Food Shopping in Japan, Week 9: What We Bought, What We Spent

Can you guess what these are?

This week’s food shopping was a little different in that Brett and I did it yesterday (Sunday) instead of today (Monday). We’ll be over at our son’s all day tomorrow helping out with the grandkids, and knew we weren’t going to feel like shopping afterward, so decided to stop and do it on our way home from a day out visiting temples. Of course, what we didn’t count on was being exhausted as we were following our outing! A big difference we noticed was how crowded the store was on Sunday compared to Monday. Also, the shelves are still empty of all paper goods, alcohol wipes, hand sanitizer, etc.

The total for our Tokyu shop this week was ¥6350/$59.72. We also stopped in at Kaldi for a couple of things and spent an additional ¥1238/$11.64, for a total of ¥7588/$71.36 bit. Everything we bought fit into two shopping bags this week, and my hero, Brett, carried everything home. The dollar has improved slightly against the yen compared to last week, so what we paid in U.S. dollars was a little less.

Here’s what we bought yesterday:

Dairy: Just the usual: Nonfat milk, nonfat yogurt, and a 10-pack of store brand Yakult. There were no changes in their prices from when we first bought them. Brand-name Yakult was back in stock, but a 5-pack cost more than the 10-pack of the store brand (¥200 vs ¥148).

Meat: A package of sliced pork for stir fry (¥256/$2.41), ground beef for tacos (¥399/$3.75)), and three chicken tenders (¥273/$2.57) for chicken and vegetable soup with dumplings were our meat purchases this week. 

Produce: Lots of produce again this week! We got a giant stalk of celery (¥178/$1.67), cherry tomatoes (¥322/$3.03), two cucumbers (¥57/54¢ each), five bananas (back to ¥198/$1.86), two kiwi fruit (still ¥198 each), a head of broccoli (¥158/$1.49), two boxes of strawberries (expensive – ¥498/$4.68 each – but they have been missed), four tiny green peppers (¥98/92¢), and red (¥178 also ) and yellow (¥198/$1.86) peppers for the stir fry, and an avocado (¥158 also).

Pantry items: We needed rice, and Tokyu had these small bags that were less expensive than the rice we bought at Seiyu when we arrived. The bags came in four varieties grown in four different places in Japan with four different prices,. We chose the least expensive (¥590/$5.47) since we know absolutely nothing about Japanese rice. The other pantry item was CookDo sauce for stirfried pork and peppers.

Beverages: I got three bottles of 16 Tea (still ¥88/82¢ each), and Brett got himself a bottle of ginger ale (also ¥88). If the ginger ale and one of the tea bottles look like their missing something, it’s because we were so parched when we got home we both opened up our bottles before we even entered the apartment!

Miscellaneous: Band-aids (¥318/$2.99) and dishwashing soap (¥128/$1.20) – we were almost out of both.

Kaldi Coffee Farm: We enjoyed the sakura mochi ice cream so much that we bought four more (still ¥150/$1.39 each), and I also grabbed a bag of frozen blueberries (¥590/$5.55). The entire bag was only slightly more than a tiny box of fresh blueberries at Tokyu (¥547/$5.15) that had only around 30 blueberries in it and contain at least five times as many berries. We also meant to pick up a bottle of maple syrup but forgot so we’ll get that next week.

We didn’t even look at prepared foods this week as a) we have a ton of leftovers right now in the refrigerator that have to be eaten, and b) we are going to have sushi later this week from one of the sushi stores down the street from us. They both have an amazing selection, so we plan to get a nice variety and will also count it as our dining out for the week.

This week I have a mystery for you! Can you guess what the three items at the top of the post are? Here’s a clue (maybe unhelpful): although one is pink, one is white, and one has a grilled top they are all the same. 

Only four more weeks of food shopping left in Japan – the time is flying by.

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.

Food Shopping in Japan Week 7; What We Bought, What We Spent

The “pantry” in our kitchen (one shelf on a table) doesn’t have much room for extras.

Our refrigerator is also quite small. It is currently completely full – I don’t think I could fit a sheet of paper in there.

We are currently trying to stock up some, although as the pictures above indicate, we don’t have a whole lot of extra room to store things. And, we’re only here for around six more weeks, so don’t want to buy more than we can finish. This past weekend we bought some extras at the Hardy Barracks mini-mart, mainly frozen foods and bread. Those items should help keep our regular grocery shopping costs down going forward.

We spent more than intended today at Tokyu though: ¥9,126. Our regular groceries weren’t too bad, but we were there when a few paper goods – toilet paper, tissue, and paper towels – were being put out. We got one of each, including the last small package of toilet paper. We have enough supplies now to last us until we leave. We also found three new special spring flavors of KitKats so had to get those. We spent ¥2,293 at Kaldi Coffee Farm yesterday so our weekly total is ¥11,419/$106, ¥1,419/$13.17 over our weekly budget. We will have to cut back next week, but should be fine because we currently have a LOT of food in the apartment, enough for at least three weeks.

We noticed today that the shelves of instant noodles in Tokyu looked rather picked over and empty. Some of those products come from China and South Korea, so there’s possibly a supply chain issue because of the virus. Otherwise, all food items were well-stocked in the store.

Here’s what we bought his week (apologies for the quality of the photos, but it was rainy and gloomy outside and the inside lighting wasn’t much better):

Dairy: We bought the usual: nonfat milk, nonfat yogurt, half-dozen eggs, and Yakult, which had doubled in price from what we have been paying, ¥398 vs. ¥200. Not sure if that’s because of a supply problem or if we had previously been buying it on sale.

Meat: We bought two packages of ground pork, two packages of firm tofu, and two packages of surumi (imitation crab, or k-rab, as Brett calls it). One package of the pork is for next week, and the tofu is for next week as well. The surumi is for the California roll salad this week. As always, we chose the least expensive packages available.

Produce: We got lots of produce this week: four apples for ¥158/$1.47 each, two kiwi fruit, a head of lettuce for just ¥73/68¢, five bananas, eggplants for mabo nasu, green onions, yellow onions, two avocados (also ¥158 each), and three cucumbers (¥98 for three). Fruit in Japan is always ridiculously expensive.

Prepared foods: Tokyu didn’t have any gyūdon in the prepared food section, so we bought two Korean beef kalbi bowls. For ¥464/$4.29 we bought a small piece of pork cutlet with sesame-soy glaze and four korokke (potato croquettes) for lunch for the two of us today. By the way, I had thought about making the gyūdon from scratch, but the beef cost more than the two bowls we bought, and I would have needed a couple more ingredients as well so decided against that idea.

Pantry items: Just two packages of CookDo this week, for mabo nasu and mabo dofu, which will be on the menu next week. We forgot to get a tube of wasabi paste, so we will have to stop somewhere for that this week (it’s used in the California Roll Salad dressing).

Paper products: About 10 packages of each of these products were being put out while we were there. Brett got the last 4-pack of single-ply “Herb Garden” printed toilet paper, and also grabbed some store-brand tissues and paper towels. The total for the paper products was ¥848/$7.43. The toilet paper alone was ¥268; last week we got a 12-pack of double-ply for ¥398. We also got a package of trash bags.

Miscellaneous: I got two bottles of “16 Tea,” an herbal blend of 16 ingredients (with no caffeine) that I enjoy now and again. We also found three new springtime KitKat flavors: Easter (banana), sakura mochi, and sakura sake. The last two flavors were not cheap (¥348 each) but very unique so we snapped them up. We’re now up to 25 different flavors!

Kaldi Coffee Farm: We bought their last two jars of natural peanut butter, some Boursin pepper cheese and camembert from France (both on sale), and a package of cough drops for Brett. Three days ago they had caseloads of the peanut butter but it was all gone yesterday except for the two jars I found hidden on the back of the shelf behind some other brand. Hmmmmm.

Next week I will have some pictures of some of what’s inside the Tokyu store, but in the meantime, I made sweet and sour pork on Saturday evening using a CookDo sauce and took some pictures to show why I love using CookDo (outside of the fact that it tastes really, really, good):

Even though I can’t read most of the writing, there’s always a clear picture on the front of what the finished product looks like so I can get an idea of the ingredients and what size I need to prep them. Inside the box is a pouch of sauce.

On the back of the box are more clear illustrations indicating how to prepare the dish. Weights (metric) are given for how much of each ingredient is recommended.

The first step is to prep and then stir fry the ingredients. For the sweet and sour, that’s cubed pork, green pepper, carrots, and onion.

After ingredients are cooked how you like them (we like the vegetables crisp-tender versus soft), add the sauce from the pouch and stir about one minute to heat through and coat all the ingredients. That’s all – it’s ready to serve. The total time from start to finish is less than 10 minutes (not counting prepping the ingredients).

Serve the finished recipe over steamed rice.

One package of CookDo makes three servings, so there are leftovers for someone the next day. CookDo is not particularly inexpensive in the U.S., but I bought it occasionally as special treat for our family because the girls love it. The most commonly found varieties in the U.S. are mabo dofu (tofu and ground meat) and mabo nasu (eggplant and ground meat), both in a miso-flavored sauce, but at a Japanese-centric market more varieties are usually available.

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!

Food Shopping in Japan Week 5: What We Bought, What We Spent

We stopped at a snack store across the street from Tokyu on the way home in the evening to get Brett some crackers, and found a new flavor of KitKats: nuts & cranberry covered in ruby chocolate. Total spent: ¥600/$5.46.

I wasn’t sure whether I was going to post about our food shopping trip this week, but we decided to shake things up a bit and do our shopping at the Tokyu store, the other nearby grocery store. We wanted to see how prices there compared with Seiyu’s and if it was really all that much more expensive. We shopped at Tokyu almost the whole time we were here last year, only discovering Seiyu a couple of weeks before we left.

We were frankly getting a bit tired of Seiyu. Its floor area is smaller than the Tokyu store, so products were spread out over three floors: paper goods and cleaning/laundry supplies on the second floor, prepared foods, wines and snacks (i.e. KitKats) on the first floor, and groceries in the basement (department store basements are often grocery stores here). We always had to plan in advance what we were going to pick up first and then figure out whether we needed to use the stairs, escalator, or elevator to get from floor to floor. Shopping on different floors also required us to walk through areas of the store where we didn’t need or care to go (i.e clothing, cosmetics, etc. – Seiyu is owned by Walmart). At Tokyu, everything is on one floor and it’s strictly groceries. It’s also a newer store and brighter than Seiyu, which to be honest is getting a bit shabby in places. Tokyu also carries a larger variety of foods. However, Seiyu is less expensive and their quality is good.

Brett and I typically shop together but yesterday K was home sick from school and we were asked if we could come over and watch her for the day. Brett initially went over to our son’s on his own so I could do the shopping, then I joined him once that was done and things were put away. I bought everything on our list except for three items, which I forgot in my hurry to get done. We stopped in for those items on our way home this evening.

Here’s what we bought:

Dairy: I got the usual: milk, yogurt, Yakult and eggs. However, I was able to get both nonfat milk and nonfat yogurt, neither of which is available at Seiyu (both were store brands). Eggs were the same price, but the milk, yogurt, and Yakult cost ¥94/86¢ more at Tokyu than at Seiyu.

Meat: Meat purchases this week were sliced pork for a CookDo stirfry, and two packages of chicken tenders to use for Thai red curry chicken. Meat is definitely more expensive at Tokyu. The total for these three packages was ¥967/$8.80, around ¥150 over what they would have cost at Seiyu.Produce: With a couple of exceptions, produce at Tokyu cost less and was better looking too. I bought a tomato, four Fuji apples, half cabbage, three cucumbers, cilantro, a package of five bananas, and a package of strawberries. The strawberries and bananas were more than they are at Seiyu (¥498/$4.53 for one package of strawberries versus ¥377, and ¥178/$1.62 for the bananas versus ¥89/81¢, although there were five bananas in the package versus four).

Pantry items: I bought one package of CookDo sauce for a cabbage and pork stir fry for ¥178/$1.62, which is just ¥10 more than the regular price at Seiyu. The little bottle of sesame dressing (¥132/$1.20) will be used for coleslaw later this week. At Seiyu I would have had to buy a full-size bottle of dressing that we probably wouldn’t have finished before we left.

Prepared foods: Tokyu has an amazing prepared food section compared to Seiyu, especially their sushi, and their prices are more reasonable. The quality seems a little higher as well. Along with two packages of sushi I also bought one small package with three shumai and one of five gyoza for my lunch today (¥386/$3.50).

Miscellaneous: I picked up one package of “thick” matcha KitKats. They’re ¥50 more per package at Tokyu. Along with the cranberry ones above, we currently have 19 different flavors.

Second trip items: Brett and I picked up a bottle of fabric softener, an avocado, and a package of inarizushi. The total for all three items was ¥808/$7.35. The price per avocado was nearly double what we paid at Seiyu.

So, how did our total at Tokyu compare with Seiyu? I spent ¥5,996 on my initial shopping trip, then ¥808 on our second stop, and ¥600 yen at the snack shop for a total of ¥7,404/$67.39, still well under our ¥10,000 limit. Our total was around ¥600 (about $5.50) over what we typically spent for the same items at Seiyu, so not as much as we imagined it would be. We also had a much nicer shopping experience overall so we’ll probably be going back to Tokyu, but will continue to be careful about what we buy.

Food Shopping in Japan Week 4: What We Bought, What We Spent

This was our last food shopping trip during our first four weeks in Japan. Next week we will be restocking our yen envelopes once again for the coming four weeks.

How did we do over the past four weeks? Out of our initial ¥40,000 ($365), we still have ¥8500 ($77.50). It will be rolled over into next month. Out of the $400 we brought with us for commissary shopping, we have $146.50 left. It’s doubtful we’ll need to go to the commissary again, but if we do Brett and I will take the train out to Atsugi and make a day of it.

This week we spent ¥7,418 ($67.60) at Seiyu, more than last week but less than expected since we bought meat again this week, more fruit than we did last week, and two bottles of wine as well.

Here are this week’s purchases:

Dairy: Along with milk (¥148/$1.35 or $5.12 per gallon!), yogurt (still ¥99), and Yakult we bought a package of cream cheese (¥348/$3.17) to enjoy with the bagels our DIL brought us this past weekend. I love the package design for the cream cheese – the English words seem almost a quaint design afterthought among all the Japanese.

Meat: We needed two packages of meat this week for the two CookDo stirfries we’re having. I chose the ground pork and beef mix because it was less expensive than pure ground pork. I will not get it again though as it had too much fat. The two packages cost ¥519/$4.73. Although it’s not meat, the tofu is protein so I’ve also included it in this group. It cost a whopping ¥46/42¢! Brett and I think at this price we should be eating more tofu (soft tofu was only ¥37 or 34¢).

Produce: We bought green peppers for (always so small!), a red pepper and a yellow pepper for ¥127/$1.16 each, 3 cucumbers, a bag of Fuji apples (six for ¥577/$5.26), four bananas (just ¥89/81¢), and two packages of strawberries (still ¥377). The strawberries are getting better and better as the season progresses.

Prepared foods: The two katsudon (¥398/$3.63 each) were purchased for our dinner on Monday evening, and Brett and I shared the 6-pack of inari zushi and the potato salad for Monday’s lunch.

Miscellaneous: We bought two bottles of French wine: Cabernet Sauvignon for Brett (¥780/$7.11), Chardonnay for me (¥898/$8.18).

Paper products: Paper towels were needed this week so we picked up this four-pack (¥298/$2.72) which should get us through the rest of our stay. Japanese paper towels are less sturdy than American ones, and yet not so flimsy as to be unusable (which is what we have found in other countries).

We found another new flavor of KitKats at Seiyu again this week – ‘strong’ matcha, whatever that means – but decided to get it next week.

We’re thrilled to have spent below our weekly allotment these past four weeks – it shows that if we’re careful we can live and eat well here!

Food Shopping in Japan Week 3: What We Bought, What We Spent

This was a very different week for our food shopping budget because this past Saturday we went out to the commissary at the Atsugi base and bought a LOT of stuff there.

Atsugi is the closest large military facility, but it took a long time to get there due to traffic issues (coming back was much easier, thank goodness), and we were all more than a little tired when we arrived. We stopped first at the exchange, where Brett and I bought an inexpensive Crock Pot ($19.99), some measuring cups, a set of measuring spoons, two bed pillows, a package of pillowcases, and a bottle of body lotion. We got lucky when we checked out and won a 15% off everything coupon, a very nice surprise.

We got all this plus three 12-packs of Diet Coke at the commissary for $193.63. The hard part was finding room to put it all away!

After shopping at the exchange, we stopped for lunch in the food court (Brett and I shared a Subway tuna sandwich), and then it was time to hit the commissary. As we discovered last year, the commissary is now about three times larger than it was when we were stationed at Atsugi (1989-1992), with a selection about three to four times larger as well. We took our time going through the store and filling up our cart. Our total at the commissary was $193.63, and along with our exchange purchases and lunch, we spent a total of $253.50. We brought $400 with us, so left with $146.50 still in our wallets.

Because of our commissary shop, we didn’t need as much from Seiyu this week, mostly just produce and dairy, along with a few other things. We spent ¥4929 ($45.43) out of our weekly ¥10,000 allotment and put ¥5,000 back into the envelope.

Dairy: We bought another liter of low-fat milk, 2 containers of yogurt (still just ¥99 each), 15 Yakult, a half dozen eggs, and we splurged on some New Zealand salted butter (¥498/$4.59). The eggs are called “red eggs” because the yolk is so deep orange it’s nearly red.

Produce: This week we got 2 ripe avocados (small, but just ¥87/80¢), one tomato, a head of lettuce, broccoli, 2 cucumbers, and 4 bananas. The cucumbers had gone up in price this week to ¥87/80¢ each also. We’re planning to use the tomato and lettuce for lunchtime BLTs later this week, and the avocados will be for avocado toast for breakfast some morning. I can’t remember the last time I saw an avocado for under $1 in the U.S. and was surprised by the price here as they’re definitely imported. We didn’t buy any strawberries or apples as we still have some from last week.

Pantry: We bought just a couple of things in this area: 3 packages of CookDo (mabo dofu, pepper & pork stir fry, and sweet & sour pork, still on sale for ¥155 each) and two fancy instant udon packages (¥178/$1.64 each). Brett chose tempura shrimp noodles and I got kitsune (fox) udon, so-called because foxes supposedly like the fried tofu (aburaage) on top. They’ll be good for lunch one day.

Paper goods: One 12-pack of “Ariel” 2-ply toilet paper was ¥398 ($3.67), a bargain compared to what it costs in the U.S.

Miscellaneous: Seiyu had bags of KitKats on sale for ¥198/$1.83 per package! They didn’t have a big selection, but we found three flavors we didn’t already have: matcha, dark chocolate, and yuzu green tea (yuzu is a kind of citrus fruit), a new flavor for us. I also got a few take-out items from the prepared food section for my lunch: a pickled plum onigiri (rice ball), steamed kabocha squash, and coleslaw. The three items cost ¥386/$3.56.

We didn’t buy any meat this week which is one reason our total was low, and there were a few other items we decided we could go without. I forgot to get Pam at the commissary on Saturday though and was hoping I could find a similar product at Seiyu, but no such luck. We are now two KitKat flavors short of reaching our goal!

Food Shopping in Japan Week #2: What We Bought, What We Spent

KitKat collecting has begun with boxes of wasabi and rum raisin flavors! Our record is 17 different flavors on one visit but we’re aiming to beat that this time.

I realize this post comes close on the heels of last week’s shopping post, but Brett and I have decided that just like when we were in England, Monday will be our regular weekly shopping day. We don’t have any school pick-ups to do on Mondays (our grandson has activities late into the afternoon) so it’s a good day for us to shop in the morning with time leftover to head out for something else later in the day.

The Seiyu department store is about a five-minute walk from our apartment. The grocery store is in the basement and on the first floor.

After shopping at Seiyu in the morning and getting our stuff put away yesterday, we headed over to the Hiroo neighborhood to get some peanut butter at the National Azabu Market and also go to the New Sanno Hotel to make reservations for Easter brunch (the event will be sold out by March). Hiroo is about 30 minutes away from us by subway and requires us to change subway lines twice each way. The New Sanno Sunday Brunch is always amazing, but on Easter there will be added events for children including a small petting zoo and some arts and crafts activities. We thought the grandkids would enjoy that, and as Easter is also the week before we depart, the brunch will be an additional way to say thank you to our son and DIL for all their help while we’re here. The New Sanno also carries Diet Coke in their mini-mart – it’s unavailable in Japanese stores or vending machines – so we also wanted to pick up a 12-pack while we were there. Lucky Brett got to carry that all the way home.

The National Market is not very big, but it carries an amazing selection of items. It’s also a very smart location for a Baskin-Robbins!
Besides peanut butter, you can also grind cashew butter, honey roasted peanut butter, and almond butter at the National market.
On the way to the New Sanno from the National Market, we pass by my favorite small shrine in Tokyo. I don’t know its name, but it always moves me, this tidy little shrine tucked in among lots of big, expensive, and modern high rise apartments.
A little further down the same street is the French Embassy.
And, right around the corner from the embassy is the New Sanno Hotel!

The National Azabu Market is on the way to the New Sanno Hotel from Hiroo station. The Azabu and Hiroo neighborhoods are home to several embassies, and the National Market not only contains Japanese brands but many foods for foreigners living in the area. In our case, we were looking for unsweetened peanut butter as Japanese brands contain way too much sugar for our taste, and are also quite expensive. National has a machine where we could grind our own fresh peanut butter so we filled a small container with enough to get us through until we get to the commissary next weekend and stock up. Yes, we miss peanut butter that much, especially Brett! We also picked up some whole wheat rolls to have with our sausage dinner as well as a bag of small potatoes. Although it was hard to stay away when we were in the neighborhood, I am happy to report I did not go into the Sawamura bakery, where my favorite raisin bread is sold. I would have not been able to resist.

Below is what we bought this week, definitely less than our first week’s shop. Our shopping total from yesterday was ¥7055 ($64.68 plus $3 for the Diet Coke), but we still have a couple of things to pick up at the end of the week to go with our take-out takoyaki. I put ¥3000 back into our grocery envelope when we got home.

Dairy: We bought another liter of milk, two containers of yogurt (still ¥99/91¢ each), and 15 bottles of Yakult. Brett is now also drinking a bottle of Yakult every morning so we increased the amount from last week. Each container of yogurt provides three American-size servings.

Prepared foods: We purchased only two items in this category this week, a package of five nikuman (pork-filled steamed buns) and two tonkatsu, breaded pork cutlets that we had for dinner last night. The tonkatsu were huge but cost just ¥298 ($2.73) each. They were amazingly tender and delicious. The nikuman will get us through a couple of lunches.

Meat: We bought one package of beef cubes (about a half-pound for $4.53) for curry this week. For an additional ¥100, we could have gotten a slightly smaller package of Wagyu beef but we passed.

Produce: We bought a bag of six Fuji apples; three cucumbers; a huge stalk of celery for ¥149 ($1.37 – celery is not a traditional ingredient here); a bag of green peppers; four bananas; and two packages of strawberries. Fuji apples here are so much better than the ones we get in the States – much juicier and sweeter in comparison. I’m trying to eat one every day. The strawberries were still ¥377 ($3.46) per package. Green peppers in Japan are always very small for some reason, and typically come prepackaged in a bag of five.

Pantry items: Brett wanted some tea, so we chose a box of Twinings Darjeeling for ¥394 ($3.61), sort of a splurge (although I like Darjeeling too). We also got Bulldog tonkatsu sauce (which can be used to make yakisoba too); CookDo sauce for sweet & sour pork; curry sauce (enough for two meals); and a package of spaghetti that was on sale for ¥198 ($1.82). I love that the spaghetti is bundled into servings! CookDo sauces are still on sale, so I plan to buy a few more packages later this week.

The three items from National were ¥1078 (the peanut butter alone was ¥528/$4.81. However, that  was still less than a tiny jar of Smuckers Natural peanut butter, which cost over $6! Foreign products are not cheap.). The potatoes were ¥298 ($2.74), not a bad price, and the four rolls were ¥252 ($2.31 – sort of expensive, but less than we’d pay at a bakery). Our 12-pack of Diet Coke was $3, and the KitKats were $9.99 each (too much!!) but that expense comes from our miscellaneous fund as we’re not eating them while we’re here.

Finally, we took 8,178 steps (3.3 miles) and climbed and descended 20 flights of stairs on our shopping day!

Food Shopping in Japan Week #1: What We Bought, What We Spent

We always take our own reusable bags when we go food shopping, ones we’ve collected from different places during our travels. They include the Beatles bag from Portland; famous sights in Bath, England; flowers from Perth, Australia; and Mt. Fuji from Japan.

One of our first tasks on our first full day in Japan, besides getting some yen, was to walk over to the Seiyu store and get some food. We had brought along coffee, oatmeal, and granola bars in our suitcases so we had enough for breakfast on our first morning, but after that, the cupboards were bare.

Our weekly goal while we’re here is to spend no more than ¥10,000 ($90) or less on groceries for a week. Our first shop, on Wednesday, was over that, ¥13,025 ($118.40) but that’s because we purchased a few pantry items that will last through our stay, things like rice, oil, Parmesan cheese, butter, and mayonnaise, and we also bought two bottles of French wine (less than $8 each) that will last us for the next two to three weeks (we have a glass of wine of Friday and Saturday evenings only). We also bought a package of sushi (¥398/$3.62) to share for lunch because we didn’t have leftovers or items to fix anything else. By using the extra ¥4,000 we got from YaYu we stayed under our regular budget, but it was still a bit difficult.

Here’s what we bought for our first week’s shop:

Dairy items: We purchased 1-liter low-fat milk, a small container Parmesan cheese, 2 400-gram containers of plain yogurt (¥99 or 90¢ each), a half dozen eggs, 2 packages wrapped cheese cubes, 200 grams butter, and 10-pack of Yakult. What we call “real” cheese is difficult to find and expensive in Japan. Even though they’re sort of pricy at ¥398 ($3.62) per package, we like these snack bags for the variety they provide and because they’re pre-portioned. Yakult (fermented milk drink) is great for the stomach and digestive system so I plan to have one every morning. When I came to Japan as a teenager I could not drink Yakult without gagging but now it tastes good to me.

Meat: We bought one package of ground pork, one of thinly sliced pork for stir fry, one of cubed pork, one of chicken tenders, and a package of six Johnsonville smoked sausages. I really like that we can buy meat in Japan in these smaller portions of around 300 gm or 2/3 of a pound (larger packages are available though). Also, note the silhouette of the pig on the labels – it’s very helpful for making sure I’m buying the right product versus chicken or beef (which also have an appropriate silhouette). The prices can be seen on the packages and range in (converted) price from $1.87 for the chicken tenders to $2.88 for the ground pork and pork cubes. The sausages were the most expensive item at ¥697 ($6.34) but will be used for three meals. We also bought a package of frozen shrimp but I forgot to put it in the picture.

Prepared foods: We bought a package of sushi for our lunch and packages of karaage (fried chicken) and potato salad for our first night’s dinner. We also bought two ready-to-cook packages of Chinese food items: shumai and gyoza. Prepared foods are a big thing in Japan and can be found everywhere, from convenience stores to high-end food establishments. They’re affordable and made from high-quality ingredients, and are sold fresh every day. The fried chicken and potato salad cost ¥848 ($7.71) but there was enough for two meals.

Produce: These purchases include package of three Japanese eggplants for making CookDo mabo nasu, a package of three carrots, a package of three onions, a head of broccoli, five Japanese cucumbers, one-half head of cabbage, a small box of fresh blueberries, 2 packages of strawberries, and a package of four bananas. Strawberry season is just getting started in Japan – be prepared to see them for the next several weeks! We bought the least expensive packages available at ¥377 ($3.43) each and will have them along with some blueberries on our morning yogurt. We skipped the packages going for ¥697 ($6.34) although the berries in those ones were huge. Fruit is generally quite expensive in Japan, but we hope to find ways to have it every day.

Pantry items/wine: Purchases in this category were Kewpie mayonnaise, three packages of CookDo sauce (eggplant with ground pork/mabo nasu, chili shrimp, and stir-fry pork with cabbage), a bag of rice (our most expensive purchase at ¥1,050/$9.56), canola oil, and a bottle of white Bordeaux wine for me, and red Bordeaux wine for Brett. The CookDo at Seiyu is currently on sale for ¥155 ($1.41) per package. If the sale is still going next week I will buy more and start stocking up as the typical sale price is $3.98 back in the U.S., and they don’t have the variety we can find here.

Paper products/cleaning products/personal items: Toilet paper was the only item we bought in this category. The apartment came with extra rolls of paper towels, boxes of tissues, lots of shampoo, laundry detergent, and plenty of cleaning supplies, so we’re good for a while.

We did not buy any bread nor snack items – we’re trying to keep away from that stuff this time around. It all looked very, very good and very, very tempting though.

Food in Japan can expensive, but there are bargains to be found if you look and shop carefully. We noticed that there had been price increases for a few items we used to buy when we were here last year, so we’ll do without those things this year. Also, by shopping at Seiyu we saved over what we would have spent at the slightly closer but more expensive Tokyu grocery store, so that was a win. Finally, we’re determined to spend less next time we shop!

Livin’ La Vida Lo-Carb

Zucchini noodles (“zoodles”) topped with meat sauce and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese

I knew before we arrived in Portland that I needed to change how and what were eating because both Brett and I had been steadily gaining weight ever since we left Hawai’i. During our time on the road we indulged ourselves in delicious bakery items, telling ourselves that other countries used less sugar so how bad could it be? We were in France, we told ourselves – we were supposed to eat pastries! We were in Italy – we were supposed to eat gelato and pasta! We enjoyed a big glass of wine every evening (because we were in Argentina! in France! in Italy! in Australia!), often along with a treat of some kind. We ate rice or noodles almost every day in Japan but told ourselves it was OK because we were walking a lot and also eating lots of vegetables and fruit.

However, in spite of all the walking we did, in spite of there being less sugar, it wasn’t enough to keep up with the calories and carbs we were consuming. We gained weight, for me to the point I was often very uncomfortable in my clothes.

I decided that once we arrived in Portland, we would try going back to low-carb eating once again. I had lost weight and shaped up when we lived in Hawai’i but only when I limited my carb intake, and doing so was much easier than counting calories or points or eating vegan or whatever. I also wanted to get back to drinking at least eight glasses of water a day, and make sure we kept up with our walking.

It’s now been eight weeks since we arrived in Portland and embraced La Vida Lo-carb once again. I have no idea whether we’ve lost any weight or how much, although my clothes seem to be less uncomfortable. I have more energy these days too.

Nonfat plain Greek yogurt with berries is a frequent breakfast – the peach was a special treat!

Sticking with a low-carb diet has been easier than it was back in Hawai’i. There is a wider array of foods to choose from in Portland that don’t cost an arm and a leg, and we can find substitutes for rice and noodles that could were often difficult to find on Kaua’i. I feel too that I can now better figure out how to make substitutions when we’re on the road again, and know how to include some higher-carb foods once in a while without going overboard.

Avocado on thin-sliced whole grain bread topped with a poached egg and red pepper spread from Trader Joe’s. I could eat the pepper relish right from the jar with a spoon – it’s that good.

My breakfasts these days are usually nonfat Greek yogurt with berries, a small frittata or other egg dish, or occasionally a piece of avocado toast made with thin sliced whole grain bread. Brett usually always has a bowl of oatmeal with fruit, and enjoys a bagel once a week or so.

Every once in a while I enjoy a “power breakfast” like this one: bacon, avocado slices, and scrambled eggs topped with corn & chili relish

Our lunches are often cheese and fruit or vegetables (I have to watch how much fruit I have though – it can be very high in carbs), a small bowl of vegetable soup, or sometimes leftovers. Now and then I sometimes have an open-faced sandwich on the thin-sliced bread.

Open-face tuna salad on thin-sliced whole grain bread with one cup of grapes

Havarti with dill cheese, cherry tomatoes, avocado, sour cream, and kale chips

Open-faced crack chicken sandwich with cucumber slices

We both substitute cauliflower rice now for regular rice, and zoodles for pasta or other noodles, and are fine with that. Gone from our table are bread, potatoes, cakes, cookies and other starches, although Brett still occasionally enjoys a couple of his much-loved graham crackers or Triscuits when he wants a snack. A handful of nuts are a more frequent snack for both of us these days. I make a homemade pizza on Friday evenings and enjoy one slice (Brett eats one slice and has the leftovers during the week), and we each have a small glass of wine on Friday and Saturday evenings. I measure absolutely everything these days though, and know exactly what I’m getting in the way of carbs. I’m not following any sort of keto or other low-carb plan, but I aim to keep my carbohydrate intake around 50-75 grams per day; Brett’s allowance is a little higher.

Zucchini frittata and sausages: a nearly zero-carb dinner.

All-beef Polish sausage, fresh sauerkraut and roasted zucchini is another almost zero-carb dinner.

A Mediterranean dinner with spanakopita, hummus, feta cheese, cherry tomatoes and cucumber had just 23 carbs.

I also include low-carb splurges for myself every day: heavy cream whipped cream is one of my daily indulgences as is a spoonful of natural peanut butter. We also discovered grain-free low-carb granola bars (11 grams each) and low-carb chocolate bars (12 grams each) at Costco, and I treat myself to one a few times each week. I’ve yet to feel like I’m going without anything.

Heavy cream whipped cream is very low carb (and fairly low calorie too) and a sweet treat every day.

Low-carb grain-free granola bars and low-carb dark chocolate bars are a once-a-week treat.

It’s been said that it takes 21 days to create a habit, but new research says it’s more like 66 days. We’ve been eating low-carb for over 50 days now, and this time it really does seems like it may stick. I know I will indulge again now and again once we’re back on the road, but hopefully never again to how it was during our previous travels. La Vida Lo-Carb this time around seems to be a better fit for us than it was before with all the choices we have in Portland and the fact that we don’t have to feed anyone but ourselves. We’re learning lots of new tricks this time as well. We won’t know for sure if we’ve lost any weight until we visit the doctor at the end of July, but for now we’re feeling great and that’s what’s important.