We stayed in the Hongdae region in a 2 bedroom/2 bath Airbnb with a full kitchen (gas range, refrigerator, microwave). One of the first things we did after getting settled was figure out where to buy groceries in Seoul. We ate breakfast at home most days and ate out at least once a day but we also tried to keep our pantry stocked with American comforts and quick meals for the kids.
We were able to get all of our groceries and household items at three stores: Daiso (similar to a Dollar Store with cuter/ better quality items), Homeplus (similar to Target), and GS25 (corner/ convenience store).
Here’s what we bought, what we brought, and what we couldn’t find but wished we had:
- I bought the CUTEST pajamas for the boys. Organic cotton + cute prints for under $10 USD.
- American brands like Oreos, Ritz Crackers, Barilla, Frosted Flakes, Coca Cola, Pringles, Heinz ketchup, Sriracha (only Peter Pan or Skippy brands of peanut butter)
- Nutella and biscoff spread (near the bread)
- Cold items like eggs (sold in packs of 10 or 30), almond milk, larger jugs of milk, butter (sold in blocks not sticks)
- Fruit – strawberries, apples, bananas, tangerines, oranges (seriously, best ever but $$)
- Muffin tin and muffin liners (to make these muffins)
- We bought grape jelly after we ran out but my kids were not fans
- We also found popcorn chicken that we all liked (freezer section in a bright yellow bag that says “chicken wagon”)
- Individual cold drinks
- Larger packages of bottled water
- Instant pre-cooked rice bowls (but cheaper at Homeplus)
- Sweet chili mini pretzels (OMG so good!)
- We bought crew socks for Ian after realizing that his ankles were freezing in his ankle socks. (Especially in the carrier when his pant legs rode up.)
- Nail polish remover
- Masks (Read why.)
UPDATE: Lotte Mart!
In search for pre-marinated bulgogi meat, we ventured out to a new grocery store. Whoa. Lotte Mart sells so much more than just groceries; they also have daily goods, fashion items, office supplies, apparel, jewelry, and more. In one part of the store you could even design your kitchen. It is four stories of goods with inclined escalator walkways (or as Isabella called them, “rampscaltors”) that the carts can go up/down between floors.
In terms of food, it is comparable to Homeplus. Here’s what we bought:
- Nutella and biscoff spread
- Tostitos salsa (…though, no tortilla chips. Pro tip: freeze any extra chips that you get from Mexican restaurant meal deliveries. Or you can buy medium-ish bags from On The Border near COEX for like $7/bag.)
- More adorable jammies (Ian also bought a baby shark sweatshirt)
- Canola oil
- Creamy Jif peanut butter (small jar $5)
- Honey Citron Tea (though we later discovered another brand at Homeplus we like better)
Food we brought with us:
- Nature Valley Granola Bars
- Annie’s Mac & Cheese
- Special K Strawberry Breakfast Bars
- Jif Creamy Peanut Butter
- Welch’s Natural Squeeze Grape Spread
- Goldfish Crackers
- Baking Powder (double acting)
- Nestle Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
- Vanilla extract
Pro Tip: Don’t pack air! Remove the noodles and cheese packet from the box and put into individual ziploc baggies. Remember to write the cooking instructions on the outside of the bag.
Things we wish we would have brought:
- Ramen noodles (plain chicken flavor for the kids- everything here is spicy/ beef/ seafood… not to mention, it was difficult to translate the cooking instructions.)
- Hot hands ($$$ at Homeplus)
- Spices (cumin, chili powder, flaky sea salt)
- Salad dressing (Ranch and Italian)
Things we wanted to buy but couldn’t find:
- Maple Syrup | UPDATE: We found some at the Namdaemun market. Kirkland brand (so also available at Costco here) for about $10 USD for a liter. My kids love these pancakes so we forked over the 12,000 KRW. UPDATE X2: Found some at Homeplus.