Thursday, February 16, 2012

Things to stock up on

***updated list, thanks to comments!**
First, I must preface this list with wise words that my sister gave me.  Before we made the move to Brazil, she said that we should think about one thing that will make us feel at home, no matter where we are.  That is the thing that you have to make sure that you pack/stock up on/bring with you.  My husband always says that having art on the walls makes him feel at home, so we brought some nice unframed canvases with us.  It only took us a year and a half to get them up on our walls, but having these made our place seem like home to my husband.  For me, it was the French Press and a big coffee mug.  I'm not as particular about my coffee as my sister (or my husband for that matter), but having a the ability to make coffee the way I like, and a nice big mug to drink it out of made me feel at home.  So for all of you out there thinking about making the plunge to another country, I advise you to think this one over, and plan.

Now, here is the list of things that we stock up when we go to the states.  Some of the items are a bit random and specific to our professions, but I'm putting it all out there for you to get an idea.

1.  Shoes.  We buy shoes that fit the kids now, and shoes that they will grow into.  Tennis shoes, dress shoes, crocs, sandals, rain boots... you think you'll want it, buy it and bring it.

2.  Clothes.  I don't care so much about brands/names.  Heck, I spent probably close to USD $200 just at Goodwill (have I mentioned how much I LOVE Goodwill?)  But I bought lots, and lots, and lots of clothes.  Jeans, shirts, socks, underwear, baseball hats, jackets and on and on. 

3.  Chili powder.  If you like to make Mexican food, bring Chili powder.  You can get it here, but it's pricey.  I like to make Enchilada sauce.

4.  Cardamom (pods or ground).  Again, you can find it here, but it's CRAZY expensive.  Oh, and red and/or yellow lentils to make Indian Daal.  Can't find them here.

5.  Razors.  Expensive here. 

6.  Make Up.  I don't wear much, but it's so much easier and cheaper to get in the states.  You can usually find it on sale in the states (again, I'm a Target/Walgreens kinda girl), and the cheap USD$5 pressed powder is much better quality than the R$20 stuff sold at O Boticário.  Or you can splurge and buy Lancome and get all those free samples;  those kind of promotions never happen in Brazil.  At least as far as I've seen.

7.  Pencil sharpeners and pencils.  I don't know why this has annoyed me so much, but I've had a heck of a time with Brazilian pencils and sharpeners.  The lead always breaks, or the pencil sharpener breaks, or just does a crappy job.  I saw an electric pencil sharpener that would normally sell for about USD $35 here at Kalunga for R$150. 

8.  Tupperware.  Plastic storage pieces are crazy pricey in Brazil.

9.  Materials in English.  I have a daughter who can read a book a day if given the opportunity.  We bought a kindle, but I always try to bring back some books for her.  I hit up Goodwill and get the Newberry Classics or other award-winners.  I also bring back curriculum for work, teaching materials, and my husband brings back sheet music.  He claims you can't buy classical sheet music in Brazil.

10.  Pipe cleaners.  They don't exist here.  Handy for little kid crafts.

11.  Toys.  I bought all the kid's birthday presents, extra presents to give, puzzles, markers, and games.  Worth every cent.  Especially since I got after-Christmas sale prices.

12.  Backpacks and lunch boxes.  Found some on clearance in the States.  Waayy over priced here.

13.  Chocolate chips.  My husband makes really REALLY good cookies.  They sell something that looks like a chocolate chip here, but it's not real chocolate.  So we buy several bags in the states.

14.  Maple Syrup extract.  Rather than take up extra space in our luggage, I just buy the extract and make my own syrup.  But then again, I am that kind of person. 

15.  Ziploc bags.  I don't think I've seen them here, and Americans kinda like them.  I'm so thrifty that I wash mine and reuse them.  But then again I was already doing that in the states...

16. Peanut butter.  You can find it now (Verdemar, my hubby has seen Peter Pan brand for R$12, and I think last year he bought a jar of Skippy for R$20.  But it's not always there). 

That's all I have time for now.  Am I missing anything, fellow expats?


  1. Shelley,

    I would add ziploc bags, peanut butter, and my new favorite - oxyclean gel. I also sneak in corn tortillas (or Masa Harina) and cheese when I can.

  2. Fascinating! When my sister lived in Saudi Arabia in the 80s, she always took ranch dressing packets back to Saudi in her luggage!

  3. I learned the chocolate chip thing the hard way. I brought cookies the last time I visited and they ended up pulverized in my luggage. The good news was it was summer so the Brazilians (they're so smart about this sort of thing) just tossed them in a bowl on Christmas day and served them as ice cream topping and loved every bite! That said I decided to make cookies and looked EVERYWHERE for chocolate chips. We ended up having to buy chocolate bars and chop them by hand!

    In the food department when I visit Brazil I bring chocolate chips, mild salsa, tortillas, tortilla chips, red licorice, graham crackers (smores and pie crust) and marshmallows (for rocky road and smores). I also bring anything and everything Trader Joe's. I got my Brazilian friend addicted to TJ's when she was living in the states, she practically cries when she opens her boxes I send periodically stuffed with all of the above (except chocolate).

    I may not live abroad but I spent 5 weeks in Brazil on my last visit and definitely brought a few necessities with me to keep me sane. There's a lot of unintentional isolation when you don't speak the language. I find bringing movies to share was good fun and some DVDs in the states even have Portuguese subtitles. Also books. I brought some Dr. Seuss books because my friend really wanted copies in English. They were a huge hit with everyone at the family Christmas part because even the non-English speakers knew enough English to read them decently well. I am blessed that they have a ton of sebos in Londrina so I can pick up used books in English for like R$8-20 (I grabbed a copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends in English for dirt cheap and shared the poems to everyone's delight).

    The last thing I brought was a record player. This is something I enjoy and they liked as well. I can spend $80 on a new cheap Sony deck and make them happy. I feel like there are very few things as wonderful as sharing music since it's so universal. We busted out some old LPs and had a wonderful time. The sebos have huge amounts of LPs for sale as well so there's still plenty to buy down there and new stuff to buy/send from here in the U.S.

    Okay last thing (sorry to make this post so long)! Totally agree about toys. I was SHOCKED at the price of toys in Brazil. It breaks my heart. My last visit I brought a whole suitcase filled with My Little Ponies. I was once a collector and decided to downgrade the herd. I took a ton of them to a local orphanage and shared the rest with my friend's family and everyone was so thankful for such wonderful little toys.

    I think you are right on with your selections. Native language materials, clothing, food, music-related, the others are eyeopeners for me. I'll keep that in mind on my next visit! Oh! I know one! Sunscreen!! When I was in Balneário Cambriu it was like R$30 for the cheap stuff! Shampoo, conditioner, and soap were a big one for me as well. (I can't do sulfates and I love my Doc Bronner's peppermint soap).

  4. Corinne--will update! Lisa--I was going to bring ranch packets, but I forgot. But just yesterday I was looking at Ranch dressing recipes on

    Molly--thanks for sharing. I've figured out how to make salsa (thank God!), and I have brought back red licorice and marshmallows in the past. And we did buy one bottle of sunscreen; it's gotten easier to find sunscreen, and the prices are still high, but manageable. What are sebos? I totally wish I would have stocked up on more toys....but we had to live within our dollar budget :-)