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6 Handy Costa Rica grocery shopping tips

6 Handy Costa Rica grocery shopping tips

Every culture has different ways of doing things and as soon as you move to Costa Rica, you will find out that a lot of things are different than they were back home. Sometimes we just assume things are done our way (and we think of course it’s the best way) and they’re not, we don’t even find out until it’s too late.

But wasn’t that the first reason you moved here? You wanted things to be different, right? 

Grocery shopping is one of those things that’s quite different from what you are used to and there is to learn a lot about it.  Especially when you go Grocery shopping in Costa Rica, you should be aware of several issues that are quite a bit different from back home.

Some who read my weekly blogs have probably figured some of these issues already out, but I hope I can help at least some of you with these 6 Handy Grocery Shopping Tips.

1.    Weight and size

Many of you are used to measure in pounds and gallons. In Costa Rica and in the rest of Latin America, groceries are sold in grams and kilos. You find a ¼ kilo is 250 grams and ½ a kilo is 500 grams. Don’t ask the butcher in the grocery story for half a pound of minced meat because he won’t have any idea what you are talking about.

Many grocery stores in Costa Rica show the price per unit on the gondola rack

Many grocery stores in Costa Rica show the price per unit on the gondola rack

At the gas station, as for 12 liters of gasoline not for 3 gallons of gasoline. Or just say “full” which they understand well, if you want a full tank of gas. If you want to practice your Spanish, say “tanque lleno por favor”.

You will need to start thinking metric, when you purchase groceries, if you don’t it will drive you crazy for the rest of your life.

2.    Packaging

Most of us are willing to purchase a large size package because it is cheaper, right? I’m sorry, but you’re wrong, totally wrong. In Costa Rica, two packages of 250 grams are most of the time cheaper than one package of 500 grams. Strange? Yes, but you can count on it that 9 out of 10, the smaller packages are cheaper per unit (gram or ml) than the larger unit. You should ALWAYS check the packaging of your groceries before you start grocery shopping, do NOT just assume that the larger package is cheaper.

If you buy fresh bread, ask them to put it in a plastic bag

3.    Price per unit

Many grocery stores in Costa Rica show the price per unit (gram or ML) on the gondola rack. Many products of the same type have a different weight and are difficult to compare. They usually have a sticker under each product that shows not only the brand name, the type of product, the content and the price per unit, so you have an easy comparison.

These comparisons of groceries are many times WRONG. Use the calculator on your phone to check the price per unit. I have caught many mistakes and even complaining with management doesn’t make them correct the erroneous price tags.

4.    Your money back

In most countries, if you go grocery shopping and you need to return it, for whatever reason, the store will just return your money, without even asking why you are returning it.

Forget about getting your money back in a store in Costa Rica. Some stores make you go through a lot of unnecessary paperwork and will only give you the credit, so you can spend the money in their store. Nowadays, some grocery stores DO return your money, but it will take you some time and effort. I have hardly ever seen any other type store returning cash.

Become a frequent shopper in each store and get their frequent shopper card

5.    Fresh bread

I don’t have any idea why, but if you purchase bread in the fresh bakery department of any grocery store, they will put the bread in a paper bag and the bread will be like chewing gum before the day is over. If you buy fresh bread, ask them to put it in a plastic bag and you will find it will stay edible much longer. If your bread is already too difficult to eat, spray a little bit of water on it and put it in the oven for a minute or so.

6.    Frequent shopper

Try to do your Costa Rica grocery shopping in the same grocery stores so they start recognizing you. Once they understand you are a frequent shopper at their store, they will be more open to what they see as a favor and what we see as being client friendly.

I certainly appreciate you visit our blogs to learn how to adapt to a nice lifestyle in Costa Rica. We also appreciate you staying with us for your Costa Rica real estate purchases and your referrals.

Contact us NOW for any real estate related enquiries.


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I DO want to remind our readers that we appreciate any referrals you can send our way. We love referrals and we appreciate them. Please remember the GoDutch Realty agents when you talk about your home in Costa Rica, when you meet someone who wants to purchase one, thank you!

We Love your Referrals at GoDutch Realty

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Ivo Henfling

If you are looking to buy a home in Costa Rica or invest in a condo anywhere in the central Valley, or looking for any property for sale in Escazu, you need to call me. I have been selling real estate in Escazu for over 20 years and can show you hundreds of happy buyers of real estate in Escazu and other areas. To me, a deal is not a good deal unless both buyer and seller are happy.

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