The Lack of Fruits, Veggies and Big Box Stores in Costa Rica

There are 3 local “supermarkets” (really, pulperias) within about 50 feet of each other and about a 3 minute walk from my house.  They only have the basics.  The very basics.  Not even what I like to call basics+ (like maybe a jar of olives or a bottle of tahini).  They rarely have fruits or veggies.  When I say rarely, I really mean never. They don’t sell alcohol.  I’m guessing the liquor license is too expensive.

But that’s okay…because just walking another 15 feet or so and I’ll hit the liquor store.  They only sell alcohol and a few things like chips and small snack packs.  I’ve even been told they deliver!  Perfect  with the rainy season that we’re in the middle of currently. (yes, it has started to rain more)

Quepos reminds me a little of a small European town.  There’s the panaderia (bread shop) that I’m told is open 24 hours/day, the carniceria (meat shop), the flower shop, a few pharmacies and a hardware store on every corner.  Okay, I don’t remember there being that many hardware stores in Europe but there’s literally one on every corner here.  Hardware stores here are like wine shops in Italy. There’s also a lot more tiny supermarkets dispersed around the town.

And while I love supporting the local people, I just wish they could open one big store that would have everything I need.  There are days when I think…if only there was a Target or a Costco here in Costa Rica.  Well, specifically in Manuel Antonio.  I know there is a Walmart and PriceMart (a membership store like Costco) in San Jose but that doesn’t do me any good here.  The MaxiPali just outside of Quepos proper is technically a Walmart but it still has very little in the store that is of value to me.

It’s kind of like I went from 100 options to 1.  And while it’s nice to have simpler choices in my life, it’s also very limiting.  And often times, I go from 100 options to none.

Here’s an example: I was trying to find a new drying rack (because the one I bought last year at Do-It-Center in Liberia broke, what a surprise) but they don’t exist here.  To further prove that, my housekeeper was in awe of it when she saw it – it was like a totally new invention to her.  I have superglued it together for the time being but eventually it will break again.  Life would just be so much simpler with a big box store.  Never did I think I’d say that.  But there isn’t one here so I am now keeping a list of where I can buy certain products.

i.e. garbanzo beans at Super Iguana, rice paper and tahini at Super Mas, Toña at Super Joseth

I can’t find powdered sugar anywhere. Nor could I find chia…until one special day at Super Mas.  I found 4 bags!  And knowing that things like this are not often found here, I decided to get two, trying my best not to be greedy and just take all four.  However when I went to check out, the girl told me they weren’t in the system so I couldn’t buy them.  Now, normally in a situation like that, they’ll just say: Ah, it’s probably $5, how does that sound?  But not today.  I so desperately wanted this chia so I asked to speak with the manager.  There had to be a price!  It was on the shelf after all!

So one of the clerks took me upstairs to meet with the owner.  It’s a family owned store and I met with the owner’s daughter.  She explained to me that the chia was for her family and wasn’t supposed to be put on the shelf, hence why there wasn’t a price on the tag.  But she wanted to do something nice so she offered to sell me one.  And I told her that if she could get her supplier to bring more, I’d buy lots more.  And probably a few other people I know in the area would be interested as well!

It’s so difficult to find health food here.  I’m not kidding when I say that the three markets closest to me NEVER have fruits or veggies!  The closest Automercado is about an hour away, north of Jaco. So I’m SOL with trying to get there!  The local feria (Farmer’s Market) on Friday nights and Saturday mornings has some items but still not really what I’m looking for.

Yes, I know, I’ve been here almost a year and a half and I’m still complaining about the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables in Costa Rica.  But I’m just not prepared to have a diet that is solely made up of high carbohydrate, low nutrient dense meals.  I need greens! I need color in my diet.  I’m putting this out to the universe and hoping by some miracle that I will find kale again…one day soon.  And more chia!

Pura vida…Chrissy