Grocery Day in the Campo ~ Some of Our Expenses

My friend Kris tries to regularly post her monthly budget.  I have to admit that she lives in an area that gets reeaalllly cheap vegetables and there are a few differences in our costs of living.  We have no monthly rent for our house because our little slice of the campo belongs to us. We also received a 15 year property tax exemption and we have 13 years remaining on it.  Our last electricity bill was $46.00 and our water bill was $2.16 thanks to a “gift” of $4.50 from the Panamanian government to it’s residents.  We also paid for our $10.00 per year garbage tag in January and our SKY satellite is $61.50 for one television at the “top-tier”.  We didn’t have to refill any of our butane tanks in January because I used so little while SU was gone in December but they usually cost $5.00 to fill a tank about the same size as a propane tank in North America.  We also used about $100.00 worth of gasoline for the truck in January because we took a few trips making both left and right turns out of the pueblo.

Kris lives close to Cerro Punta where most of Panama’s lettuce, tomatoes and such are grown.  We could never beat the prices nor the varieties in the David/Bouquete area because our vegetables have to be trucked in from that same area.  Our extraño population is much smaller and there is also not as big a demand for things that are different. Panameños aren’t interested in eating a great variety of foods, they like their white rice, beans, carrots, cabbage, culantro (similar in taste to cilantro), onions, and chicken.

Yesterday we went into Las Tablas to do a few errands and we did a little grocery shopping.  SU likes to treat himself to “special” beers, imports at the grocery store.  Keep in mind that Panamanian beer is still only $11.50 for 24.  Here is sampling of 20 items that we purchased and what they cost:

Cerveza – Becks – 12 cans $11.40
Cerveza – Guiness – 12 cans $ 9.36
Onions (yellow) @ $1.65/kilo $ 1.32
Broccoli @ $2.25/kilo $   .71
Eggplant @ $2.97/kilo $ 1.00
Skim Milk 1.89 l fresh* $ 2.71
Skim Milk Extra Calcium UHT 946 ml $ 1.49
Coffee– Palo Alto 425g $ 5.70
Reynolds Wrap 25 feet $ 1.46
Wesson Canola Oil 710 ml $ 3.76
Fragata Olive Oil 500 ml $ 4.35
Blue Cheese Castello Danablu pkg $ 3.32
Cheddar Cheese 340g $ 4.34
Grapefruit Juice – Tropicana Plastic Jug $ 3.88
Chicken – Whole @ $2.84/kilo $ 5.13
Surf Detergent 1.5 kg $ 2.63
Royale Double Roll Toilet Paper 4 roll pack** $ 2.73
Hershey Milk Chocolate Chips 12 oz $ 2.98
Vlasic Pepperoncini Peppers 355 ml $ 2.68
Cat Chow Complete 1.42 kg $ 5.99

* I use fresh milk to make Greek Yogurt.  We generally use UHT milk every day because it keeps better in our climate even though there isn’t much difference in price.

** You can probably get cheaper TP in PriceMart in David or Panama or cut down on the cost by buying larger packages or cheaper brands.

None of the prices noted above are sale prices, they are what we would pay every day.   In this particular store we very rarely see anything on special.  Instead, we will often get something attached to a product as a free gift.  For instance it isn’t unusual  to find a small extra packet of detergent attached to a larger package of the same brand.  Or a package of hand soap attached to a package of shampoo.

I took a quick look at the Sobey’s flyer from Edmonton to see if I could get any cost comparisons.  One thing that struck me was the amount of convenience foods in the flyer.  It wouldn’t be fair to compare the prices of everything but we both agree that we’re doing not bad with our food budget.  Vegetables are cheaper if we take the time to visit the trucks and there is a new hydroponic operation in town selling lovely tomatoes and lettuce.  We were also happy to find ground turkey packed in one pound rolls for $2.72 each when we were in David and so we stocked up on several packages.

When SU was in Calgary over Christmas he commented on how overwhelming the choices were in the grocery store.  Looking at the flyer I have to agree.  We now know what products we like and what we don’t like and which are more economical than others to use.  Our choices are normally limited to two or three brands.  The only areas in the store where we really have a good choice is the rice, bean and oil aisles.

We are still harvesting papayas and we’ve had two crops of bananas. Pineapples are shipped from only four hours away instead of taking three or four weeks.  It is melon season and the cantaloupe and watermelon are plentiful.  Soon it will be mango season and we can’t wait, we’ll be eating fresh mangoes from our friends trees and be making mango smoothies.  I bake our bread and sweets and make yogurt.  We eat fresh eggs or oatmeal for breakfast and often have leftovers from dinner the night before for lunch.  We’ve got a good supply of fish in the freezer for now until we are ready to go looking for some more fresh fish.  We’re definitely not eating any of the prepackaged processed food advertised in the Sobey’s flyer (although we will confess to eating some Panamanian brand bacon).   It is nice to get out of the district every once in a while to find food “treats” in some of the larger supermarkets in Chitre and beyond.  But we’ve learned that we can live simply and still be extremely satisfied with what we can find to fill our bellys in the campo.

More Reading:
http://o.canada.com/news/national/genxy-finances/
http://becomingsolvent.wordpress.com/2014/02/07/budgeting-the-cost-of-living/
http://hereandthereblog.com/2014/02/06/lifestyle-differences-china-and-us/
http://globalnews.ca/news/1120098/toronto-budget-2014-the-higher-cost-of-living/
http://twoyuppiesandapassport.com/2014/01/30/the-high-life-on-a-shoestring-cape-town-vs-new-york-city/
http://mysticalrandomness.wordpress.com/2014/01/30/you-know-new-zealands-economy-is-screwed-up-because/
http://rosemaryswanderings.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/canada-land-of-milk-and-honey-hope-and-future-think-again/
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About indacampo

You'll find me at https://indacampo.wordpress.com/ blogging about Panama...and other things.
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15 Responses to Grocery Day in the Campo ~ Some of Our Expenses

  1. Carol says:

    Nicely said….amazing how all the things we took for granted have now become “treats”,…and it is awesome to feel that way.

    • indacampo says:

      Si! Waiting for my other plants to produce bananas though. May have to break down and pay for our seventy cent banana bunch. 🙂

  2. I figure if the locals can live with what’s available we can too, and some things may be different but no less enjoyable. Thanks for the pingback 🙂 And speaking of different, I need to run because the kids are headed out to take photos of the snow! (I will be missing Panama weather by the time we return but it sure is pretty)

  3. Thanks for visiting my blog. Checked yours and it’s chockablock full of great information. Will reblog this page when I publish my next post on cost of living, basic goods… As a temporary expat in rural Germany, I’m surprised that I can live on so much less here than in Vancouver (or elsewhere that I planned in the interior), while only 20 and 90 kms away from a large city.

    • indacampo says:

      I’m always curious how others are living outside Canada. My MIL is German and SU was born there and lived there for several years. I know it’s gotten much more expensive since the time we visited in the 90’s but it’s interesting to note that it is still cheaper than Canada. And know those German’s and their holistic way of life you’re probably able to find some very interesting things.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      • I did spend 10 months in southern Spain prior to Germany. For some reason, even though I speak the local languages, I couldn’t manage to fit in. It’s very unusual for a family and extended family-oriented society to have a grandmother without her family in their midst. The weather was great, the food was good and inexpensive. but that wasn’t enough. What ruined it for me was the rampant tax evasion by my various employers (cash pay in an envelope to their staff); I couldn’t function that way. Germany is quite the opposite; the healthier economy speaks for itself. Will have to decide in the next couple of years where to stay put. Ecuador had been on my radar but my children aren’t keen on my going there. Maybe I’ll have to check out Panama 🙂 I’ll keep reading your posts…

      • indacampo says:

        Gracias! And I’ll have to delve more into your adventures. 🙂

  4. Olga says:

    Thanks for the link back to my blog! I’m curious about your life in Panama. It sounds very nice!

    • indacampo says:

      It was very interesting to see how Toronto expenses stack up against our expenses in Panama. Thanks for being curious enough to come for a visit!

  5. Thanks for linking back!
    This was an interesting read. Those prices are ridiculous.

    • indacampo says:

      De nada!

      It will be interesting to return to Canada this summer after two years away. I’ll probably be as blown away as my hubby was. 🙂

  6. oldsalt1942 says:

    Generally I buy local products at the supermarket, but there are just some things I can’t compromise on…I’m sure some of it is cultural, but for my palate only Jiff or Skippy peanut butter will do, and I’m willing to pay the premium. On the other hand, I actually LIKE Balboa and Panama beers.
    My electricity is ALWAYS lower than what I see others are paying. Last month it was $10 and some coins. It’s been as low as $7 and in the hot months it has gone as high as $20 and change. Yes, I DO have a/c, but I rarely use it. A fan does nicely and a lot less expensive, too.

  7. Reblogged this on rosemaryswanderings and commented:
    Comparing Canadian cost of living that I’ve been writing about; here is an example of Canadians who have found a sustainable retirement solution. It’s not for everyone to leave family and friends behind but on the other hand, family and friends can plan a holiday and visit.

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