Food Shopping is Expensive in Jamaica!

Food Shopping is Expensive in Jamaica!

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.

 

Looking for a shipping quotation 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.
Sub Total: $2,221.32 JA, or £15.21 UK, or $24.52 US Dollars.
Tax: $294.84 JA, or £2.02 UK, or $3.25 US Dollars.
Total: $2,516.16 JA, or £17.23 UK, or $27.78 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.

In Conclusion

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?

 Thinking of moving to Jamaica

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Bless up, Jules

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10 comments

  1. Pingback: When in Jamaica be Conscientious | Sweet Jamaica

  2. blue mountain

    Reading your blog is very informative. I have now a fair picture about the cost of living in Jamaica. Thank you


    1. Post author
      Jules

      Hi Blue Mountain and thank you for taking the time to comment. Glad you found the articles informative!

      Bless Up Jules

  3. Hannah

    The UK must be cheaper than I thought. I dont know but Jamaica sounds super cheap to me after reading this. All of those prices are way way cheaper than I’m used to and I live in the US. I’m excited to go there this summer! But this blog did help me on what to expect!


    1. Post author
      Jules

      Hey Hannah
      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I am glad that you found the article helpful and I hope you enjoy your trip this summer!

  4. Big J

    I plan to go to Jamaica soon to see my girlfriend.I’ve been doing a lot of research on the GDP and it saddens me to see people work so hard and get so little resources. If things continue to go well with us I plan to marry and get her out of there. All hard working people should be rewarded with happiness and I need someone in my life who realises the importance of a dollar and hard work.” Thanks for the helpful information and tips..


    1. Post author
      Jules

      Hey Big J

      Thank you for taking the time to comment, I am glad that you have found the site useful. I hope you enjoy your trip and I hope things work out for you in the future.

      Bless Up Jules

  5. angela

    hi tryig to work out the average cost of shipping groceries to ja verses sending money for them to go to the whole sale out there. Suggestiong please


    1. Post author
      Jules

      Hey Angela

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      The cost of the barrel itself, plus the shipping fee from the UK to the wharf in Kingston or Montego Bay is reasonable, probably around the £100 – £150 mark dependent on where in the UK you live. If you opt for home delivery in Jamaica to avoid going to the wharf, then that will be an additional fee. The good news is there isn’t any weight limit when filling the barrels, which is ideal when sending tinned goods, rice or oil etc. Plus, when the barrel arrives, a barrel full of mainly food items doesn’t usually attract a high customs fee or tax to clear it the other end, normally around JA$6,500 in customs fee (there are other additional fees!); providing the quantities of each item isn’t excessive so that it looks like they will be re-sold. You will also need to buy all the items to fill the barrel, which dependent on what you buy and from where will be your biggest expense to consider and will make a massive difference to the overall spend. Then you have to consider the timescales, it takes 3 weeks for the ship to sail from the UK to Kingston (in good seas), then another 3-4 days for the containers to be stripped and the barrels to be ready to cleared and collected / delivered. Therefore you want to give yourself a good 4 – 5 weeks in total for the items to be collected from your home in the UK, to being available for use in the kitchen in Jamaica.

      If you send money for them to buy please be aware that food shopping in Jamaica can be expensive. Not necessarily when compared to the UK, USA or Canada, mainly because we produce so much cheap food over there and we additionally have access to so many discount food stores, or a ‘good bargain’ as we say in London! But when living here it can be hard for people on lower incomes to get by. If you look at the price of basic food items, such as: a loaf of National hard dough bread JA$300, 12 eggs JA$380, 1lb mixed chicken parts JA$190, 1lb flour JA$80, 1lb rice JA$60, 1 litre cooking oil JA$260, this comes to JA$1,270. Some people are living on JA$1,500 (or less) a day and they still have to pay their fare to get to work every day, so having money for groceries will help. Don’t be surprised if not all of it is spent on groceries though, as there will be basic needs that the money may go towards instead…

      You can check out this post for more information on sending a barrel http://www.sweetjamaica.co.uk/art-of-shipping-a-barrel-part-one/

      I would say that it really depends on who you are sending the groceries to and for what type of occasion. If you would like to private message me at contactus@sweetjamaica.co.uk with further details I will see if I can help you further.

      Bless up Jules

  6. Pingback: A Guide to Barrels and Drums | Sweet Jamaica

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