Wow, the Eastern Caribbean is expensive! We knew that going in. We expected exports to be ridiculous, and sure enough, yes, they are. We planned to buy our boat parts in the US and hand carry them back (51% Vat in Grenada). We expected US brands for food stuff would be expensive, they have to travel a long way to get here, but what we weren’t expecting was to have local foods so expensive as well. Produce is more expensive here then it is at home for fruits that are actually grown here. Pineapples are $10 each, Mangos that are basically falling in the streets rotting are still $2-3 each. Yesterday I bought tomatoes for $8 a pound and bananas have been at least $4 a pound since French Guiana. I can see them growing along the roads and yet they are still $4 a pound! Fish is also dear, although we’ve been lucky to catch enough of our own. Locally made breads are still more expensive than I expected and often poor quality. Where is the French Baker that comes and taps on your hull every morning selling baguettes and croissants? Even eggs are expensive and there are literally chickens everywhere! I guess we have been spoiled and didn’t even know it with the areas we have cruised. In Mexico and in Central America there were enough local brands we didn’t miss our favorites from home; yogurt, milk, cheeses and bakery goods. In fact, we never saw American brands in much of Mexico and Central America, but we didn’t really miss them. The food was great in the grocery stores, produce markets and restaurants. In Europe, we expected the food to be expensive, but we found quite the opposite. We found our grocery bills to be less in Europe than they would be in the US. We couldn’t find US brands at all there, except maybe in a specialty shop, but we didn’t need them. The food was fantastic in Europe and we stuffed our bilges with Whole Food’s quality cheeses and cured meats for dollar store prices. Good wines were literally a few Euros and fresh bread and pastries were so good it wasn’t worth baking ourselves. In the winter good tropical produce was sometimes expensive, but there was always local produce that was reasonable and the staples were cheap everywhere. Eating out in Europe could be expensive, we left a Euro trail around France that was painful, but we got fantastic food in return and there was always the option of cheaper eats. A baguette and a hunk of amazing cheese was reasonable and we often opted to go that route instead of sitting in a restaurant with the kids.
Anyway, we’ve had a little culture shock since sailing across the pond and its disappointing to go shopping and tell the kids no, you can’t get that $15 box of General Mills Cherrios and no there isn’t a local brand to buy instead. The kids love seeing US brands for the first time and yet much of it is out of our reach. Mike and I both really love grocery shopping in foreign countries, it is not a chore we dread and in we usually fight over who gets to shop, but it isn’t much fun these days. Yesterday we left a grocery store in Grenada after having spent $300 in groceries and we could hand carry them out (just Mike and I). We didn’t even buy anything really fun; no exotic cheeses, no expensive cuts of meat and zero beverages. It was just staples and we’ve had to learn to go without some of our favorites (and I’m not suggesting we are simply leaving out exotic fruits or a good wine, we are going without things like yogurt and peanut-butter). I would estimate that we are spending at least three times as much on staples as we do at home and more for specialty items. Groceries are now the largest expenditure in our budget.
Now that I have ranted, I can say there are things about cruising in the Caribbean that are easy on the budget. We don’t need to go into marinas if we don’t want to. Islands are close together and there is always wind, so we don’t have to spend any money on diesel. Flying home is cheaper; there are multiple direct flights and multiple carriers.
Anyway, the Caribbean is still fantastic and very easy cruising, so I see the allure, but it is definitely a budget buster and I’m just grateful I only have one teenager to feed while we are here!
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