Is It Expensive To Live In Costa Rica? Our Monthly Food Costs

Farmers Market, Perez Zeledon

How much Does it Cost to Live in Costa Rica?

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve read and heard the question “How much does it cost to live in Costa Rica?” or “Is it expensive to live in Costa Rica?”, I’d be a very rich woman! To be fair, this is a question anyone considering a move to Costa Rica should ask. Knowing the cost of living is essential to making an informed choice in deciding where to live. I’m going to post a series of posts that document our costs of living while in Costa Rica.

Is Food Cheap or Expensive in Costa Rica?

In order to answer this question, I decided to track all of our food costs for a month. We are building our house in Montezuma, Costa Rica on the Nicoya Peninsula where costs are said to be higher than in the Central Valley of Costa Rica, due to the remoteness of the location and cost of shipping everything in. Truthfully, I haven’t really noticed that prices for food are much more expensive here than in other areas we’ve visited.

I tracked the costs of food from the middle of Nov 17, 2020- December 16, 2020, exactly 30 days. Our cooking facilities are very simple with only a propane stove and toaster oven to cook with and small refrigerator for food storage. We didn’t dine out during this period since it was during the pandemic and we were busy with building the house. Wally is a vegetarian so our meals didn’t include meat except for a bit of smoked tuna I bought at the local feria. Our meals tend to be pretty simple but healthy, and we buy very little processed food. I often bake bread and tortilla chips. We eat a lot of fruit, rice and pasta.

Our Total Food Cost for One Month

Our total food costs for the month were 114963.62 colons or $191.60 US (using the average exchange rate of 600c to a US dollar). This included wine ( I drink a few glasses a week), and sundries like cleaning supplies, shampoo, etc. For two people for a whole month, I consider that pretty inexpensive.

A sampling of Food Costs:

Fruit

Fruit is plentiful and usually fresh. The apples we are buying are grown in the USA. Avocado’s are surprisingly expensive (the price per kilo was 3990c or $6.65). In season, native fruit is very cheap. We hope to eliminate most of our fruit expenses over time by growing our own fruit trees. I’ll post about our orchard and gardens in another post.

Fruit Colons US Dollars
Pineapple (each) 585c $0.97
Papaya (per kilo) 795c $1.33
Hass Avocado (each) 850c $1.42
Bananas (0.965 kilo) 345c $0.58
Gala Apples (about 8 tiny apples) 1,795c $2.99

Staple Goods

I find staple good prices to be pretty comparable with those in the US. Bread is fairly expensive (as it is in the US). I often bake my own.

Staple Goods Colons US Dollars
Rice (1 kilo) 1,120c $1.87
Corn oil (500 ml) 541c $0.90
Pasta (500g) 750c $1.25
Whole Grain Bread-loaf 1,990c $3.32
Tomato Sauce (300ml) 565c $0.94
Coffee (500 gm) 1,250 $2.08

Vegetables

Vegetable prices are all over the board. Some are cheap and some strike me as expensive.

Vegetables Colons US Dollars
Potatoes (per kilo) 1,110c $1.85
Organic Sweet Pepper (each) 500c $0.83
Onions (kilo) 1,990c $3.32
Green Leaf Lettuce (head) 495c $0.83

Meat

Catch of the Day-Mahi Mahi
Catch of the Day-Mahi Mahi

Though we don’t buy meat, I’ve priced it out for the dogs as I feed my dogs a raw diet. Fish is plentiful and can be bought directly from the fisherman. Chicken is not very expensive either. Beef I have heard is expensive and is hard to source good cuts.

Processed Food

Processed and packaged foods tend to be very expensive. They are also subject to a 13% tax. Often times not all goods have price tags in the stores and I once picked up an unpriced stick of packaged cheddar cheese thinking how bad could it be. The little stick of processed cheddar was over $10.00! I almost fainted.

Where do we Shop for Groceries?

Naranjo
Produce Store

We don’t have a car so we shop for groceries 2 or 3 times a week as we have to carry it home. I’ll often pick up a few items while out for my daily walk. We have a couple of little “pulperia’s” within about 2 km of our property, and then more in Montezuma. When we want a bigger selection we take the bus to Cobano where there are several grocery stores including a Pali, Super Mercado, and some locally owned stores. There are also specialty stores such as produce stores and butcher shops.

One of the things we find bizarre shopping for groceries is how many stores we need to go to to buy everything. It’s not unheard of for us to shop in 4 different stores in one morning just buying a few days worth of food.

Farmers Markets

We are lucky to have a couple of weekly farmer markets in our area so we also shop at them. The markets not only are a source for buying produce and homemade goods, but also serve as a community social gathering each week. The markets in our area tend to be more expensive than the supermarkets.

Conclusion: Is it Expensive to Live in Costa Rica?

As far as food goes, I think if you pay attention to what you are buying and live and eat like a Costa Rican, food is not expensive. If you want to live like an American in Costa Rica eating packaged and processed food, you’ll find it expensive.

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