Sunday, November 4, 2012

On Groceries & Cooking in Kijabe … Part 1

I shop at the dukas (stores) here in Kijabe for the basics. We have a market in Kijabe where we buy organic produce year round at set prices (which is a nice thing not having to haggle for lettuce). We also have a small grocery store called the Supa-Duka, which is about the size of a gas-station convenience store, one room filled with many grocery items. Here I’m able to buy flour, sugar, bread and minced beef, among other things.  Both of these places are within walking distance (although the roads are quite bad and the walk home is all uphill). 

We also have a number of Kenyan friends who we buy food from regularly, but I’m going to devote a separate post to that (hopefully) soon.

About twice a month we make it into town for a large grocery run at a place called Nakumatt.  Of course, the trip to Nairobi takes a solid hour and you need at least two hours to shop in Nakumatt and then to make any other stops for other needed items.  It ends up being a full day just to grocery shop.  There are several Nakumatt stores in Nairobi, and they have all-too-much in common with Walmart. They carry grocery items, household products, home décor, and some of them have clothing.  We are able to find many of the same comforts a North American grocery store would have, for a price. 

So, how far does $20 or about 1,650 ksh (Kenya Shillings) go?

DSCN5281Three bags/boxes of cereal - This is actually just over $20, at about 1,800 ksh.  And not just any cereal… if you like familiar name-brand cereals such as Kellogg’s, you may only get 1 1/2 boxes for $20.   Other things that are far more expensive than in the states include canned products, meat and cheese. 

DSCN5279On the other hand, fresh mostly organic produce is far less expensive than in America.  I have here 3kg (6lbs) carrots, 12 large bananas, 10 baby bananas, 8 pears, 2 red onions, 1 1/2kg (3lbs) peas, 1kg (2 lbs) mixed vegetables, 1 large bunch of spinach, 1 large head of lettuce, 1 small bunch of celery.  This total came to 1,495 ksh or about $18. 

The only drawback to having reasonably priced produce is the extra step we take before consumption.  All of it needs to be cleaned thoroughly in a diluted potassium permanganate solution.


DSCN5283It turns the water a light purple color and greatly reduces the risk of water-born illnesses that may result from eating fruits & vegetables grown in contaminated areas.  Though not everyone does, I recently began soaking produce that we peel as well for added precaution.


One thing that has proved to be very different is the way we get our milk.  RVA pasteurizes it’s own milk and as staff, we are able to drop off our tin milk can at the cafo and receive freshly pasteurized milk as often as we need it.  It then gets charged to our account, which we pay for monthly along with our utility bills. 


We drop off our container in the morning and pick it up sometime after lunch – still warm from pasteurizing.  My kids like the milk warm, fresh from the cafo (yuk).  It has a different flavor than milk in the gallon jugs in the states, but we’re getting used to it.  And you can bet the cows around here aren’t pumped full of hormones – We have some skinny cows here in Kenya.


One more thing on the milk, it’s not homogenized so it leaves this white residue on the glass container we keep it in. 

Some things we are learning when shopping 

When in town buy in bulk!  Often you see a product that you like and will use and then you don’t see it again for months, maybe years.  [Like when you finally spot Ritz crackers after being in Africa for four months, you buy 5 boxes instead of a more reasonable two boxes because you don’t know the next time you’ll see them.]  We’ve once been to the store when they were completely out of sugar and diapers.  As a rule of thumb (especially on specialty items), If it’s in stock and I need one, I buy two or three. 

In Kijabe, we buy a little from many people. At the market, a handful of veggie ladies sell their produce.  We buy a little from each of them.  In the same way, we buy our breads, muffins and tortillas from different women in town in order to help support each of them. 

It’s a constant learning process here.. but God is good!

Hope you enjoyed this first glimpse into our kitchen here in Kenya!


  1. great post, so informative and helpful to the life you are learning about and living.
    you will be healthy (healthier) with that yummy produce, making your own of soups etc. and that milk is good for you too. Us americans have it backwards that our produce and healthy things are more expensive as you know. thanks for sharing. love you

  2. I remember the warm milk from my trip to Kenya. I loved it on my cereal and was disappointed to come home to refridgerated milk after that! Love and prayers from FPC Beaver!

  3. Hi! My name is S'ambrosia and I'm an American living here in Kenya as well, Ongata Rongai, to be exact. I was googling blogs in Kenya and came across yours and saw that you recommended the Huffman's blog. I know them through association, but haven't been able to officially meet them either in Kitale or Nairobi.

    Anyway, I've perused your blog a bit and I really enjoyed it. I'm a new follower. I've never heard of the potassium permanganate solution, but I'll see about looking into it. I've only gotten amoebiasis once so far, lol. God bless you guys and I look forward to seeing more from you!


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