Friday 2 December 2022

The cost of groceries Costa Rica vs USA 2019

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In this blog, you’ll find the comparison of the cost of groceries Costa Rica versus the cost of groceries in Florida 2019.

Diego Xavier, an expat in Costa Rica since 2014, shared this tremendous information recently on Facebook.  I’d like to thank Diego Xavier, for allowing me to use this incredible comparison between the cost of groceries Costa Rica vs the United States in 2019. I’m sure thousands of Ivo’s blog readers will appreciate what you have done.

It is important to note that the purchasing power parity does make Costa Rica expensive for the local residents. But they often have different eating habits so can adjust well with locally made products.

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Expats who are on some sort of a retirement income might have a different experience with the cost of groceries Costa Rica 2019 than those who earn their living here.

Here we go:

Comparison #1

Download List #1 Cost of groceries Costa Rica vs USA 2019.

Lots of complaining

Over and over I hear people complain about how much higher the cost of groceries is here than “back home.” They quote anything from 50% higher to double or triple. But I just don’t see it.


Anecdotal stories are fun, but facts and actual numbers are the real deal. So, I did a big comparison of the cost of groceries so I would know the truth of it. (I started to say “an exhaustive comparison,” but the only thing exhausted was me after all the calculations.) I did it for me, because, well…because I’m a nerd about these things sometimes. I share it here for you simply because I have the information and because a few people asked me to share it.

The ground rules

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I am certain that there are going to be the folks who want to argue and find fault with what I’m about to present. So let me lay the ground rules that I used to make the comparison:


I chose to use Publix grocery story as the USA base for comparison—because I was in Florida, because it is a middle of the road store, and because it is a very popular store (and I know many expats who go on and on about how they miss shopping there.

Comparison #2

Download list #2 Cost of groceries Costa Rica vs USA 2019.

A variety of stores

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Not everything is always available in every store in Costa Rica, so I did go to three main places in order to get a price for all the items. They were Walmart, PriceSmart, and Automercado. The meat prices for here are from a meat market I use regularly because of the high quality of their beef—it rivals and often surpasses USA beef quality.

Regular prices

I only compared the regular price to regular price. It would be unfair to use sales prices in either country to unfairly bias the results.

No Rice ‘n Beans

I had a list of items that I often and/or routinely buy in Costa Rica that I used for the shopping list. As you will see, the list is comprised of things that I use for cooking large meals of high standards, as well as some things for quick or junkier meals. It is in NO WAY “eating rice and beans like a Tico every day.”


Many things were exact matches. Where there were differences in size availability or Imperial measurements versus Metric, I calculated the price per unit (ounces, gram, pound, etc.) and made the appropriate relative cost adjustment so everything would be on the up and up.

Comparison #3

Download list #3 Costa of groceries Costa Rica vs USA 2019.

Brand Names

When I had to choose a different brand, it is noted.

The Exchange Rate

The exchange rate for the colon has been up and down for buying dollars—anywhere from 595 to 605 recently. So I chose to use the rate that was given on the day that I did the bulk of the of cost comparisons, which was 601.5 to 1.

Foreseeing Arguments

Now I can already hear some of the Devil’s advocates’ arguments against what they may not like:

That much?

“But I would never spend that much, to begin with.”—That’s fine, but it doesn’t change the relative costs, just the total amounts.

The best prices?

“But you only went to one store in the States and you went to several here, so you probably picked the best prices here.”—The prices weren’t that much different overall from one place to another. And in order to GET prices for everything that’s what I needed to do.

Comparison #4

Download list #4 Cost of groceries Costa Rica vs USA 2019.

A real grocery store

“But you went to a ‘real’ grocery store in Florida; you should have gone to Walmart in both places.” Maybe, but Walmart is, in my opinion on the scale of things here, on par with shopping at Publix in Florida.

A fair comparison?

“But we don’t have a Walmart or PriceSmart or Automercado near us, so it isn’t a fair comparison.”—Three-quarters of the population of Costa Rica lives in the Central Valley where access to these stores is relatively easy.

“But we live on the beach, and it’s more expensive here.”—That was your choice…I guess you can’t have your cake and eat it, too.

Why Florida?

“But Florida is more expensive than where I came from.”—Could be, but it’s also less expensive than were other people came from. I was just trying to get some basic idea of whether groceries actually cost double or not.


“But you had some expensive things that were outliers, and that unduly affected the total cost.”—There were outliers on both sides so I decided to leave it all since I buy it all.

Comparison #5

Download list #5 Cost of groceries Costa Rica vs USA 2019.

Prices are incorrect!

“But those prices you listed just are not correct. I’ve never seen those prices here.”—I took pictures of every price tag in both the States and in Costa Rica to have a record. It’s just way too much to have to post 142 pictures to prove every price, so you’ll just have to take my word on it.

“But…. But…. But….”

The Bottom Line

Bottom line is this:

  • We spend significantly less on groceries in Costa Rica than we did in the States.
  • About 30% LESS. Not 50% more. And certainly not double.
  • Maybe you don’t. We do.
  • I think there are several reasons people say that the costs are so much higher here.
  • Maybe they’ve lived here for a number of years and remember what prices were when they left the States, but they haven’t kept up with what prices have done in the interim.
  • Or, maybe they were like us and just never really paid much attention to prices there when income was more disposable. But here we pay better attention to the price and it just seems a lot higher because we never really thought we paid that much before.
  • Or, maybe people don’t do the actual calculations to be sure of the differences.
  • maybe people are just repeating what they’ve heard and have never really even thought about it themselves.
  • maybe they are making a blanket statement for all of Costa Rica based on limited experience in a single area.

Could it be that’s it’s all of those things? Probably.

Article by Diego Xavier, another happy expat since 2014, was first published at Repulished with permission. Read the original here.

Diego and Michael have been able to adjust very well to life in Costa Rica. Diego Xavier has done an incredible job of putting these comparisons of the cost of living Costa Rica 2019 versus the United States together.

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