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"Starter" groceries in an apartment...what would you get?

I shop for a family of 5 including 3 teen-or-near-teen boys. They eat a LOT and OFTEN.

We will be flying overnight and arriving in Rome early on Saturday morning. We will have transport to our Airbnb around Piazza Navona. Our host has graciously offered to have a few things already in the apartment so we have something there our first weary hours. I understand most of my grocery shopping will occur on foot, walking with bags so it may be nice to have her pick up the heavier things (milk), maybe some bottled water?

If you were me....what would you have waiting in the apartment for you?

Posted by
11613 posts

Not for your shopping list, but many grocery stores will deliver to your apartment for a small charge. Someone needs to be there to accept delivery, but they will usually give you a window of time for delivery. You shop, fill your cart, pay for it, and they will deliver the contents later. Take home highly perishable goods, though!. The magic words are "Consegnare al domicilio". This may be what your apartment owner will do for you.

I would only ask her to supply the bare essentials.

Posted by
11658 posts

This is sort of a continuation of an earlier post concerning grocery shopping? I don't think you need much for starters, especially as you want your kids to have the experience of marketing in Italy PLUS those 3 strapping boys can help with the carrying. :O)

I'm thinking maybe milk, bread, cheese, meat and some fruit? Maybe whatever you need to get breakfast on morning #1 off the ground? Eggs? Juice? Coffee? The bread and cheese used for sammies on arrival day can be used for toast (will you have a toaster?) and omelettes. What you do not need is a lot of bottled water. Ever. Roman water is clean and good; we bring our own reusable bottles or just buy one filled bottle apiece and refill it. There are water fountains all over Rome, and usually will be marked if you shouldn't use them for drinking.

You've taken a good look at the kitchen in your apartment so you know how much fridge space you're going to have? It's not unusual for refrigerators in Italian rentals to be quite a lot smaller than most of us in the U.S. are used to.

Posted by
346 posts

I loved your question. I have a standard "arrival day list" which helps with the "what do we need?" as we are standing in a foreign grocery store after being awake for 25+ hours. I also translate the list into the local language (and have collapsible bag) in case we need help and bring a collapsible bag:
breads, butter, yogurts, ham/salami, cheese, 2 wine, beer, eggs, apples, nuts, chocolate, cream, coffee (ground), 2 bottle water (we refill and replace with a clean bottle every few days).

Posted by
6211 posts

Because your host is very gracious, I would only ask for the minimal things to tide you over before you can get to the store. For me that would mean: coffee (that would be #1), mineral water, fruit, yogurt or some other light snack. I don't have kids so I don't know what your sons would like. Also, be prepared that many items will probably not be like you're used to - the Costco/family sized versions. I wouldn't even expect milk to come in gallons like in the US unless one lives in the suburbs and goes shopping at supermarkets like Carrefour, etc (I may be totally wrong on this but I don't recall similar sizes compared to the States). Breakfast in Italy is very different than breakfast here - they'll eat a light cornetto (roll) and coffee and that's it. People shop often in Europe and they basically get whatever they can carry (it's a good thing you have many "helpers" with you to help distribute the load). Definitely bring some light, but sturdy bags with you. Think of some items for your sons that would go a long way before you can get to the store - like bananas, etc. I would confirm with them what they would like. Also consider carrying some nutrition bars, dried fruit, and nuts on the plane so you'll always have a snack ready to go no matter what.

Posted by
979 posts

Keep in mind that your refrigerator may be very small and won't be able to hold a normal "Family of 5" weeks worth of groceries. I would carb load those boys to keep them full and fueled. Bread, Eggs, meats, cheese, nuts, peanut butter, oatmeal. I would only buy enough for 2-3 days then play it by ear. I always buy wayyy too much food for our stay and land up throwing it out. Also be very aware of the rules of your apartments and how the trash is to be handled, where to throw it, how to sort it etc. We always bring our own reusable water bottles because, as someone mentioned, the water you drink at the fountains that are found all over town is delicious. We do buy two huge waters to keep bedside for the stay.

We also bring food from home and baggies to put it in for the days adventures. We usually bring The double pack of Jerky from Costco, The big Mixed nuts from Costco and protein bars because traveling and hungry do not mix well with us (HANGRY!!!). I am also going to add Chex Mix Cheddar because it is just so delicious and fills me up.

Posted by
3463 posts

There 2 Coop stores within a few blocks of your apartment.
One about a block of of Córso
Victorio Emmanuel. The other just north of the Pantheon.
There is a wine shop on the square, where you may be able to pick up water.

This would be a great opportunity for your kids to see how Italians shop.

Posted by
1726 posts

Find a decent grocery or salumeria and buy salami, prosciutto, mortadella and various cheeses in good supply for sandwiches for the boys--that should keep them at bay for awhile, and the cold meat in Italy is second to none. Fresh bread or rolls, but note that there are no preservatives so bag them good. Also buy plenty of fruit. Other items--plastic bags, trash bags, water bottles, coffee.

Posted by
49 posts

Yes - we plan to make this part of the trip (the shopping) a learning experience for the boys. Mostly what I need is that first 24-36 hours when we are weary and it looks like we are on the same page (coffee! bread, milk, juice, eggs, transportable fruit and some basic cheese/meat)

Thanks for your points about water - we will get some bottles at some point to refill rather than port them over via plane.

Letizia - your list sounds right on target! Traveling, I stuff my boys full of jack links from Sam's (we don't have a Costco)!! Perfect!!

gerri - thank you! Those have been added to my google map

Renee and Agnes - thank you! Great idea about translating what I will need ahead of time.

Posted by
224 posts

I'm pretty sure you've figured out what to get, I do recommend taking at least one foldable nylon shopping bag, I always keep one in my purse. We've used it for groceries and souvenirs. The bags the grocers have a really thin and most charge you for bags. The nylon foldable are much easier to sling over a shoulder and hold much more.

Posted by
823 posts

I would also ask your host for a list of local grocery shopping conventions and customs. For instance, you won't find eggs in a cooler - they'll be on a shelf (usually close to the dairy cooler). Stores often charge for shopping bags so you might want to pack a couple reusable ones (they're lightweight and don't take much room in luggage...). And you'll usually find a box of disposable plastic gloves next to fresh fruit and vegetable bins and it's customary for patrons to wear gloves while handling the goods. I'm sure there are many-many others...

As for starter groceries, I would stick to only what might be needed upon arrival for a quick pick-me-up before heading back out into the neighborhood. Since you're arriving on an overnight flight, hitting the streets for some grocery shopping will be a good way to ward off jet lag.

Posted by
3286 posts

What Kathy said about the fridge size is very important. Even if it is bigger than an undercounter one, it will still be smaller than you expect and may not have a freezer. People shop every single day. Many things that we would normally refrigerate are not, either in the store or at home. They are fresh when bought and eaten soon.

One thing I'd add to other people's lists is acqua frizzante. Oh, and don't forget the Nutella!

There is a Despar grocery just north and left of the Pantheon. If you wish, I can give you more details. Take a tote bag or backpack of some sort to haul your goods. Plastic bags at despar are about 10 cents each. Buy whatever you want. You may want to pack some disposable plastic ware and plates. For fun, go to Campo dei Fiori from 9 am - 1 pm. You can shop the outdoor market and buy pizza by the slice at Forno. This is a historic square in Rome.

Posted by
2536 posts

We are usually based in a house or apartment when we visit Europe. Saturdays can be tricky because sometimes grocery stores are closed on Sundays, especially in smaller towns. I once had to plan a 1st birthday party for a one year old for our group of 9 when we arrived in a small town in Switzerland on a Saturday evening, don't want to have to do that again.

Here's how we get through the first day or two of setting up housekeeping in a new city. We usually bring ground coffee and a bag of muesli with us (space comes in handy for souvenirs later). We almost always bring a large bag of our favorite nut/fruit trailmix for snacking on the go. If you could get each of your party to take one favorite item in their suitcase that the whole family enjoys that would help stock the pantry.

When we arrive we check grocery store hours and get the rest of what we need for breakfast like milk, some lunch snacks like meat and cheese, and a quick dinner like roasted chicken, pasta, a bottle of wine and some local sauce. We also buy a few fresh fruits and vegetables but not too many as these are fun to pick up at the outdoor markets.

In Europe we always buy the non refrigerated boxed milks. Our son thought they were meant to be a personal size, kind of like putting a straw through the top like a juice box. You'll see, they are about the size of broth in a box here and are stored on the non refrigerated shelves. The trickiest thing is trying to figure out fat content in a different language.

We always take a nylon bag or two to the grocery store (look for comfortable handles) and empty out our backpack or my large Baggallini for the heavier things from the store.

For your host who has offered, keep it simple, you'll have some time to shop on your arrival day and everyone will want to go explore! Have fun.

Posted by
2773 posts

If coffee is important to you, can you operate an Italian moka? Also you may want to cut the espresso you make with boiling water for a "proper" cup of coffee.

Posted by
1726 posts

Regarding coffee, if the apartment is providing you with something to heat water, you could bring a Melitta plastic cone and some paper cone filters. Then all you'd have to do is buy a pound of great Lavazza coffee and have your caffe Americano every morning. We did this a couple weeks ago and were so happy we had it!

Posted by
1089 posts

Regarding carrying coffee OUT of the US, i once flew from iowa to Louisiana w coffee , instant oatmeal & dried cranberries in my bag. The foil pack of coffee looked suspicious on Xray, so my luggage and I had to go to the Time Out Corner. Remember that coffee is also used to distract drug sniffing dogs. For me, the addition of the cranberries, some Styrofoam bowls, plastic spoons, & my general demeanor helped them decide i was not a risk. Also, i offered to surrender the coffee.

Regarding the suggestion that the OP needs to bring plates & plastic spoons from the US.....surely their apt rental will have plates/silverware....and a starter supply of garbage bags? but i do understand bringing some sandwich bags to divy up snacks.

Posted by
2536 posts

Regarding taking coffee or any other foodstuff in our luggage. Our items are not in foil and I put them in individual gallon sized plastic bags that I use for other things throughout the trip. So far no trouble with TSA, phew!

Posted by
5537 posts

I think it would be very discourteous to ask the gracious host to carry the heavier items so you don't have to do it -- you're literally putting the burden on him/her! If you have three teen or near-teen boys, surely they can handle some packs of water between them (if you feel you need to purchase water).

Posted by
49 posts

Hmmm...ok. Now I'm thinking of what we can take with us. Will do some TSA research.

Kim, the owner is charging me for this small service. I agree if she were doing this as a courtesy, it would be discourteous to ask her to carry some heavy items. But, I am okay with a paid arrangement because it does benefit us both.

Posted by
11613 posts

Amazingly, Italian grocery stores sell plasticware (bowls, dishes, flatware), and plastic containers. I do take various size Ziploc baggies with me, since I would not use up an entire box.

Posted by
80 posts

Well I'll just add my 2 cents - we were in Paris last week and had an Apartment. We all traveled with a backpack because I've had issues in the past with luggage not arriving to my destination and me not having proper clothes for several days (it was on an island where it was not easy to buy clothing and over a holiday weekend when the stores were closed!)
However, I did pack and check a suitcase with the following items: laundry detergent pods (because we use an unscented variety and did not want to buy a bottle in Europe for our few small loads that we were going to do); plastic utensils, assorted teas, hot chocolate and coffee pods, half a roll of alum foil; ziplock bags in various sizes, several large garbage bags (again did not want to buy a box if necessary and they weigh almost nothing) a few new sponges, peanut butter packs, and some random dry groceries (quinoa, a box of cereal, rice cakes, "nice" bars, etc), as well as a pack of "US" type toilet paper. (See also 4 girls!!!) Other people may snicker however, I was packing the case full and it wasn't terribly heavy when done, but everything in it was welcome once we arrived and we used it all... PLUS the case was used on the way back to house dirty laundry (sorted in the garbage bags) while we carried important stuff and souvenirs in our backpacks. It worked for us!

Posted by
6211 posts

I would first find out what the apartment has already...I would be surprised if no silverware, cups, glasses, dishes, garbage bags, toilet paper, etc were provided. Bring the absolute minimum - this is just for one day to tide you over. You'd be surprised but often (in my case at least), jet lag doesn't truly hit until Day 2, so Day 1 could present lots of opportunities to pick up things. You can get just about everything in Europe, so unless you have some really strong preferences, I would bring as little as possible. If the point is to live locally, I would leave most American comforts behind - it will allow you to have experiences you wouldn't otherwise have. Sure, some may not turn out great, but it will be fun and a learning opportunity at the end.

Posted by
979 posts

For travel coffee I take the Starbucks Via packs, we take them camping all the time and they are a great instant coffee. The BIG pack goes on sale once and a while at Costco and I usually grab it for travel events we have for the year. I do not take these to Europe because I like to drink whatever coffee they drink.

Posted by
5537 posts

Amy, aha! Agreed, that does make a difference. Thanks for clarifying.

The only reason I suggested plasticware is because I stayed at a hotel in Rome with no breakfast and there was only a small fridge - no dishes provided. The only grocery store we could easily access had only small plastic spoons in a big bulky bag. Way more than we needed. I hate just tossing stuff out or dragging it around for the whole trip. For us, it was easier just to pack the disposables that we needed.
So, I agree with the above advice in finding out if dishes are provided or not. If they are - great! Just pack what works for you.

Posted by
40 posts

I agree with work2travel. Just be mindful shops will most likely be smaller than what you're used to and things arent always where u expect them to be...ie eggs on the shelf rather than in the chilled cases. Im American but have lived in Australia for 10 yrs and it took a bit of adjusting at first. Just dont get frustrated if its not what you have in the US. Thats the fun of it....go with the flow and use this opportunity in an AirBnb to "live like a local". I honestly wouldnt plan it out too much. Browse thru the open markets, bakeries, cheese shops, etc and get small quantities of fresh ingredients to last a day or 2. You can do this in the mornings before sightseeing. Plus as others have posted, fridges and kitchens in general are quite small...thats part of the culture to go to your local bakery and get fresh bread rolls daily rather than going to Costco and buying in bulk. If you set realistic expectations and go with the flow you'll be fine. Enjoy your trip!!☺

Posted by
40 posts

Oh and to add another point....I wouldnt bother bringing stuff with you from the US (ie snack bars, snacks etc). Grab fresh fruit and nuts at the markets for "on the go" treats. Dont bring ground coffee when you can get up and go to the local coffee bar and have real Italian espresso. You'd be missing out on truly living like a Roman and experiencing it thru food if you bring your American treats. Although I miss my Cheez-its. I always make sure my parents house house is stocked when I go back to Boston for a visit! ☺

Posted by
17682 posts

I''m planning to stay in a Ferienwohnung (apartment) in Germany next month. I plan to go to the grocery store down the street (200m) as soon as I get there to get what I consider basics, including for breakfast the first morning. Note: when I am in Germany, I eat as the Germans do at breakfast - no bacon and eggs -, Brötchen, butter, jam (called Marmalade in German), sliced cheese, sliced sausage. Also yogurt or fruit. And, of course, coffee with cream and sugar. If the store were not so convenient and the hostess had offered to stock the kitchen for me, I would want the same things.

So I already have my shopping list for the first day.

Brötchen (those great German breakfast rolls)
Kaffee
Sahne (cream)
Zucker (sugar)
Butter
Marmelade (jam)
Würst (sausage)
Käse (cheese)
Orangensaft (orange juice)

Posted by
1666 posts

We will have transport to our Airbnb around Piazza Navona

You are in a wonderful area! We love the Piazza Navona it is very convenient (as I'm sure you know) to a number of sites.

It is kind of your host to offer to pick up a few things for you. I suggest you ask for a few snacks, like fruit, yogurt, cheese, crackers and prosciutto. This will tide you over until lunch.

I don't know what you have planned the first afternoon, but I think it's important to get out and about immediately. It's the best way to handle jet lag. There are a number of cafes on the piazza that you could choose for lunch. We had a light dinner of antipasto and minestrone at one of them. It's worth the splurge to sit at an outside table and absorb the atmosphere of the piazza.

Once you are oriented, you can do some grocery shopping. We shopped several times at the COOP in Greve. What a fun adventure! We were the only non-locals there. I considered it a small triumph the time we successfully shopped without exchanging a single word in English!

Posted by
49 posts

You all have been so helpful - thank you! I have ordered a foldable grocery bag. She likely has some in the apartment, but this was excellent to think about 'walking about' for purchases, etc.

I will take a few things with us (i.e. single serve beef jerky at least keeps the boys from dying . I swear it's like whack-a-mole....once you get one settled the other is hungry!!). Hopefully, they will last the trip over lol.

The other things I will await to do 'local style.' That's the whole reason we are going...to live as local as possible while being an obvious tourist. And, I will have the host pick up the basics for quick items - coffee, NUTELLA, bread, crackers, etc. Then, we have something for when we crash but we are not tied to it. The remaining days we will shop like locals!

Edited to add: we are only bringing carry-on luggage so that also cuts out a lot of things to bring over.