands and twice as large as the one we have in Romania), vacum machines, vacum bags and vacum pots.
Third, the extremely high content of added sugar and salt (sodium) made us change our purchasing criterias. In The Netherlands and Romania we usually chose based on price, quantity and brand. In the US, however, we have to choose based on the contents of salt, sugar and fat. The fat it's relatively easy to avoid because, in most cases, it's quite obvious which product has more fat.
The thing with sugar and salt is that they are added to products that one would not expect to find them. For example, we found a yougurt that resembled more diluted sugar than a dairy product. In a portion of 170 grams there are 26 grams of (pure) sugar.
It was similar with milk. Yesterday we wanted to buy ham... at most hams are full of salt.
Fourth, the bread... for us it is more of so-called-bread, since we couldn't find a decent bread in the supermarkets... yeah, i know... we are a bit snobs when it comes to bread and coffee, but we are Europeans, so it's a matter of different standards.
In very brief, the bread that gets close to European bread is horribly expensive - 3-6 USD for a bread. Therefore, we decided to make our own bread...