Shopping in French – Adapt or die 😋
Since moving to our rock, the weekly food-shop has sure become more of a challenge as not only are the options for what was once familiar now very limited but most of the packaging in the shops sports French descriptions and directions. Knowing this from previous visits I was not too bummed out until what was previously a once off adventure now became a weekly slog to figure out exactly what it is I am buying. 😉
A plan of action had to be devised! Step one when arriving on the island for your permanent stay…..Download the Google Translate app as it has different options for translation and will definitely help you ascertain what the hell it is you are putting in your trolley! 🛒😂https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.apps.translate&hl=en_US
I am most certainly not addicted to reading labels in the shops as I’ve always found it way too much trouble and I mostly always bought as much fresh produce as possible and meat accompanied by pastas, cous-cous and here and there some tinned products like pilchards, tuna or tomatoes to cook pasta. We are now definitely veering towards a tad more exotic choice of foods since being here. 🤣 Also living on the island I have taken into factoring an extra hour or two into my shopping trip with the Google Translate app at the ready as many of the items now available to us are not familiar at all. Our family are adventurous foodies and not scared of new tastes but I prefer to have some info on what I am eating.
Having said that; we have found a very definite change in the way we shop and the food we cook since being here. Seeing as food in general is more expensive than back home and meat even more so I find that we have been exploring other options on getting our protein on by buying products like tofu, lentils and beans and the local paneer. Vegetables I get either from the local Intermart or by venturing into the versatile markets in Port Louis. We are also making sure to purchase some of the strange packets we see on the shelves doing a sort of trial and error experiment on new tastes and foods. Some we love, some we hate. 😏
There is some familiarity in some of the local Indian Cuisine found in the shops as we lived in KZN (Kwazulu Natal in SA) for a good five years which means that we are well aquainted with the chillies, curries and abundance of spices used for cooking. Local shops here have a medley of weird and wonderful products asorning the shelves and we are doing a one by one to see which ones we like. I am not saying we are turning into curry bunnies yet, as I personally prefer a good hot chili to a hot curry and currently my curry adventures stretches to making a good bobotie. But slowly but surely if I look at the items on our shopping list our tastes are adapting to the new tastes of our new home country.
One has to unfortunately prepare yourself for not always finding the familiar products of home. Or the fact that those you do find may be ridiculously expensive due to being imported. You have to adjust your food budget accordingly but if you shop with discernment and of course with the translating app in hand you can turn a daunting task into an adventure. I have taken to buying a lot of the more expensive vegetables in the frozen food aisle as and when I feel the price of the fresh produce don’t warrant the cost. One can buy any frozen products from Mcain’s which we know well in SA to the amazing Saint Eloi brand which has a wide variety of frozen and other goods. Their frozen mushrooms and spinach is a must have in the freezer. Easy to use and very tasty.
Furthermore, do try and make time to do your weekly vegetable shop at the markets. You get more bang for your buck and an absolute abundance of choice plus the full-blown market experience. The cacophony of vendors, shoppers, smells and sounds which can be a tad overwhelming at times but nevertheless a great experience. There are some great markets to visit on the island, I have not done that thus far. Some info on this can be found on the South Africans Living in Mauritius group on FB. Roadside vendors here and there also offer a good variety of fruit produce, I know the one at the Goodlands turn-off in the North does. One thing; I would advise rinsing your vegetables from the market in a strong salt wash or invest in a vegetable wash if you are concerned about pesticides. Read more here; https://www.healthyandnaturalworld.com/easily-remove-pesticides-fruits-vegetables/
For those who are new to the island, please note; The info below is just for guidance and only based on my personal experience. There are many more wonderful shops on the island. I will mention them as and when I use their services.
The local Intermart should stock most of what you need and I alternate between the one at Bagatelle which are the most convenient one personally after the Intermart at La Croisette. I do enjoy SuperU in Grand Baie when I have time to shop there and of course I love Mono Prix at Cascavelle which is unfortunately to far out from where I live. Trou-aux-Biches has a cute little supermarket Ches Popo. It took us a while before finding out. They even stock South African wine. 🍷 If you have no budget to worry about I have seen good reviews on the expat group about using the online shop ‘The Shop’. I cannot vouch for them as I haven’t used them but I include the link. http://www.theshop.mu
I buy some of our meat at Famous Butcher in Grand Baie, some at Meat Up in Trou-aux-Biches and some at Intermart depending on how my day is going. I prefer SA or Australian meat. That’s just me. Each to his or her own.
As a final thought. Be sure to check out the option of reward cards. Intermart offers one that one can accumulate points throughout the year and you can buy a more comprehensive one that offers discounts at various stores on the island. For more information visit http://www.lepasseport.com
In conclusion. On arriving in Mauritius one is often inundated with loads of things that needs to be done and sorted of which the daily/weekly/monthly food-shop is a very important part. I’m just coming out of that funk of walking in the shop and just grabbing whatever looks familiar as the first few big food-shops were more stress than fun. Trying to buy nutritious and healthy versus balancing a budget (some of us at least 😉) whilst trying to cope in a new environment where one can’t even understand the instructions on the box can be very daunting and frustrating.
I have walked out of the shop more than once, irritated with myself and everybody else and their brother, because of the language barrier. Yes, I can probably try and learn to speak French eventually, but it’s not going to help me today or in the next few months trying to decipher what I am feeding my family. So next time when you’re in the shop, breathe, open you app, take your time and know, in a couple of months or weeks you’ll be shopping like a pro through trial and error but none the less. We live and we learn.