Food shopping seemed to be of interest to those who have responded to my invitation for suggestions. I'll address this over a few blog posts.
As I will be visiting the commissary today, I think I'll start there.
The closest (and I believe only) commissary in Belgium is located in Chievres. Depending on farm equipment traffic I can travel one way in 30-50 minutes. This does not make the commissary the most convenient shopping location. For most foods though it is the cheapest.
The commissary for the most part looks like your typical American grocery store and it carries the most popular brands and types of food preferred by Americans. It has a bakery, produce department, and meat counter. The meat is from the US and all of it has been frozen.
The two major differences between the commissary and a US grocery store are the frozen foods section and the lack of sales/promotions.
At the commissary there are no sales or promotional items. One is not bombarded with advertising or displays to buy a particular product. Overall the prices are lower than what I would pay in Northern Virginia. Not by a huge margin, but lower. The prices between what I'd pay in a Belgian market and what I pay at the commissary are a bit more remarkable. Chicken for instance is twice as expensive out on the local economy.
Frozen foods comprise four full aisles of the grocery store. There is quite a bit of meat, frozen pizzas, frozen prepared meals, frozen vegetables and fruits. There are two main consumers of these products. The first group - single soldiers who really have no need to cook and the second group - Americans who live in Brussels or Paris and come long distances to shop at Chievres. They need food that will keep for long periods of time.
So as much as I dread my weekly trips to Chievres, I am grateful we live as close to the commissary as we do. Our food budget is much less because the commissary is close by and we can buy a number of familiar and favorite foods that would otherwise be unavailable to us.
Tomorrow - the Belgian market where I shop