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Sep 06 2016

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Our Costa Rica Food Budget Breakdown

Updated 9/6/2016

piggybank-money_croppedSince we recently published our 2015 Cost of Living Summary, it’s time to update our Costa Rica food budget breakdown. Following are our monthly averages for the last several years:

  • 2015 groceries monthly average: $351.97
  • 2014 groceries monthly average: $301.00
  • 2013 groceries monthly average: $379.81 (a 10% increase over the previous year)
  • 2012 groceries monthly average: $345.96 (an 8% increase over the previous year)
  • 2011 groceries monthly average: $319.09

Our 2015 monthly average for groceries was closer to what we spent in 2012, and about $25 less per month than in 2013. In 2014, we traveled for two months of the year so our grocery expenses were abnormally low. Our 2016 average for groceries will most likely be higher than 2015 as we have added coconut oil to our diet every day, and we try, when possible, to buy organic produce — difficult to do on a continuing basis in our town of San Ramón.

We still think we’re saving about $100/month over our U.S. grocery expenses, as prices have increased there as well. We manage to keep it close to $350 most months because we rarely go to the big box stores in Alajuela – Auto Mercado, PriceSmart, and Walmart. When we do go there, we have the tendency to buy in bulk, including some U.S. products which are imported to Costa Rica and can’t be found at our local stores in San Ramon. The imported products can cost two to three times what they would in the States due to the high import taxes, so we buy as little of these as possible. 

We eat about the same as we did in the U.S. – lots of fruits and veggies, with meat usually only at the evening meal. Rather than breaking down the individual costs of every little item – broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, etc. — let’s just say it’s less, a lot less, in Costa Rica for fruits and veggies. One reason is that we are not buying things like bagged salads and frozen vegetables, instead buying fresh, local, and in-season. We’re so lucky here to have a year-round growing season for most things.

Our Food Budget Breakdown

So what does our $351.97 include? It includes almost everything – food, wine, and flowers, paper products (paper towels, toilet paper, wax paper, plastic wrap, and aluminum foil, zip lock bags, etc.), cleaning products (dish soap, laundry soap, Clorox, sponges, disinfectant, etc.), charcoal for the grill, and personal care products (bar soap, shampoo, razors, powder, etc.). All in all, not bad for $351.97.

As of January 2015, we started breaking out our non-food items from food items when we tally our monthly grocery spending. On average, for the year 2015, we spent about 84% on food items and 16% on non-food items as described above. So, breaking it out, in 2015 we spent an average of $296 for food and $56 for non-food items. A good goal is to decrease the percentage spending on non-food items. If you have any tips to do this, let us know and we’ll share them with our readers.

This category does not include cat food and litter, nor does it include eating out in restaurants. We have separate categories for those things and will break these, and other categories down, in future months. We eat great and we’re not suffering.

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