Buying food in Cuenca can be inexpensive, or very inexpensive. We spend about $300 a month for the two of us, not including meals out (a few every month). That's up to about $500 with Lulie's son living with us.
I thought that was a lot until I spoke with someone in the US, who told me that his food costs are about $300 per week. Ouch!
We could probably eat for less if we did more of our shopping at the mercados and less at the supermarkets.
You'll have to decide for yourself if you prefer a quick jaunt to the supermarket (there are three to choose from, with a total of seven stores), or to wander through a mercado (there are at least six), or to shop at specialty stores and/or from street vendors.
We discuss them all below. But before we begin, here's an example of the food prices in Cuenca.
You have a choice of Supermaxi, Gran Akí (both are owned by the same company), or Coral Hipermercados.
Supermaxi, the largest selection and highest prices overall
Gran Akí, a lower-rent version of Supermaxi
Coral Hipermercados, a large selection and generally low prices
There are also several "comisariatos" around Cuenca. Think of these as small grocery stores, or as very large convenience stores.
And then there's Coopera market. Coopera is a credit union that also has four produce and meat markets, with some inexpensive foods, many of them grown or produced near Cuenca.
There are several mercados to choose from. They all have a full range of fruits, vegetables, meats, fish and other products, so the deciding factor may very well be which is closest to you.
We discuss them all on this page about indigenous mercados.
Depending on where you'll be living, there may be a meat shop or delicatessen within walking distance. You'll find a wide range of meats and meat products there, including tongue, brains, kidneys and livers.
The two most common chains are La Italiana and La Europea (which also has its own line of canned goods).
If you're used to North-American cuts of beef, you can let that go now. Most of the meat sold isn't butchered into what we'd recognize as filet or t-bones, etc. Lomo fino is the best meat you can buy at most meat shops.
In El Centro, you'll find street vendors on every second street corner. What are they selling? Fruit! Gigantic strawberries, mandarins, grapes, and whatever else is small and in season.
You'll see them from a distance. Their fruit fills their wheelbarrows, almost to overflowing. In fact, some add cardboard up the wheel end of the barrow, extending its depth so that they can carry more fruit.
We've seen wheelbarrows with at least 100 mandarins in them, or a few hundred strawberries or grapes. Stop at one and discover just how inexpensive, and delicious, their products are!
Evenings, you'll also find dinner vendors on the street corners, cooking skewers of meat, roasting choclo corn and frying french fries.
There are plenty of chocolate shops around Cuenca. It's just a matter of finding one you like.
Don't forget to check out our online Cuenca Chocolate Tour and learn about all Jeff's favorite places to enjoy chocolate.
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I just want to thank you both soooo much for creating this web site. I am originally from Cuenca but moved to New York 11 years ago and have not being back since. My husband and I are planning on visiting Cuenca over the Summer and this web site has helped me a lot.
When I came to the US we still had the "sucre," the bus ride cost 1,000 sucres and a pack of trident gum would cost 3,000 sucres. I am very nervous to go back, but thanks to your web site I now know what to expect.
My husband is American and Captivating Cuenca has taught him a lot about what my great city has to offer, things that I had forgotten about myself! :)
Thank You both so much! I cannot wait to visit Cuenca!!