Saturday, March 16, 2013

COST OF PRODUCE IN CUENCA - More on our frugal lifestyle!!!

Mango, parsley, chard, pineapple, plantains, garlic, cucumbers, carrots, green peppers, peas, beets, avocados, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes.  All this for $12 - Really?  Yes Really!!!

I remember reading different blogs and looking at photos of Cuenca's mercados when Bo and I were planning to relocate here.  It was one of the first things I looked forward to doing once we landed - finally, going fresh produce shopping at the various Mercados.  Here we are, 3-1/2 months later, still loving our almost daily shopping trips to the wonderful colorful and abundant markets in El Centro, and also shopping from the street vendors along the way.  We have our favorite vendors now whom we know by name, and we get lots of special treatment and favor.  You can see in the photo that the pineapple is perfectly peeled because one of our favorite vendors takes care of us.

Here's a breakdown of what this produce cost us which should last us several days:
1 Pineapple (sweet & juicy)    $1.25
2 Mangos (huge & meaty)        1.00
7 Carrots (sweet & Fat)             .50
Peas (shelled, bagged)            1.00
7 Tomatoes (huge)                  1.00
5 Avocados (delicious)             1.00
7 Beets                                   .50
4 cucumbers                          1.00
Garlic (peeled cloves)               .50
4 Plantains (ripe)                    1.00
Chard (large bunch)                  .50
Parsley (large bunch)                .25
Cauliflower (large head)           1.00
Broccoli (large head)                1.00
11 Peppers                               .50

Our Ecuadorian families tell us how much more we can get for our money if we would go to Feria Libre (some think we are getting gouged).  Soon, we will trek out there for a shopping trip with our friends who will show us the best vendors to buy from (we've been there but not to actually shop).  We will do a price comparison to see if it's worth it to save a few dollars.  However, for the convenience of being able to walk four to eight blocks to the markets from our apartment, and because it's only the two of us and produce here is fresh and organic and spoils if not eaten quickly, we don't know if it's going to be worth the long trek to Feria Libre and back.  We'll see.  For now, we enjoy knowing our vendors and feel we are getting a lot for our money.  It's also rewarding to frequent and bless our favorite vendors.
This is the 9 De Octubre Mercado which is very close to our apartment.  It is a very busy, clean, and abundant market that has wonderful meats, seafood, vegetables,and fruits plus food and juice vendors.  We sometimes shop here but enjoy the 10 de Augusto Mercado and their vendors more, where we mostly shop since moving to El Centro.

It's the 16th of March, and so far we've spent a total of $121 of our $289 food budget in groceries, household, wine, produce and protein (poultry, beef, seafood and shrimp).  We've had several dinners at our home with friends.  We cook most of our meals and eat in more than we eat out.  Our food/household bill for just the two of us back in the USA was between $600 and $800 dollars.  We purchased organic meats and produce (so spendy there) and the cost of groceries and household items was so much more.  Here, we eat even healthier (we do not buy prepackaged or canned foods) and spend less because we only buy what we need as we run out of that item.  Living in the heart of the city prevents us from having to stock up on items because we can walk out our door and find a tienda close by to pick up what we're out of.  This, I love about living in El Centro.

We recently attended a party where an ex-pat couple shared with us that their monthly grocery bill runs $700 to $800.  It's just the two of them, but they say they entertain a lot and shop mostly at SuperMaxi.   They also expressed that their monthly living expenses were in the ball park of $3,000 or more a month.  I share this because it will become a personal budget for each and everyone coming to live in Cuenca.  No one can say how much it is going to cost another person for groceries, housing, transportation, medical, etc.  We, ourselves, can live here on less than $1,300 a month because we are purposing to live frugally.   It is our desire to eat healthier, live a simpler less costly lifestyle as we continue to learn about and explore this area and culture to see if it truly is where we want to plant ourselves for a long-term commitment.  Remember, we did not previously visit Cuenca to know what to expect.  We just packed our bags and came!  

We continue to document our daily spending, to shop daily at the local markets (Yes, we buy our meat and seafood at the open markets, and yes we're still alive and well), and to purpose to stay within our monthly budget.  My really fun frugal shopping trip today landed me in a second-hand store (and I read there weren't any to speak of here!!!) where I found 5 pair of fabulous practically new designer jeans, perfect fit (I've lost 10 lbs of ugly fat since being here - woohoo) for guess how much?  $28, really?  YES REALLY!!!

I told you Cuenca has everything one could possibly need!  Even a thrift store!!
I'm happy and I love Cuenca city life more each day.

One of Bo's delicious salads we love to munch on - Avocado, Tomatoes, and butter-fried platanos (plantains) - with fresh limon, a drizzle of cold-pressed olive oil, and sea salt.  YUM!  Walking miles and miles each day and eating mostly Paleo is our choice for a healthy lifestyle.

Bo's Beef Bone Broth simmers on our stove daily - and this is one of Bo's bone broth soups - with beef, potatoes, and fresh chard.  WE LOVE CREATING DELICIOUS SOUPS!


  1. If we move there I hope to find that thrift store. Your budget sounds pretty close to our target of $1500 a month (if we move there). Oh, and congrats on the 10# weight loss. Getting healthier is one of our goals, too.

    Hope we can meet up when we visit next month!

    [Hope this posts...having trouble with getting the stupid word verification to work. Hate that!]

  2. Hi Donna,
    It will be wonderful to meet and share with you and Stu after you arrive and get settled in. Let us know when you want to get together and we're there. I'll be happy to show you the thrift store too. We continue to stay budget aware, and it's working for us! We're certainly not deprived at all on this budget. You'll definitely shed pounds just walking daily around this beautiful city and eating all the fresh and abundant produce from the vendors and markets. See you both in April - woohoo!!

  3. I was reading on a FB post this week the health values of pineapple, and I thought of you. The pineapple we get here in OR is often flavorless because it was picked before being ripe, and how blessed you are there to get all non-GMO, organic fruit and veggies. WOW!

  4. Hi Shadley,
    You're back! Glad you finally got your e-mail straightened out. It's always so encouraging to receive your comments. Bo and I buy a fresh pineapple every few days - they are sooooo sweet and fresh here. We continue to enjoy the fresh produce - but we have to eat it within a few days because it ripens and spoils so quickly. Another reason we love living 4 blocks from the mercado. There is talk of bringing GMO into this country. I pray it doesn't happen. For now, we love the health benefits of living here. Stay in touch and may you continue to enjoy our blog and journey.

  5. Hey, nice dinnerware... Great article. George

  6. Hello Linda and Bo, This is Valerie from NC, of the USA. I have been researching EC for over a year now. Today I came across your blog and THANK you so much for sharing with us all! Your attitude seems to be just what it takes to really enjoy being an expat. I would love to meet you both when I come your way! The Lord Bless you each day as you grow and give.

  7. Welcome to our Blog, Valerie!
    So glad you are enjoying our journey, and when you come our way, do be in touch and we will plan on meeting. Looking forward to hearing from you, and I hope your plans for coming to Ecuador are realized. Cuenca is absolutely a must see and do!!!

  8. hi Linda, I'm visiting cuenca and would love to check out the thrift shop while I'm here, are you able to send the address or area where it is located.
    many thanks,
    Camille. camilleamber@hotmail.com

    1. Hi Camille,
      Welcome to Cuenca! I'll e-mail you directions to the thrift store.

  9. I've read in other blogs that they use tons of pesticides there, even DDT. And, that they feed chickens, in particular GM grains from the US, and use so much hormonrpe, that the chickens can barely stand. Also, I read that the Mercado's just SAY things aren't sprayed, and that even though there's regulation for the "organic" label, it's no real enforcement. I'd love to believe what you say instead because I'm moving there, but I've seen so much conflicting stuff in the last year. I'd like the address and directions to the secondhand store too!


Leave us your comments and I will respond with any questions you may have. Enjoy our Blog! Linda (y Bo)