At the Supermarket

Quick Answer

Going to the supermercado(supermarket) in a Spanish-speaking country is a great opportunity to practice your Spanish. Study the following vocabulary words and phrases, grab a carrito, and get ready to hacer la compra(do the shopping) like a pro!

In many Spanish-speaking countries, locals prefer to shop at markets or individual shops that specialize in just one thing, such as the carnicería(butcher shop) and panadería(bakery). For a visitor, shopping like a local would mean saying goodbye to getting everything in one place!

While shopping like a local is a great way to experience a city, it’s arguably more convenient to visit a one-stop supermarket.

Let’s take a look at the phrases and vocabulary you need to know to survive a trip to a supermarket in a Spanish-speaking country. Make sure to keep an eye out for ofertas(sales)!

Common Supermarket Sections and Aisles

Supermarkets in Spanish-speaking countries are often divided into departamentos(departments), then pasillos(aisles). By familiarizing yourself with the following list of vocabulary, you will be able to understand the signs throughout the supermarket, making it easier to find what you need.

frutas y verduras
artículos de limpieza
cleaning products
listo para comer
meat counter
deli counter
bakery (bread)
frozen foods
bakery (cakes and pastries)
cuidado personal
personal care
fish counter
canned goods
productos de limpieza
cleaning products
productos para hornear
baking supplies

Useful Phrases for the Supermarket

If you need assistance at a supermarket in a Spanish-speaking country, you will need to put your Spanish skills to use! Let’s take a look at some common phrases you can use at the supermarket. Don’t forget to say por favor(please) and gracias(thank you)!

¿Dónde está …?
Where is ...?
¿Dónde puedo encontrar …?
Where can I find …?
¿En qué pasillo puedo encontrar …?
In what aisle can I find …?
Estoy buscando …
I’m looking for…
¿Me da un kilo de …?
Will you give me a kilo of…?
¿Podría ayudarme a encontrar/ buscar …?Could you help me find/look for ...?
¿Venden … aquí?
Do you sell … here?

Now let’s take a look at a short dialogue between a empleado(employee) and a cliente(customer).

el cliente:
¡Hola! ¿Me da medio kilo de mejillones, un kilo de gambas y un calamar entero?
Hello! Can you give me a half kilo of mussels, a kilo of shrimp, and one whole squid?
el empleado:
Déjeme adivinar. ¿Va a preparar paella?
Let me guess. Are you going to make paella?
el cliente:
Sí, pero todavía estoy buscando azafrán. ¿Lo venden aquí?
Yes, but I am still looking for saffron. Do you sell it here?
el empleado:
Sí, claro. En el pasillo diez, con las otras especias.
Yes, of course. In aisle ten with the other spices.
el cliente:
Muchas gracias.
Thank you very much.

Supermarkets in Spanish-Speaking Countries

Going to the supermarket in a Spanish-speaking country is a cultural experience. Let’s talk about a few things you may notice.

The metric system is used in all Spanish-speaking countries, so don’t mistake kilos for pounds. Also, don’t make the mistake of assuming the grocery store will be open on a Sunday. Many supermarkets throughout the Spanish-speaking world close on Sundays.

In Chile and in Mexico, there are workers who bag your groceries and work for tips. Remember to give them a propina(tip)! Also, try to remember to bring your own reusable shopping bags because many cities have banned the use of plastic bags.

When buying leche(milk) at a grocery store in a Spanish-speaking country, you may be surprised to see the milk on the shelves instead of in the refrigerated section. In most Spanish-speaking countries, milk producers use ultra-high-temperature pasteurization (UHT), which allows the milk to be stored at room temperature until it is opened. Additionally, milk is often sold in bags instead of cartons or jugs throughout South America.

Lastly, depending on what city you are in and the quality of the supermarket, you may find that the selection is not what you are used to. It’s best to learn how to shop with the ingredients at your local supermarket rather than trying to find the ingredients for your favorite dishes from home.