Doha Diaries! Guide to grocery shopping in Doha….

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Last night, Mr H and I made a stupid decision. We decided to go grocery shopping.

No. That wasn’t so stupid.

We decided to leave at 10 pm.

That was borderline stupid.

It would not have been as bad a decision if it weren’t Ramadaan (the nocturnal month where everything seems to come to life after 9 pm).

To compound the stupidity of the decision, it was Thursday night. (The weekend crowd was in full attendance.)

The final straw- we decided to shop at LuLu Hypermarket….

We could not make it to the parking lot even…..

The place was chockablock with people, cars crammed into every possible spot….

I come from a city with a population of over 10 million. A city such as Doha should therefore not faze me. But when LuLu is filled to the brim, you need a unique set of skills to complete your shopping assignment. Here are some tips, gathered from experience-

  • Don’t waste your time looking for a parking spot right at the entrance of the store. Everyone else is also doing the same! You might get lucky once in a while but is it worth going around in circles and wasting time that can be better utilised inside the store? Also, parking away means you get some walking done. It’s good for you my friend.
  • Your shopping cart can be a very stubborn being. Manoeuvring it without harming fellow shoppers’ needs skill, concentration and a will to “do no harm”. (I have been hit with one, trust me – IT WASN”T VERY PLEASANT.) Some do not have this “will”. They are far too busy amassing the milk or soda or carrots from the rack. They don’t care what their carts do or who it barges into.
  • Practice the skill by shopping often. Of course always check the wheels of your cart before choosing it. Defective, obstinate wheels make things ten times harder. Also, the more you pile on, the heavier it gets and that much more difficult. So, if you are a newbie, start small…..
  • Put a harness on your toddler, saves her/him from harm and you from running behind them.
  • Plan your grocery shopping around your infant’s naptime and after he/she is well-fed. A LuLu experience can be extremely tiring even for the little one, so even with your best intentions; you may end up with a fussy, cranky, irritable baby.
  • If you have a spouse or friend accompanying you, ALWAYS send the tiny/smaller person to bag the fruits and vegetables. The smaller you are, the easier it is to squeeze in between jostling elbows and picking out the vegetables. I am always handed this task as I am a petite person (Mr H uses the term ’12 year old’).
  • After the fruit and veggie shopping, it’s now turn for the bigger spouse/ friend to do some work- at the meat counters. You need to holler and make yourself as visible as possible to get the attention of the men at the counter. So, go on and don’t be shy!
  • If you want fresh grated coconut (bane of all us “Mallus”), do not forget to collect the token at the beginning. Hopefully, that would ensure you get it grated by the end of your trip. Also, smile and be polite to the guy at the counter. Personally, I think it helps. Here. (Everywhere.)
  • When, you are waiting in queue to get your items weighed, do not and I mean DO NOT move/budge/locomote/shift from your position. Even for a second. Not even to tell your spouse how good he looks from afar, picking the carrots. If you do- when you return your cart magically moves and your spot disappears. No one there will have a clue how. You just have to buckle down and start all over again.
  • Wear sneakers/ trainers. Keep the heels in your cars ladies!
  • Shop in numbers. The more, the better. You can divide your tasks and meet at the payment counters. Saves a ton of time.
  • At the payment counters – there are a bazillion counters, how does one choose? Check the existing queues. Chose the ones with the lesser number of shoppers already there you would think….No….it’s not as simple as that…….. There are many parameters to consider- How many items in each cart? Are there kids standing in the cart?  How efficient is the cashier? Is the packer a sleepy head? Is there a packer at all? If no, then is the shopper willing to pack it himself? Certain people (we all know who they are) will not partake in any sort of  loading or packing of the grocery which they bought and are going to use/eat themselves. It is oddly considered a menial task, which is beneath them.
  •  Finally, most important tip to complete a successful grocery shopping assignment- Plan, PLAN and PLAN. Make lists (saves you time and Rials), divide tasks, avoid weekends, avoid evenings….. blah, blah, blah….

Even planning will sometimes not prepare you for “grocery shopping disasters” that will inevitably occur, somewhere down the road. Don’t fret. It happens to the best of us. So, if you think you are not upto it, or if it is too crowded— just return home. Try another day. Live, to fight another day. Or another place. Like we did last night.

There are several other places in Doha to do your grocery shopping. We go to LuLu mostly to get all the Indian stuff. Freshly grated coconut is our primary nemesis. Whenever we don’t need that particular item, we shop at Al Meera (another grocery/supermarket chain). They have smaller stores, far less chaotic. There are branches coming up everywhere. Hence, most likely you will have one very close to your home.

Another option is Carrefour (the French retail chain). They have a store in almost every mall. Great if you decide to finish your grocery shopping and mall-gazing at one go. No grated coconut though (damn you appam and stew)……. Check out their baked goodies… Sometimes have great French bread ….

Safari is another “Indian- friendly” supermarket. Similar to LuLu….

Megamart offers a different shopping experience. Smaller, more compact…. You can sometimes find things here (from different countries) that you cannot find anywhere else. So, do not underestimate this small fella. Smaller meat section…. A couple of them have bakeries attached…Good stuff….

I have come across Spinneys only at two places here in Doha- one at The Mall and the other at pearl Qatar. Not sure if there are more. Head there if you need a UK fix….. (especially one at The Mall)…

Yeah…that’s all that I can think of for today……Will update if something else pops into mind…

Enjoy your weekend, and your shopping, folks…..

Till next time…

J.

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