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Adventures in Grocery Shopping in South Africa

The ins and outs of grocery shopping and eating in South Africa!

I went to two different grocery stores on our last trip to South Africa — Pick N’ Pay and Woolworth’s.

Both we located in local malls in very affluent parts of Pretoria, South Africa. (Yes, they have grocery stores at their local malls! You can not only do your regular shopping, but then also your grocery shopping.)

Both stores are very nice, modern grocery stores — with Woolworth’s being a higher-end grocery store.

Grocery Shopping in South Africa

I’ve been to multiple grocery stores in South Africa on past trips, so this time, it felt a lot more familiar and I had fun going through the aisles and taking pictures of various items that you likely wouldn’t find at a regular grocery store in the US.

(Note: Some of these items are ones that you could find at specialty grocery store in the states or may also be available in other countries, too. But many of these items are very South African! If you are from South Africa, be sure to chime in if anything I share in this post is incorrect!)

Grocery Shopping in South Africa

Biltong is something you see (and are served) a LOT in South Africa. It’s similar to beef jerky, but it tastes very different as it’s often not beef and it’s processed in a much different way. Read more about it here.

Grocery Shopping in South Africa

Boerewors is a type of sausage that is very common when the South Africans have a braai (what we’d call a barbecue or cookout). Here’s more about it:

The name is derived from the Afrikaans words boer (“farmer”) and wors (“sausage”). Boerewors must contain at least 90 percent meat – always containing beef, as well as lamb or pork or a mixture of lamb and pork. The other 10% is made up of spices and other ingredients.

Grocery Shopping in South Africa

Ostrich is something you see very regularly in South Africa and lamb is something they serve a lot of. I don’t know that I’d ever had lamb before going to South Africa and now it’s something our family buys occasionally because we love it so much (unfortunately, it’s a lot more expensive here!)

Grocery Shopping in South Africa

Unlike everything posted above, I haven’t actually eaten these, but I just had to share this picture because, Cow Heels! Have any of you ever seen these at a local US store before?? I certainly haven’t!

Grocery Shopping in South Africa

Chicken feet and chicken beaks are a very common meal — especially in the more rural areas. They call them Walkie-Talkies.

Grocery Shopping in South Africa

Did you know that America is one of the few countries that refrigerates eggs? It’s so weird to see them all sitting out on a shelf like they are loaves of bread… but I’m sure the rest of the world thinks it’s weird that we keep ours in the refrigerator.

You can read this article here for more information on why we wash and refrigerate eggs in the US.

Grocery Shopping in South Africa

Bobotie is a South African dish of minced spiced meat with an egg-based topping. It’s really yummy! Read more about it here. 

Grocery Shopping in South Africa

From Wikipedia:

Rusks is the anglicized term for (Afrikaans: beskuit) and is a traditional Afrikaner breakfast meal or snack. They have been dried in South Africa since the late 1690s as a way of preserving bread, especially when travelling long distances without refrigeration. Their use continued through the Great Trek and the Boer Wars[1] through to the modern day. Rusks are typically dunked in coffee or tea before being eaten.

Grocery Shopping in South Africa

Grocery Shopping in South Africa

Prawn is very common in South Africa — and you’ll even see prawn-flavored items like prawn popcorn!

Grocery Shopping in South Africa

From Wikipedia:

A koeksister is a traditional Afrikaner syrup infused version of a doughnut. The name derives from the Dutch word koekje, the origin of the American english word “cookie”.

Koeksisters are prepared by frying plaited dough rolls in oil, then submersing the fried dough into ice cold sugar syrup. Koeksisters are very sticky and sweet and taste like honey.

They are really yummy but also really, really sweet!

Grocery Shopping in South Africa

Milk Tart (or melktert) is:

Melktert, Afrikaans for “milk tart”, is a South African dessert consisting of a sweet pastry crust containing a creamy filling made from milk, flour, sugar and eggs. The ratio of milk to egg is higher than in a traditional Portuguese custard tart (Pastéis de nata[1]) or Chinese egg tart (dan ta), in which both was influenced by the Portuguese, resulting in a lighter texture and a stronger milk flavour.

Grocery Shopping in South Africa

Malva Pudding is really delicious! From Wikipedia:

Malva pudding is a sweet pudding of Cape Dutch origin. It contains apricot jam and has a spongy caramelized texture. A cream sauce is often poured over it while it is hot, and it is usually served hot with custard and/or ice-cream. Many South African restaurants offer it.

You can check out the Pick n Pay website here and the Woolworth’s website here. The cool thing is that both stores donate their expiring produce to Take Action Ministry and they distribute them to a number of the Centres in the poor areas where food is scarce and there isn’t easy access to grocery stores.

Have you tried any of the food above before? What are some other interesting foods you’ve eaten?

Want to see some interesting foods I tried on my first trip to South Africa? You can read that post and see the pictures here.

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43 Comments

  • Julia says:

    I have not tried any of these, nor do I know much about South Africa, but what a fun post to read. The Milk tart sounds like a chess pie… and I’d love to try some of the food! This post fits right in with MSM too. 🙂

  • I don’t know about other items. But Rusks are something you can find in Indian stores. These are served with Chai (tea). You dip the rusk in the Chai and eat it.

    It’s served as snack in the evenings.

  • Jessica says:

    Just funny reading your post and seeing these pictures. I live in the Netherlands and the Dutch language is similar to Afrikaans.

    The prawn chip things – here it’s called kroepoek and can also be made with cassava. It’s decently effective at clearing your palate after seriously spicy food. But the downfall is they taste like…nothing.

    We can get one of those Knorr mixes (just add meat and fresh veggies) for bobotie – maybe you or Lisa-Jo can let me know how authentic it is!

    When we get shoarma (shawarma? I don’t know how to say it in American), we like the lamb meat. Yummm….

    And eggs at room temperature – normal. 🙂

  • Jenn says:

    We were just in South (we are missionaries in Zambia)! Our bigger groceries are South African, so we have Pik N Pay, Woolworths, and Shop Rite. But we don’t have the variety of items we saw in South Africa or the amazing prices (we are land-locked, so everything is trucked in). My kids love biltong!

  • Nicole Faulkner says:

    Here in the south (NC) you can find chicken feet at the local Piggly Wiggly grocery store ☺

  • Pamela says:

    I love exploring grocery stores! We have a fun place nearby that carries Russian, Middle Eastern, Mexican, and Asian food – and some American stuff too. You can get pretty much anything there, lol! The meat counter alone is a education!

    I was fortunate enough to go to Scotland a few years ago and tried Haggis and Blood Pudding…both were absolutely delicious!! I also went to Russia many years ago and really really enjoyed the cake and pastries I had. The pastries had poppy seeds in them, and the cake was an amazing layered thing with lots of textures going on, and it wasn’t as sweet as what I’m used to here. It was SO good. I love trying new food!!

  • Ju says:

    Cow foot is in most butcher’s cases at US grocery store; they are labeled as Ox Heel or something similar for cooking bone broth. 🙂

  • K says:

    How do you like to fix lamb?

    • Tami says:

      I don’t know about Crystal, but 3/8 in thick pieces, grilled with salt and a squeeze of lemon is the best! I live in a country that eats a ton of lamb–Tunisia.

  • Jen says:

    Thanks for sharing. Fun to learn about all the different foods!

  • Anna says:

    The Dutch also have rusks. It’s a staple in Dutch letters.

  • JoDi says:

    I loved reading about some of the foods you experienced in SA. That malva pudding sounds delicious. I looked up a recipe, and it looks pretty easy to make. I’m going to try it soon!

  • Jennifer B. says:

    I am curious about the pricing. The amounts shown appear high, if thinking of US$. Do you have input on if things you could properly compare with items available in the US are more or less there (other than the lamb, which you mentioned being less expensive there)? Do they coupon there?

    • S. T. says:

      I, too, would love to know about the prices. What would the US prices be?

      • Tera says:

        I came to the comments looking for the answer to that question! Not finding it, I looked it up. One South African rand = 0.072 US dollars (so about 7 cents). So, the koeksister, for instance, would be about $2.16.

        • Natalia says:

          1 USD =
          13.9502ZAR
          US Dollar
          1 USD = 13.9502 ZAR
          ↔South African Rand
          1 ZAR = 0.0716836 USD
          So for us south Africans its a bit pricey, but if you come with dollars its cheap lol

        • Werna says:

          Im from South Africa and loved reading about your experience at our shops. The pricing however is a big thing 🙂 although you would shop like queens here with your dollars for the avarage SA family things are very expensive. PicknPay you will find your avarge jo shop at. Here Woolworths or Woolies as locals call it is reserved more for the higher income families or for a special occasion shop for avarage Jo. Although Woolies food are of exceptional quality they tend to be pricey.

          On the food … Please do yourself a favour and try and make some bobotie it is delicious and addictive. Milktart is an absolute treat and my kids will fight for the right to lick out the pot he he. Nothing goes down better on a cold evening like a big bowl of Malva Pudding with some warm custard. And biltong is a must have for any mom with a teething baby or nibbly little toddlers. There are many ways to make biltong but an easy way is to use a good marbled thick slice of silverside beef, soak it over night in balsamic vinegar salt and pepper in a ziploc, squeeze out excess liquid in the morning and then find a nice airy spot to hang it from till dry (about 4 to 5 days) better to do it in dry seasons when the air is dry and not alot of rainy days…. Hope this will give you some insite

    • Krista says:

      The current exchange rate is about R14 = $1. In general, basic food items are cheaper in South Africa, especially fresh produce & meat. However, inflation has been extreme in the past two years & prices are quickly catching up with the States… There are weekly sale ads, but coupons are very rare! However, most grocery stores now have reward programs… While there is variety in brands of the same product, it is no where near the variety in the States. I actually find it very overwhelming when I visit home! {I’m a US citizen living in South Africa}

    • Annarie says:

      Hallo. Couponing is a recent trend here but it is usually on branded items so the non branded item will usually still cost less.

    • Kim says:

      The exchange rate is $1 to about 13 South African rand. So divide by 13. Food is cheap for Americans traveling there but for the average South African it is pretty pricey – woolies would be considered up market and more expensive then pick n pay.

  • Brighid says:

    I’ve had bobotie in Florida at the Disney World hotel, Animal Kingdom Lodge. If you missed African food, maybe a road trip will be in order for your family. 🙂 And a local farmer sells chicken feet at his farm store. He says that they sell out pretty quickly to people using them to make soup.

  • Samantha says:

    Hi. I am south African born and bred. To answer the couponing question, no we dont get coupons like you do in America.(my sister lives in Florida, Crystal Beach). I must say that the chicken feet i have NEVER eaten(mostly eaten by the very poor people in Africa). I dont like biltong but i do like “droerwors” which is the equivalent of biltong sausage(translated from Afrikaans means dried sausage). ?

    • Jennifer B. says:

      Thanks for addressing my couponing question! c:

    • Natalia Scheepers says:

      The chicken feet are not only eaten by very poor people it is a traditional dish. Like a delicacy if you want to put it like that. We also have tripe and trotters(pig feet) we make in stews and curries. We are a very diverse country with many cultures. I have tasted chicken feet. It was made in a tomato gravy was very tasty,but not something I would go out of my way to buy lol.

  • What a great variety! No, I’ve not tried any of it.

    Mutton I’ve had in Albania, and there is quite a bit of interesting food in Central Asia where I was born. Israel has some scrumptious food such as falafel and endless varieties of fruits and vegetables.

  • Aimee says:

    This was such a fun post to read – I love the pictures! I feel like I’ve had a little taste of Africa. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Jennifer says:

    We had fun doing this when we lived in Germany! They don’t refrigerate eggs either and many other things that we do. At first it freaks you out but after awhile it just becomes normal.

  • Keelie says:

    It is interesting that we refrigerate our eggs. When you raise chickens, you realize those eggs get left out there for who knows how long before you find them. It is really amazing the things we have adopted for whatever reason.

  • Tami says:

    One of my 2 closest friends when I had my first baby was South African. She had a baby girl a little older than my son, and I remember looking online (at the then sparse internet) and finding recipes for egg-free rusks. She explained that they were always given to older babies who were teething.

  • Rose Baker says:

    We were recently in Pretoria for 3 1/2 weeks- during their cold spell. It was freezing!
    I bought several packages og Bobotie mix to bring home, and also rusk. I will be making Bobotie from scratch soon. Their Rooibus tea was a popular gift given for us to bring home. We also bought bags of Sabie River coffee that our family enjoyed.

  • Darla says:

    Having lived in East Africa our food choices were different but it’s probably similar in that only a very small percentage can afford to shop in modern grocery stores. Would b interesting to see a post on what the “average” South African eats and the markets and little shops they buy from.

  • Lisa says:

    I’ve tried several when I lived in Malawi–everything came from S.A. I miss Brai spice for barbecuing meat.

  • Fran says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post. I may be spending two months in South Africa this fall and articles like this are so helpful in figuring out what I am getting myself into.

  • Gretchen says:

    Washing eggs removes the protective membrane that keeps bacteria out of the egg. When we had hens, I never washed them unless they were very soiled, but even then e coli can be “pushed” into the egg if you have to scrub too hard. Heavy soiling can be avoided most of the time by making sure straw in nests is replaced at least once a day, and eggs are collected multiple times a day. This can be a little tough on rainy days when hens jump up in nests with muddy feet! (These are outdoor chickens, of course.) Oh, and eggs last a lot longer when NOT washed.

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