First grocery trip! And yes, there is cat litter here, but it’s really, really expensive. I’m glad we have our own coming. The grocery store itself is pretty cool, even if everything is a bit pricy (or roughly equivalent to the US). The selection is interesting…we could recognize most of the stuff there, and there were plenty of things to appeal to Americans. There was American style cheese, Pringles, and even Diet Coke. (Well, Coca-Cola Light. Same thing. I think.) There was also a little boulangerie, with crescents, bread, and little pastries. (They also have some kind of “hamburger”, which I plan to try next time.)
One thing that really impressed me was the level of technology in the shop. I didn’t expect someone to calculate our bill with paper or an abacus. But I wasn’t expecting a computer, bar code scanner, and automatic conveyor belt! (I know we didn’t have all of this 10 years ago in Beijing.)
We have also found our favorite AFN channel. AFN Spectrum plays some cooking shows (including Chopped! and Iron Chef America) and even Doctor Who! There are some definite benefits of home we are starting to feel.
So, that was really short, when I wrote it. I’m going to go into more detail about grocery shopping now that I’ve been here longer.
Rule 1 of groceries in Togo: Don’t buy produce at the Supermarket. EVER. The produce is old and gross, and WAY overpriced. Unless you NEED something (like the Teacher and her potatoes), buy strictly from the ladies vending on the street. The price is 1/3 to 1/10 what you pay in the store, the variety is better, and so is the quality.
Rule 2: Don’t buy chicken. We’re used to chicken being the cheap protein of choice here in the states, but it’s not in Togo (despite there being a thousand chickens in the road. I don’t understand it.) I swear, per pound of actual meat, the beef is probably cheaper. Also, bits of feather quill are often still sticking out.
Rule 3: Be prepared to spend US prices on all “convenience” or “prepared” foods. This is especially true of breakfast cereal.
Rule 4: All dairy products are WAY more expensive. Butter in particular is pricey. Also, there is no regular milk, only UHT milk. (Get used to it quick!)
Rule 5: Buy the peanut butter. (I’ve been told you can buy it on the street, but I haven’t seen it yet.) Even if you don’t like peanut butter in the states, get a small jar and try it. It’s very different in so many amazing ways.
Rule 6: Don’t buy the ginger liquor. Just…don’t.
Rule 7: Ham is not the same the world around. You might want to try it before you buy it. Fortunately, the guys at the deli counter (at our local Ramco…) are super helpful and sweet. We avoided something that tasted like rancid spam because he let us try it first.
Remember these, and you’ll do all right.