The secrets of Costa Rica grocery shopping
Grocery shopping smartly in your hometown can be difficult enough. Shopping in another country like Costa Rica is a science. In today’s blog, I’d like to give you a hand with your grocery shopping in Costa Rica, you know how to get started and what to look for.
Costa Rica offers a wide range of grocery stores or supermarkets and buying from a large chain doesn’t necessarily mean you get the best prices. Most supermarkets in Costa Rica play around with the prices even on a daily basis.
What is cheaper in store XYZ today, might be a lot more expensive than elsewhere the next day. Check prices every time you go grocery shopping, you’ll get the hang of which grocery store is more consistent in its pricing and which changes prices on you all the time.
Grocery shopping is a really interesting topic. Ticonuevo has also written a blog about grocery shopping and department stores that you need to read.
Adjust to the local food culture
Now you moved to Costa Rica and you will keep eating the same food as you did back home? Try shopping for the local food, go native, you’ll save yourself a lot of money and you might be in for a great adventure. It’s easy to find recipes online, try it. If you don’t like it, you move on to the next weird product. I don’t like rice and beans, but I love lots of other local dishes my wife makes.
Shopping Imported products
Imported products from outside Central America pay high import taxes. A can of Planters mixed nuts costs almost 6,000 colones (over $10) and a local brand will cost half that. Most products made in Central America pay very little import tax, so they are a lot cheaper. Products made in Costa Rica are even cheaper, but check to make sure. Most foreigners just grab the products that they used to buy back home but it will double or triple your shopping bill. You should only purchase those imported products that are not available locally, like turkey filling or your favorite peanut butter. Costa-Rican-grown black pepper costs a lot less than imported black pepper.
Labels in English and Spanish
Besides of being a great way of learning Spanish, you should only purchase products that carry labels in the Spanish Language. Due to many foreigners living in Costa Rica, you’ll find a lot of products now carry labels in the two languages, and you will find on the back of the label the information about its origin.
Taste and quality of the products
Many products are made differently for each country. A Costarican made peanut butter tastes totally different than a U.S. made peanut butter. Try the locally made product first and if you don’t like it, switch brands. Most of the larger grocery chains present their fruits and vegetables well, but you can generally purchase your fruits and vegetable much fresher and cheaper on the local farmer’s market.
Size and packaging
In your mind, 1 pound of coffee should be cheaper than half a pound, right? Sorry, you’re wrong. In Costarican stores, most of the time, you’ll pay less for 2 bags of half a pound each. Always check the different sizes before you purchase. Don’t assume that the larger size is cheaper.
As for membership shopping PriceSmart has several stores in Costa Rica. You can compare PriceSmart with Costco or Sam’s Club in the U.S. Now and then PriceSmart renews its merchandise so you won’t always find the same products and they carry an inventory that compares to a U.S. based membership grocery store. They have 5 locations: Escazu, Heredia, Tibas, Alajuela and Zapote.
Costa Rica offers a wide range of supermarkets for your grocery shopping.
- Automercado carries a large inventory of US and European products so you will have a better chance to find specialty products like certain spices, turkey filling and other typical US and European products.
- Walmart runs different supermarkets, each with their own style and products. Walmart itself which is very similar to a US Walmart, the smaller version is called Mas por Menos, the very basic grocery story is Pali and outside the Central Valley they have a smaller version of Walmart called MaxiPali
- Other similar sized grocery stores are Perimercados Supermarkets who also has Jumbo with locations like Alajuela, Moravia, Desamparados, Guadalupe, Liberia, Heredia y Cartago. MegaSuper is another large Supermarket chain with many locations and if you live in Escazu, you might like Saretto.
- In coffee towns like Atenas, Grecia, Naranjo and San Ramon, you will find decent shopping options at the local supermarkets’ Coop. CoopeAtenas in Atenas, CoopeGrecia and many others do not only offer a nice inventory of local products, they also have articles for your garden, a hardware department, and others.
When your GoDutch Realty agent shows you Costa Rica real estate, ask him/her to point out where to do your grocery shopping. If you really want to save some money when shopping, check the labels and try the locally made merchandise. This will also help you to learn some Spanish.
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