Our location allows us two major options for regular food shopping.
One is the local town, which has three small supermarkets and a wide range of smaller shops such as butchers and bakers available.
Most of the mountain towns also have a weekly Saturday morning local produce market. A street is blocked off in the center of town and the vendors begin setting up early in the morning (as in 4am!)
This is where you start to see differences in the prices of fruits and vegetables compared to the supermarkets. You can walk away with all you can carry for $6. What’s more, the produce is fresh, not shipped vast distances in gassed conditions. They are really tasty and last much longer – we’ve had locally produced lettuce last up to two weeks in the fridge.
Those pineapples are three for a dollar!
Papaya, a special large size variety of avocado, and down on the right you see plantains, called 'platanos'. This is a standard feature of many Costa Rican dishes, especially the 'casados'.
More Local Shopping
Typically the stores in a country mountain town will have a service setup which requires the customer approaching a counter for service and asking for what they want. If you don't know exactly what you want, or don't know the word for it in Spanish, this presents some problems. You have no idea of what is back there out of sight. Could be just the thing you need, but you won't ever know it.
After identifying the product, you get issued with a receipt which is paid for at a separate counter, and the item itself is collected at yet another counter.
All the stores pretty much operate this way.
A 'ferreteria' is not, as I initially and oh so wrongly thought, a place that sells ferrets, but a hardware store. Probably the word comes from the Latin for iron - ferrum - making it originally an ironmonger's store.
A 'libreria' is a shop which sells paper, office supplies and sundry other items. It often includes a photocopy service as well, and maybe a fax sending and receiving facility too.
'Carniceria' is of course, a butcher shop.
The other shopping option involves a 40 minute trip to the nearest large American style mall, complete with food court, where the supermarkets carry a wider range of imported products at, of course, much higher prices. If you do all your shopping here your monthly cost of living will be high indeed.
Cost of living is a little difficult to pinpoint because inflation is a major force in the currency, the Colon. The CPI inflation runs at around 11% per year in colones, with individual grocery items occasionally much higher.
Add to this the fact that the US dollar has fallen in relation to the Costa Rican Colon by some 4.5% at the end last year, while essentially remaining fixed in exchange value during most of that time, you end up with a loss of purchasing power in dollar derived colones of around 15% over that year.
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