Expats will find that grocery shopping in Johannesburg is similar to that in any Western country. South Africa has several large supermarket chains and a number of smaller specialty stores, and all types of shops are present in Joburg. As in all locations, where expats end up going will depend on their personal tastes and budget, but the nice thing is that there will be a store conveniently located close to where they live.

Furthermore, shelves will be stocked with many of the goods familiar from home, with the addition of a few strange new favourites. For a taste of true South Africa, try Mrs Balls Chutney, snack on a bit of biltong or load the shopping cart with Choc-kits, Nik Naks, or Ouma Rusks.

Otherwise, for the most part, grocery stores in South Africa claim an impressive meat and poultry selection, a large assortment of dry and canned goods, and a healthy variety of fruit and vegetables. Halaal products are available in most of the grocery stores. 

Supermarkets in South Africa sell wine, but generally do not sell spirits or beer. However, many of the larger chain stores will have subsidiary stores selling all types of alcohol next door to their main shop.

Additionally, select chains accept utility payments, sell electricity and sell airtime for both mobile and landline telephones, and even have on-site post offices or ticket box offices.

Nationwide grocery stores in Johannesburg

  • Woolworths – A little pricey but also the best quality food by far, not only within South Africa but worldwide; well-known especially for its fresh produce and good meat. It’s hard to go back to anything else after shopping at "Woolies".

  • Spar – Less expensive than Woolworths but generally not the best quality; larger selection, especially at Superspar centres, with many imported brands and a nice deli; good European bread selection.

  • Pick 'n Pay – Similar selection to Spar (minus the imported brands) but lower prices; a good place to stock up on basics like packaged goods and cleaning supplies. Pick 'n Pay also has an online shopping service where groceries can be delivered to one's home for a small fee.

  • Checkers – Slightly cheaper than Pick ‘n Pay with an equally wide range of quality products.

Speciality stores in Johannesburg

  • Food Lover's Market (Fruit and Veg City) – A chain of upscale fresh food stores throughout South Africa.

  • Local butcheries – South Africans take their meat very seriously and the proof is in its wealth of excellent, privately owned butcheries such as Schwaben Butchery in Edenvale, Sloane Meat Market in Bryanston and Berliner Butchery in North Riding.

Pharmacies in Johannesburg

  • Dis-Chem – The largest and most well-stocked South African pharmacy. If an item can't be found anywhere else, chances are it’s sold at Dis-Chem; it stocks everything from electric toothbrushes to fish oil vitamins. It also has the largest availability and reasonable pricing for prescription drugs, although the lines can be long.

  • Clicks – Can be found in almost every shopping centre and often next to doctor’s offices. Very convenient for prescription drugs, but may be more expensive than other pharmacies. 

Sine Our Expat Expert

When it became clear that our family of six would have to relocate to Johannesburg, South Africa in 2010, I immediately knew that I would start a blog about our trials and tribulations. I’m hoping it will be useful for other expats, but I won’t claim to be an exhaustive source of information. I’m still figuring things out and I mainly write to entertain. What I love about writing is that whatever happens to you at the moment – particularly when things aren’t working out – always has potential for a great story. Update: We have since relocated to the U.S., but I consider myself still very much the Johannesburg expert.

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