More

    Grocery Shopping on a Costa Rica Retiree Budget

    Must Read

    Costa Rica as “Global Health Hub”, the Proposal By the Health Chamber for Reactivating the Economy

    The country can take advantage of a significant number of internationalization opportunities by becoming a “Global Health Hub”

    Costa Rica Exports Exotic Pink Pineapples

    The Costa Rican pineapple has become more exotic, with the news that a variety is exported whose interior is pink, it has a sweeter taste than the traditional one

    Parable #38: What Did You Say?

    (This week is the 41stinstallment of the book, “The Band Director’s Lessons About Life”, which TCRN is...
    TCRN STAFFhttps://www.TheCostaRicaNews.com
    Creating a Conscious alternative news network that we feel the world needs. Pura Vida!

    For people considering retiring to Costa Rica on Social Security income or an otherwise limited budget, one big factor in allocating your money is the cost of food, which is more complicated here than one might expect. For all its uniformity, grocery shopping is a uniquely individual endeavor. Although most everyone buys certain typical household items such as bread, butter, olive oil, toothpaste and toilet paper, the personal tastes of each shopper are a critical variable in how much a person may spend per week on groceries. If the consumer is browsing the aisles of a store in a foreign country, the choices become even more complex and the decisions more challenging. If, for example, lean ground beef is 3345 colones per kilo (approximately 2.2 pounds), how much is that per pound in dollars, if the exchange rate is 506 colones to the dollar?

    Having just done the math on that problem on an Excel spreadsheet, I can tell you that the hamburger I bought yesterday was about $3.00 per pound. But making that calculation is far more difficult while standing at the meat counter as the clerk weighs out the product. To complicate things, most stores list two prices: the base price and then the price including 13% sales tax. All too often the price is not even posted so you may really have no idea what you’re paying until you reach the checkout counter.

    Grocery shopping for expats in Costa Rica is an adventure, no doubt about it. Not only are many of the products unfamiliar, but labels are written in Spanish and most are printed in miniscule size type. So forget reading labels, that’s the first lesson for the savvy shopper. Then if the prices are posted legibly — a big if — they are always in colones, of course, so you must convert the price to dollars in order to weigh the value in a familiar currency. But then, value is related to quality, a most elusive issue here. Which of the several brands of mayonnaise is best: An unfamiliar product made in Costa Rica or a U.S. brand that you recognize but that is more expensive for being an import?

    On top of all that is the fact that prices can vary considerably from one store to the next; even stores within the same chain may charge a different price in an affluent Gringo neighborhood compared to a market in a small Tico town. It pays to shop around. And it can pay to shop at a warehouse store such as PriceSmart, similar to Costco in the United States, which offers reduced prices on bulk purchases. So if you have room to store, say, sixteen roles of toilet tissue or can use six cans of garbanzo beans, you can find good buys at PriceSmart.

    Imported goods are routinely higher priced in Costa Rica because of customs duties but if you can focus on fresh foods, such as regional fruits and vegetables or local meats, it is possible to keep grocery costs down.

    So let’s go shopping. Here’s my grocery list:

    GROCERY ITEM DETAIL COLONES IN DOLLARS
    Chicken breast (2) boneless, skinless

    2720

    5.38

    Canned salmon 14.25 oz. can

    2767

    5.47

    Club crackers 8.6 oz. box

    1042

    2.06

    Yogurt, plain 500 g. = 17.8 oz.

    1163

    2.30

    Butter (mantequilla) 1/4 lb. stick

    698

    1.38

    Milk 1 liter box of 2%

    760

    1.50

    Watermelon 3 kilo = 6.7 lb.

    1391

    2.75

    Avocado (2) Import from Mexico

    1243

    2.46

    Heinz pickles 1 pint, dill slices

    2314

    4.57

    Gouda cheese 200 g. = 7 oz.

    2726

    5.39

    Bananas 6 ripe

    210

    0.42

    Red leaf lettuce hydroponic

    375

    0.74

    Tomato about 1 lb.

    372

    0.74

    Chili Dulce (2) similar to red pepper

    228

    0.45

    Cucumber 1 large

    171

    0.34

    Orange Juice 1-liter box

    738

    1.46

    Red onion 2 medium

    265

    0.52

    Wine 1-liter box

    2345

    4.63

    Beer (Costa Rican) 6-pack

    4422

    8.74

    TOTALS

    25950

    51.29

    Clearly, the bargains are in fresh produce and prices for these items are even lower at the weekly feria, where we also buy organic whole-wheat sourdough or 5-grain breads for 2000 colones, or about $4.00 for a big, delicious loaf. Our local sausage maker Marcial charges 3500 colones, or $7.00, for a kilo of wonderful homemade Italian sausages. That’s a little over $3.00 per pound. And at the feria, vendors will often weigh out what you have selected, perhaps 6 onions or 4 jalapenos, and then throw in a couple of extra for free.

    Of course, the staples of rice and red or black beans are ridiculously cheap here and available in huge packages, which is how most Ticos manage to eat on a very low budget. Add to that the fact that many foods literally fall from the trees throughout the year. During the mango season, fruit lays on the ground, free for the taking. It’s really hard to imagine how anyone could starve in Costa Rica.

    The real secret to saving money on groceries is to eat like a Tico, enjoying local produce, limited meats and lots of beans and rice. It’s healthy, tasty and easy on the cook.

    by P. Kat Sunlove

    - Advertisement -
    - Advertisement -

    Latest News

    Costa Rica as “Global Health Hub”, the Proposal By the Health Chamber for Reactivating the Economy

    The country can take advantage of a significant number of internationalization opportunities by becoming a “Global Health Hub”

    Costa Rica Exports Exotic Pink Pineapples

    The Costa Rican pineapple has become more exotic, with the news that a variety is exported whose interior is pink, it has a sweeter taste than the traditional one

    Parable #38: What Did You Say?

    (This week is the 41stinstallment of the book, “The Band Director’s Lessons About Life”, which TCRN is publishing as a series during...

    First National Dialogue Meeting Ends with Scattered Speeches, but with the Will to Continue

    The first meeting between the Government and more than 60 representatives of Civil Society sectors and productive groups concluded this Friday, October 23rd, after six hours of multiple interventions, with scattered speeches, but with the will to continue

    Costa Rica’s New Law Contemplates the Role of Hemp in Modernizing Agriculture

    Costa Rica has legalized the cultivation and processing of Hemp under a recently signed law that attributes supervision to the agriculture and health agencies.
    - Advertisement -

    More Articles Like This

    - Advertisement -
    Language »