Expat: finding new family favourites


I have discovered that one of the biggest issues when you move country is finding the ingredients that you are accustomed to using! Some things you can’t get, others are called something different. Others are just well hidden :)

Cooking family favourites becomes tricky. Even simple things like baked beans on toast are not as easy as you might imagine.

The same brand doesn’t necessarily mean the same product…

I have tried every brand of American baked beans, including Heinz, and had the kids turn their noses up at everyone of them (and to be honest, I don’t blame them!). In the end I admitted defeat and I now buy imported UK Heinz Beans for three times the price of the local brand!

Cheese has been an issue too, the 8yo in particular just does not like most American cheese… Cheddar is not cheddar as we know it! And, to be fair, the boys were raised on extra mature; no mild cheddar in our house :)

Sausages! It took me a long time to discover that Bratwurst were the closest I was going to get to a pork sausage; the chicken and turkey sausages that fill the shelves here got a big thumbs down from the boys!

It has been hard work; especially in the early days with children missing friends and family, and craving the familiar; but we have now found alternatives to just about everything, introduced some new foods, and discovered some new family favourites.

Taco Tuesdays are becoming a tradition. Burritos are our favoured take away option. Hot dogs appear on the menu more often… But, so do omelettes as all three kids have decided that eggs are the best thing ever.

Lazy weekend breakfasts of pancakes, fruit and syrup (with added bacon for the meat eaters and scrambled eggs for the veggies), are now the norm.

Extra Sharp American cheddar will now get past the 8yo taste test :)

A fellow expat Scot has found a butcher who will make batches of sausages to a given recipe, so our freezer is now full of ‘proper’ sausages.

I sometimes think the kids will turn into watermelons during the summer.

It may have taken awhile, but finding new family favourites has been an interesting foodie journey, one that we are still on.

I love that we now eat a wider variety of foods (old favourites combined with new creating a far more varied menu). I love that we eat more Mexican food (a favourite of mine) and that the kids eat so much fruit.

I love that breakfast is the meal we are most likely to go to a restaurant for!

But, I still look forward to our trips to the UK so that we can get our fix of chip shop chips :)

Seychelles Mama


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44 thoughts on “Expat: finding new family favourites”

  1. Oh my goodness, I would miss sausages so much! Glad you’ve found a way to get some. I think I’d miss things like Bovril and Marmite too – although maybe you can get those? I think I’d really enjoy the different foods though – we live near lots of US airbases and the American children from school alway have such different foods at their parties!

    1. mumturnedmom

      I have enjoyed discovering new things, and I can get some UK favourites in the world food aisle in our local supermarket :) My husband was very happy to find proper sausages again!

  2. I totally understand what you are saying….we struggle with finding our favorites too. One of the things for us is bacon, they do not do bacon the same here at all. It’s not smoked or cured like it is at home. putting a western meal together here is a bit of a challenge, it requires stops at several store and then it is still often not the same.

    1. mumturnedmom

      I know, you’d think that if it’s the same brand and name, it would be the same. But it’s not!

    1. mumturnedmom

      I can get HP in the world food aisle! Along with baked beans, tomato soup and spotted dick :)

  3. Glad you have managed to find substitutes for most of your favourites and a butcher who will make proper sausages – I would definitely miss those! I’m a big fan of Heinz baked beans too – have tried other brands but they’re just not the same. Hope you’re managing to get your fix of UK food at the moment :-)

  4. I so wanted to make a pork roast with crackling when I was in the US but gave up! We never tried it as we discovered it just before we moved back to UK, but my husband found a British butcher who would express deliver British cuts of meat. For cheese and other delights (I know you’re a vegetarian) I found Wholefoods always had the best selections.

    1. mumturnedmom

      Wholefoods is great for cheese, and so is Trader Joes. That’s where I go to get my nice cheeses :)

  5. My expat experience is of course taking place a lot closer to home than yours, but it has gone through some very interesting developments food-wise. I started off turning my nose up at most British things, from the similar-but-different to the typically British, and importing my own. I didn’t understand why British people always put milk in their tea (were they all children??) or why their butter was always salted. I insisted on sending tea with milk back to my host’s kitchen and asking for “very weak tea with no milk or sugar” and went and bought lots of unsalted butter in the supermarket. All my Dutch favourite foods I had to import and keep a stock of.

    Then slowly I came round. I started seeing British tea not as tea, but an entirely different drink aimed at comfort. I started finding alternatives to my favourite Dutch foods. I even started to change my mind about having a salty edge to my toast with honey.

    And finally, loads of my Dutch favourite foods have started to become available in the UK. Partly thanks to LIDL, partly thanks to Dutch marketing, and finally thanks to the Dutch shop HEMA opening stores in London over the past few months.

    So I resisted, assimilated and was finally rewarded with a sudden availability of the familiar. :)

    1. It’s funny isn’t it, I think tea is a great example. Here in the US they don’t often take milk and so drink their tea weak. I love REALLY strong tea with non-fat milk (so I can’t taste the milk but it takes away the bitterness!). They look at me as if I’m a bit odd when I ask to leave the tea bag in the cup, or ask for two tea bags… :) You are so right when you say that tea (for me) is a drink of comfort. A lot of the butter here in the US is sweet… so I buy imported Kerrygold, nice and salty! I find it so interesting how different our tastes are based on what you were used to as a child.

  6. I love it too that you go out for breakfast, that’s fab! It doesn’t matter how long you live out of your country there will always be things you can’t replace. I always have to have marmite and while in Australia got used to vegemite, it never was quite the same. I think the only time in my 40+ years of expat life that I haven’t had marmite was 1992-96 in Vietnam, it was just toooo hard!

  7. I remember the last time my daughter was in the States. She hated the cheese so badly, as we are mature cheddar lovers in this household too. If only I could get my kids to eat burritos. I could hardly find them in the UK 13 years ago and now there are loads of burrito restaurants. #myexpatlife

  8. This is such a problem for me. I have had to learn to make so many things from scratch (even sausages and sun dried tomatoes)! Sometimes a recipe will call for a number of different ingredients all of which have to be made in advance. Sadly I have never been able to make Kroketjes – Oma never got round to teaching my mother or me. We tried once in Nigeria and it was like deep frying soup! I miss a lot of Dutch food that is just not easily available elsewhere. I have never been able to make a cup of tea that any English person has been happy with, nor have I been able to drink English tea (what is it with the strength and all that milk yeuck – I gave up milk age 7).

    One of the problems with moving so often is that we end up getting used to staples in each country. We got so used to having a bewildering array of different percentage fat sour cream in Kazakhstan that I was rather annoyed to have only one option here in Malaysia as we would have in the UK or much of Europe. I can’t imagine we would be happy with American cheese :(, we have a limited range here in Malaysia but at least we can get Cheddar and Gouda. I miss proper red leicester, pecorino, white stilton and mozzarella though.

    1. It can be really hard, can’t it? Thankfully I haven’t felt the need to make anything entirely from scratch, but I have had to get a little creative at times! I hate milky tea, that’s why I use non-fat milk. Takes away the bitterness but doesn’t taste of milk :) I have discovered places where I can get ‘proper’ cheese now, which has made a huge difference!

  9. I hate the expats that say that missing food is ridiculous and to just get over it, it’s very real, and how can it not be when it’s been such a big part of your lives beforehand! I started Expat Essentials on my blog for that very reason, I just haven’t written one recently, you have reminded me! :D x

    1. Absolutely, missing it doesn’t mean you can’t live without it, it just means that you would quite like to have some it, now :) I love your Expat Essentials series!

    1. Ha! We’ve never gone that far! Bisto gravy granules, HP Sauce… it is funny the things you end up packing :)

  10. Ah yes the joy of American supermarkets… Out here in the Caribbean we have mostly US-imported food and so I recognise all those challenges (especially the cheese!!)

    Out here though we have discovered the fish taco – YUM :)

  11. So funny Sara as I’m the opposite! I import lots of American foods that I just can’t find here in England. Peanut Butter, chocolate chips for baking, maple syrup, Mac n Cheese, American candy (although now you can get a lot of American candy here!), the list goes on. My British born son loves to shop online with me and pick out things he loves or that he wants to try for the first time. And baked beans, I seem to be the only one in the family who does not like them! My British husband is in denial about this as he always puts a spoonful on my plate when he makes Saturday brunch which is more like the English fry up than a brunch. #MyExpatFamily

    1. Oh, I do love baked beans, pretty much lived on them as a student :) I suspect when we move back there are things that I might have to import too… I really have discovered some new favourites here!

  12. I remember when we moved to California and being so surprised at how different food was, everything tasted sweet!!!!
    Coming here to the Seychelles as an adult I’m even more aware of the differences in food, chocolate especially, stuff that says Cadburys DEFINITELY isn’t Cadburys as we know it, it has stabilisers in it and it’s just not good!!!
    Ahhh sausages are a big thing that we miss too…..great that you have a butcher who makes to a specific recipe that’s pretty amazing!!!!
    Thanks for sharing this with #myexpatfamily food is certainly something that has a huge impact in the lives of expats :) always love having you join in lovely! Xx

    1. Oh yes, Cadburys is not Cadburys, but did you hear that they are banning the import of proper Cadburys!?! I still struggle with how sweet everything is, bread, butter!!

  13. I am very similar but just reversed – an American living in the UK! Although I took to the food over here like a fish to water (Sunday roasts with yorkshire puds, yum!!) there are some things that I just miss so much. My mother will send me boxes around the holidays – Easter peeps, candy corn at Halloween. Ahhh love it! Although Asda and Tesco are really leading the way in stocking some American goodies! #myexpatfamily

    1. Ooo, I miss yorkshire puddings :) We can get a lot of UK stuff here, it’s just a little harder to find!

  14. Yes! I hear you! Living in China…. oh my….there are very few ‘normal’ foods as we know them on the supermarket shelves. Thank goodness for the hotel which supplies us with a lot of imported food. Nicole :)

  15. This post made me smile (and feel hungry). Isn’t obsessing over the foods you can and can’t get such a typical expat obsession! Oh the glee when you find a new import shop or, even better in my mind, an ACCEPTABLE substitute.
    Although I think that learning to love local foods and dishes is a very important part of assimilating, there are certain things I will never stop trying to find (or treating myself to on import when I can’t). As time goes by that list has actually become quite pared down, but I still crave Tiptree marmalade and, yes, proper sausages. Despite never having lived in the UK, my toddler asks me to bake crumpets, which makes me happy. I do really wonder what things we’ll all miss most from Italy when we leave, and what will become our new family favourites in Sweden. I can see myself searching high and low for fresh fruit or “proper” mozzarella!

    1. I know, acceptable substitutes really do win for me too :) As does finding a new local dish that you just love! My list of UK must-haves is getting shorter, but it will never disappear completely x

  16. Honestly food accessibility has been one of the harder things to deal with as an expat. I special order more food than I’d care to admit here in Korea. I feel like if I live in another country I should eat like where I live, but there are some things that I just can’t pass up. We make a monthly trip to Costco to buy two huge blocks of cheese because good cheese in local grocers is either really expensive or really bad. On the other hand, we’ve discovered so many delicious foods that we now consider staples that we wouldn’t have if we didn’t live in Korea. Right now our diet is a blend of both worlds.

    1. It’s a mix isn’t it, I know there are US foods that I would now miss too. And, that’s a good thing :)

  17. It’s funny the things people miss. When I lived in Greece another expat told me that she missed Robinsons and would have her Mum fly over with bottles of it! Always made me giggle. But there’s nothing like a bit of home comfort when you’re somewhere different. #MyExpatFamily

    1. Ah, Robinsons! In the US they don’t have ‘squash’, that’s been one of the things we’ve had to find a replacement for :)

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