Food Shopping in Japan, Week 8: What We Bought, What We Spent

Sign of the times: a big bottle of hand sanitizer to use before entering Tokyu.

Today’s weekly food shopping experience was one I hope not to repeat. No, the store wasn’t weird or anything, and prices were OK, but because Brett was over at our son’s I did the shopping on my own . . . and it was HEAVY! Carrying all of it home, up the stairs, and getting it put away on my own about did me in! I thought my arms were going to fall off, plus it was warmer than expected so I was perspiring heavily and my glasses kept slipping off my nose the whole way home. I’m sure I was quite the sight.

Of course, I have no one but myself to blame. I didn’t need nor buy much at Tokyu this week and spent ¥5673/$55.18. However, Kaldi Coffee Farm had a few more jars of the Smuckers peanut butter back in stock, “on sale” for ¥537/$5.24 per jar, so I bought five of those, as well as a few other things that were back in the store. The total spent at Kaldi was ¥4374/$$42.68. Prices for everything were more today because the dollar has been falling against the yen this past week, and if it continues to drop life is going to have to get leaner for us in our few remaining weeks in Japan.

Here’s what I bought (and lugged home) today:

Dairy: I bought our usual 1-liter carton of nonfat milk, a half dozen eggs, one nonfat plain yogurt, but also got a package of grated cheese, and two 10-packs of store-brand Yakult. The grated cheese was ¥368/$3.58, but was the largest amount for the lowest price. The Yakult-drink was ¥148/$1.44, making the two ten-packs less than one brand name Yakult 10-pack (the choice was also made easier because there was no regular Yakult available). I sure hope it tastes as good.

Meat: The only meat purchased this week was three packages of sliced ham, for the slow cooker ham and cheese casserole. It was on sale for ¥188/$1.83 each. Each package contains six slices of ham.

Produce: I bought five bananas, two apples, two kiwi fruit, an orange (for another olive oil orange cake), a bag of shredded cabbage for coleslaw, two potatoes (for curry), one BIG carrot (for curry), and two cucumbers. The kiwi fruit was expensive (¥198/$1.93 each) which is why I only bought two. They had some for ¥88 each but they were all as hard as rocks and would be very sour so I passed. The cabbage was also ¥198, but everything else was the same as last week.

Bread: We usually never buy bread, but I needed sliced country-style bread for the ham and cheese casserole, and slider-sized buns for barbecue pulled pork. I didn’t notice until I got home, but the buns have a small amount of margarine inside (!!), but since I have no idea how to return them we’ll open them up and take out the margarine before adding the pork! The loaf of bread was ¥228/$2.23 (on sale) and the buns were ¥148/$1.48 per package.

Prepared foods: I bought two packages of (expensive) katsudon (pork cutlet with onion and egg over rice) for ¥498/$4.84. We have both been craving it and will reheat for dinner. For my lunch today I picked up a package of three garlic chicken wings and a small container of potato salad for ¥436/$4.24.

Miscellaneous: I am now hooked on 16 Tea, so picked up two bottles (four servings). At Tokyu it’s just ¥88/85¢ per bottle; at a convenience store a bottle costs ¥140/$1.36.

Kaldi Coffee Farm: I was so happy to find a few more jars of the Smuckers natural peanut butter (no added sweetener) even if the price is exorbitant – we love peanut butter! The flour tortillas (¥300/$2.92 per package) are less than the price of one package at Tokyu (¥687/$6.68). Some of the cheese will be used for the ham and cheese casserole, and we’ll have some with our wine this weekend. I also bought Kaldi’s highly-rated sakura mochi ice cream (two for ¥300) for a sweet treat. 

I promised some photos of the Tokyu store, so took a few pictures of their seafood section today. First, it’s HUGE, probably ten times the size of the typical seafood section in an American supermarket, and the largest department in the entire Tokyu store. Besides shelves and coolers that wrap around the back of the store, there are also two big islands out on the floor for more, things like clams, prawns, octopus, squid and so forth. Every variety of seafood (and freshwater fish) you can imagine can be found here. Fish and other seafood are a huge part of the Japanese diet though, so it makes sense that a store would carry such a big variety. It’s not inexpensive though and even though we like fish, the only thing we’ve ever purchased is frozen shrimp.

So, another ¥10,000 and some change spent this week, our entire budget amount. I think we are now completely stocked up until we leave though, and hopefully, our weekly shops will be less going forward. We may go over to Hardy Barracks once more to see if they’ve gotten in any more Diet Coke, but until the Easter Brunch at the New Sanno Hotel that will be our last trip to any one of the military bases or facilities in the area.

16 thoughts on “Food Shopping in Japan, Week 8: What We Bought, What We Spent

  1. Nice haul at the grocery store! But what a rude awakening to also have to carry all of that on your own. The 4 jars of Smuckers alone really added weight along with the milk. I am so guilty of doing the same when shopping while traveling. As you say that experience will stay with you and you may not make that mistake again.

    What an amazing seafood selection! I imagine there are items in it not generally seen elsewhere.

    It does sound as if you will have plenty of food stores to eat down before your next travel starts. And for what you got you spent judiciously.

    Hope your arms and back recover soon!

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    1. I am so used to both of us shopping and didn’t think as I was putting things into the cart, or buying jars of peanut butter, that I was going to have to carry it home on my own. I really did learn a lesson (and at one point had thought about buying two liters of milk – glad I gave up on that idea!) I did do pretty well, at Tokyu anyway, but all that peanut butter did me in. We love it though and are grateful to find one we like. Brett eats it every day; I usually have a big spoonful every other day in my oatmeal to add protein.

      The seafood section of the market is a sight to behold. We always love to look, but find most of it too expensive. I wish I knew all the varieties available as well.

      We have a LOT of food on hand, so we hopefully will be spending lots less in the coming weeks. I’d like to see us spend under 7,000 yen per week, if possible.

      Ten hours later and my arms are STILL sore!!

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  2. Do you have a rolling cart? I can’t imagine carrying all that home! (3 bags?) Really heavy stuff in that shopping!

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    1. I carried it in four bags! I tried to even out the weight between them, but that just made them all heavy. Thank goodness our apartment is fairly close to Tokyu, but the walk still felt like it was a million miles. If Brett is over at M’s again next Monday, we’ll shop in the afternoon after he finishes.

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  3. The tea, the glass PB jars, the milk and yakult! That’s a lot of weight! I was wondering if you used a backpack, but just read your response above that you put all of it into four bags.

    How did you get the ice cream home when it was warm outside?

    I HATE having my glasses slip down my nose from sweat. So frustrating. Particularly when you have to stop, put down bags, shove the glasses back into place, pick up the bags, and walk until the next time they are endanger of sliding totally off the nose. Been there, down that, hated every minute!

    The sashimi looks gorgeous!

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    1. Yes, too many heavy things! The weight of the milk especially, and two Yakult – yikes. And the tea! As I said, I’m not sure what I was thinking but will never do that again.

      The ice cream was the last thing I bought – I stopped in Kaldi first – it’s at the top of the escalator that goes down to Tokyu – and bought three jars of peanut butter – then did the Tokyu shop – then stopped at Kaldi again for two more jars of peanut butter, the cheese, tortillas (frozen) and the ice cream. Because this is Japan, the tortillas, cheese, and ice cream were packed it in a bag with some dry ice so it was still quite cold when I got home. The ice cream was super delicious, BTW!

      I need to stop in at an eyeglass shop and get these glasses adjusted again – they are very loose right now, but the sweat didn’t help yesterday.

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  4. My goodness, you got a good workout! Fantastic that you’re all stocked up for the remainder of your visit, and you managed to stay within budget — hats off, that’s quite an achievement.

    I’ve also recently gone overboard shopping for groceries — as a result, I’ve never had so much toilet paper or canned goods in the house as I do now! I’m glad of it all, but it’s taking up a lot of space in my little apartment. Thankfully, most things are still available in the stores here on the west coast of Canada, except for toilet paper, masks, disinfecting wipes, and isopropyl alcohol. I’m not embarrassed to admit I’m using this situation as an excuse to buy comfort foods I rarely eat, like Chef Boyardee Beef Ravioli and my favourite cookies 😉

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    1. I am still sore today! But, it’s nice to have the fridge well-stocked going forward. We are concerned about the drop of the dollar against the yen and how that will affect us going forward – we are going to have to tighten our belt even more, buy hey! At least we have plenty of peanut butter!

      We have given up on trying to find masks, wipes, hand sanitizer, etc. Isopropyl alcohol too. We still have our alcohol wipes, but we’re holding on to them for now as much as possible so we can use them on the airplane to wipe things down.

      I used to buy Chef Boyardee beef ravioli and Manwich when we went camping. Both are definitely comfort foods.

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  5. Wow…my arms hurt just thinking of lugging all of that home alone! And I too hate having my glasses sliding down my nose. But I understand how you get into something like that and just have to keep going. Oy.

    I LOVE seafood, so that section would be a delight to me. It’s too bad the exchange is moving against you. But it does sound like you have a lot of food to carry you through.

    While purging and cleaning to get our house on the market, I found a couple more bottles of hand sanitizer, and some sanitizing travel wipes we bought on our last overseas trip and didn’t use. Since they’re unsealed, I’m sure they’re good to go. I even found a small travel size bottle of Purell for my trip to England in May. We used to attend trade shows while working, and small Purell bottles were a common giveaway. Given the state of the airlines, I still intend to go and will hope my row is empty! It will take a lot to get me to stay home on this one. 🙂

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    1. I can be my own worst enemy at times. I seriously don’t know what I was thinking loading up like that. Brett and I are going to do the shopping together this week on Sunday afternoon. There won’t be any peanut butter, but there will be milk, yakult, tea, etc.

      We got some masks from our DIL! She is on the hunt for hand sanitizer for us as well. We’re more worried about being prepared for our flight when we leave, so are saving the masks for when we’re transiting through airports, but want the sanitizer and hopefully some alcohol wipes to take on board and wipe things down. I sure wish I knew what happened to the bottle we carried along with us. It probably got left somewhere, but heaven only knows where that was.

      The dollar is climbing again, but slowly. For the last two months we always had a little left over after we exchanged and paid our rent; this month we had to dig into our “slush fund” so that we had enough!

      The Tokyo seafood section is amazing – we always love to walk through and look at the different things. I’d love to buy some of that sashimi, but too expensive!!!!

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  6. A lot of colleges in the US are starting to close due to the COVID-19 virus. My nephew’s college is closed and they gave the kids very little warning. Hope your girls are ok. It looks like my job is going to close in the next few days.

    I’m prepared for whatever happens. Like Laurel Hill, I attend a lot of conferences where small bottles of hand sanitizer are given away and I always save those. I also have a lot of wipes that I bought long before the virus happened. Seems like we always have to be prepared these days. One thing I forgot to buy is peanut butter!

    Love the huge Tokyu seafood section!

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    1. We will know by the end of this week, or next whether the girls’ colleges are closing. MIT and Harvard have both closed, so WenYu is sure Wellesley will be closing soon. She is very sad, and will miss all those special senior traditions, things like the hoop rolling contest. No solid word yet from Bryn Mawr, but we get the feeling they are trying to stay open. We’ll see.

      We are still on the lookout for hand sanitizer. But we have masks now – we’re saving them for our journey after Japan, especially as we transit airports.

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  7. The ham & cheese casserole sounds like something I would like to try. Are you able to share the recipe?

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    1. Hi Karen – I put a link for the recipe in the post. Just click on that. Or, you can go to the One Hundred Dollars a Month blog and search for “Slow Cooker Ham and Cheese Casserole.” That’s where I found it.

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