Food prices in Nouméa
Food prices in Nouméa (and New Caledonia) can be on the high side. As little is grown here, much of our foodstuffs are imported from France, New Zealand and Australia. It is not uncommon for newcomers to exit grocery stores with next to little in their baskets, shocked by the prices and limited choice (which has improved dramatically over the last 7 years, though prices remain high.
Though I was prepared for the price differential in New Caledonia, I spent relatively little on our first visits to the grocery stores (and so we ate less). By the second week, I was able to spend €100 for a week’s worth of groceries. It has now gone up to €200. But that buys you relatively little. Friends with the same family size (two adults, one child) are spending €400.
Today, we were thrilled to see there were a number of specials on in our local grocery store – including for one of our favourite cheeses. On special. For € 8.33 (or US$ 10.38). We passed. We like Caprice des dieux, but not enough to spend 8 euros on it (admittedly this is much better than the time a friend of ours mistakenly purchased a camembert for € 25!).
We moved down the cheese aisle and noticed one of our other preferred cheeses (Chausée aux moines), this time not on sale. Only 1040 CPF – or € 8.72 (or US$ 10.86). Alas. We decided to forego cheese this week and finish up the fake Boursin spread we’d purchased a few weeks ago.
One of the ways around this is to purchase fresh local cheeses, which we also do. Our only problem so far is that they seem to go off relatively quickly. So the trick: buy small amounts!
Cheese and yogurt are admittedly on the high side because they have to be flown in. So another tip: we purchased a yogurt maker here on the island to make our own yogurts – which will perhaps be better for us and the environment (less carbon footprinting, packaging, etc.). So far, so good.
The most expensive mis-step I made on our first visit to the grocery store our first week was buying Knacki hot dogs for our little guy. As you can see here, 4 hot dogs run at around € 4.60, or € 1.15 each (okay, so they have 25% less salt than other hot dogs); that’s US$ 5.74 for the package and US$ 1.43 per dog before the bun and the fixins! We’ve since found cheaper chicken ones which we are all happy with.
Clearly the best way to shop in Nouméa is to buy local products (chocolate, coconuts, yams, sweet potatoes, meats, rice, etc.), shop at the market (more on this soon) and wean oneself from brands and personal preferences. Which is not a bad thing at all – and is 100% congruent with long-term sustainability. Give us a little time and we’ll get there (I’ve even considered growing tomatoes on our balcony …).
You may ask if it is expensive to eat out, given the prices in stores. Funnily enough, I was recently surprised by the prices at one of our new favourite restaurants (Au p’tit café – more on this soon as well!). Prices were very reasonable and certainly comparable with prices in Paris and the United States. My feeling is that that if restaurant owners are also buying locally, prices may stay within reach for those of us who like to eat out on occasion.
This brings us to one last point. Drink. We like the occasional glass of champagne (who doesn’t?). I was curious to see how much pink champagne was here. Now admittedly Veuve Clicquot does not run cheaply, so keep that in mind. Here a bottle runs at about € 62.80 (or US$ 78.18). In France, it’s running at about € 44 (or US$ 55). I found cheaper bottles of champagne (not rosé) in the grocery store today, but the lowest I found seemed to be around € 35-40.
So champagne we will have, sparingly!
And on that happy note, I smiled when I saw this at check-out. Sourire suivant translates as “next smile” or in this case “next smiling client”. Yes, keep smiling – a 40% price increase is not the end of the world. You’ll change, you’ll adapt, and you’ll probably be the healthier for it!