In this post we are going to cover Grocery Store Shopping in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  I know, it may not sound super exciting, but knowing where you can get mayonnaise that tastes like mayonnaise or cheese, I mean real cheese, is kind of important.   If you are living in Thailand, grocery shopping is a bit different than back home.

In the States, I would go to the supermarket once a month, walk out with about 14 bags of goods that would last at least four weeks and then stop in to get fresh veggies as needed if my garden wasn’t producing.  My car would be filled to the brim.  It was an event.  I made lists.  I planned.  I got the big cart and went up and down each aisle.

It’s an event in Chiang Mai, too.

You don’t go to the store monthly, you go daily and you don’t necessarily go to a brick and mortar store.  You do limit the amount you buy to what fits in your backpack and on the hook between your legs on the scooter.  You go to different places based on what it is you need.  Did I mention that you also have to buy water?  Yes, water to wash your food with, brush your teeth with, to cook with, to drink with, etc.  Ah-hem, like I said, it’s an event.

Where to go grocery shopping in Chiang Mai:

  • Rimping/Tops
    • These are the most expensive grocery stores as they cater to western foods and labels.
    • Here you will find the most extensive selection of wine as well as fresh bakery goods.
    • You can find those hard to find foods like canned chick peas or artichokes here as well as almost every type of cheese out there. You can even find Halloumi!
    • Name brands like Helmans, Heinz, and Campbell’s Soup is easily found.
    • There are 3 Rimpings, using the old city as orientation, there is one on every side but north. (note, the one to the south is in Hang Dong.)
    • Tops are numerous with both express locations and large centers. Easy to get to large stores are located in the basement of both Central Festival malls.
  • Fresh Markets
    • Basically – walk 5 minutes in any direction and you find one. They are everywhere.
    • Get as much of your produce here as you can. You can’t beat the pricing, and it typically has more flavor than store bought.
    • If the vendor sells a variety of items, you will be given a basket to gather your selection in.  The vendor will weigh it and then quote you a price.  Going against most suggestions, I typically do not barter with the vendors.  I find that a huge bag of veggies for $3 USD to be a very fair price.
    • You might be limited to what is in season, but you can find those hard to find items at Rimping or Tops
  • 7-Eleven
    • Follow same rule as fresh markets in there prevalence.
    • They don’t do slurpees, but they do have huge jugs of water, eggs, milk, beer and the like to avoid making a longer trip to a store.
    • Following the trend that they show in the States, you can find a variety of healthier snacks here as well.
  • Tesco Lotus/Big C
    • National Grocery Chains that resemble a Walmart or Target in that they offer more than just grocery goods.
    • Very common (outside of the old city)
    • These are Thai grocery stores geared toward Thai’s, so depending on your grasp of the language, you will be relying on self identification. (a Ritz cracker looks like a Ritz cracker no matter what it’s called)  Everything is clearly priced so you will not have any trouble negotiating your way through the stores.
    • This is where you can buy gigantic bags of rice for pennies.  Need Socks?  They have those too.

Things to note:

  • While you will see many a packaged item labeled “low-fat,” I have yet to set eyes on anything that is labeled “low-sodium.” Now I can’t read Thai, so that doesn’t mean it is not out there, but assuming most people are in my boat, know that you are going to have to work from your own knowledge of what is salty or not.
  • As an American, figuring out the price of something in Baht per Kilo is a wee bit daunting (mostly due to the kilo thing and how that converts to pounds.) I’ve come to use the following rule for meats that I know will get eaten, I’ll order .25 – .5 kilos depending on what I’m making and who I’m feeding.  Half a Kilo is about 1 pound.
  • Alcohol is only sold during certain times of the day. They cannot sell (or serve if you are in a restaurant) alcohol between the hours of 2pm and 5pm. I mention this because I tend to want to do my grocery shopping during this time and at times it can cause a later run to 7-eleven.
  • I have been able to find almost everything in Chiang Mai.  The two things that I have yet to find that I typically use are ground lamb and 1/2 and 1/2 for coffee.

 

Where do you like grocery shopping in Chiang Mai?  Anything you can’t find?

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