Making Aruba your home, or your home away from home, is an exciting time. After all, it’s the dream of many to escape the “real world” and call paradise home. Those of us that have been living on the island also realize that there are some challenges to a life in paradise, but with a little knowledge and knowhow these minor challenges can be navigated.
Aruba is world-renowned for its gastronomy and diverse dining options. Dining out for every meal is one of the most pleasurable parts of a vacation, but now that you are living here, stocking up the pantry and fridge for your household is a necessity.
One of the first things I noticed when I moved here 18 years ago was that almost every super market had a Chinese name. I’m not really certain of just how the super market industry on this Caribbean island became the business du jour for Chinese families, and why there are SO MANY grocery stores and mini markets—I can walk to five different mini markets less than a mile from my house. Anyway, as an avid home cook who scours the island for ingredients and products, here is my cheat sheet for navigating Aruba’s grocery shopping scene.
The Big Three
Aruba’s most popular and largest supermarkets are Ling & Sons, Super Food, and Price Smart.
Ling & Sons Super Center
I do 75% of my shopping here. I am an American and this large supermarket carries the largest selection and variety of American products on the island. Well organized and modern, to me this is the closest you will come to an American-style grocery store. They also have USDA meats and premium Certified Angus Beef. This store features an amazing ethnic section with authentic products and ingredients from around the world. Ling & Sons has an extensive alcoholic beverage section with just about every major liquor brand represented, as well as a large variety of wines from around the world.
This Dutch-owned supermarket is in a relatively new location frequented mainly by Europeans but also a favorite of North and South Americans. Their cheese department is second-to-none on the island, and their bakery churns out artisan breads and decadent European-style pastries and desserts. There is liquor store within the supermarket well stocked with wine, beer, and liquor.
This warehouse-style shopping “club” (think: Sam’s and Costco) has mostly American products, sold in bulk. It’s the perfect place to stock up on paper goods, frozen prepared foods, canned and bottled beverages, and toiletries. I have found the produce here to typically be ripe and in good condition. Price Smart also sells some electronics, appliances, household items, and kitchenware.
In a pinch, some of the mini markets and convenience stores have a surprising collection of goods at prices cheaper than the larger markets. Two of my favorites are Chang’s, located in Bubali, and U Convenience, with extended hours and located just off the main boulevard near Eagle Bowling.
- Aruba does not have the “open 24-hours/7 days a week” culture that the U.S. does. Most super markets close at 8pm, have limited Sunday hours, and close on the island’s legal holidays—sometimes that can be two days in a row. So a little forethought is sometimes required.
- Ask any local and they will tell you the best day to shop is Thursday and the worst day is Tuesday, and here is why: the vast majority of products are shipped to the island, and most cargo ships arrive on Tuesdays. By the time freight is unloaded, cleared by customs, and arriving at stores it is Wednesday. On this day, shelves are stocked and typically by late Wednesday and Thursday the store is fully stocked with fresh products. By the time the following Tuesday rolls around, the stock has been depleted, with less options and variety. There is, however, a benefit to shopping on Tuesdays—some stores offer a small discount to encourage shopping.
- BYOB—bring your own bag! As of January 1, 2017, the government officially banned the use of single-use plastic bags, as they are a detriment to our environment.