Maeda Haruyo has lived in Europe for a long time. She tells us what it’s like to feed her family in Japan each day.
Every day, I shop (kaimono) for food. I like cooking a lot. First I decide what I’m going to make. I need to make sure I have enough to feed my whole family (my husband, my 18 year old son, my 16 year old daughter, my 10 year old son, my little 5 year old dog and myself).
Here is an example of what I might prepare for the evening meal:
• Main dish: tonkatsu (bread-crumbed and fried shoulder of pork).
• Garnish: finely chopped cabbage and potatoes.
• Side dish: Daikon no nimono (Japanese turnip stew).
• Side dish: Sandomame no gomaae (haricot beans and sesame salad).
• Side dish: Hijiki no nimono (stewed hijiki algae).
• Soup: Miso shiru (miso soup)
If I’m not careful, making a dinner like that can cost 2,500 yen. But if I pick cheap ingredients, I can expect to pay around 1,500 yen. The price of fresh produce varies from one day to the next. That’s why I decided to stop planning my menus too much in advance, and see what there is on the day instead. The first thing I do before going shopping is have a look through the chirashi (advertisments delivered with the newspapers). I go to two supermarkets every day, to the vegetable shop, the fishmonger who also sells vegetables and to the butchers.
• The Mandai supermarket is a small supermarket with two shops on either side of the street. The customers can go from one to the other with their shopping trolley. The supermarket sells produce that is 3 to 5% cheaper than other supemarkets in the area. That is why it is often full.
• The Kansai Super is a regional supermarket. It has a much wider range on offer than Mandai. Every Monday there is a 5% promotion on everything.
• The greengrocer, Ganbaro Yasai, is a tiny shop, but it always has seasonal fruit and vegetables.
• The fishmonger, Gyokokan. In this little shop you can buy fish for a reasonable price. The salesman knows his produce well. I often ask him for advice on how to prepare the fish.
• The butcher, Yamashige, is a very small shop. You can buy beef, pork and chicken. The chicken thighs and chicken breasts, as well as the minced meat, are the cheapest in the area. I take my bike to go shopping. It’s equipped with two baskets to even out the weight. Each basket has a cover to protect it so I can leave my shopping in them when stopping off at another shop. At first, I hesitated to do this after my long stay in Europe. But here, nobody will steal my shopping! Japan is a country in which you feel safe!