Errands in Cape Town

13 Aug

Sometimes, you just have to mention the more routine things in life. 🙂

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Today, I want to share with you the experience of grocery shopping in Cape Town. Many of you may be familiar with my affinity for retail food outlets. Since a very young age, shopping for food has been one of my favorite past times. Being my mother’s daughter, going to the grocery store is so much more than a routine activity; it’s mostly social. Especially when you’re from a small town and know everyone at the local grocery store. I love it so much that I have even been employed in the industry, namely at the Linden Hills Food Cooperative (today, I can’t make a shopping trip into Linden Hills last less than an hour; between my boyfriend and cooking mate, Nate, and I, we literally speak to every person in the store). For the most part, my experiences acquiring vittles here in South Africa has been very similar to that of American grocery stores. On a trip made last weekend, here is what I purchased and how many South African Rand it set me back:

3 Avocadoes

Minestrone Soup Mix

Spinach bag


3 large grapefruit

2 cans of cannellini beans

2 cans of chopped tomatoes

3 cans of kidney beans

Ryvita crackers

Baby zucchini (known as “baby marrow” here)

Cottage cheese

Pkg of tomato paste

12 free-range eggs

2L Low-fat milk

Italian salad mix bag

2 kilograms of cherry tomatoes (for roasting!)

1.5 kilograms Granny Smith Apples

Total: R306.81 or $38.35

Many items are very comparable in price to that in the States. However, now it’s avocado season here in SA, making it possible for me to snag those three delicious avos for ~$.50/piece. Also, since it’s winter here, we’re up to our eyeballs in delicious and affordable citrus. Those grapefruits (which I’m having a total love affair with, BTW) were about $.33 each. Many of the fruits and vegetables happen to be locally grown (depending on the season, of course). A couple of big differences between my shopping experiences in SA and the USA include:

  • If one needs a plastic bag, they must pay somewhere around R.35 or ~ 1 penny per bag. This is totally brilliant. Stores in the US should follow this example. It means that most people bring their own reusable bags to the store. Reducing waste is incentivized!
  • Electricity for your home can be purchased at the register (you must pay cash for it, though). For most houses or apartments, your unit is equipped with a meter for electricity. Instead of paying the electric company at the end of every month for your home’s electricity usage, you pay up-front using a code that will be printed on your receipt from the grocery store (or other retail locations that sell electricity) and typing that code into the aforementioned meter in your house. With this system, one is more conscious of the amount of electricity they are using each day. Because you have already made the investment, the cost of keeping the light on in the bathroom or unused appliances plugged into the wall becomes much more apparent.
  • The lines. I’m always surprised at how long South Africans are willing to wait in the “queue” to pay for their food. Without going into how time is experienced differently here (if you want to read an excellent interpretation, check out my friend, Jeff’s, recent blog installment on the subject), the length that one will happily wait here is leaps and bounds longer than in the US.
  • They sell wine in the stores here, which isn’t entirely different than many states in the US. It certainly doesn’t happen in Minnesota! Not unlike Minnesota, though, one cannot purchase off-sale booze on a Sunday, and sales of liquor at stores ends at 5 pm on Saturdays.
  • Produce is weighed and given a price tag right in the department. So when buying a plethora of pears, you must place them in some sort of container and bring them to a produce associate to have them measured. They place your items on a scale and print out a sticker to place on the container (generally a produce bag). This is supposed to alleviate any confusion at the registers. I think it creates more waste than necessary.

Bon appetit!


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