From Fiji Times Online (5 August 2016)

The whole 9 yard for seafood

By Losalini Vuki

MOIRA Vilsoni found her comfort in sand, art, driftwood, old tales and charming lilting lyrics of song and dance in her island home of Rotuma.

While she grew up on an island abundant with fresh seafood, food and fruits, Ms Vilsoni reminisced her good younger days when her biological grandfather would fill his sack with variety of fruits.

Ms Vilsoni often joked if the weather permitted her grandfather would probably be a vintner (winemaker) or have to work at the perfume-making industry. She remembers her namesake or parents giving her piggyback rides to the reef when it was low tide and they would feed her raw väeväe (sea urchins/cawaki), so'o (clam/vasua).

"They said I had my first ia' hala (raw fish) when I was around two years old — since then I've always loved my raw fish," she said.

"My parents also shared their love for fishing and farming with the family and our usual Saturday routine (if there was no inter-district rugby or cricket games scheduled at the government station) was a family picnic out on the reef on low tides. We always looked forward to spending hours on the reef.

The reef was our aquarium and buffet at the same time and I look forward to taking my daughters back to the island for this very same experience — hopefully soon."

When it comes to shopping, Ms Vilsoni's shopping buddies, daughters AnnMary (12) and Faith (9) make fun because if they're at the supermarket, all stressed out, they would usually go back home with a lot of unnecessary junk

"I've done that and can write a book about it," said Ms Vilsoni.

"My daughters have grown up and they've helped out in carrying our grocery bags. I use this opportunity to teach them how to be a responsible shopper. I let them check the expiry dates on food items, pick fresh vegetables and fruits, how to ask the supermarket employees for assistance and most importantly, how to appreciate and thank the supermarket employees, market vendors and fisherwomen.

It's very important to teach children how to say thank you in everything."

Ms Vilsoni who prefers to shop in bulk fortnightly said with her daughters, the shopping list changes every now and then.

"I'm not too strict too sometimes, my kids like to give me small tests in the supermarket.

"But if they get something from the shelves that are not on my shopping list, I cross out an item from the list, so they know who is in charge at the cashier.

"I like to shop at MHCC because it is very convenient plus I could also grab a good flat white coffee or a latte before or after shopping. The prices of the items are reasonable and the variety is good too. I also like the New World IGA at Damodar City for its variety of fruits and vegetables and the cheese section.

My elder daughter likes the roast chicken from New World IGA so if I'm seen there, I'm probably picking up some of those yummy roast chickens, cheese and vegetables."

With a shopping budget of $200 to $250 for groceries and general basic supermarket items, Ms Vilisoni said they would blow their budget once in a while at the Suva Market on Saturdays.

"We go the whole nine yards when it is seafood Saturday," said Ms Vilsoni.

"This is when I let my island self do the seafood shopping. I'm blessed my daughters are very easy and are not too fussy when it comes to meal times. And they love their seafood too."

Ms Vilsoni's basic household and food items include calrose rice, liquid milk, breakfast cereals, maggi noodles and Chow noodles, sugar, flour, tuna cans, eggs, Rewa butter, toiletries, frozen food, sausages and frozen French fries for school lunches.

They shop for veges in the market and fresh and slice fish, chicken drumsticks and beef are from the local butcher's shop.

"I'm a big fan of the Nausori Tebara branch — the guys are not just friendly, we're regular customers so they know our meat preferences.

I am very particular with the reef fish I buy for the family too. I think the Nausori market is the best when it comes to fresh reef fish but apart from the normal shopping list, yoghurt is now a must on the list."

Ms Vilsoni said her mother (a retired medical person) called her every second day to remind her of all the sicknesses related to unhealthy eating habits.

"So as much as we love our junk, meaty bones, creamy food, we still try our best at home to cook or prepare healthy alternatives — not just for the kids but for the family too," said Ms Vilsoni.

"We've done raw juicing to having raw salads and the usual dhal diets, rourou and everything that is green and leafy.

My children laugh when it's that time of the week for "detox", they know it's plain vegetables or dhal."

Apart from buying healthy foods and vegetables, Ms Vilsoni said she may not be a good person to advocate on exercise but backyard gardening was also a good way of keeping healthy.

"I try and take my girls for a swim every Saturday, it's relaxing, it's quality time spent with the little ones and it's also a life skill to know. And we have two lovely dogs now so we try our best in the weekends to walk the dogs in the morning."

"My advice to shoppers is to have a shopping list and stay within the budget.

I know sometimes it's so hard to stay within the said budget or follow the list. I tried once taking a calculator with me in around the supermarket, I wasn't surprised when a couple of fellow shoppers gave me the funny look.

"Never settle for anything cheap or not of good quality. Always ask for fresh produce! We usually start our supermarket shopping at the vegetable section — in this way I know there will be no room for junk and unnecessary bric-a-bracs for my daughters to pick."

Ms Vilsoni adds its also good to have heaps of belly laughs with very good friends.

"My daughters are very good entertainers — it exercises the belly muscles."

"Also start the day with prayers too. I try and be as positive as I can in everything — laugh at my own mistakes and incapabilities too and it's not always about physical fitness. Healthy living is not limited to physical — we should also take care of our spiritual and mental lives too."