Daily life in Tokyo

Grocery Shopping at the Dollar Store

I bought these groceries from a Lawson 100円 shop. Lawson is generally a convenience store chain, but they have some Lawson Natural beauty and health stores and Lawson 100 fresh food stores scattered around Tokyo. Most 100 yen stores are pretty similar around the city, with all sorts of inexpensive household goods, but Lawson 100 is the only one I know of that also sells fresh food.

I don't think I would have trusted groceries from a dollar store in the USA. Everything seemed bland, generic, and flimsy. Was I just being a snob? I love the 100 yen shops in Tokyo! It's possible that the goods are of similar quality and that I'm just dazzled by the novelty of items tailored to another culture. Or maybe the items really are better in Japan.

In any case, I don't remember the American dollar stores carrying fresh meats, produce and dairy from the same brands as the regular grocery stores, whereas in Tokyo, I can get many of the same brands at both the 100 yen shop and the super. I'm going to guess that the branded packaged goods (such as dairy, snacks) are the same price or slightly discounted due to the bulk buying power of an international company, while the produce and meats are likely the better deals.

Produce in Japan is held to very high standards, to the point where I almost never find a bruised fruit or vegetable at any store (even Lawson 100), and the items are very uniform in appearance. So I imagine the produce at Lawson 100 is reduced due to variance in size or color, since it's not dented or wilted like American discount produce would often be. These potatoes are pretty small, the apples are multicolored, and the onions have some black dirt or mold on the outer skin that I'll remove and rinse before cooking. I'm getting a discount in Japan for food that, in Texas at least, would be considered normal quality.

Though really, I don't shop here for the prices as much as convenience. The prices are quite low, but I think most local grocery stores are reasonable price-wise. I love this place most of all because it is close-by, and I'm often running out at the last minute when I realize I forgot to buy a crucial ingredient for dinner.

To get an idea of prices, think of 1 yen as 1 penny (meaning ¥100 is around $1.00). The exchange rate isn't 1:1, but in general, that's a good guideline for thinking about food prices, considering the relative cost of other life necessities. Also note that, before Tokyo, I lived in Seattle and New Orleans, two American cities with very expensive food, so my frame of reference for "reasonable" or "cheap" prices may be skewed, haha.

ザクッとポテト オーザック 磯のり塩 - Crunchy Potato O'Zack Nori Salt Chips - ¥108

ザクッとポテト オーザック 磯のり塩 - Crunchy Potato O'Zack Nori Salt Chips - ¥108

I really enjoy the texture of O'Zack brand chips. The name is a pun on the Japanese onomatopoeia word "zakuzaku" which refers to the crunchy texture. Tanoshii Japanese explains zakuzaku as "lots of coins or jewels", "cutting up roughly", "walking on frost", "mixing gravel". Are you starting to feel the crunch? It sounds brutal, but it's pretty awesome.

I know they're not cut potatoes because the bag only has chips of three shapes and sizes, so it might be a process similar to a Pringle that starts with a slurry or mash, but with a more irregular and bubbled, pocketed result like a crispy fried tortilla.

The nori (seaweed) is pretty subtle. They don't taste fishy.

Hokkaido Milk - ¥124

Hokkaido Milk - ¥124

Good ol' milk for my coffee.

スコーン サワークリームオニオン味 - Sour Cream and Onion Flavor Scorn (??) - ¥108

スコーン サワークリームオニオン味 - Sour Cream and Onion Flavor Scorn (??) - ¥108

日本生まれのおいしさ means "Deliciousness made/born in Japan". But I'm not sure about スコーン. This word might be pronounced scone, scorn, su-corn, or su-cone. I believe it's supposed to be su-corn, maybe short for sweet corn? But I like to imagine munching on a bag of scorn. Take that, negative attitude!

They're basically Cheetos, but less cheesy with a hint of Funyuns flavor. They're quite good. Maybe not as crave-able as a classic American Cheeto (Japanese Cheetos are sweet! The horror!), but I certainly prefer this to the kick-in-the-face intensity of Funyun flavor (not to mention, Funyuns shred the top of my mouth).

Mix Salad - ¥108

Mix Salad - ¥108

Pretty much what it says. Some companies call this salad, some call it cole slaw blend. It's mostly cabbage, with a few other veggies thrown in for color. Tastes fine with any salad dressing. Raw cabbage is nice when it's cut into vermicelli size strips like this. I don't remember that being popular in America.

えのきたけ - Enokitake - Enoki mushrooms - ¥108

えのきたけ - Enokitake - Enoki mushrooms - ¥108

The "take" in shiitake and enokitake means "mushroom". These long skinny mushrooms are great for nabe/hot pot/soup. They turn into chewy noodles! So if you're grain-free or whatever, see if you can find enoki. I eat them because I just love mushrooms.

アメリカ産豚ロース肉うす切り - American pork roast thin cut - ¥186

アメリカ産豚ロース肉うす切り - American pork roast thin cut - ¥186

I've pretty much hated and avoided pork for most of my life, except for extra-processed pork like bacon and pepperoni, which I love. Pork chops, pork tenderloin, pork ribs are all TOO MUCH PORK for me.

The first time I ever swore off pork was after seeing pigs dissected at a library science event when I was 6, so maybe it's psychological? I'm also way more sensitive to the smell than most people are. Even regular pork chops smell too much like body odor to me, and wild pig is worse. When I politely consented to taste the recently hunted wild boar at a barbecue party, I barely made it to the bathroom before my stomach nope'd it back up.

But in Japan, pork is mostly sold in fine mince or in thin slices.

I frequently eat gyoza filled with minced pork because there are so many other ingredients and flavors involved, but I've still avoided sliced pork in Japan. I finally gave it a chance when I was eating dinner in a friend's home recently, and I found it entirely delicious. It doesn't take forever to chew, and it has no porky odor. It's thin, tender, and carries other flavors very well. Now I buy it, cook it, enjoy it - even love it.

I'm finally a pork-eater now Mom! It only took 30 years.

じゃがいも - Potatoes - ¥108

じゃがいも - Potatoes - ¥108

Potatoes. They're little.

玉ねぎ - Tamanegi - Onions - ¥108

玉ねぎ - Tamanegi - Onions - ¥108

Tamanegi means round onions or ball onions. Regular negi is what we might call welsh onion or leek.

6 Jazz Apples - ¥324  

6 Jazz Apples - ¥324

 

This is one of the best apple prices I've found. I usually find apples individually packed in a pastel plastic protective net and sold for ¥150 to ¥500 each. It feels decadent now to eat an apple from my hand instead of cut into slices and shared as a dessert with my husband.

Total ¥1,282 I think that would have been closer to ¥2,400 at another store.

Total ¥1,282

I think that would have been closer to ¥2,400 at another store.

Bonus shot of the meal I made: shougayaki (sweet pork slices with ginger and soy sauce), cabbage salad, miso soup with enoki and shiitake and onion, and delicious hot perfectly sticky rice.

Bonus shot of the meal I made:

shougayaki (sweet pork slices with ginger and soy sauce),

cabbage salad,

miso soup with enoki and shiitake and onion,

and delicious hot perfectly sticky rice.