A History of Shopping

Grocery shopping. We all do it, whether we enjoy it or not. But have you thought much about how it used to be before we had grocery stores and name brands to turn to? The Kruideniers Museum, in a little area just behind ‘t Hoogt cinema near Neude, takes visitors back to the early days of grocery stores. The museum is actually a shop on the ground floor, where you can buy various drop, mints, candies and household goods carefully weighed out in the traditional way. Upstairs, in the 17th century building, is a small area set up to show some of the early packaging, displays and measurements first used in these kinds of shops.

The museum is known also as Betje Boerhave, in honor of the 19th century grocery woman whose notes and diaries have provided much of the historical information for the museum. The museum receives no subsidy and runs on donations and the profits from the candy and goods sold in the shop. Admission is free, and the volunteers who keep the museum running are very friendly and obviously care about the museum.


It’s definitely worth a visit, if for no other reason than to take a look at some of the early packaging of products you may well remember from childhood, or even products that you still buy today. The Droste cacao display I posted Friday is just one of the many interesting and attractive product displays set up. It was fun to see ones that I recognize even from America, along with brands that I’ve come to know since moving here, including Hema and Maggi.


Quaker Oats



One of the unintentionally funny — and scary — displays was this advertising poster for syrup.
Scary Syrup


19 thoughts on “A History of Shopping

  1. I’ve been to an open air museum (the name of the place escapes me at the moment) where they had the first Albert Hijn. They had actually moved the building to this place. It was tiny.

  2. Love their little shop, you can buy old-fashioned “stroopsoldaatjes” (“little syrup soldiers”) there, I love them. The poster-girl is quite creepy though, it says “Canisius Syrup, tasty and fine, should be on your table too”. Hope you didn’t get Exorcist Girl with it… šŸ™‚

  3. Don’t get those 3 red cans though, they say “lettuce”, “turnip” and “syrup”, but how does lettuce or turnip come out of a little tap? Don’t suppose they mean salad dressings? That seems a bit fancy for those days…

    • haha that is funny: sla means lettuce but not in this case! Here it is short for ‘slaolie’ which in turn was short for ‘geslagen olie’ and it means beaten (or crushed) oil. Which was done in (wind)mills. It was the cheapest kind of vegetable oil for use in the kitchen. Raap is short for ‘raapolie’ a little fancier but also used for baking.

      • I did wonder if they meant slaolie, but I didn’t know about the raapolie. That one definitely left me scratching my head when I first translated it!

  4. Definitely worth a visit. So many interesting things to see. There is even a bar of soap with the logo for this blog – Flamingo šŸ™‚
    So many brands I know from back home and so many others that we still get here these days.
    I don’t get the three red cans either… ?

    • Obviously, I couldn’t resist a few photos of the Flamingo soap. šŸ˜‰ They have some beautiful tins on display, too, which I was coveting.

  5. Superb finding and great read! Will definetely try to visit this museum this spring/summer.

    Thanks for sharing,
    (lifeinamsterdam.com author)

  6. Wow that is lovely, It’s a little gem I have never visited even though I’ve lived here for over 10 years now. I will definitely visit it now. the syrup girl is intensely scary, what were the PR guys thinking when they made that poster LOL. Thanks once again for discovering a part of my hometown I’d never seen. I have said so once before I think, but one of the great things about this blog is that I get to look at my beloved city through fresh foreign eyes that discover things I never knew were there. Isn’t it cool how an emigrant to my city can show a native like me so much cool stuff about my own cuty?

    • I thought I was the last to know about this little museum! Toerisme Utrecht really should hire me! šŸ™‚ Actually, I found out about the museum by looking through some photos one of my neighbours had taken and posted on the Utrecht Flickr group. He always visits lots of interesting places around town. The museum really is tiny, but it’s fun and interesting and everyone there is very friendly.

  7. This must be such a lovely and very interesting place to visit.

    The quaint style of packaging in these products is what manufacturers nowadays are paying through the nose to achieve, hahaha.

  8. I so love your blog, Alison!

    Just being reminded of these places here on my Austin couch is such a treat. So the Betje Boerhave Museum is till there, and it seems greatly expanded since I went there with my grandfather as a kid.

    Looks great.

    • Awww! I’m glad I can give you a bit of nostalgia. I was thinking that I should find an expat blog of someone living in Orlando, but I doubt there’d be much left now that I’d remember and recognize, unfortunately.

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