Sunday, May 17, 2009

Chievres Commissary in Belgium

I have recently received several lovely emails and comments from other spouses moving to Belgium.

These emails got me thinking about other subjects that were on my mind before I arrived here.

One of my wonderings before coming here to Belgium was about grocery shopping. Is the commissary just like a commissary in the states? How much are things? What stuff can you get? What is shopping on the economy like? So here goes…

I have found that the Chievres Commissary is perfectly adequate. The service is pleasant, I hardly ever wait in line, they have self check, nice bathrooms and it’s clean. No, they don’t have fresh fish, rotisserie chicken or a fabulous bakery but they do have enough so that you could probably survive without ever having to shop on the economy (although that would be a shame). The prices are very similar to those in the states. Here is my receipt for today and the groceries I bought.

I will say that the fruit and veggie quality is much better than anything I ever found at the Ft. Stewart or Hunter Army Airfield commissaries but the selection is less. Prices are the same but not always. I bought a small watermelon for $10 yesterday… EEEK… but I had to have fruit salad! Maybe prices have gone up considerably in the past five months in the states, I don’t know.

You will also find a nice and inexpensive selection of Belgian and European products available at the commissary… yogurts (man, do they know how to make yogurt over here!) of many brands and varieties, Danish eggs, delish pre-packaged euro-cheeses, a tiny selection of prosciutto and other dry salamis and much of the produce is local. My favorite are the potatoes – they are all very buttery tasting and yummy.

The milk is all packaged for the U.S. military in ½ gallon containers (no gallons, sorry). Tastes the same as in the states but watch the expiration dates. I’ve found that 2% milk (probably because it’s a better seller) has later expire dates than 1% milk (my personal favorite). And if I do buy Yoplait yogurt ($.53 a serving) I need to check how much time I have on it because often they are expired already.

You can’t find russet potatoes here or many of the vegetables you would find in the states, but there are the old standbys of fresh broccoli, green beans (on most days), lovely tomatoes and mushrooms. No collards or cauliflower. They have several varieties of lettuce greens- all real fine leafed and tender – red and green and several salad add-ins like arugula and others I don’t know the name of. Romaine and Iceberg are available but not in large quantities and I’ve found that the other fresher lettuces are too tempting for me anyway.

Other things I can’t find in my commissary… hair spray (the non aresol type), leather conditioner, baby onions, a large variety of breads, 6 packs of soda.

I am a big coupon user in the states. I’m definately not one of those that saves half of their grocery bill or anything like that, but I do save $10-$25 on a big shopping day. Not here. I don’t have access to any new coupons. There are boxes at the front of the commissary but I’ve found searching to be too labor intensive and anyway all the coupons were expired. HOWEVER, I met a woman by chance a few days ago. She was taping coupons on all the Suave shampoos and she told me that COUPONS OVERSEAS ARE GOOD FOR 6 MONTHS PAST THE EXPIRATION DATE. I put that in caps because, if you’re moving here, keep your coupons and use them after you get here. Nowhere is this information posted that I’ve seen. This nice lady also told me that at Army Community Service on SHAPE they receive several flat rate boxes from the states each week packed with coupons. I need to find out more about this and I’ll post more later.

I should also mention a brand spanking new commissary is being built within spitting distance from the old one on Chievres. It is scheduled to open in September. Another wife (who was in the know) told me that she heard they will have an expanded deli AND rotisserie chicken (she must like rotisserie chicken because her eyes lit up at that). The size is quite a bit bigger than the existing commissary and anyway anything new around here is a novelty. I’m excited.

One last note… on bags. The commissary loves it when you to supply your own bags but nary a word is said if you forget (or don’t own) your own bags. They use paper or plastic just like in the states. If out on the economy, you won’t find such a gentle reception. You buy a bag for a euro, bring your own bag, or use a big purse to lug your groceries out of the store.


overallcutie said...

Wow! The things we surf up from our past when we get older and cant sleep! My Dad was stationed at Chievres back in about 1976. I was looking for pictures to see if I could remember anything. We lived in a little "community" outside the base. I have only about a hundred questions about how things are there now compared to then. Back then we didnt have tv, or phones in our home. Somewhere at the "back" of the base they set up a "tv" room. They had gotten a vcr and I guess someone from the states sent over copies of starsky and hutch and charlies angels. LoL adults and kids alike would pile up in this little room and we would sit for hours watching the same ol' shows. But for us it was such a special treat! My mind is running a mile a minute right now as so many sweet memories are comming in at once. I hope your stay there is as wonderful as mine!

edith said...

wow. Well things have changed a lot here since then. I would actually be curious to see picture of Chievres back then! Thanks for sharing your memories.