The Person Behind The Posts

Friday, November 05, 2010

Kraft and Hershey's vs. Osem and Elite

People often ask me what consumer goods they should stock up on to put on their lift.  I have my own opinions, of course, but I thought it would be instructive to ask others what they think, so I posted the question on Facebook and a few lists that olim from America read and I was flooded with responses. 

Here are the questions I asked:
  • If you made aliyah from America recently, what consumer goods did you bring with you on your lift?  
  • What did you not bring but wish you had brought?  
  • What did you bring but found was unnecessary?
  • If you've been in Israel awhile, I'd like to know what you still stock up on when you visit the US.
To make the analysis (ha! a more scientific sounding word than what I actually did with the results) more manageable, I'm limiting this discussion to consumable goods, such as food and household products, as opposed to hard goods like furniture and appliances.

It turns out there are strong feelings associated with even asking these questions.  Some people feel that it's important to wean oneself away from American products as soon as possible:

"I made up my mind before I came that I was going to live here totally, not pine for what I left behind."

"besides a few spices here and there, i really don't see the point in bringing over food items... i've either modified or dropped most of my fav recipes-- and added a ton of new ones. you will get used to the tuna...and if not, you'll live! pasta is no diff here and can be cheap on sale. same w/ most other things...and if not, you don't eat it!"

"There's a fine line between being comfortable and feeling at home, and really TRYING to bring Target with you every chance you get." 

Others feel just as strongly that there's no harm in continuing to use American products either because they are significantly cheaper, of superior quality or simply not available here.  In the absence of mega-stores like WalMart and Target, perhaps many olim simply haven't learned where to buy the things they need.  As we learn more about which brands to buy and which stores carry which items, our list of "must-haves" will likely decrease.

One point that I thought was especially well-made was that, the longer you live in Israel, the shorter your list of "must-have" American products should be.  When I asked vatikim (long-term residents), their lists were indeed much shorter.

In my highly unscientific survey, certain items came up again and again.  I've categorized the items mentioned most often into a few lists.  For your amusement, I appended the list of 60+ other items that were mentioned at least once to the end of this post.

Items available in Israel but are expensive and/or of different (often inferior) quality:
American cheese
Children’s books in English
Cotton swabs (True confession: I made aliyah with a lifetime supply of Q-Tips :-)
Cosmetics (make-up)
Double-sided tape
Foil - pre-cut foil, heavy duty foil and heavy foil pans
Games and toys
Kitchen garbage bags
Linens - sheets, towels and blankets
Onion powder
Paper goods (especially paper plates and paper towels)
Sewing patterns
Shoes and sneakers - especially narrow widths
Underwear and socks
Vanilla - the real stuff
White tuna
Zip-lock bags

Items that are not (yet) available in Israel:
Crystal light
Hot cocoa mix/hot chocolate
Candy (especially M&M's, Reese's, Hershey's, Jelly Belly) 
Condensed cream of mushroom soup
Salad dressing mixes, especially ranch, Good Seasons and Pfeiffer's Italian dressing
Spices:  Mrs. Dash, taco seasoning, chili seasoning, chili powder, garlic salt, celery seed, dried sage, Lawry’s season salt, pumpkin pie spice, cream of tartar, poultry seasoning, dried onion, Italian seasoning mix
Stain removers - especially Zout, Shout and Spray & Wash 
Wilton cake decorating items

Items people miss that can’t be imported:
Fake crab
Kosher Chinese (Despite what I have heard again and again, I've never had "real" Cantonese kosher Chinese food in Israel.  Generic Asian food doesn't count.)
Lactaid milk

If you're still reading, here's the whole list, in no particular order, of items that were mentioned by at least one person:

cans of pie filling 
Centrum vitamins 
large size Tums and Maalox
a lot of sewing  accessories
Kedem grape juice
10-pound bag of pancake mix
decaffeinated cold brew tea
Neutrogena face wash 
baking powder
coffee beans
coffee filters
instant coffee
Pam baking spray 
Schick Intuition razors
Swiffer wet jet liquid 
Starbucks coffee
macrobiotic foods
Tom’s deodorants and toothpastes
maple syrup
Croydon House Matzo Ball and Soup Mix
Barkeeper's Friend
lamb chops
Nail Strengthener
ink cartridges
decaffeinated black tea bags
LaChoy soy sauce
soft corn tortillas
egg roll wrappers 
Morningstar farms bacon and sausages
Baker's Chocolate - 100% cacao with NO added sugar
canned salmon 
dried mango slices
Scotchbrite scrubbing pads
Luna bars
Jif peanut butter
instant hot cereal
brown sugar 
chocolate chips
drink mixes for kids, especially Kool Aid
"Red Hot" hot pepper sauce
cake mixes in flavors you can't buy here
three ring looseleaf stuff
manila envelopes
cat treats 
blank greeting cards
lip balm
Thomas' English muffins
almond milk
feminine hygiene products
Planter's peanuts
Rubbermaid stacking ice cube trays
mechanical pencils
white out
sticky notes
favorite brands of pens
saran wrap
paper lunch bags
duct tape
facial soap
acne cream
Mr. Eraser
Clorox wipes 
dryer sheets
contact lens solution

And finally, a story from Bracha Osofsky about importing consumer goods.

There was a time 2 years ago when we had one friend visiting from the U.S. and another visiting from England, and my neighbor's mother was also visiting from the U.S.  The American friend had brought a sliced Miller's American cheese from NY for her daughter, the British friend had brought kosher cheese from England for Nahum and the neighbor's mother was buying Israeli cheese to take home with her. We find that the same thing happens with chocolate - Elite, Hershey's and Cadbury all circle the Jewish world at once!


Bracha said...

Kol hakavod on this very thorough study! As someone who has been buying Colgate and Aquafresh toothbrushes (usually on very good sale!), bandaids, baking powder, cotton swabs, foil pans, Pam and even good quality towels (often made for U.S. labels)here for many years, I'd be happy to provide shopping advice for anyone who has been unable to find these items. Also - some Wilton cake decorating products are available at Shigaon shel Shulchan and Chad Paamit (I think that's what it's called) and there's also a woman who gives their courses and sells their products in J-m. more expensive, yes, but definitely available. One more thing - it takes a while to go through cream-of-mushroom soup withdrawal, but you'll eventually realize that you can live a normal and productive life without it. Meanwhile, try mixing some Osem mushroom soup powder with leben or gvina levana and use that in your recipes that call for cans of the stuff.

L'Shmoah said...

I have often wondered what would I stock up on and take with me if/when I make aliyah. I have heard many people comment on this type of thing. The items that I use fairly often and that I see are both VERY expensive AND of inferior quality in Israel are paper goods. Tissues, toilet paper, paper towels, paper/plastic plates, utensils, napkins, cups, bowls etc. Also foil, plastic baggies, garbage bags, and plastic wrap. And foil tins for baking in. And band aids. This is all just based on my experience VISITING Israel -- my late husband and I used to rent an apt each time we went, and I did shopping in Israel. My kids who live in Israel also like to buy a bunch of foodstuffs here when they come to visit and bring back with them (pretzels, cereals, cheeses, mock crab, to name a few.) Every time I go to Israel I usually bring hard cheeses, mock crab, gefilte fish, meat, and some non perishables. I freeze the other stuff, put them into several insulated packs and put the packs into the center of each of my suitcases. They remain frozen and are still frozen by the time I arrive. The kids are always so appreciative. But looking at all these lists it is obvious that nothing is NECESSARY. We can live pretty good lives in Israel without these conveniences...

Batya said...

Nowadays, there's no reason to fill the very reduced baggage allowance with foreign products. Bracha is right. Those who think they need to bring tissues, toothbrushes etc have no idea of what's available here. Forty years ago when we made aliyah the situation was different, but in principle I was perfectly happy with most Israeli products. Then American baby clothes were better, but today as a grandmother I find the best stuff here in Israel on sale.

Anonymous said...

Hersheys and Reeses? You can't find them? The makolet up the street has a shelf full of them.

Anonymous said...

43 years ago people even brought toilet paper and sanitary napkins (in quantity!) When I was packing my mother was helping me and I wondered if I should bring sanitary napkins in bulk. She said: "If you're serious about spending your life there then just think about it this way, half the population there must be women, go there, see what they do and do it too." Advice that has stood me in good stead.

Judy Rebacz said...

The makolet in Mitzpe Nevo has Hershey's kisses from time to time and many things on your list of not available are in fact widely available. Pam is in all supermarkets in a variety of flavors. Kedem grape juice, maple syrup and more of the things mentioned are all available, you just have to know where to shop. Many are in regular supermarkets that have a large Anglo clientele. By posting on various list-serves, people are able to find almost anything but it does come at a price since most of these things are imported and therefore more expensive.
Judy Rebacz

Anonymous said...

Items available in Israel but are expensive

Mouthwash/mouthrinse. about 50 NIS here, at walmart et al about $2.50

Anonymous said...

They sell an Israeli brand at Mr. Zol of cream of is written in Hebrew, of course, cream of tartar, so it is easy to find.
Cream of mushroom soup they sell at the makolet in Mitzpe Nevo.
I always have someone in the states send me Motrin from Costco, a huge difference in price.
Could someone please open a Costco here?

Anonymous said...

Very interesting study, but after 30 years in Israel I find there is not a thing not available - i.e bandaids -- all four children were able to cover thier cuts with "PLASTER", any spice is a million times better here - in fact my mother brings spices from here to states. There is real vanilla here in baking supply stores in the shuk and Mea Shaarim, there are q-tips and cotton swabs and advil (ibuprphen, foil, kitchen bags, Hot choclalte mix is cocoa and sugar with milk- the real thing, salad dressing can be made from scratch much healthier. I am surpised by items such as M & Ms or Jif peanut butter etc... all available the supermarket not like 30 years ago when it was not here at all. Yes, I agree there is more of a selection of wide shoes or narrow shoes or petite clothes but most of the list of items people mentioned are all available here and all the processed or ready made items are not as healthy anyways. For exmaple zip-loc bags are better in the US but one can live without them too. Since we do not live in a third-world country 100% of these products or their local equivalents can be bought. I go back to the states with no list at all anymore. I was there in 9/10 and brought back 2 ipods as gifts from the grandparents - that's it. Enjoy life in Israel! Your kids will all grow healthy and happy with products availble here.

Unknown said...

Great idea for a post! I am going to America soon and am compiling my list of stuff to bring back as one does. Here are some of my suggestions:

Ziplocs (good ones) are available FREE at Eden Teva Market.

I must agree that spices are better here, give up the stuff from America.

Many things you can order on websites these days and have them shipped over for really cheap.

Having just had my first baby - strollers are worth bringing over. Same with cloth diapers (we use bumgenius) and lots of other baby equipment. Also maternity clothes are much better over in America.
Nutritional supplements are better quality and cheaper in America.

Machines - we got a soyapower plus machine to make our own soy/rice/almond milk for really cheap. Also - we brought over a solar/electric hybrid oven. Kitchen appliances are cheaper there too (just need a converter)

Junk food is more vast and tastier in America (but we can live healthier lives without it right?)

Bottom line - I would rather live in Israel!

Ester said...

We made aliyah recently, and I did bring some food items on my lift - seattle's best organic coffee, peanut butter & co's Dark Chocolate Dreams... but I opted not to send too much food on the lift. But my in laws just came and they brought us some items we were missing that we haven't found - namely organic honey nut o's and soynut butter (anyone sell that ANYWHERE here? please let me know!)... they brought other items as well - like Trader Joe's chocolate chips, real vanilla w/o HFCS, and organic powdered milk. We are still looking for local sources for soynut butter, aluminum-free baking powder, all natural chocolate (no artificial vanillin!), organic whole wheat pastry flour (also known as organic whole wheat spring wheat flour) and powdered organic fat free milk... Please let me know if there's somewhere to buy these things here! We're still figuring it all out...

Helen Oster said...

ALL of the following are available in Zichron Ya'acov:

Jelly Belly
cream of tartar
cans of pie filling - (pumpkin, blueberry)
Kedem grape juice
baking powder
coffee beans
coffee filters
instant coffee
Pam baking spray
maple syrup
lamb chops
ink cartridges
soft corn tortillas
canned salmon
dried mango slices
Scotchbrite scrubbing pads
instant hot cereal
brown sugar
chocolate chips
"Red Hot" hot pepper sauce
cat treats
blank greeting cards
lip balm
feminine hygiene products
mechanical pencils
white out
sticky notes
paper lunch bags
duct tape
facial soap
dryer sheets
contact lens solution

You can also find a huge range of 'Dirty chips' (including salt & vinegar); Cadburys chocolate and Cadburys drinking chocolate; evaporated milk; cranberry sauce - and many more items that it is often reported aren't availible in Israel

BTW the Ziplock bags in Ikea are excellent - and they are available in green, blue, yellow & red!

Yonina said...

Great list. I would add that if your kids like to take little packets of ketchup to school to use on their lunch,then pick up a few thousands of those from Costco.

Bracha said...

Our makolet sells little ketchup packets. I think that Gindi - the paper goods store in the Klal building in J-m - sells them as well.

Anonymous said...

After, B"H, 6 years here, our family's desire for chutz"l products has decreased. In the 1st year, I placed high priority on making my kids feel [1] at home when at home but also [2] as supportive as possible in their klitah. So whatever US nosh they loved we provided. Only Jif PB & Hershey's natural cocoa was impossible to find here, so those we always stocked up on. And whatever tutoring they needed, we arranged. Our home is always open to all their friends. etc.
Now there are only a few items we bring: OLD BAY seasoning!!!! Any Balt. olim will understand. OLD BAY is essential to cooking. Real vanilla extract - as a baker, I go through at least 2 liters a year, really. But even in the US this is getting pricey. Many over the counter cold meds, aspirin and similar, antibiotic ointments.
Rochelle Eissenstat

Baila said...

You can get anything here. But it is much more expensive. On my recent trip to chu"l, I stocked up on: make-up and facial cream (outrageous here), 100-calorie snacks, good quality clothing and shoes (I expect them to arrive here anyday), and a few other things. But I was careful not to go beyond the weight limit, because if you're going to pay an exorbitant amount in overweight fees, then you've wiped out any savings you have made.

Dena said...

Onion powder and dried onion is definitely available in every corner of Israel, now... but your shopkeeper may not know you want it. Pam Spray or equivalent, taco powder, hot cocoa, same. If they have it in Tsfat, it's everywhere.
We spent 4 years in Israel, returned this summer to the US, and it's amazing how our food habits change. We bought hummus 2 weeks ago and haven't yet opened it! It was a daily food for us in Israel!

Anonymous said...

Disposable products are not good for the environment-try NOT to use plastic and paper one time use goods.
Real vanilla is VERY easy to make at home-buy a vanilla bean at your local health food store (Duvdevan here in Efrat) and look up the recipe on the internet; importing goods (as is done with many products) is also not good for the environment, so try to use local goods.

Anonymous said...

To all those who miss vanilla -- make your own!!!! SOOO easy and cheap -- buy a bottle of cheap vodka, 2 vanilla beans. cut the beans lengthwise, stick in the vanilla and 3 months later you will have more vanilla then you need. Keep refilling the vodka, as those beans will flavor about 4 bottles over time.

Cloth diapers and disosable hygine products are becoming more popular here -- find them online.

Strollers are more expensive, but if you buy a stroller in the states and it breaks, you're out of

Anonymous said...

We made aliyah 4 years ago and its not true that you will forget the things that were good back home and just get used to the Israeli version. Mind you we came from Canada and not the US. If any oleh tells you that you can find the equivalent product to the west for a better price more often than not they have no clue what they are talking about. Yes you can by crappy Israeli cotton swabs here but Q-tips are way better and those with small children will know what I am talking about. We also made aliyah with a lifetime supply. Other things the kids miss: muenster and marble cheese, liquid nestle quick and kosher turkey bacon that kids love with eggs. If you got used to buying kosher baby food in bottles your variety in Israel will now be apples or pears-forget chicken or pasta. Diapers? ridiculously expensive here-boxes of 108 pampers diapers that were 20$ in Canada are 65NIS here for a bag of ~30. Pasta sauce (israelis here think your a brat if you buy bottles of pasta sauce, they say make your own) is 15-20NIS a bottle for something decent, used to be a dollar in Canada on sale. Maybe someone can explain this here-how it is possible that Israeli chocolate is cheaper in toronto (99 cents at no frills) when it is almost up to 10NIS here? As for things like keddem grape juice and manishewitz products-only the poorest of the poor show up time to time in Israel and at quadruple the cost, for the stuff you would not have ever bought in the west. Baby powder 3$ in the west almost 60 NIS here (big JNJ bottle). Listerine original mouthwash 60NIS here, 5 bucks back in the west. I figure another 60-100 years and Israel will catch up to the west (US/CANADA) in terms of products and availability. Oh and there is no such thing as good kosher chinese food in Israel no matter what anyone says.

Eric said...

For all the people who go to the trouble of buying Advil/Motrin in the States, I go to my local Kupah Pharmacy and buy a box of 50 Ibuprofen tablets (generic name for Advil/Motrin) for 9 shekels. If you buy it in the local SuperPharm you will pay 4 times the price. Once we learned that the Kupah pharmacy sells things at heavily discounted prices, we were able to stop asking family and friends to bring us drug items.

It is hard to believe that people still ask family/friends to shlep cheese from the States. Every supermarket here has an enormous variety of high-quality cheeses of every type and from every country. There is absolutely no problem getting high-quality English Cheddar, or Mozarella, or genuine Swiss Emmenthal, or quality French cheeses, or high-quality Israeli made cheese. With this huge variety of 100% kosher mehadrin cheese available in every supermarket, it is completely amazing to me that people still want to eat that artificial processed Millers stuff.

Is the problem here that people have a language problem and are afraid to ask questions and/or experiment with new things?

That said, we do order vitamins and other health-related items from in California. The prices are so much cheaper, we have ordered from them many. many times, the shipping fee is a flat $4.00 and the boxes arrive within 7-10 days. We follow their recommendations and keep each order under 4 pounds and under $80, and each package has arrived quickly and never been stopped at customs and never had any duties or taxes added.

Finally, what L'Shmoah said above is definitely 20 years in the past. Everything mentioned in that post is just no longer true. She admits that her experience is from just visiting here. When you live here, you discover that you can get 98% of what you want, and it is fine quality.

Bat Aliyah said...


Your tip about generic Ibuprofen at the kupah pharmacy is helpful. Thanks for that. Have to check it out.

I recently found out cheddar was available at my local grocery store. I priced it and decided not to buy. At 90NIS/Kg, that's like $12/pound. SO there's a difference between "available here" and "worth buying here".

Unknown said...

In looking over the list of items not available and not found I am happ to say that Efrat, in the Dekel you can get many of the items mentioned
Crisco - in the can
Shoprite Cream of Mushroom and Tomato condensed soups
Canned pie fillings - Apple, bluberry, cherry
Kedem Grape Juice
Melita coffee filters
Pam spray
Kens Salad dressings
Woeblers Horseradish in many flavors
LaChoy Soy Sauce

Anonymous said...

We need your opinion, should we spend $10,000 to $12,000usd to bring our clothes, sheets, blankets, lamps, a couple of small pieces of furniture or buy it in Israel? I know from experience that selling second hand items get hardly anything for it. Toda rabbah

Bat Aliyah said...

It shouldn't cost that kind of money to ship what you've described. Have you gotten actual estimates from 3 different shipping companies? What you're describing sounds like much less than a 20' container. It's true that selling things second hand, especially minor household items that you've described, won't generate much income. On the other hand, you'll have thousands to spend buying all new stuff and still come out ahead.

We brought almost all our clothes on the aliyah flight. Some stuff that you want to bring to Israel can be shipped in alternate ways - through freight companies, by sharing a lift with someone else, through US mail perhaps. It's worth looking at options for things you really love. But if you don't have major furniture, heirloom items, American mattresses and stuff you really love, I can't recommend spending that kind of money. That's my opinion. You might want to ask others on the NBN list.