Buying food and groceries

Buying food and groceries in Accra is no longer the challenge it once was. Earlier editions of No Worries referenced one or two modern supermarkets, but emphasized numerous hidden gems, and off-the-beaten-track establishments. Times have changed. Accra, one of the fastest growing economies in the world, has seen its number of supermarkets triple! And everything is available, from local tomatoes to Dom Pérignon champagne.

These grocery stores are full of imported products from all over the world, but especially from the US, UK and South Africa. You can find just about anything you need, but be prepared to pay for it. You may not necessarily find your favourite brand, and if you can't live without it, plan to bring it with you.

While everything you need is here, you may not find it all in one store. A visit to two or three shops might be necessary to complete your errands. When a product is available, buy it. You never know when a store will run out of something, and it could take months to replenish.

Check the freshness of products. Although it is illegal to sell out of date products, freshness might be questionable, either because of the heat or a power failure, in the case of frozen goods. This is especially true of biscuits, cereal or flour, which sometimes turn out to be stale or full of weevils. Most of the larger grocery shops will discount soon to be expiring goods, so if you're comfortable with an item that is quickly approaching its sell by date (which may not necessarily mean it's no longer good), buy it in bulk.

It also pays to shop around in terms of prices. Prices can vary from store to store for the exact same branded item. Expect to pay more for imported products. And expect to pay more (by weight or volume) for larger size packages. Read price stickers carefully!

There are a number of excellent local brands in Ghana, offering high quality products at prices lower than the imported goods. Brands to try include Fan Milk ice cream, Blue Skies fresh fruit juices, and the local production of brands from multi-national companies such as Nestlé and Unilever. Ghana's own Golden Tree chocolate is not bad in a pinch, but better used as chocolate chips in your cookies.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are readily available from roadside stalls and hawkers at the traffic lights. Surprisingly, though, the selection of locally grown flavourful vegetables is limited. There are excellent stalls near most grocery stores, and a well-known one at "37" by the Total Station across from MaxMart. All vegetables being eaten raw should be treated to kill bacteria. (Popular methods include washing with salt, vinegar, bleach or "Milton").

To North Americans, the practice of not storing eggs in the refrigerator is new. Any world traveler has probably noticed that in most countries outside of the US and Canada, eggs aren't stored under refrigeration. Whether you are wandering in an outdoor market in Ghana, shopping in a grocery store or visiting a home, you will find eggs sitting on the counter, at room temperature. There are various explanations for this, but suffice to say, eggs stored at room temperature are safe to eat.

Eggs sold at roadside stalls are cheaper than the packaged ones in the grocery stores, often fresher, and can be purchased in any number you need.