Subscribe to SmallPlanet

We Need Your Help

Five stars on Amazon! Don't miss Talesmag's first book of essays, on cross-cultural food experiences from Mexico to Mongolia (plus recipes!)
Submit a Real Post Report


How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Most things are widely available though you may need to go to multiple stores to get it. A lot of people have household staff help with shopping to make it easier. COLA is currently approx 40% and you need it but that's what it is there for! Great selection of fresh fruits and veggies at roadside stands and you can easily have fruits/veggies delivered weekly as well. - Dec 21, 2017
Groceries and household supplies are very expensive. We did have a COLA attached to the assignment but now it has decreased so its even harder to get what we need. Finances are always an issue when purchasing on the local economy. - Dec 4, 2017
Everything is between 2-4 times more expensive here vs Whole Foods and Trader Joe's in DC. Household cleaning supplies are not the same quality and are VERY pricey. Most food things are available if you are willing to look and wait sometimes months for them to come in. I looked for pine nuts for 6 months before finding them. 6 oz cost me $25 which Igratefully spent because I finally found nice fresh basil and wanted pesto right now vs waiting for Amazon. I should really own stock in Amazon... - Mar 2, 2017
Compared to other posts in Africa, the selection is amazing (but really, really expensive--$15 for a pack of tortillas!) Embassies and most NGOs supplement staff salaries significantly to account for the cost difference, so this is something to keep in mind if negotiating your salary. There are dozens of small grocery stores, and Portuguese/Lebanese/Indian products are widely available. There are few things you can't find if you're willing to pay triple the going rate in the US and/or accept frozen instead of fresh products. - Jan 21, 2017
One of the worst things about Kinshasa was the cost of living. Even on the local economy. Local fruits/vegetables were of poor quality, but the only way to feed a family when imported goods were 100x more expensive. You can find almost anything in Kinshasa, though it comes with a price. There are some small mom-and-pop stores that are good -- most owned by the same Portuguese family. - Sep 26, 2016
You can find most non-speciality items here - for a price. The COLA here is 50%, so if you are here on the USG's dime you are compensated for the extra cost (and this is a consumables post for USG folks too). Fresh fruit and veggies that are in season are plentiful and not terribly expensive, but if you want fruit/veggies that are not grown here because of the climate (ie: berries, asparagus, broccoli) then you will pay for them (US$20/pint of strawberries, US$15/bunch of asparagus or broccoli), however, on the flip side, you might be able to pick an avocado out of your back yard... - Apr 26, 2016
Western-style groceries are easily accessible and well stocked with imported goods but very expensive (US$25/quart of strawberries, US$15/head of broccoli, US$20/small frozen pizza, US$20/small block of cheese, US$5/loaf of bread, etc). Quality of meat varies enormously - and inconsistently - from store to store and most stores' inventories change frequently, necessitating numerous stops to complete the full shopping list. Paper goods and cleaning goods are expensive and of generally poor quality. The open air markets are the best bet for fresh, affordable produce but you either need plenty of time to navigate it yourself or have your domestic staff do the market shopping. - Jan 6, 2014
Virtually everything is available, although often it is a European or South African brand. Prices are more expensive than in the US, especially for meat, cheese, and imported produce and juices. But it's all manageable, and sometimes you're willing to pay whatever it takes to get what you want. US liquor and wine are available, but not beer. There are a growing number of higher-quality grocery stores with more reliable stock and better prices. - Nov 24, 2012
Very, very, expensive, but most things can be found if you look hard enough. - May 21, 2012
Groceries are very expensive. Embassy people can order meat/produce from South Africa. There are several grocery stores, but their stock varies. Cereal can be $20. Oranges $15. - Feb 13, 2012
Very expensive -- a bottle of ketchup costs USD $8.00. - Nov 13, 2011
Availability is quite OK (ranging from an extensive French cheese collection to fresh pasta or fish imported from Belgium, strawberries from Europe, etc). Just don't look at prices!! - Aug 4, 2011
Local stuff is ok. But almost everything is shipped in, and that gets expensive. - Jan 19, 2011
Western stuff is very expensive. Plenty of stores are generally well stocked, but that can change. Diapers are amazingly expensive: something like $70 per box when I last checked. Ice cream is something like $30 for a pint or two. Vegetables purchased in the nice stores can be very expensive and poor in quality. When purchased in the local markets, tomatoes are something like 20 cents each. Pineapple varies from $1.5 to $3 each. - Oct 16, 2010
Very, very expensive. A case of Diet Cokes costs between US$45 and US$95, depending on the availablility; you'll pay US$10 for 3 apples and much more if you want strawberries or raspberries. There are a few local products that are cheaper, but most of the local stuff isn't all that great. - Jan 21, 2009