Food Shopping is Expensive in Jamaica!
If you are considering moving to Jamaica don’t be fooled into thinking that it is cheap to buy groceries and household items, because the cost of living and everyday items is somewhat shocking. As I walk around the stores I find myself checking the price of the items I am putting in my basket, as it is all too easy to get a fright at the till when the cashier informs you of your balance. I am sure the reason they don’t start packing the groceries until after you have opened your purse and handed over the money is in case you need to retrieve something and put it back!
Cheap Imported Foods
Don’t get me wrong the cost of food shopping in the UK, or specifically London where I come from, isn’t exactly cheap. But we have an influx of what is universally known by the British as ‘pound shops’, where everyday items can be picked up for, you guessed it, £1.00. European supermarkets also flood the local high streets with knock-down prices on a wider ranges of foodstuffs, helping the working classes to get by on lower incomes.
But this isn’t really the case in Jamaica, as the equivalent $100 shops do not exist. The smaller supermarkets edging in on the market share are mainly Chinese owned and they are highly unlikely to give you a dollar off the going rate, much less create a price war with their competitors. Most basic staple food items, such as sugar, flour, rice, bread, oil, meats, fish and vegetables seem to have a ‘going rate’ at any one time in Jamaica and you will be hard pushed to find a vendor that will go below this current market rate to make a fast sale.
Price fixing as such, is normal so you just buy what you can afford. Simple. But it occurs to me time and time again, how everyday Jamaican people are managing these expenses on their incomes?
There is an influx of imported goods into Jamaica, and believe it or not this also includes things like sugar, bananas, onions, and coconuts. Locally grown and raised produce is often more expensive than its imported counterparts and so the reliance on imported goods perpetuates.
Buying Household Goods in Jamaica
The choice, price and quality of household items found in Jamaica, is likely to very different to what you can find overseas. Whilst there are low-cost items found all over the island, they are often imported from China and are made of cheap flimsy materials which do not last. This makes them uneconomical to buy, as they have to be replaced so often (you buy cheap, you buy twice).
Good quality, modern looking soft furnishings, such as curtains, nets, cushions, blankets, bedding, towels, bath mats, shower curtains and rugs / mats are generally expensive in Jamaica, as the majority are imported.
Kitchen ware, such as cutlery, utensils and pots and pans are also expensive and the choice of brands can be somewhat limited.
Decorative items, such as pictures, ornaments, vases, wall hangings and picture frames are also limited and can be very expensive for the sort of attractive contemporary pieces we are used to seeing abroad.
You may prefer to bring these type of items from overseas and most items can be easily packed into a barrel.
Buying Local – Support Jamaica Buy Jamaican!
There are more and more entrepeneurs springing up all over Jamaica offering a plethora of items for your consuming pleasure! Whether it be furniture or interior design products, gourmet foods and drinks, or beauty and jewellery lines. Supporting these individuals and small businesses helps to build Jamaica and its people. If you want ideas of who, where, how and why you should get involved, read the ‘Support Jamaica Buy Jamaican!’ series of posts featuring some of the best and boldest companies that Jamaica has to offer.
Living Expenses of Visitors and Returning Residents to Jamaica
The cost of living expenditures, such as groceries and household items, needs to be factored into the budget when thinking about moving to Jamaica, or when retiring there. As visitors and returning residents we initially start by translating the prices back into our native currency and compare how it equates to living back there, but that isn’t realistic in the long-term.
If you do not work in Jamaica, or have an income stream feeding you from overseas, you may find it gets exhaustive stretching out your hand to pay for things, but getting nothing back in the other hand to replenish it.
If you are considering moving to Jamaica it is a good idea to ‘grow what you eat’ where possible, if you have any space available to do so. There is nothing better than popping outside your very own doorstep to pick and collect the fruits of your labour and it tastes so much better too; especially if grown organically.
Save Money on Groceries – Ship a Barrel to Jamaica!
If you don’t know what a shipping barrel is, it may be worthwhile reading Barrels and Drums – The Basics. As I recommend stocking up and shipping a barrel or two when you can. Barrels and drums containing food items, cleaning materials, toiletries and household goods, help to cut down on what you have to pick up at the stores in Jamaica. You also have the benefit of having all your favourites to hand, plus items that are non-existent or expensive to buy in Jamaica.
More information: Shipping to Jamaica.
The Cost of Groceries in Jamaica
I initially published this post in November 2012 and I listed the cost of some items that I had bought in Hi-Lo Supermarket in Ocho Rios. Looking back at the 2012 prices I am amazed at how much some items have raised since! This is proof in point of why it is so important to consider your outgoings when moving to Jamaica, or visiting here for an extended period of time.
The 2012 receipt has a small selection of ‘non-essential’ items, such as, cigarettes, cakes and beer, but also has everyday items, such as, bread, toilet tissue and fresh seasoning for cooking included to give a wider indication of the price of popular items.
Today’s currency exchange rate can be found courtesy of www.xe.com I have itemised the receipt with the price shown in Jamaican Dollars, UK Sterling and USA Dollars to give an example of a small basket of items from a Jamaican supermarket as of 1st November 2012:
Hi-Lo Supermarket Receipt…
Giant Hard Dough Bread: $240.00 JA, or £1.64 UK, or $2.64 US Dollars.
2 x tin Grace Vienna Sausages: $153.12 JA, or £1.05 UK, or $1.69 US Dollars.
2 x Hi-Lo Flaked Tuna Fish: $157.10 JA, or £1.08 UK, or $1.74 US Dollars.
Red Stripe Beer (un-chilled): $99.89 JA, or £0.68 UK, or $1.10 US Dollars.
Dragon Stout (un-chilled): $118.87 JA, or £0.81 UK, or $1.31 US Dollars.
2 x small chubby soda(un-chilled): $44.60 JA, or £0.31 UK, or $0.49US Dollars.
Betty tinned condensed Milk: $159.39 JA, or £0.81 UK, or $1.31 US Dollars.
Bulk Margarine: $80.16 JA, or £0.55 UK, or $0.88 US Dollars.
2 x Chippies small Banana Chips: $84.50 JA, or £0.58 UK, or $0.93 US Dollars.
Local Onions loose: $84.05 JA, or £0.58 UK, or $0.58 US Dollars.
Honey Bun Pineapple Cake: $76.00 JA, or £0.52 UK, or $0.84 US Dollars.
Honey Bun Cheese Bread: $95.00 JA, or £0.65 UK, or $1.05 US Dollars.
Scott Bathroom Tissue Roll: $53.78 JA, or £0.37 UK, or $0.59 US Dollars.
Garlic Loose 1 Head: $16.80 JA, or £0.12 UK, or $0.19 US Dollars.
Plum Tomato Pre-packed: $73.56 JA, or £0.50 UK, or $0.81 US Dollars.
North Coast Times Newspaper: $43.00 JA, or £0.29 UK, or $0.47 US Dollars.
Dunhill lights 20 cigarettes: $621.50 JA, or £4.25 UK, or $6.86 US Dollars.
This receipt is representative of just a small basket of items and cost just over $2,500 and does not include a single complete meal, the tax alone is nearly $300. I appreciate the alcohol and cigarettes bump up the price and cake is not an essential item, but these are the sort of things we treat ourselves to when popping to the local shop in London and wouldn’t think anything of buying them.
It’s not nice to work hard for a ‘dream lifestyle’ somewhere hot and beautiful like Jamaica, if you spend your nest egg in the first couple of years of coming to live here. Unless, you have an endless supply of money and can afford to spend like there is no tomorrow – Start thinking like a Jamaican.
Remember that although it can feel like one endless vacation (as who is to complain) when living in Jamaica, it will soon turn into a nightmare if you do not take into consideration the everyday things such as, Food Shopping is Expensive in Jamaica!
More information: Want to learn more about all aspects of Shipping to Jamaica?
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Bless up, Jules
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