Food Shopping in Japan Week 6: What We Bought, What We Spent

I did not think we were going to get out of the Tokyu market today for less than ¥9000. Everything seemed to be so expensive, so we were very surprised by our total: ¥6,988/$62.53, much better than expected, and that’s with getting everything on our list and a few extras too. We still have to purchase kaarage later this week and that will add to our weekly total, but I currently have no idea how much that will be. We still should come in under our weekly ¥10,000 limit.

Here’s what we bought earlier today:

Dairy: We bought the same as last week: nonfat milk, nonfat yogurt, Yakult, and a half dozen eggs. The eggs were ¥18 less than the ones I bought last week, and by buying a 10-pack of Yakult I saved a whopping ¥1.

Meat: Meat at Tokyu is expense; there’s no way around it. However, the quality is very high. The frozen uncooked shrimp were ¥498/$4.46 for around a half a pound. There was a less expensive package but the shrimp were very small so we passed. The two different cuts of pork (one package of thin slices for yakisoba and two packages of cubes for sweet and sour pork) were ¥751. So, in the end we spent ¥1249/$11.22 total for a little more than a pound of meat, quite a lot in my opinion (and I chose the least expensive packages). Back in the U.S. I would have cut my own cubes of pork, or the thin slices, from a larger piece like a chop or a tenderloin, but those cuts aren’t available here (if you can find them you’ll pay a small fortune).

Produce: Once again, except for the strawberries and bananas, prices were low or low-ish. We paid ¥598 for the package of berries, but every one of them is ripe. The packages available for ¥498 had bigger but fewer berries, and all included two or three berries that were less than ripe. Bananas had gone up in price this week as well – we paid ¥20 more than we did last week for the same number of bananas. The cucumbers, broccoli, tiny green peppers, and tomato were the same price as last week. The little bag of finely shredded cabbage is to go with the tonkatsu we’re having this week and cost ¥100. I’ve got a sharp knife here but I still can’t shred that finely.

Prepared foods: This was another area we were sure was going to make a big dent in our budget. The two pork cutlets (tonkatsu) were ¥398/$3.57 each, and we also bought shumai, mini spring rolls, and gyoza for our dim sum dinner, and a package of potato salad to have with our karaage. The tonkatsu and other fried and grilled foods used to be in a self-serve area, where you reached into a case and chose the number of items you wanted using tongs. This week that the area is gone, and while everything is still available, it’s all now individually packaged – another sign of the impact the coronavirus is having.

Pantry items: We picked up three things in this category: two packages of egg noodles for yakisoba (¥80/72¢ each), beni shoga (pickled red ginger slices) for yakisoba (store brand for ¥100/90¢), and CookDo sauce for chili shrimp. I also like to add a little bit of beni shoga to fried rice.

Paper goods: We bought one 12-pack of store-brand double-ply toilet paper for ¥398/$3.57.

Miscellaneous: Brett got himself a can of Kirin beer (¥188/$1.69) to have this Friday instead of wine, a Japanese lip balm for ¥80/72¢, and we got a bag of special Hina Matsuri (Girls’ Day) snacks (also ¥188) for K. The characters on the package (Apanman and Meronpan’na) are current favorites of hers. Hina Matsuri will be on March 3.

Would anyone be interested in seeing pictures from inside the store? I’d love to hear from you and some feedback about these food posts and what might make them more interesting. I’ve personally always been fascinated with others’ food shopping posts and pictures, but then again I love to peek into shopping carts and see what other people buy!


20 thoughts on “Food Shopping in Japan Week 6: What We Bought, What We Spent

  1. Yes to seeing the inside of the store. And I’m also wondering if you’re seeing any differences in outings/crowds/etc with the coronavirus being more of a concern? I read something about Japan today, but wasn’t sure if you’re affected. 😳


    1. Crowds are smaller now. We noticed it on our KitKat buying trip to Tokyo Station last week. The train we took is normally packed but was nearly empty. The station was still fairly busy.


  2. Must agree a photo safari of the inside of the store would be terrific. It would add another dimension to your shopping posts.

    I wondered if you two have concerns re the Coronavirus, and your noting packaged vs self serve is telling.—apparently it is no restricted to certain countries anymore. In fact a recent news article used the word pandemic in the headline. I know you two are doing what you can to stay healthy while you travel just like you would if not traveling.

    Looking forward to your next post.


  3. I would love a grocery store photo Safari! I just spent a week in Fairbanks and it’s high season for Aurora tourism. Last year we saw many groups of Chinese tourists, this year we saw 4 people. Coronavirus is definitely having a worldwide impact.


    1. Another vote for photos – they will get taken although I’m pretty sure I’m going to get some weird looks while I snap photos.

      Japan is a very popular destination for Chinese tourists, but I think for now they are restricted from entering. No tour groups, and individuals are very strictly monitored.


  4. I must confess that I don’t know what some of these items are or how they’re used. Maybe you could take a few and explain? Also would love to see the stores’ inside. Take care and stay healthy!


    1. I’d love to know about the products you’d like to know more about – that would help me help you kow more.

      We are being careful and cautious these days without locking ourselves inside. No masks yet (as if we could find them), and we haven’t been able to find hand sanitizer, but we are practicing good handwashing and are keeping our hands away from our faces as much as possible. We’ve also given up going through major train stations because of the crowds.


  5. I love these posts and am interested in anything you want to share.

    When you are grocery shopping, are you paying attention to how much weight or volume you are purchasing since everything needs to be carried home?

    Do most Japanese shop 1x a week or more often?

    Does it take a long time to shop – do you have to stand in front of something to figure out what it is?


    1. It makes me happy to know people like these posts – they will continue!

      Nothing is weighed here by the customer. Everything in the store is sold by the item, or like meat or seafood, pre-weighed and packaged (like the U.S.). So, no weighing produce or similar items.

      Japanese housewives used to shop every day because refridgerators were small, and they also wanted to buy the freshest possible. I think most still shop several times a week. There are no big shopping carts in the store – just a small cart that holds a normal store shopping basket. There are no big packages of things either (well, you can buy stuff like that at Costco). Storage is also an issue here – most homes/apartments do not come with a lot of storage room for food items although refridgerators are now bigger.

      These days I know where things are and what they are, so we usually get through the store pretty quickly. It took me longer to figure out how to pay for it – it’s all done by machine.


  6. I love these posts! It is always fun to see how your menus change based on your location in the world. Seeing the inside of the store would be interesting. I am surprised at how much you can get at that price point. You do a great job of creating a list and sticking to it.


    1. I have to admit we’ve been surprised that we can get a week’s worth of food for less that say, $80. Last year we were spending more, but admittedly we were buying lots of snacks, cookies, desserts, and so forth that we’re not buying this year, and that stuff really added up. We are sticking to our list this year and that has helped us stay on track. We’re just eating less overall, especially sweets.


  7. I’m another that enjoys these groceries posts immensely. When I travel overseas I usually make a point of going to supermarkets to get a feel for how locals shop. What has surprised me is how reasonable the prices are in Tokyo. eg. that toilet roll seems cheap compared to what I pay at CVS for their own brand. Other thing that I find interesting is the effort that is put into presentation.


    1. We have been surprised by the prices as well – we are trying to shop like locals do (not a lot of sweets, desserts, and snacks) and it has really kept our spending down. Almost all toilet paper in Japan is made from recycled paper (mostly newspaper), so the cost is low. Same for tissues and paper towels. I wonder though if that’s going to change as fewer people are reading actual newspapers these days. In the past, you could set it up where someone came to your home and picked up your old papers and exchanged them for toilet paper – I wonder if that system is still available?

      Presentation is EVERYTHING in Japan!


  8. Maybe a photo shoot of paying at the electronic checkout?

    I’d also like to hear how you cook the CookDos – like a recipe – and a taste review. Same for the prepared food.

    I visited a school today and was shocked to learn they do not eat anything at morning break. No morning tea! Nothing. And the kids do not bring food to school.


    1. The payout machine is interesting – I will take photos of it. It took me three weeks here to remember how to use it!

      CookDo is super easy because it’s just a sauce pouch for Chinese-style dishes. You stir-fry your meat and vegetables, then open and add the sauce at the end. Voila!

      Little kids take food – some moms are into making exquisitely designed bentos every day. Do the students at the school you visited clean the school? Elementary school children do – I think it’s a great idea. At the school our son attended for third and fourth grade the kids cleaned the school (they did not scrub toilets, but did pick up in the bathrooms). That school was immaculate!


  9. My eyes lit up on the 1st photo (how cute!) as I make a habit of saving milk/egg/yogurt containers to repurpose as seedling pots. Those would make quite a catchy display!


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