Bamako - Post Report Question and Answers
How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can make do with what you find in the local economy, but if you have certain ingredients or household supplies that you would really miss, bring them. Costs of imported goods are more expensive than if you bought them in the US or Europe, though not shocking. Local goods are very reasonably priced. - Apr 2021
There are several grocery stores with varying availability of grocery goods, but generally you can get the basics easily. Shopreate, Azar and La Fourmi are the major markets; the latter two have two locations that I'm aware of.
Meat can be quite variable--oftentimes the meat counter is not refrigerated and you have to judge for yourself each trip whether you think it looks good or not. Many imported groceries are also of variable quality, since temperature control is questionable. For example, Shopreate recently started carrying frozen vegetables, but sometimes when you open them the veggies are black, because they've thawed, rotted, and refrozen. Other times it's perfectly good. Cheese is the same way. Fresh fruits and vegetables are available seasonally.
Bring your own cleaning supplies (dish soap, laundry detergent, etc), as quality in Bamako is not generally considered strong or very good. Also, housekeepers use it very quickly. There are often obvious Costco shipments that come in, because suddenly the shelves will be stocked with Costco brand items.
Some items I haven't missed, but heard others frustrated about not having, are sour cream and cream cheese. Also, lemons: there are lots of limes, no lemons. Otherwise, I feel that most things you can find an equivalent to, or if you're patient, wait for. While groceries and especially household supplies are more expensive than in the US, there's not a lot else to spend money on so I haven't noticed it as an issue. - Apr 2017
Like I mentioned, you will spend the majority of your money on food. You must hunt for all your grocery needs as you will probably not be able to find everything on your list at one store and must visit the others to find everything. Fresh veggies and fruit are seasonal and are sold on the side of the road in stands. The best produce is sold at a stand right outside of the French embassy (caters to the foreigner clientale). The meat available in Mali is pretty good although it is hard to find good chicken during the hot season. If you want to buy anything else (pasta, dairy goods) it will be imported and a bit more expensive. - Aug 2014
If you can't find it in the open air market, then you will pay a significant premium for it. Hiring a cook who can cook from scratch is the best way to save money. Canned or imported goods are very expensive. Cheese starts at about $18/lb. Good household supplies are also expensive or not available. When I read this before I came I didn't believe it. Everyone says that about every country. But, for example, you cannot find any equivalent to Pledge, 409, or Spray starch here. Fabric softener runs $20 a bottle. When I asked my staff why dishwashing soap was so expensive they said "because only white people use it". I never thought I would use Amazon like I do. It's cheaper and easier just to have it shipped than it is to find it and buy it here. - Jul 2011
Fruits and vegetables you buy from the ladies on the street. The rest you buy at -- and find everything in -- the main supermarkets: La Fourmi, Azar and Shoprate in Badala. Everything is imported, so supermarket food is expensive. - Jul 2011
You can find pretty much anything in Bamako but you should expect to pay dearly for it (that's what the COLA is for, right?).During certain times of year it may be difficult to find some types of vegetables or fruit. The main expat stores are Azar and La Fourmi where you can find groceries and household supplies imported from France, Morocco, or Lebanon. Stock up on mangoes during mango season; they are excellent. I also find the bread (baguettes) is some of the best I've ever had. Buy your baguette at the Boulangerie du Niger, across the street from Azar Libre Service (grocery store) in Badalabougou. You can buy wine from wholesaler Bradibo (no VAT for US Embassy employees), which supplies all the restaurants in Bamako. Bradibo has a minimum purchase requirement (I believe it's five or six cases of wine, which you will easily consume during your stay, if you enjoy wine).Bradibo's selection is mostly French wines, with some South African and Argentinian picks. - Oct 2010
American club has some stuff, and there's also a few grocery stores in country. They have a lot of things but it's just really expensive - May 2010
Food here is surprisingly very expensive. There are essentially two grocery stores at which all expats shop alternatively. You can get lower quality French/Belgian generic foods there for high prices. The commissary has been having a lot of difficulties over 2009 and is undergoing seriously changes. Over this time period, for the most part, it has has been totally useless. Hopefully this will change very soon. - Sep 2009
Expensive - COLA of appx 20% is needed and utilized. Cereal, deodorant, etc. many items expensive, especially imported items (mostly from France). - Apr 2009
Expensive. Limited availability. BRING ALL YOUR CONSUMABLE ALLOWANCE. Especially paper products, cleaners, tolietries and canned goods. - Feb 2009
There's a small commissary, though it sometimes ran out of items, it was helpful. There are two major supermarkets. You can get a decent amount of stuff, mostly French brands. Not cheap, there was a Cola of 25-30% when I was there. We had a consumables allowance, which we used. - Feb 2009
There are several good grocery stores around town and if you aren't picky, and take the time to look, you can find pretty much most of what you need. This is a consumables post, so bring your favorite brands, sodas, chips etc. Groceries are pricey but local fruits and vegetables are good and reasonable. - Jan 2009