One of our first tasks upon arriving in Nosara was getting food to stock our pantry. The village is full of “mini-supers,” which are like convenience stores, but for your big grocery trip, the largest store is Super Nosara. It was the first stop on our list.
By Nosara standards, it’s a pretty big place, and like most around here, it’s open in the front and has no air conditioning. Forget lingering in the aisles like you might do at Publix, comparing the price of this and the fat content of that. When the sweat is rolling down your back you just keep moving and filling the cart. Hustle hustle.
At least, that’s what we did on day 1. Prices aren’t easy to find on all items, so we just grabbed what we felt we needed without a lot of comparison shopping. We got the basics – bread, some veggies and fruit, peanut butter, deli meat, etc. We also had to get some bigger-ticket staples like shampoo, conditioner, soap, laundry detergent, etc.
I knew it wouldn’t be a cheap visit, but I was still shocked when it rang up to $250.
Back home, we took a closer look at our receipt to see where we went awry. It’s just all really expensive. A lot of it is imported, and the import taxes are steep (which means they’re passed along to the consumer). But there were some real surprises.
For example, I had grabbed a jar of Nutella, because I was thinking about making sandwiches for Camille’s school lunch. I wanted something easy that would be a slam dunk.
That jar of Nutella was $15. I kid you not.
How do the Ticos feed themselves with prices like this? Obviously not with Nutella. We either needed to learn to eat differently or shop differently, or both, or we’d go broke in the first month.
While the Super Nosara had a decent selection of basic items, I was disappointed in the limited amount of fresh produce. So Saturday, we drove into the Guiones area (where a lot of the gringos, surfers and hippie-types live) to visit the Saturday farmer’s market.
The food looked great and we grabbed some strawberries, a jar of pesto (Camille’s favorite food), some empanadas, cauliflower, eggs and other random stuff. Our bill came to $25, which still seemed like a lot, but at least the quality of the produce was improved.
We tried an organic deli market in Guiones, and the offerings were fine but the prices were similar to what we’d found elsewhere.
Then yesterday, we were driving through Nosara town (the Tico part of town) passing mini-super after mini-super, when one caught our eye. There were onions hanging outside the entrance, watermelons piled up in front of the door, and I could see shelves of brightly-colored produce along the side wall. And of course, as an authentic mini-super, it had a dog lounging in the doorway, obstructing our access.
We made a u-turn in the street (just driving like the locals) and pulled up next to the Mercado Central Johan. The fruit and veggies looked great, so we grabbed a plastic crate and loaded up a few things.
The nice lady rang up my bill for all you see in the pic below, and it came to about $7. And about $5 was just for the watermelon. This must be where the Ticos are shopping (and maybe they’re not getting watermelon).
So for the moment, it seems as though grocery shopping is going to involve going lots of places. Super Nosara for staples (like Doritos, naturally). The farmer’s market for empanadas and pesto and such. But most of our fresh produce is going to come from the Mercado Central Johan.
There is one other farmer’s market I’ve heard about in Guiones that happens every Tuesday, and I’ll give it a try. And I have an order in with a local baker to buy some fresh cinnamon sticky buns on Wednesday morning. While I don’t think feeding ourselves here is ever going to be cheap, we’re figuring it out slowly.
Meanwhile, most mornings I toast a piece of bread and spread Nutella goodness on that warm white slice. And it is so tasty. I better savor it, because it’s the last jar I’ll be buying for quite a while.