Costa Rica is known for many things: beautiful scenery, adventure tourism, plentiful wildlife and high food prices.

As breathtaking as the nation is, let’s be honest, most of us are ready to start spending less on monthly groceries.

The funny thing is, 10% of Costa Rican land is still used for agriculture, with international exports including everything from cacao for chocolate to oranges for juicing to palms for vegetable cooking oil. The nutrient-rich volcanic soils make the country the perfect place to grow, but once harvested the tables turn. These items unfortunately get shipped out of the country for processing and return at higher, tariffed prices.

True, there are some local processing plants — Pozuelo, Tosty and Dos Pinos to name a few — but many expats looking for familiar brands or products are distraught to see the hefty tags to which they are attached.

The alternative, of course, to process foods at home. Assuming you can find a reasonably priced food processor, the following recipes can save you money while eating fresher and healthier.

1. Dips & Spreads

Truth be told, those pricey dips and spreads with not-so-fresh herbs and lots of preservatives are probably the easiest thing to make quickly at home. Simple add the following ingredients to your food processor, and walah! A delicious appetizer has been served.

Try these two popular recipes to get started:

  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp tahini
  • 1 ½  tsp lemon juice
  • 1 small clove of garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp finely ground black pepper
  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ⅔ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

2. Flour

Alternative diets are difficult to maintain while living abroad. Gluten-free or vegetarian meals are not only hard to find, but usually cost substantially more than their wheat- or meat-filled alternatives! Thanks to food processors, however, making your own alternative flour from whole grains just got a lot easier!

A couple of suggested foods to try grinding:

  • rice — cheap and versatile
  • oats — helps reduce the risk of heart disease
  • dried coconut — low carb and low sugar
  • amaranth — major source of protein
  • corn — high in zinc, iron and vitamin A

3. Shredded Cheese

Yes, chances are you can find shredded cheese pretty easily in the supermarket, but what if the recipe calls for a whole block or a specialty cheese like rich smoked gouda? Despite local giant Dos Pinos, dairy products are still expensive in Costa Rica. Shredding your own cheaper cheese may be an option, but who has the time or arm power to sit over a bowl until the whole block is gone? Throw it in the processor instead and your cheese will be shredded in no time.

4. Sausage, Burgers and Meatballs

Ever wonder what’s really inside that hot dog you’ve been eating? Probably not if you’re still eating it. Food processors give owners the liberty to actually know what’s in the meat they’re eating. Moreover, cooks can experiment with different meats. Check out these recipes below:

Cajeta may come close, but there is nothing quite like good, ol’ fashioned fudge. The rich, chocolatey flavor coupled with a texture that’s just soft-enough to melt in your mouth. Thanks be to Cookie and Kate for this vegan, no-bake fudge recipe that can be prepared in just minutes.

  • ½ cup coconut butter
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 2 small ripe bananas, cut into one-inch chunks
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 3 tbsp agave nectar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • a pinch of sea salt

Simply throw all the ingredients into a food processor until smooth — about 5 minutes says Cookie and Kate — then freeze in a sealable container.

Have fun processing!

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