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.