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Jan 10 2012

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Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Eat Less Meat and More Fruits and Vegetables

Perhaps this one’s not fair. Before we came to Costa Rica, living in the Baltimore, Maryland area, our food budget was over $400 per month. Most people thought that that was pretty good, but in Costa Rica, we’ve managed to reduce our food budget by another $100. Our $300 (see note below for updated costs) monthly food budget includes paper products, cleaning products, personal care products like shampoo and deodorant, wine occasionally, and even fresh flowers every week or two. It does not include entertainment or eating out.

We eat about the same as we did in the States, while consuming a little less meat – ground beef, pork, chicken. Meat costs approximately the same in Costa Rica as in the U.S. — except for chicken, which is more expensive — but we’re eating less of it. As you know, Costa Rica grows great fruits and vegetables.They are plentiful and cheap. Here are a some price examples of a basket of products from one of our local produce stores, La Gran Bodega de las Frutas y Verduras:

Prices on July 18, 2011

Pineapple Smoothie

Our friend Alex at Gran Bodega

Generally we don’t eat meat with breakfast or lunch. I start the day with a glass of water and a mild blood pressure pill. My typical breakfast includes 1 cup of high fiber cereal with skim milk or low fat yogurt and a couple of glasses of water. Most days, lunch consists of a large piece of homemade bread toasted, topped with homemade peanut butter and a little honey & cinnamon. In addition, I drink a smoothie of banana, frozen pineapple, orange juice, extra fiber and ice. Dinner is the meat meal, usually with 3-6 ounces of meat, though meat is not always the main focus of our meal; we do have vegetarian meals once in a while. We accompany our evening meal with salad and/or lots of vegetables. Sometimes we chop up the meat Chinese style, like in ginger stir fry, and in soups or stews. We also eat whole-grain rice (arroz integral), black beans, and pasta.

Banana Bread & Granola Bread

Gloria also bakes her own breads – cinnamon raisin, whole grain granola, banana bread, pita and foccacia. As you might guess, I’m gaining a little weight with all of the breads – it’s a battle to refrain.  All this baking also reduces costs. We still eat lots of desserts like low-calorie chocolate pudding (muled in by friends visiting from the States), banana bread with chocolate chips, etc. Gloria often offers fresh fruit for dessert but I usually hold out for the sweetened stuff.

Since we’re not big drinkers, our costs are held down further, but we still manage to buy several liters of Chilean wine every month.  I don’t usually drink, so Gloria and guests enjoy it.  By making these choices, and also limiting more expensive imported items, we are able to keep our grocery budget to $300 per month on average. If you would like to read more about how much we spend to live here, check out our recent article, “Update on Our Cost of Living in Costa Rica.”

NOTE: November 16, 2014 – Our costs for groceries have gone up since this article was published in January 2012.  We now spend an average of $380 per month. You can see the increase year-to-year in Our 2013 Cost of Living Summary. We have also realized that, though there is a year-round growing season in Costa Rica, fruits and vegetables are more plentiful at certain times of the year and the prices fluctuate up and down depending on what’s in season and what isn’t. But in looking over the above list of fruit and veggie prices, they are not at all out of line with current prices. many items have gone up by about 50-100 colones (less than 10-20 cents) per kilo. We still eat lots of fruits and veggies, Gloria still bakes bread, but not as often, and we no longer eat low-calorie chocolate pudding so please don’t bring us any more.

We will be publishing an updated 2014 Cost of Living Summary in January, so stay tuned.

 

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