The Cost of Food

We moved to Panama mainly because we needed a more economical place to live. We have learned that the benefits and joys of Panama are so much more than money, but it’s still nice to live within our means without worry.

Coming back to the USA always involves sticker shock. This is what we bought yesterday – 6 sweet potatoes, carrots, celery, 3 onions, 2 bunches of asparagus, 2 yogurts, box of EmergenC, $41.75 (an onion, a yogurt, and few stalks of celery are missing from the photo). Without my daughters store membership it would have been $49.17.

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The sweet potatoes were excellent! The other grandparents are came over for dinner so I decided to get six more.

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Yes, that says $10.03, 6 sweet potatoes, $1.99/pound.

This is just a small example of what it costs my daughter and family to live in Northern California. You don’t even want to know what one Costco run cost, but it was equivalent to our monthly food budget. They have a nice 4/2 house in a good neighborhood, nothing big or extraordinary, just a middle class single family home and the appraised value is almost half a million dollars. Both my daughter and her husband have good professional jobs, and even then they stretch to cover daycare and all the other costs of a young family. There is no way either of them could afford to stay home. They are still trying to recover from the few weeks she was home on maternity leave a year ago.

There are cheaper places to live in the US but I don’t think we could afford anywhere with the excellent quality of life we enjoy now. I’m thankful for our life in Panama for a whole lot of reasons!

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About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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36 Responses to The Cost of Food

  1. Safeway stinks! I live in NorCal and there are WAY cheaper places to buy groceries. (But yeah no, not as cheap as Panama probably…)

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  2. You did not mention their property tax’s, State sales tax, and Federal income tax’s and State income tax’s!
    Tax money being spent carelessly!

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    • There was only $0.87 tax on the emergenC, nothing on the food (though a tax on people with colds isn’t especially appreciated) we won’t even discuss taxes in general though or where that money goes or we will also need blood pressure meds and anti anxiety meds!

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  3. Robert & Helen says:

    Same in Western Europe. The most expensive country is Switzerland, but the Swiss minimum wage is about US$ 4,000.- p.m. In the 70s till the mid 90s Spain was the Panamá of Europe, fine weather and by far cheaper for retirees. Not anymore being Spain a Euro country. Anyway we live in Panamá 30-35% less expensive than in The Netherlands.

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  4. Robert & Helen says:

    @Latitude. In Europe income taxes and gasoline are far and far higher than in the USA. Good healthcare insurance is more affordable in Europe. We love Panamá, but if we could afford it we would move to a nice apartment on lake Geneva.

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  5. Trader Joes rocks. Is there a Smart and Final or Food 4 Less around your kids place? Great prices make it worth the trip.
    Safeway totally sucks!

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  6. ME BE in Panama says:

    I’m glad for your post today Kris. Next week we head back to the US to meet our new grandson so I’m sure we’re not only in for a jolt from the cold, it’s in the 30’s at night there, but from sticker shock as well.

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  7. Just spent 2 days in NYC, 3 in Annapolis and 3 in D.C, Breakfast for 2 – $20, Lunch for 2 – $25, Dinner for 2 – $60 And we are not talking Fancy, just average restaurants. Definitely looking forward to returning to Panama!

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  8. Laureen MacDonald says:

    At the Tuesday organic farmer’s market this week we bought one liter of huge blueberries, one liter of raspberries, two hearts of celery, two red bell peppers, one giant sweet potato, two cucumbers, and one cauliflower – all for less than $200 pesos, about $10 – for organically grown, picked fresh the morning of, or the day before…purchased direct from the farmer. That was from one vendor, but we purchase free range eggs, meats, water kiefer, milk kiefer, cheeses, butter, and other good stuff from different vendors. I’m really liking not having to shop at Safeway anymore, and it is not just because of the sticker shock. I appreciate getting to know who grows what I am nourishing my body with! Viva 🇲🇽

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  9. Cathy V says:

    One big reason I am planning my move to Panama is bbecause I think their food is less adulterated and chemically treated, more from farm to table. Two of four of us, in our 60s , siblings have cancer now despite no previous family history, 1 lymphoma 1 breast. What are they feeding us here in the US?

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  10. Kim says:

    I hear you Kris. Sad what it costs in USA anymore. Planning to make the exit myself in a few years

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  11. Sunni Morris says:

    Cost of living in CA is very expensive especially around the area where your daughter lives. I think it’s right up there with one of the most expensive places to live in the US. And Safeway is awful! I wouldn’t care how close it is. They’re way expensive. I would use the man’s suggestion above about finding a Food 4 Less, or a Smart and Final. I think the savings would be worth a bit of out of the way travel.

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    • Word is Food 4 Less is quite a distance away, and we are in foot or borrowed car without navigation. I know this area is very expensive! The kids even considered leaving because of that but they love the area, and are making it so they are here for the foreseeable future.

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  12. jim and nena says:

    Hola Kris,
    Some areas of the USA are just crazy for cost of living. Compare real estate prices across the US for comparable housing and it quickly becomes apparent that there are some great places to live in the US that rival Panama for cost of living. Nena routinely buys groceries at less than Panama prices and when we went to diner with friends visiting from Panama, they remarked on how cheap the meals were compared to Panama. And we certainly have more variety.
    The big benefit as you mentioned is how clean and orderly it is in the US (at least in some parts). And having the electricity, water, sewer, internet, telephone, police, fire, and emergency services available 24/7 makes life stress-free and enjoyable. Texas has no state income tax (big oil takes the hit for taxes).
    While I was still working, we had folks transfer from companies in California to Texas and they brought their mega-dollar salaries with them. They were certainly in tall cotton (and shocked) when the discovered the lower cost of living. Usually one of the spouses quit working and they still had extra money. I don’t know how anyone retires in California or the other high cost areas?

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    • jim and nena says:

      Oh, I almost forgot, we now have these in Fort Worth:
      https://fortworth.bcycle.com/
      🙂

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      • jim and nena says:

        Kingsville, down near Corpus. About the same size as David, A&M university campus and a naval air station nearby so folks of all kinds, even Yankees! haha
        Two hours from the gulf coast beach BY BIKE. Lots of 50K to 70K houses for sale, hard to find with less than 3 bedrooms but you and Joel could each have your own office. 🙂
        McAllen or Brownsville are 9 hours by bike if you need to be immersed in Spanish (and it is mostly flat terrain).
        Or, $400, 6 hour flights to SFO from Corpus.

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        • Yep, that’s the area we would look at. Joel spent time in McAllen in the past and liked it. We have no intention of leaving Panama but it’s good to have another plan just in case because you just never know. Thanks for the tips!

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    • We think if we ever had to come back to the USA it would be on the gulf coast of Texas near the border. It’s about the only warm place that we could afford and maybe fit in, being Yankees and all that 😉
      Very cool thing about the bicycles!

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  13. natjtan says:

    That’s insane! I can get all that for way less in Spain! Minus the ‘medicine’ maybe €10 or less.
    Have a great time with your family!

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