Cheap Food Costa Rica – Farmers Market Pavas

Until about a month ago, we had been buying all of our groceries at the local supermarkets. We tried AutoMercado, Perimercado, Mas X Menos, Saretto, MegaSuper, PriceSmart, Palí and Hipermas trying to test out which has better quality of food, price per unit/measure and variety. I haven’t given my full research post yet, but it’s in the works. However, for now, we are realizing that some items, certainly not all, are cheaper at the markets. But, don’t be fooled, not everything is cheaper at the ‘ferias’.

Our regular shopping list includes onion, bell pepper, garlic, chicken, fish, lettuce, cilantro, tomatoes, broccoli, green onion and various fruit items. Finding cheap food in Costa Rica is much harder that it would seem and unfortunately for the citizens of this country, the cost of living has been rapidly rising for the last 5-10 years. So, the cost of food items is high along with the luxury and imported items we North Americans are used to. The grocery stores range in price on all items, as do the markets around San José.

Farmers market Costa Rica 1 Costa Rica Farmers Market 2

We have become regulars at the Saturday Pavas feria in our neighborhood adjacent to the Palí. The market runs from sun up to late afternoon and stretches about 500 meters down a through street (other than on Saturdays) with vendors on both sides. The people are friendly and the food is fresh, but do make sure you are getting a good price, specifically on eggs. I have found that they are no less expensive here than at any of the supermarkets. Buying frozen fish is certainly priced fair, as well as most of the produce. We can walk in with c 10,000 (about $18) and fill four reusable grocery bags. The flowers are beautiful as are the artisans handiwork available.

Grilled zucchini

Grilled veggies over coconut rice

When we got home after the second or so visit, we knew the best option for dinner was grilled zucchini and bell peppers over coconut rice. I don’t know what the open flame does to food but it always takes things up a notch. We’ve got a few other cheap grilling recipes on the site like grilled potatoes with onions and jalapeños and burgers with pineapple salsa. Also, check out the Food Costa Rica category to where you can find cheap food in Costa Rica.

Cheap Food San Jose Costa Rica – Jettsy

After being recommended by a friend in the neighborhood, we were led on the search for cheap food in Pavas, San Jose, Costa Rica. The bar’s name is Jettsy and looks like your typical Costa Rican bar on the corner but the food is extraordinary. It’s an open air restaurant, similar to the others around the country, with TV’s over the bar, rustic wood tables, plants everywhere you look and an attentive waitstaff (which is tough to find, mind you).

We were told the hamburgers were pretty great, considering the country we are in. I mean, how come hamburgers in Costa Rica are so terrible most times? But, Jettsy is different. They don’t use preformed patties and they use decent quality beef, bacon and cheese. So, if you’re looking for a decent burger in San Jose, or Costa Rica for that matter, look for Jettsy in Pavas.

The other food is great too. We ordered nachos, which came with chicken and beef, refried beans, cheese and jalapeños on a bed of corn tortilla chips. My only complaint about those were the store bought tortilla chips; I mean, come on, homemade tortillas are so much better. Take a look at the tortilla chips at Rostipollo for example. Finally, I ordered grilled beef skewers with onion and red bell peppers in some delicious sauce next to a bed of rice, sweet plantains and a salad. Great, great, great flavor and the food was definitely cheap. About $15 for two entrees and the nacho appetizer. Now, add the beers and Cacique and watch the check start to climb.

Banned from TheRealCostaRica.com

In an attempt to increase my network around Costa Rica, I reached out to several of the bigger sites that have decent SEO and include relevant content to cheapfoodhere.com. One of these web sites includes www.therealcostarica.com and their food forum http://eating.therealcostarica.com

I emailed the Ex-Pat owner several times suggesting that I help generate relevant food content for his site in exchange for a link or credit to cheapfoodhere.com. Not an unusual request, since I have worked with several other sites in Costa Rica writing articles, blog posts and information in exchange for either a non-linked credit to my site, or a direct link. And thanks especially to www.costaricapages.com for posting my articles on their homepage.

However, I never heard back after sending an email twice and following up on said emails. (No, I wasn’t a pest about it, the total email count was 3). So, I joined the forum (a sister site to therealcostarica.com) at http://eating.therealcostarica.com and looked around for a relevant place to post information about Don Fernando‘s butcher shop in Escazú and my favorite Chinese restaurant in Sabana Norte, Flor de Loto. I’m no blogging expert, and maybe the forums aren’t the place to post with a link to my site, but the content was relevant to the visitors to therealcostarica.com. However, if I was out of line, the owner of the site and the forum clearly has my information and email address and could have made a suggestion of simply not including a link to cheapfoodhere.com

I’m open to feedback on how I may have broken some code of blogging ethics or if it is just insulting to be ignored and ultimately banned from therealcostarica.com. Thanks for your comments in advance.

Summer Citrus-Cilantro Cabbage Salad

cabbage salad

cabbage salad

In Costa Rica, the salads are mostly made with a base of cabbage as opposed to lettuce. My best guess at the reason why is because cabbage is heartier and a head will stretch farther than a head of lettuce. Another notable difference with salads here is that they rarely use much of a dressing. Mostly just a little oil, lime juice and sometimes a splash of vinegar. This weekend I tried my hand at a Costa Rican typical salad, but with a twist (of course!).

(Serves 4)

SALAD INGREDIENTS:

• ½ head of green cabbage, sliced in very thin strips (much like coleslaw)
• 2 Tbl fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
• 10-12 snow peas, stems removed, chopped in 1” pieces
• 1-2 green onions, sliced into thin rings (use white and green part)
• 1 large carrot, peeled and sliced at a sharp angle to make oval rings
• 2 Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced into rings

DRESSING INGREDIENTS:

• ½ C. olive oil
• ¼ C. white vinegar
• 2 Tbl. Honey
• 2 Tbl cilantro
• juice from 1 lime
• ½ fresh jalapeño pepper (seeded)
• garlic salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Simply toss all the salad ingredients into a large salad bowl and blend dressing ingredients. Pour dressing over salad mixture.

Cheap Food – Sweet Plantains

plantanos-dulces

First, let’s talk about the difference between plantains and bananas. Plantains are part of the banana family but aren’t eaten raw. The plantain averages about 65% moisture content and the banana averages about 83% moisture content which affects the flavor as well. Plantains are typically longer and have a thicker skin than bananas.

Plantains vary from the green, starchy fruit to the ripe, sweeter version and are used very differently in recipes. The plantain recipe highlighted in this post is using the ripe fruit in a sweet side dish called ‘Plátanos Maduros en Gloria’. It is a typical sweet side dish as part of the Costa Rican casados (typical food).

This is a typical cheap food found in Costa Rica. Total amount spent on the dish: $2. Serves 6.

INGREDIENTS:

4-6 ripe plantains, cut into 1″ slices
1/2 Cup of margarine or butter
1 1/2 Cup of sugar
1 tsp of ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 lime
2 Cups of water
1 tsp pure Vanilla

DIRECTIONS

1. In a large pan, melt the butter and saute the plantains on medium heat until golden. Add 1 cup of sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, lime juice and vanilla. Stir for 1 min.

2. Add water and sprinkle on the remaining sugar.

3. Reduce heat to low and cook until the liquid is reduced and caramelized. Serve hot, or let cool.

Costa Rica Foodie

Cheap Food Here is now writing for Costa Rica tourism site www.costaricapages.com. Check out my first article here. If you’ve landed here from Costa Rica Pages or the Google News posts, thanks for visiting. I hope you like what you see.

I’ll be writing regular food columns similar to the blog here focusing on Costa Rican recipes, restaurants, food stores, markets and other topics to help you keep your food budget under control. Food in Costa Rica isn’t as cheap as you may think. It takes a good bit of creativity to find the items you need and not have to break your banco to do it.

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Cheap Food – Tuna Pasta Salad Recipe

tuna-pasta-salad11

I was given a Costa Rica cookbook for my birthday this year and this was the first recipe I’ve tried, with some personal tweaks of course. It is a tuna pasta salad and uses my favorite shaped pasta, shells. I was surprised to see that the recipe didn’t call for much in the way of sauce except the mustard, so that’s where the improvising began. This is the Cheap Food Here version of the recipe:

INGREDIENTS (Serves 4)

1 8.8oz (250 grams) bag of mini shell pasta
1 standard sized can of premium chunk white tuna fish
1 cup baby peas
2 Tbl cilantro, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
1 stalk of celery, finely chopped
Juice from 1/2 a lime
1 Tbl mustard
2 Tbl red wine vinegar
2 Tbl Olive Oil
Garlic salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

1) Cook the pasta to al dente, according to package. Then rinse with cold water.
2) In a large bowl combine all remaining ingredients with the pasta and stir.
3) Serve on a bed of lettuce.

Cheap Food Costa Rica – Grecia – Los Pira

If you like putting tacos, hotdogs, hamburgers, and friend fries together before it gets to your stomach, I have just the place for you. In the great town of Grecia, just outside of San Jose, Costa Rica, there is a place right next to the main church called Los Pira. If I had come to a place like this  in college, I would have been in trouble for sure. The outside of the shop looks no different than any little food joint in San Jose, a sign with no real design, entrance crowded with people, Ticos cooking on a grill behind the counter, but don’t be deceived. There is more than meets the eye.

The menu includes traditional hot dogs and hamburgers, tacos (Costa Rican Style), nachos etc, but un-traditionally all piled on top of each other on a bun. I got the Super Pira which was two meat tacos with a sausage/hotdog and coleslaw on a bun. Yes, it was as delicious as it sounds. And fresh french fries on the side with ketchup and a mayonnaise sauce on them. Another option, hamburger with tacos, or add a hot dog on top of that and get it vampiro-style (with ketchup). Ridiculous! And the guy next to me had nachos, and I’m pretty sure it had everything on the menu on top of the chips. Ground meat, sausages, coleslaw, french fries, multiple sauces, hot peppers, etc. Looked amazing. Maybe I’ll get that next time.

And don’t let me forget the prices. Less than $2 each plate. Unless you opt for the burger with two sausages and three tacos, which is a whopping $3. Cheap food is here in Grecia, Costa Rica. Come all!

Malé – Cheap Food Escazú, San José, Costa Rica

Some nights you just don’t want to come home after 8-10 hours of working and immediately make dinner. One of those nights was tonight. So, on the way home, we swung by a place we drive past almost every day called Malé. It is a rotisserie chicken joint in Escazú with outdoor covered seating, which is pretty standard in Costa Rica, but this place has an open firing spit where you can see the chicken become delicious and fall-off-the-bone tender right before your very eyes.

We got a chicken combo for two with a 1/4 chicken each and some delicious pasta, fries and tortilla chips with salsa and refried beans. It came with drinks and extra tortillas for 4500 colones, which is about $8.50. That’s a pretty hardy meal for the price, and when the chicken is seasoned just perfect and tender as all get out, it’s worth every penny (or colone). These Ticos really know what they are doing with rosti pollo. Cheap food is here in Escazú, at Malé.