|Taro leaves, Taro root, and coconut: the staples of Samoan diet|
As the girls eat breakfast, I sit down and write a list of the basics we need. I can’t menu plan, because you never really know what you will be able to get at the grocery store each week. Some weeks you can get cheese, or chicken breasts, or cabbage, and some weeks you can’t. We are going to the beach tomorrow, so I brainstorm some fun portable snacks. I’m also happy I picked up some cash in town yesterday-- that will save us a trip to the bank, which is a bit out of our way.
The girls are ready fairly fast, and we luckily only wait a few minutes for the bus, which runs right by our front gate. The buses run their routes in a loop, which means there is no set time for buses, but you usually don’t have to wait more then 20 minutes. We luck out again-- for some reason, the buses vary in their route, and I haven’t figured out when or why they sometimes take a different street. Today the bus goes down the street I need, with grocery store #1. Our ride is 10 minutes and the fare costs 1 tala 50 cene (about 60 cents).
|Vendor selling baked breadfruit and taro, and palusami, which is taro leaves baked in coconut cream|
We jaywalk across the busy street because the nearest crosswalk is a few minutes walk down the street. This first store nearly always has cheese in stock at decent prices (and sure enough, later I see the same cheese at a different store for 3 times the price). I also pick up some chips, they have a nice selection. That’s about it for this store today.
A quick dash across the street again and a 5 minute walk later, and we are at grocery store #2. I always get meat here, because their deli section seems the cleanest of all the stores. And by cleanest, I mean on more then one occasion at various other stores, I’ve seen roaches crawl across the meat case. Today I get some pork chops and chicken breasts, and ask them to slice some ham roll. Lunchmeats are fairly impossible to find here, and even though the ham roll resembles spam strongly, it will work for our beach trip tomorrow (Later, unfortunately, I threw it all out because it tasted strongly of chemicals). This store has a fairly good grocery selection, but the prices are ridiculous. 40 tala (around 16 US) for a pound of mushrooms, anyone? The girls are asking for a drink, but better to wait till our next store.
Another 5 minute walk, and we are at the fruit and veggie market. We pick up some oranges and some coconuts. The girls love drinking fresh coconut juice, so that will be fun for tomorrow. I’ve forgotten to bring my backpack, and at this point I’m struggling a bit with all my bags and a kiddo hanging on to each hand. Fortunately our last grocery store stop is right across the street.
This last stop has the best variety and most reasonable prices, so I do the bulk of my bigger purchases here. I’m planning on taking a taxi home, so I don’t have to worry about carrying things. Bread, eggs, flour, rice, some other odds and ends, and the long awaited strawberry milks (the girl’s drink of choice). I wanted some canned beans but didn’t see them in any of the shops, hopefully there will be a restock soon.
|handprinted lava lavas|
There are always taxis outside this store, and we hop in to air-conditioned delight. Our driver today is the typical chatty sort, and I spend the 10 minute ride home making polite sounds of agreement to a conversation I’m not really following while trying to referee 2 little girls who both want to sit in my lap and do not want to sit nicely in their seats. 8 tala for the ride, but I wouldn’t be able to handle everything on the bus so no choice there.
|a vendor making arrangements for a church|
Start to finish, about 2 hours, a pretty successful morning-- not too hot, no rain, no one had to do an emergency potty break :) I usually do a bigger shopping trip once a week, we do have a little village shop down the street if we run out of basics mid week.
For the curious: We spend 60-80 USD a week on groceries, cooking everything mostly from scratch and not eating a ton of meat. People definitely live on less then this, using family farm produce such as taro or bananas and lots of ramen. It’s also possible to spend a lot more then this, if you want imported fruits and vegetables, lots of meat and dairy, and prepackaged anything. Eating out is by far the most expensive activity to do here, so we save that for very special occasions.