Ecuador Cost of Living / Ecuadorian food / Living in Ecuador

Ecuador Food: Supermaxi Costs in December, 2010

Ecuador food costs are rising.  After spending a whopping $185.55 USD on food at Supermaxi, my largest grocery bill ever, I thought I’d record the costs we spent per item for those interested in how much food is costing in Ecuador.

Many of the food items are packaged and imported from other countries, hence the higher price.  These foods cost the same or higher than they would in the United States.  I can’t say how the cost compares to other countries.

Some fresh produce is cheaper at Supermaxi than in small produce stores in Cotacachi.  I think the reason is that we are charged per single item ( 8 apples for $1 or $.30 per avocado) while Supermaxi charges by the weight, per liter or kilo and thus the price remains more uniform over time, not set at the whim of the vendor.  Always a good idea to bargain in the Cotacachi markets unless you know the prices.  And even then, stay on your toes.

Gary and I have been buying potatoes from the same sweet woman for at least two years.  Gary just tells her to give us $2 worth and she fills up a bag.

When she was missing from the market scene one day, we bought our potatoes from another seller and were astonished to find that our request for $2s’ worth resulted in twice as many potatoes as we had been receiving from our regular supplier.   A good reminder not to be charmed or to become complacent!

ITEM COST

1 pint Hagen Daz ice cream

Grated Parmesan cheese–150 gr

Butter–500 gr

Bag shelled walnuts

Rice noodles

Nutella–350 gr

Pineapple marmalade–600 gr

Fresh whole mushrooms–220 oz

2 Fresh artichokes–.43 kilo

Del Monte catsup–24 oz

Club crackers

Doritos corn chips–350 gr

Pretzels

Peanut butter–510 gr

Yogurt–1000 gr

Olive oil–750 ml

Organic oatmeal–850 gr

Fresh celery stalks 3/4 kilo

Sunflower oil

White popcorn–1 kg

Raisins

Pine nuts–2 oz

Jalapenos, sliced

Light brown cane sugar

Ranch salad dressing

Can whole stewed tomatoes–240 gr

Can corn kernels –15 oz.

Salted unshelled pistachios

Set 5 Bic Comfort Twin razors

4.73

2.28

2.82

3.59

1.00

4.21

1.79

1.50

.40

1.94

.98

1.80

3.55

2.21

1.73

5.87

3.46

.70

5.43

1.45

1.23

3.19

2.49

1.76

1.93

1.22

1.16

4.08

2.17

This is a partial list of the items and their costs.

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8 Comments

  1. It doesn’t look cheap to me , it will be cheaper to live in some European countries.

  2. SuperMaxi is one of the larger supermarkets you will see while you are in Ecuador. This is a wonderful store that has much to offer for the wary bound traveller. It is very comparible to a supermarket chain in the United States with similar prices as well. SuperMaxi can be found in larger cities in Ecuador. Some things are cheaper, but in general many of the food items are packaged and imported from other countries, hence the higher price. These foods cost the same or higher than they would in the United States. I can’t say how the cost compares to other countries.

    Part of living in Ecuador means learning to eat like an Ecuadorian. The average Ecuadorian does not shop at Supermaxi as a rule and rarely if ever buys expensive imported prepared products. A good rule is to ask one of the women in the family what the going rate is for each and every item you want to purchase. Many local people would be happy to tell you what you should be paying. When you approach one of the vendors you ask “Como son los manzanas?” (How much are the apples?) already knowing fully well what the answer should be. If you want to live cheaply then it is absolutely necessary to shop where the locals go and buy your food at the local markets and vendors. It is nice however to have the modern supermarkets for the luxury, and treat items. So, if you happen to be longing for that certain food item from “home” chances are SuperMaxi has it in their store.

  3. Jann Stinnesbeck says:

    I am doing a group project for a Marketing class on Ecuador.

    Our group was wondering if Ecuadorians use ketchup in their diet and if so in which manner. Also, we would like to know how much ketchup approximately cost in Ecuador.

    Could anybody help use out with our questions?

  4. shane draper says:

    Yes I was in Ecuador, mostly Guayaquil from 1998 to 2000, I was there when the great crisis hit that made Ecuador change its currency from the old Sucre, to the American dollar. Back then prices of everything went up by more then 200%. The prices will go up especially on things that are imported from the United States. The item that went up the most was, peanut butter, something that I had to have while I was there.

    I agree to what has been said. The small family owned markets carry things that are comparable to Supermaxi, but for a much cheaper price.

    Also never buy produce from supermaxi. I would buy from the Mercado, or during peak seasons for mangoes, and bananas one can usually get them for free.

    But nothing beats freshly baked bread from the corner bakery on a daily basis. If you do a little leg work, you can find just about everything for a cheaper price then at a Supermaxi type store.

  5. Why would you buy all that plastic packaged crap?? Surely there is local food to eat that is healthy and economical. I don’t eat half that junk even here in the states.

  6. I lived in Ecuador for 5 yrs. from 1997 – 2002 ; continue to return there every summer for 2 months to visit. During that time I stayed w/ relatives (by marriage). For the most part I do my shopping at the local “mercado”.

    In some cases there are items there which one would find cheaper here in the states “on sale” like meat which is a set price there; never goes on sale. However, in general, in my opinion although I HAVE seen prices go up there over the years (as they have everywhere in the world including the U.S.) I still feel that overall prices there are MUCH cheaper.

    Part of living in Ecuador means learning to live; eat like an Ecuadorian. The average Ecuadorian does NOT shop at Supermaxi as a rule and rarely if ever buys expensive imported PREPARED products like those mentioned in the above article.

    I will admit that there are a few items I have continue to feel compelled to “splurge” on. One of those is “Cremora”. In the smaller towns there is no light cream or half and half available. There is a local item called “crema de leche” which comes in a very small bag. And while it CAN be used for certain things it is a little on the sour side, thus can not be used in coffee. I am an avid coffee drinker can’t seem to get by without my fix of coffee with cream so I do splurge on Cremora or Coffee Mate.

    Another thing I like is American baked goods. While I love Ecuadorian food their sweet baked goods i.e. cakes etc. just do not cut it. Thus I bake myself there. I love nuts in my baked goods thus I DO again splurge on walnuts and pecans IF I can find them (pecans).

    But as a general rule I try to cook with local products and shop in the local mercados. I personally find that fresh fruits, vegetables, bread and meat are MORE expensive in Supermaxi than the are in the local bakeries and mercados.

    I have to admit though that occasionally I will get a hankering to cook some dish like Mexican food and am forced to go to Supermaxi to get some of the ingredients like flour tortillas or nachos etc. And it is expensive but, it’s just one of those things.

    And I agree whole heartedly with what was written regarding the local mercado. I, too tend to buy from my “regular” vendors both while I lived there and even when I go back for a visit. However one does have to stay on one’s toes because if you become complacent you will be taken advantage of.

    When I go back on a trip and go to the local mercado for the first time in 10 months I ask one of the women in the family what the going rate is for each and every item. Further one of them generally goes with me when I go. However I choose to be the one, when we approach one of my “regular” vendors to ask “Como son los manzanas?” (How much are the apples?) already knowing fully well what the answer SHOULD be.

    Most of these women know me very well. They have observed me in the past when a NEW vendor attempted to take advantage of my because I am a Gringa they assumed I wouldn’t know how much something SHOULD cost. And I put them firmly in my place emphatically saying in Spanish “What do you think? I fell off the last boat? to a woman who said a single head of cabbage cost $1.20 or something equally ludicrous.

    Thus in general they know that I know and that I am a good, regular customer who buys in quantity thus they want to keep my business so, as a rule they tend to treat me very fairly.

    Though there have been occasions where I have been forced to make an example (to the other vendors) of one of my regular vendors. A case in point would be the chicken vendor. At the onset I clearly told her that I did not want any feet, hearts, etc. which the Ecuadorians do buy. I told her that I would be willing to pay 10 cents more per pound for my chicken. Depending upon what I was cooking sometimes I would ask for x number of pounds of just breasts, or just wings and other times I would ask for x number of pounds of mixed pieces.

    One day when I came home and opened the bag of mixed pieces I found along with hearts and feet that she had also given me a large amount of the backs of chickens which are virtually all bone and skin and almost no meat.

    So, the next time I went back to buy chicken I approached the vendor two or three stalls down and ordered what I wanted. My regular chicken vendor kept calling out to me. I paid no attention and continued with my purchase. After several times of my buying chicken from another vendor several stalls down when I was passing by her she called out “Why have you stopped buying from me?” (as if she didn’t know).

    In a loud clear voice I told her what she had done. I repeated that I had agreed to pay 10 cents more per pound and buy exclusively from her providing she gave me only what I asked for and that she hadn’t done that AND that she had given me almost a whole bag of “backs”. Now all the other customers and vendors stopped and looked. It gave her a bad name with other customers and it showed the other vendors that I am not a push over.

    So as one who has lived and spent a lot of time in Ecuador I recommend to those who are living there to try to purchase as much as possible in the local mercado and avoid places like Supermaxi and imported products as much as they can if they don’t want to spend as much money for groceries as they do in the States. One of the reasons I think that a lot of ex Pats move to Ecuador in the first place. That and the fact that the produce is so fresh and natural. And I agree that one has to be alert when dealing with even their “regular” vendors in the mercado.

    And, even in the case of imported items I recommend that you shop around. Supermaxi isn’t the only game in town. There are other smaller “supermarkets” and specialty stores that cater to foreigners and imported items. Some times you can find something like say “Coffee Mate” for example in a generic brand much cheaper.

    Or, instead of buying imported ketchup, jam or jelly you can find a National (Ecuadorian) brand which is quite good and very acceptable quality and considerably less than imported.

    This is not always the case. There are items whose quality is significantly inferior as is the case here in the states. Some items I will buy a store brand in such as mayonaise which I find the generic to be okay in. Other items such as jam I find a good brand is significantly better.

    I happen to know for a fact that Ecuadorian crackers called Ricas are quite good and fairly similar to Ritz. There are also a few Ecuadorian margarines like Dorina that are quite good. Whereas others, like Bonella I don’t care for.

    If you’re going to live there permanently it is well worth your while to try different products and compare them. I am sure you will find a lot of national products are quite acceptable and in the long run you’ll save yourself a lot of money.

    Hope this helps someone in some way.

    • Thanks Patty for your detailed post. Yes, we are still a bit spoiled in wanting to shop at Supermaxi. Last week I found some Heinz Kosher Dill pickles! What a treat, even though the jar cost $4.50. And yes, the Hagan Daz coffee Ice Cream is a once in a while splurge.

      But we still make our way to the Cotacachi Market every Sunday and buy all of our fruits and vegetables for the week. We usually spend no more than $15, and that includes $2 for a big bouquet of cut flowers.

      We have been noticing that Supermaxi is attracting more and more Ecuadorian customers. I went to the store on Christmas eve and I waited in a checkout line for more than 30 minutes. The store was absolutely packed. And turkeys, which we could hardly find four years ago, were in many carts at more than $1.50 per lb. This country is definitely becoming more affluent.

  7. Guys, I don’t know how long it’s been since you’ve been in the states. However, food prices here and for that matter around the world are going up dramatically. Supermaxi has always been expensive compared to the co-ops and open markets of Cuenca. When in Cuenca, I only buy items at Suermaxi that I can’t get anywhere else. Your list of items pretty much fit in that category. With gas in the U.S. expected to go up to $4.00 a gallon by Memorial Day, food prices will continue to rise here as well.