Buying Groceries

Shopping for fresh vegetables, breads and eggs in Hungary is just mouth watering and easy on the wallet.

My cache for a hot June day in 2017.

Getting Groceries

Food shopping in Hungary was a learning experience.  Years ago, if you bought produce, there was a person in that area of the store who would weigh and ticket the bag so that when you checked out, the cashier knew what to charge. If you didn’t do it, you often had to forego buying it.  Then, they came up with the self-serve digital scale, that is now also part of the self-checkout in many US stores.  You put the food on the scale and tap on the type of produce it is, and if there is a number that differentiates it from another kind of similar produce, you plug in the number.  I find just going to the PIAC, or the farmers market, is easiest. They tell you the price, you hand them the money.  

Another thing about shopping for food is that the bags are not free. So most people bring bags with them. If you don’t, you have to pay, sometimes up to 50 forints per bag—which is about a quarter in US currency.  Currency is a bit confusing at first because it is in the hundreds and thousands. You just have to think of it as monopoly money and look at the price.  Don’t worry about the conversion most of the time.   In Hungary, I just go by the general idea that 200 forints (HUF) = $1,  2000 HUF = $10 , and 20,000 HUF = $100. Sometimes I spend less than this for forints (due to exchange rates) and get more for my US money—a good thing since my income was quite limited this year.  

Something else to consider is that the 200 HUF used to be paper money and it is now a two-tone coin, as is the 100 forint coin, which is smaller. Cashiers do not like making change for big bills (if you can choose your bills—some ATMs will have a selection for “mixed notes” and you can choose a variety of bills), then do that.  Because if you want say, 20,000 HUF for the weekend or the day, and you get one 20,000 HUF bill, no one is going to want to change it, especially if you want to buy an ice cream cone for 200 HUF. I’ve gotten big bills from a cash machine and then go into the bank and ask for change.  (When you go into banks, it is not as simple as just getting on a line. You normally have to choose what service you want on a kiosk, and then get a number, as you would in a DMV office. You wait until your number is displayed on a board).