Your Guide to Grocery Stores in Beijing
Language barriers, unfamiliar brands and products, and therefore limited choice, can make even the simple task of grocery shopping a real headache for expats in China. In Beijing, the variety of supermarkets is impressive, and its suburban superstores can be overwhelmingly large. However, almost all stores tend to carry a narrower selection of stock than you would expect to find back home, and within this narrow range, it can be tough to find recognizable brands.
The process of shopping may be a little different than you’re used to at home. When you hit the aisles, remember to weigh loose items in their particular section of the supermarket, as you will generally not be able to weigh them at the checkout. Bring your reusable shopping bag with you: it’s better for the environment, and in China, you can expect to pay RMB 1-2 per plastic bag. Usually, in China you will have to pack your own groceries and cashiers may not move to assist you – which may be frustrating if you are used to having your shopping bagged for you!
Our guide gives you the low down on grocery stores in Beijing. Because maps generated within China are generally most up to date and therefore most reliable, we’ve linked each store and supermarket group to the Baidu interactive maps of their locations.
1.Small International Supermarkets:
With one of these brands nestled into (or nearby) almost every residential compound in Beijing – there is sure to be one around the corner. However, these stores deliver convenience over price: although you can pay much less to shop elsewhere, you won’t find the same array of goods. Stocking both local and imported goods, each carries a broad range of fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, fish and dairy products, baked goods, store cupboard items, and alcoholic drinks.
2.Local Wet Markets:
All over China, you will find permanently-located covered-markets, with vendors selling the same goods grouped together into their various sections. These markets are “wet” because of their often damp floors. Sanyuanli market is the most expat-friendly: with rare-for-Asia vegetables such as Brussel sprouts and parsnips alongside more local fruits and vegetables; nose-to-tail butchers who can joint and portion meat for roasts; several stalls selling French, Italian, and even Beijing cheeses; and bursting with dried pantry staples such as tea, pasta, dried fruits, nuts, oils, and spices.
This farmers' market is held every weekend in the basement of a Liangmaqiao mall. Stop by to stock up on organic and farm-fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs, meat, and dairy, plus baked goods, stationery, crafts, homewares, clothing, and more before or after enjoying lunch at one of the mall’s selection of international coffee shops and restaurants.
4.Membership Only Supermarkets:
Selling a wide variety of branded and own-brand merchandise in bulk, these stores offer extra-low prices in return for membership fees and a no-frills shopping experience. Definitely worth a trip, the Metro in Taiyangong is more conveniently located for families in Chaoyang or Shunyi Districts. Sam’s Club, located in the south-east of the city is quite a hike from the more popular expat compounds.
Though obviously better known for its furniture and homewares, Ikea also houses a small dry- and frozen-goods store on the ground floor next to the check-out area. Some of the highlights are good quality smoked or frozen salmon, chocolate, alcohol, and coffee – all at reasonable prices. You definitely can’t do a full pantry restock here: but it’s worth the trip to bulk-buy higher quality items at better-value prices.
The lowest prices – even cheaper than wet markets for meat and vegetables. Imported foodstuffs are limited, so expect to see less familiar brands; however, there are plenty of recognizable brands in areas such as household supplies and personal hygiene.
7.Upscale Chinese Supermarkets:
Both of these clean, upscale supermarkets have extensive selections of luxury goods and imported produce, but their mark-ups are prohibitive. Expect to pay multiple times what you would for the same items at home. BHG Marketplace can be found in the basement of many popular malls – making it a great place to stop-off and pick up one or two ingredients in an emergency, but not somewhere to do your weekly shop! Of the two, City Shop has an especially varied range of dry goods and hard-to-find brands and products from back home.
These are international in name only: although enormous in size and filled with produce, it can be difficult to find anything you might actually want to buy. From the amplified merchandisers aggressively flogging samples to the outrageous meandering check-out lines, Carrefour and Wal-Mart tend to be stressful, loud, and crowded.
The city of Beijing can be difficult for new expat families to explore and get used to. Click the image below to download the ISB Beijing City Guide and learn more about the tips and tricks that can help you and your family settle down in Beijing.
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