All you need is a bit of money, a foreign country and a grocery store. Oh, and these tips.
When you travel, you have to do a grocery store challenge. It’s something I try to do in every country I visit because it’s so fun and random and changes in every country. And I think it works better when you have at least one other person, which makes it ideal for all our ILP volunteers.
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What’s A Grocery Store Challenge?
I've killed time waiting for a train playing this game, started my Saturday with this game, and even played multiple times a week when I was hitting a different country every few days. Interested? Here's how you play.
Basically you run into a random grocery store and see how much you can buy for a set amount of money. I’ve done this for a cheap lunch or just a way to spend the last few Indonesian Rupiah I had in my bag before leaving Bali (I don’t know about you, but I’d rather bring home cookies rather than random coins I can’t spend at home).
The fun all comes from running around aisles and aides of totally different snacks, treats, drinks, and other goodies that you're really unfamiliar with. I've found some of my favorite international snacks playing this little game!
What Are The Rules?
It depends on how you want to play. Like I said, it’s fun to take the last few coins and bills you have and just spend them all at the nearest 7-11 or market before you leave the country.
Or it’s way fun to do this after teaching class one day just to mix things up. When I was in China, a friend and I did a grocery store challenge and bought all sorts of funny treats to eat before a movie night on the weekend. Another time, my group and I ran around a little market in Germany and got the coolest snacks for an impromptu picnic in the city. The options are endless.
How Do I Play?
First, Set A Time Limit
I do like to make a time limit just to make it a little more exciting. You can take 15 minutes or 5, that’s really up to you. If it’s a bigger store, I’d “allow” more time but hey, do what you want. Everyone has 5 minutes (or whatever time) to run around and spent alllll their money before the time is up!
Make Your Spending Limit
I also like to set a money limit for each person to spend (if I’m not playing by myself). How much depends on what I’m shopping for and where I am in the world.
Around Asia, I aim for about $1-2 for snacks, and $3-4 for lunch (yep, Asia’s that cheap!) but in Europe I try to be in the $2-4 snack range and around $4-7 for lunch. Everyone has 5 minutes to run around and spend alllll their money.
Okay, onto the fun part. Spread out a huge blanket in the park or bring your spoils back to the apartment to have a picnic. I've said it before, but I have tasted some of my favorite candies, chocolates, and new favorite fruits because my group bought something that I never would have picked up. It's all about adventure in this game, so don't be afraid to grab something really unfamiliar.
A Few More Tips
You can adjust this however you want, which is what makes it so great. Tight on time? Only spend 3 minutes shopping before your bus leaves for the beach. Want to have a full on picnic? Assign people to buy drinks, or fruit, bread, or cookies with their money so you get a more well-rounded meal. Don’t have $2 per person? Put all the money together and see what you can buy as a group.
This works for the fruit stand on the corner in Mexico, or one of the hundred 7-11’s in Thailand, the charming markets you see in Europe, or the mega superstores in China.
It’s something you can do in every country, any day of the week and make it fit your schedule or itinerary. It’s just fun to run around and see what you can buy and eat some cool foreign food when you are finished. Pick out some treats you've never tried before so it's all a surprise.
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We think so too! We have countries all over the world where you are set up with a group of fellow volunteers to teach, travel, and explore with.