After a few weeks of living here, I figured out what food to get where. I have a pretty good routine now. Below are the places that Ticos and expats go to in order to buy food in Monteverde.
Feria de Agricultor
The farmer’s market, or Feria de Agricultor, takes place in Santa Elena every Saturday from 6 am to noon at the gym owned by the public high school. Going to get my produce for the week at the Feria is one of the highlights of my week! Not only is it a great social event, the Feria greets you with an assorted array of colorful fruits, vegetables, legumes, breads, honey, and even prepared typical Tico foods. I usually spend between $25-$35 USD at the Feria. A lot of the produce is seasonal, so I only got strawberries for a few weeks and in the rainy season there is no honey. This does make me try new things though.
I make up our weekly meal plan on Friday afternoon and arrive to the Feria armed with a list, which usually includes these items:
Bread (note: I also buy bread from my neighbor who makes it fresh in her home)
In addition to the Feria, I get veggies, fresh yogurt, and whole-wheat bread from our weekly CSA. The veggies include fresh-picked, nutritious greens such as kale or mizuna and sometimes gems such as basil or cilantro. These products come from La Finca Querencia in the San Luis valley. It is a farm run by multiple families, one of which have a child at Creativa. They use sustainable farming practices and everything is fresh. The veggies are picked the day before or the day of delivery. The yogurt is made the same day the cows are milked and has no preservatives or gelatin or any other disgusting ingredients. Roberto (Creativa dad) makes the bread that morning or the day before. Did I mention everything I get from the CSA is delicious?!
If you live in Monteverde, do not buy coffee at the grocery store. I buy it from Choco-Café Don Juan. The cocoa there is delicious too, much better than the store-bought brands. My expat friends Nick and Sylvia buy their coffee from the Common Cup or from one of the vendors at the Feria. There are so many farms in the area that sell local, fair-trade, organic, fresh-roasted coffee that tastes so good, you will not be able to swallow another sip of Starbucks afterwards.
The Lecheria (aka Fabrica de Quesos or Cheese Factory) has a retail counter where you can buy their cheese products or caramel off the shelf. You can also buy their milk but you need to call ahead for an appointment and bring your own container. I don’t usually buy directly from the Lecheria because it is about 1½ miles away from my house, and that seems too far to go get milk and cheese, which I can get at the grocery store. But my Tico and expat friends who live in Bajo del Tigre do shop there for their dairy products.
I usually spend between $80-$100 USD per week at the grocery store. This number would be much lower if I did not buy so much dairy products. There are 3 main grocery stores in the area:
1) SuperCompro—This store is located in the heart of Santa Elena and about ½ mile from my house. This is a large store by Costa Rica standards and has pretty much anything you need. If it is not at SuperCompro, you will probably not find it in Monteverde. SuperCompro is where I usually buy staples such as rice, beans, sugar, flours, jams, dulce de leche, eggs, and tortillas. I can get Monteverde cheese and dairy products here too, though at a slightly higher price than purchasing directly at the Lecheria. I usually buy my cleaning supplies here too.
2) MegaSuper—This store is located at the “mall” or Centro Comercial de Monteverde. It is literally a few steps down the hill from my house. My land lady and other Tica friends find MegaSuper to be more expensive and less well stocked than SuperCompro. I agree for the most part, but they also seem to have some pretty good sales, especially on “canasta basica” items. Because it is so close to my house, I usually shop at MegaSuper when I have to buy large items like a 9-pack of toilet paper or 4 kg bag of laundry detergent. I once bought a large pack of toilet paper at Super Compro and was so embarrassed every time I ran into someone I knew on the walk home.
3) Whole Foods Market and assorted “pulperias”—The Whole Foods Market in Monteverde proper is great for my friends who live up there. It is tiny, so they still have to make a trip to either SuperCompro or MegaSuper once per week for basic supplies, but it also has some pretty amazing specialty items. There are also multiple “pulperias” or mini-supermarkets through out the area. We have one down the hill from our house. They are great if you just need something like a stick of butter or a couple of onions. My kids love to go to the one near our house to buy candy and other junk. Sometimes, there are some things you will not find at the large grocery stores but you will find at the pulperias. For example, I unsuccessfully looked for chocolate chips for weeks at both MegaSuper and SuperCompro, only to find that the pulperia near my house had a couple of bags. Once I found this out, I snatched them up and made gooey chocolate brownies for Kara’s birthday!
- Monteverde Sustainability Projects: Finca La Querencia (puravidafamilia.com)
- Ricardo from Santa Elena (humansofplanetearth.net)