Grocery Shopping in Uvita
When grocery shopping in Uvita, there are two supermarkets and a farmers market to choose from. The supermarkets are:
- Supermercado el Pacifico
Both of these grocery stores are located on the east side of Highway 34/Costanera Highway in Uvita.
Based on gossip I've heard (but have not confirmed), both stores are owned by the same person/company, so you would expect the brands and prices to be the same....but not quite.
Before we get into the unique stores, let's talk about the actual products here in Costa Rica. You may have read that groceries are cheaper in Costa Rica than in the U.S., which is true if you don't have any U.S. brand loyalty. While there are U.S. products here that we love, like Oreos, they come at a price. The price is higher on these products since they are imports and have costs associated with getting them to and into Costa Rice.
Eggs in Costa Rica
Eggs are sold by the weight, typically 1200 colones per kilogram, and are not kept cold as they are in the U.S. Eggs in Costa Rica are not power washed to get rid of salmonella like in the US, so they have their natural coating so they don't have to be in the fridge.
Yogurt in Costa Rica
There is Yoplait yogurt here in Costa Rica and it is sold in plastic containers (buckets), but the local yogurt (Coronado brand) is sold in a jug and lasts about 2 weeks. You will find the yogurt to be more liquid than those found in the U.S.; but great the flavor is good and they have interesting flavors, such as blackberry, peach, lemon, mango, strawberry, etc.
Condiments in Costa Rica
Again there are the U.S. brands of condiments, such as Heinz Ketchup and Mustard, or Hellman's Mayo, but they may not always be the cheapest. Many of the brands, even those U.S. ones came in bags. My guess is that the locals will initially buy the bottle of condiment, but then use the bags to refill the bottle. The bags are significantly cheaper, no matter what brand you choose. However, we've found that using the condiment directly from the bag works just fine.
I'm not sure about you, but I LOVE mayo! (I know some of you may be Miracle Whip fans, but you're going to be out of luck). What I found interesting is that most of the mayo's have lime in them. I was able to find Hellman's brand that had no lime and came in light also.
Laundry Soap in Costa Rica
There are liquid laundry soaps in the stores, but I've found that most locals use the powder, which isn't that unusual in itself; however, the powder comes in bags, which I don't remember seeing in the U.S. (However, I used those awful tide pods that people ate!). If my calculations were right, the powder is cheaper also---but I really like having a nice sturdy container--so will be figuring that out shortly.
Dish Soap in Costa Rica
Similarly, there is liquid dish soap, but most people use the paste. There are different brands, sizes, and fragrances of these dish pastes. I really really like them!!! If I would have not used my dishwasher in the U.S. and done my dishes by hand, I would have loved to have this available. Basically, you just rub your dish rag/scrubber over the top and you pick up a little of the paste and go straight to your dishes. It saves filling the sink with lots of water and dishes seem to go faster (or at least in my head)!
Soups and Spices
Many of the spices and soups come in packets. And many times you'll find you purchase 4 packets at a time, such as our Pico Gallo seasoning.
While maybe becoming more popular in the U.S., we definitely didn't see 1) Smirnoff in cans--usually glass; and 2) mixed drinks in cans. Bamboo brand is mojitos or rum/coke in cans. At one smaller store we saw the BamBoo rum/coke in a liter bottle, which we actually thought was just a type of soda a first!
Both the Uvita BM and the Supermercado have an air conditioned liquor room - it's like a liquor store within a store. The beer is kept in the main part of the store, but liquor, wine and specialty drinks are kept separate.
Both the BM and the Supermercado have a large variety of liquor and wine to choose from. Wine and liquor are sold in refrigerated portions of the store, in both cases. Although the Uvita store will soon be 100% air conditioned (the only one in the whole area between Palmar Norte and Quepos).
Grocery Prices in Costa Rica
You will find that there are different products available at different stores. For example, we use a Pico de Gallo dry seasoning, which comes in packets of 4---however, in a can at the Supermercado, but not at the BM in Uvita. Surprisingly the BM in Palmar Norte does carry it?!?!
The store brand (we'll call it) for condiments at the Supermercado seems to be "El Angel", but it is "Banquete" at the BM. However many of the brands are the same, such as "DoniaMa" for white sugar; "Bimbo" for bread; or "Dos Pinos" for milk products. Typically you'll find a standard brand, but then one store will carry a different brand than the other store as an alternative.
In an effort to maximize our food budget, we decided to compare prices of our typical groceries between the Supermercado and the BM. What we found is that out of 74 items, 21 (or 28%) of the products were the same brand and price between the two stores. Of the remaining 53 items, approximately half were cheaper at the Supermercado and half cheaper at the BM. However, the price differences weren't significant. For example, Betty Crocker cake mix was .04 colones per gram cheaper at the BM; but Lengena Spaghetti noodles were .08 colones per gram cheaper at the Supermercado.
It should be noted that we did our comparison on the gram, milliliter, and kilogram level (for the most part). You really do
have to look at prices per measurement, as cheaper overall price doesn't mean cheaper and larger package doesn't always mean cheaper. For example, the Banquete ketchup (photo/left): There is one for 1530 for 610 grams, or 2.51 per gram. The larger size is 2140 for 800 grams, or 2.68 per gram.
Now all of our comparison don't take into consideration any sales that are going on; however, I haven't figured out how to determine if there is a sale before going into the store--like you would in the U.S. There aren't advertisements on TV or in papers, that I've seen (could be, but I haven't seen them. However, it might be helpful to take a laminated copy of the brand, price per measurement when you do go shopping, so you can check as you go.
Be aware of "freebies". Many times you will see a separate (maybe not even related product) that is included with another product. Sometimes it really is free---for example, once I received a 18 oz Pepsi with my 2.5 L Tropical ice tea and the price was the same without the freebie. But many times that may not be the case, so do your due diligence. These are our experiences grocery shopping in Uvita so far.
Store Layouts Are Different
What is interesting about the grocery stores in Costa Rica (at least in Uvita), is the layouts don't always make sense. For example, cheese slices may be found in multiple locations. You may see a case for local versus import brands (or some other weird segregation), so be sure to look around before finalizing your shopping. The layout can make grocery shopping in Uvita challenging, until you learn where everything is located in each store.
Typically, in the U.S. the butter is found with the other dairy products, but in Costa Rica, there is a separate "cooler case" for butter, which is found by the bread--way across the store from the dairy?!?! Or as you can see in the picture below, ice cream is by itself at the front of this store, but all the rest of the frozen food is in the back of the store.
There may even be a specially section, where there is Dijon mustard which is nowhere near the regular mustard.
A couple things that set the Supermercado and BM apart are:
- BM is currently expanding and will be air conditioned by the end of the year.
- BM has a section for pre-made meals and rotisserie chicken which I haven't seen at the Supermercado
- The specialty food section was found at the BM, but didn't see anything similar at the Supermercado
However, there are similarities in the stores also:
- Both have an air conditioned liquor room (not the beer, but wine and liquors)
- Both stores offer house hold items, such as towels, shoes, pans, plastic storage containers, etc.
- Both stores have provided a "rebate" when spending over 20 mil. So far I've gotten 2 at the BM and 1 at the Supermercado; which were between 1200-1400 colones. You present the coupon receipt at check-out the next time you shop. Usually valid for 30 days. I haven't found a rhyme to it yet, as sometimes I've spent over the 20 mil and didn't get one.
Uvita Farmers Market (El Mercado)
Finally, the cheapest price for groceries may not be found at a supermarket at all. Uvita's farmers market typically has cheaper produce available than the grocery stores. The Farmers Market also has a wide variety of produce and other items not always available at the grocery stores. It is a good idea to add the Farmers Market to your grocery shopping in Uvita buying routine. Uvita's Farmers Market is every Wednesday, from 8 am - 5 pm, at the Salon Comunal Bahia Ballena.
In conclusion, this post gives you some ideas around grocery shopping in Uvita, but how you approach it really depends how much time you have, how much time you spend, your budget, and if you really end up saving money by going to multiple stores--we haven't figured that out yet!
Let us know what you think and what your experiences are like. We're new here - and we're still learning!
Amy & Jason