High And Low Costs Of Things In Latin America

“A box of Triscuits for US$7.52?” asks Guatemala Correspondent Michael Paladin.

“One thing you’ll discover once you’ve left the land of Walmart is that things like your favorite snack foods can enter the category of luxury items. Triscuits, made in Canada, have to travel far to end up on the shelf of a Guatemala or Nicaragua grocery store, as does U.S.-made Jiff peanut butter, for example.

“The point is, you make some trade-offs, living outside the United States (or wherever you hail). You’ll find that shopping takes longer, and you may have to seek out the imported foods section in the single gourmet shop, for example, in your adopted homeland.

“Even down here in the Banana Republics, you can find French mustard, Greek olives, and good wine from all over the world these days. It is a matter of logistics and has a lot to do with your distance from the manufacturer at the point of purchase. Proximity to the Panama Canal helps. The major cities in Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, and Costa Rica have ‘big box’ stores nearby for major shopping expeditions.

“One secret is to search out the locally made version of the brand you know. I’ve found locally made Kellogg’s cereals, Frito-Lay concoctions, and even Fore-Most dairy products in my local supermarket. I priced a box of U.S.-made Cheerios this morning: US$5.

“A bottle of Stolichnaya, which retails for US$16 or so in the States, goes out the door here for US$9. Superb Chilean and Argentinean vintages range from US$7 to US$70 a bottle.

Rum? We live in the land of rum, from the stuff that peels paint to the finest 24-year-old Flor de Cana or Ron Zacapa at US$24 a bottle. Havana Club, long my favorite, is available for US$13 a bottle. ”

Cuban cigars? A wide range of brands are available at all price points, as fresh as you could wish for. In fact, all the major brands have local manufacturers, with superior ingredients without the additives. ”

Fresh vegetables? This is one of the big pluses of living in this part of the world. They’re readily available, just out of the ground and washed, wrapped in plastic, and ready to go. Fresh fruit, too unsprayed, un-genetically engineered, and picked from the tree a day or so ago. Meat and poultry? Fresh and local…and cheaper.

“My point is, you aren’t going to find everything you’re used to eating once you leave the world of developed consumption. I haven’t seen beef jerky or Slim Jims here in Antigua, for example, nor Kool-Aid.

“On the other hand, a lot of food items are cheaper. Go local, and you can eat really cheap. And probably healthier. “Bottom line, though, is that you may have to cut back on the Triscuits.”

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