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shangirl
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December 18, 2015 1:49 am  

While preparing a preliminary budget for food on the island I have taken into account the many posts about food being a lot more expensive on the island than on the mainland. Then yesterday someone posted about spending $800/month for two people.

Is that common? What do you spend on groceries (if you don't mind saying) per month for how many people?

It would just be two of us. I am vegetarian though, mostly vegan, and a lot of the food I eat is considered "specialty" and more expensive even here, although it is becoming much more common in large cities to find these items, less easy in rural areas.

I though I would be able to keep our food bill somewhat reasonable by cooking more and eating out less and buying local produce when available.


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wanderer
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December 18, 2015 2:13 am  

While preparing a preliminary budget for food on the island I have taken into account the many posts about food being a lot more expensive on the island than on the mainland. Then yesterday someone posted about spending $800/month for two people.

Is that common? What do you spend on groceries (if you don't mind saying) per month for how many people?

It would just be two of us. I am vegetarian though, mostly vegan, and a lot of the food I eat is considered "specialty" and more expensive even here, although it is becoming much more common in large cities to find these items, less easy in rural areas.

I though I would be able to keep our food bill somewhat reasonable by cooking more and eating out less and buying local produce when available.

There are too many variables here. Some people survive on daily rice and beans. Some go out every day. Here is what I think is a reasonable estimate: take what you spend in Florida, and multiply that by 1.4. That would be your estimated cost in VI.


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Alana33
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December 18, 2015 2:33 am  

Fresh vegetables and health food items are quite pricy here.
In Florida, you can buy an ear of corn for 10¢, here it's $1.00 and not all that fresh at times. Cost U Less sells a 4pack for $5 plus and Pricsmart for $3.98. I've seen ears of corn for sale for 50¢ but doubt I would feed it to livestock if I had any, it's so brown and dry.

There different things that are sold here you might try like tanya, local sweet potatoes, dasheen, chistophene, plantains, pumpkin, etc. There's a monthly farmers market at Bordeaux and also at Yacht Haven Grande and very early mornings at market square in town.

You really have to shop around. It is what it is. Just part of the price you pay for living on an island where the majority of food items are imported.


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stjohnjulie
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December 18, 2015 7:33 am  

Fresh produce is pricy. I love, love, fresh vegetables and fruits! Things on STJ are usually more expensive than the other islands. On St. John, I can't get a bundle of asparagus for less than $6.95. It's one of my 5 year old's favorites, we could easily eat two bundles at one mean (family of 4), but I have a hard time spending $14 on a side dish that lasts one meal.

Another thing to remember about fresh produce, it just doesn't last long here. Even in the fridge. I generally only buy two veg things at a time and go back for more in a couple of days. Carrots, sugar snap peas, pea pods, last longer... so I usually keep them in the fridge for a couple of weeks without them going bad.

I easily spend $1,200 a month on groceries. And that is being frugal. My husband is pescetarian... so we eat a lot of fish. When I splurge on a tuna steak from the deli counter at Starfish Market, it can set me back $25.


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OldTart
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December 18, 2015 8:25 am  

Another thing to remember about fresh produce, it just doesn't last long here. Even in the fridge. I generally only buy two veg things at a time and go back for more in a couple of days.

"Green" bags! Been using them for years for all my veggies and couldn't be without them


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IslandHops
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December 18, 2015 10:42 am  

Good healthy food is expensive here. $800 per month for groceries for two is pretty accurate, maybe more. This does not include expenses for dining out.

Obesity and health problems plague many of our residents in part due to the unhealthy eating habits related to poverty.


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Spartygrad95
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December 18, 2015 10:56 am  

Not just related to poverty. Fresh produce just doesn't exist in many instances here. It is also priced at levels that not just people in poverty have a hard time affording. Myself, my wife and toddler spend about $850/month on food. We buy little processed stuff.. Mostly granola bars, crackers, etc, and we eat out maybe 3x a month. I wouldn't buy organic anyway because it is a marketing scam, but if I did that number would easily be $1400/month.


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Matt T
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December 18, 2015 2:48 pm  

Jeez $800 a month for groceries for two? I find that figure to be pretty large.

My wife does most of the grocery shopping and estimates about $500/month.

I am speaking for STX, but we go back to STT often and while the prices are higher there, not significantly more.

I guess its where you shop and what you're buying. If you want Ahi Tuna, organic beef, organic veggies and shop at Foodtown, Seaside, Fruit Bowl, Gourmet Gallery, etc then yes. If you eat a mostly plant based diet, cook from scratch, and are willing to shop around, the costs of groceries can be reduced.

I would also recommend joining a farm co-op on STX. We have been with Sejah Farm for a few years now and its about $300 for three months. You get a box once a week and its a nice supplement. What's also nice is if you have an abundance of something in your yard like papaya, breadfruit, sorrel etc. you can trade for something else. If you couple this with your own garden, you can reduce the need to buy greens and produce by quite a bit. We grow arugula, mustard greens, kale, cukes, peppers, tomatoes, herbs etc.

Now all this being said, I went to Tortola recently. I used to live there about 7 years ago and back then the price of groceries was higher than USVI. The old Rite Way I used to shop in Roadtown has been completely remodeled. It's very nice now with a great selection of produce, meat, fish, goods from the UK, wine and spirits and the list goes on. Best of all, the prices were the same or lower than the USVI. So you have great selection, a store that doesn't feel third world, and reasonable prices- they are doing something right. I think the USVI needs more non-Arab owned grocery stores, (but not these gourmet style stores) to keep a healthy competition on prices. But of course that's a pipe dream lol. Until then, we will continue to try and grow our own as much as possible, support local farmers, and shop around for the best prices.


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OldTart
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December 18, 2015 2:59 pm  

... cook from scratch, and are willing to shop around, the costs of groceries can be reduced.

Being a good cook substantially reduces your food bill. Buy large cuts of less expensive meats, repackage them for freezing, know how to cook them properly and you can produce meals fit for a King. If you want the two minute filet mignon you'll pay through the nose for it.


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TommySTX
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December 18, 2015 3:13 pm  

My wife and I spend around 400 to 500 a month. It is not necessary to spend 850 a month for 2 people. We eat out a couple times a month but do most of our cooking at home. We've adjusted some things such as buying ground turkey for things instead of ground beef. We buy frozen vegetables because they are just as healthy as fresh and cost way less, plus the fresh can be iffy at times. Stock up on non perishables if you see a good sale. Walmart is back to offering free shipping on orders over $50 so stock up with them as well. Pasta and rice are great sides that are very versatile which can be manipulated many different ways. We will definitely splurge on things as well and can still keep our costs down. Buy canned pasta sauce instead of bottles if you buy on island, cheaper. We really don't use any magic tricks, we buy what we want for the most part. I don't understand people saying they spend over twice as much as us for 2 people. We cook at least one meal a day at home and take lunches from home for work.


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Spartygrad95
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December 18, 2015 3:52 pm  

I just looked at my budget numbers and I guess we are below 850/month for food. I didn't take out things like diapers, soaps, shampoo etc from the list. Probably closer to 750


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Scubadoo
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December 18, 2015 4:20 pm  

, and shop around for the best prices.

There can be a big disparity on prices for somethings if you are willing to spend the time to shop around. You can find some fruits and vegies at Costuless or the fruit and vegie wharehouse on Northside road much less than the grocery stores sometimes.


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Alana33
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December 18, 2015 5:28 pm  

Pricesmart and Pueblo often have better prices to than Cost U Less and Fruitbowl. As scubadoo mentions, you gotta shop around.
Pet food pushes prices right up there as well depending on brands and quantities.

My dogs got an allergy to the regular dog foods that have cornmeal, soybeans and all that other stuff they use as filler so now I plop down $65 for a 30lb. bag of dog food that doesn't contain any of the crap they sell in supermarkets and Kmart. Pricy but worth it.


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speee1dy
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December 18, 2015 5:32 pm  

we cook from scratch. we might go out to eat 1-2 times a month. we do not buy Ezekiel as that is just way to expensive. we do not buy a lot of chips. 1 bag of chips can last us a month.when we cook big, i usually freeze portions for later. i do buy some gluten free items but not many. i do not buy prepackaged cookies. the only frozen vegi i like are peas. all others are not that good imo.

i hate processed food and avoid it as much as possible ( has a cardboard taste ) . i do a lot of my shopping at seaside as it is on the way home and they have a great produce section and selection.
i like to buy my meat from cost u less and once every 2 weeks or so i like a good old fashioned big sunday dinner.

we can easily spend 1-200 a week on groceries.


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OldTart
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December 18, 2015 5:34 pm  

The rule of thumb has always been that you can expect to pay average 30% more for your groceries here over stateside prices.


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rosesisland
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December 18, 2015 5:53 pm  

My monthly food bill runs around $800/month or even higher for two adults. I buy no processed foods. Mostly what I buy is fresh, local or organic. Only meats I buy are local or frozen free-range no hormones or antibiotics. We don't eat out much.


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CruzanIron
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December 18, 2015 9:44 pm  

$900 a month for 3. And I also do my own cooking. Regular food.


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Bombi
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December 18, 2015 10:39 pm  

And you have to add in the cost of driving and time involved to go to2 or 3 different markets to find what you want at a reasonable price or just find it. Once you get it wired, things change.


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stjohnjulie
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December 19, 2015 8:38 am  

The killer in my budget mostly has to do with being on St. John and loving fresh veggies. Also the fact that my husband doesn't eat meat that doesn't come from the sea. We do eat a lot of veggie burgers... which cost $6.50 - $8 for 4 on St. John. I generally crumble them up and use them in place of ground beef to make my dollar stretch.

OT, I keep forgetting about the green bags!!! You have mentioned them before and I keep forgetting to get some. I will though. I can't stand throwing any food out, especially expensive fruits. What size you find you use the most? I just checked them out on Amazon and it looks like there are all different sizes.


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OldTart
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December 19, 2015 10:14 am  

Julie, looks like they have a good sale right now on the Debbie Mayer mixed size pack and at that price (it's the brand I use) I'd nab those so you get an idea of which size you mostly use. Use according to directions and there are some additional good hints too on customer reviews - mine last well over 10 uses.


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fdr
 fdr
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December 19, 2015 11:47 am  

I buy the Debbie Meyer bags on eBay - they're usually cheaper than Amazon, and free shipping without having to argue for it.

My diet is similar to the OP's, and even my most frugal shopping month runs $300 ($400 and up for a varied and balanced diet). I don't know what island she is considering, and prices seem cheaper overall on STX and STT (not always though).

For example, on St John, a single non-organic apple can cost $5 or more. (They can be had cheaper, but the quality ranges from "meh" to "yuck, I'm throwing that away".) So, I don't usually buy apples. Tomatoes are another extravagance; the ones that actually taste like tomatoes are eye-poppingly expensive. Sometimes I splurge and sometimes I don't. I have heard the Reef to Ridge CSA is a good deal for produce on a weekly basis, but I never seem to be able to manage the upfront cost at the time of subscription signup.

Basically, I eat a lot differently than I used to in the states. There are some restaurant meals that I can buy cheaper than it would cost me to buy the ingredients at the store, so I eat out or get to-go with some regularity. Vitacost.com helps me get dry and canned goods that are either unavailable here or 300%+ more expensive (seriously. There are $21 boxes of quinoa here).

Bombi is right that there is a learning curve. Once you get a basic plan figured out it gets easier and cheaper, until something changes!


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Spartygrad95
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December 19, 2015 12:49 pm  

I just got back from CUL. I bought ZERO meat, didn't even fill two reusable grocery bags and dropped $100. Add diapers, 1 gallon jugs of water, sponges and we hit $135. This won't even last through Christmas. Now granted, this was a trip to fulfill my wife's desire for homemade vegetable soup, but 1 rutabaga was $2 and 4 bell peppers were $8


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watruw8ing4
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December 19, 2015 2:45 pm  

The two of us spend between $600 and $700 a month. We could actually reduce that if we tried harder. We eat meat, don't buy organic unless we have to, and neither of us have Celiac disease, or gluten allergies, so we avoid that extra cost.

We buy extra food on sale, and divvy the meat up and freeze it. We make meals ahead - stews, soups, lasagna, etc, and freeze them too. And we eat leftovers before they go bad. We buy some frozen veggies, but use mostly fresh. We don't snack much, outside of fruits and veggies, and rarely eat dessert. But when we do, I usually make that stuff from scratch. We do eat lunch out once a week, and also do brunch or dinner about twice a month. (Not included in the above).

One other thing that may affect our costs - we are older, and find we don't eat the portion sizes we used to. If we were 20 years younger, we'd probably be in the $800 range too.


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shangirl
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December 19, 2015 4:20 pm  

You guys are awesome. This gives me a great idea as to what to expect for food. I know that some specialty items I like as an almost vegan will be more expensive. And as I have done it before (when I lived in CA) I know the time/gas cost of driving around to multiple places is sometimes worth it, sometimes not. I like the idea of checking out the CSAs. I'm deciding between STT and STX and just won't know until we come to visit. Planning that trip now. From the descriptions here I already know that there will be things I like about both places so it will have to be my gut that makes the choice when I get there. Sounds like I will just spend some time figuring out where best to buy food when I get there, I deal with it here too on a different level. Before I moved to South Tampa and was living in the suburbs I bought almost all my food at super Walmart. Here I have one right down the street but they don't have half of the things I like to buy so I've had to adjust. There is a little farmer's market nearby that has great prices but produce is hit or miss. It will be part of the adventure.


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Spartygrad95
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December 19, 2015 5:47 pm  

There is a reason Mac N cheese is a "vegetable" here. You will adapt if loving here is worth it to you


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