This article was contributed by Allison, an expat and blogger living a Paleo/Gluten Free lifestyle in Southern Spain.
I’ve now lived in Spain (the Costa del Sol) for nearly 12 years with my husband. Our daughter who is now 22 lived here with us until she turned 18. She then returned to the UK to find work.
Initially, when we arrived the only store where I could purchase what I needed was Mercadona. I’ll never forget the day I came back from shopping to find that the chicken I was going to roast for dinner still had its head attached. Surprise is an understatement!
Until I turned 18 I had lived in the countryside in the UK and so understood where our food came from. I spent a great deal of my childhood visiting the local farm where they bred cows and sheep for meat. But I still had to ask my other half (Mark) to lop the head off the chicken for me.
However about 3 years ago I decided to follow a Paleo diet. In the beginning when it came to following this diet it proved quite challenging here in Spain.
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Learning to Shop for Paleo Ingredients in Spain
When it comes to creating meals I try to use the best quality products that I can. As you’ll see things weren’t always that easy. Not only did I have to overcome the language barrier. Even today I still carry a small English to Spanish dictionary with me. I also had to learn the names of the various cuts of meat. This is because they are called something different here in Spain compared to the UK.
In the beginning when it came to the weekly shop I had to rely on the large supermarkets to get what I wanted. But when it came to meat choices available were quite limited. Gradually over the past 3 years I’ve seen some great changes.
Most of the major supermarkets here have a good fresh fish counter. Yet very few of them have a butcher’s. In most the meat they offer tends to be prepackaged. However, that has now changed too. I am very lucky to live where we have a very good international community. As a result of this the supermarkets have now begun to cater to their various tastes and needs.
Plus the opening of stores like Carrefour and Lidl has helped. Both of these have an actual butchers department within them. Also we have a number of independent butchers that I can shop at as well close by. But I tend not to use these as often as I should.
Why? Because getting to them can prove difficult and finding a space to park even more of a problem.
Spanish Paleo Living
I am lucky however that the large supermarket I often use does have a much greater selection of meat that has been organically raised. Although I haven’t found any as yet that offer grass-fed meat. But I’m hoping that this will change in the future.
When it comes to fruit and vegetables. Yes the supermarkets here are great. They now offer a really great selection of organic produce as well as some of the more unusual ones as well.
But I am really lucky as close by I have a small greengrocers. I love to use this place as not only are their prices great, but everything they offer in their shop they have grown themselves. Often I pick up things that are still covered in mud as they were harvested that morning.
Searching for Gluten Free in Spanish Supermarkets
When it comes to gluten free again things have changed quite a lot in the last few years. Yes they have always offered a small amount of gluten free items, but these tend to be quite expensive. But now more and more stores are realizing that a lot of people require such products.
The store where I do most of my weekly shopping in fact has one complete aisle where you can find gluten free items. The only thing they haven’t got round to stocking yet is almond or coconut flour.
But again I’m lucky as I have a really great health store close to my home. Here I cannot only get the flour that I need but they also stock a great selection of coconut oils as well.
Of course when it comes to cooking nine times out of ten I prefer to use olive oil. As you can imagine living here in Spain I have a really great selection to choose from. Plus there are many stores where they sell locally produced olive oil.
But we quite like Asian style foods. When I cook these meals I turn of course to using coconut oil.
The Paleo Spain Lifestyle
Yes when it comes to Paleo I cannot always get want I want sometimes here. I may have to visit several different stores, but I’ve got use to this now.
Even though I sometimes find it difficult if I cannot get exactly what I want I will substitute it for something else. Certainly when it comes to meat I tend to cook a lot of chicken. But what I love about the Spanish is that they aren’t keen on fat, so they tend to produce a lot of lean meat.
For me a Paleo diet and lifestyle is actually proving much easier to follow here in Spain. Yes initially it was hard but I’ve learnt over the past 3 years to adapt and be willing to search out what I need. Reading sites like mypaleos have helped me with finding ways to keep on track with the diet and lifestyle.