Cost of Food in Cuenca, Ecuador – Here’s What We Paid

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One of the things I love most about living in Cuenca is the low prices. We’re renting a 3-bedroom, 2-bath, furnished apartment in a 6-year-old building for $650/month! And the cost of food in Cuenca is cheap too, especially when we buy local produce and meats.

Ecuador may be in a tropical zone (hey, its name means equator!), but the Andes mountains that form its backbone are capped with snow year-round. This turns out to be a blessing because not only is the small country blessed with fertile, volcanic soil, they can grow foods as varied as bananas and apples at the same time, in different parts of the country.

food grown in Ecuador, all in season, with mountains in background

I cannot believe how flavorful the fruits and veggies are! Perhaps it’s because it can take less than 4 hours to get here from the hot and humid coast, but the food at the market is pretty close to ripe when we buy it.

Or perhaps it’s because they don’t have to pick fruit when it’s green so that they can ship it around the country in boxcars here, as they do in America, and they don’t need to gas the food to force it to look ready to eat.

Where to shop in Cuenca

When it comes to food, Cuenca has everything from full-fledged mega-American-style grocery stores to little tiendas, small corner stores that sell all of the usual convenience store items (like sodas, crackers, snacks, milk, dish soap, etc.).

The city even has a chain of co-op organic food stores. The Coopera stores are very popular with the gringos, who are thrilled to discover that they now live in a country where organic produce sells for less than what they used to pay for regular, GMO and pesticide-laden veggies in the U.S.

There’s a Coopera only a few blocks from our apartment – and yes, we shop there – but we prefer to walk a block further to the biggest local market in town, called Feria Libre. Feria Libre is so big that it deserves its own post.

vegetables and flowers on table with mountains and apartment building in background

What we buy at the local markets

We were short on produce on Sunday so we walked down to Feria Libre. We came home with two backpacks stuffed full of the market’s inexpensive, flavorful food, and yes, these are actual photos of our haul.

For $14.35 we bought 2 bunches of cut flowers, celery, bananas, strawberries, apricots, broccoli, cauliflower, blackberries, grapes, white onions, avocados, 1 lb fresh peanut butter (in a plastic bag), shallots, and fresh peas.

Our Cuenca grocery shopping haul:

  • 2 bunches of flowers
  • 4 small Haas avocados
  • 1 head of broccoli
  • 1 bunch of celery
  • 2 heads of cauliflower
  • 1 bunch of small bananas (17 count)
  • 1 bag of small white onions (13 count)
  • 1/2 lb. of shallots
  • 1 lb. of strawberries
  • 1 lb. of apricots
  • 1 lb. of blackberries
  • 1 lb. of red grapes
  • 1 lb. of peas
  • 1 lb. of peanut butter (no jar, just scooped into a plastic bag!)

We got all of this for $14.35. What do you think of that?!

Our First Furnished Apartment in Cuenca's El Centro

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Written by Linda

Linda is multilingual and has been to around 60 countries. Her insatiable love of travel, cuisine, and foreign languages inspired her to create As We Saw It with her husband Dan, a professional photographer. Her goal is to make travel easier for others and to offer a brief escape to another land.

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8 thoughts on “Cost of Food in Cuenca, Ecuador – Here’s What We Paid”

  1. I’d love to live there, but I’m by myself and have health issues. I also have 2 cats that are like children to me. I’m only 62 and want to live in comfort far from the rat race. Love your stories and dream of living there.

    • Thanks for your comment, Kathy. It means a lot to hear that you enjoy our stories, probably more than you know. Thank you.

      We’ve had pets and completely understand that they are furry family members. Thank goodness, most countries understand this and it’s usually possible to bring them along when people move overseas. A number of Cuenca expats brought their pets, and our daughter relocated to Panama with her dog.

      And speaking of Panama, most people don’t know this, but Panama City’s Punta Pacifica Hospital is affiliated with Johns Hopkins and accepts many U.S. insurance policies, including Medicare. It’s a relief to know that many doctors have trained in the U.S. and are bilingual. Maybe living overseas isn’t for you, but at least you know you’ll stay healthy if you visit Panama on vacation!

  2. we are retired and hope to stay in Cuenco for a few months before moving to Loja. Can anyway tell me abit more about the difference. Loja is more south so more moquitoes? less x pats so can we manage with our beginners spanish> We do need to make up and hire a friend to guide us through our first years there, is that possible?

    • We haven’t been to Loja, Ellen, so we can’t tell you about that, but we can tell you that Cuenca’s high altitude meant we didn’t have mosquitoes. For sure there are fewer expats in Loja, but that might mean the group there is more cohesive. Have you tried to connect with “Loja, Ecuador for English Speakers and Expats” group on Facebook?

      As to hiring a guide, our experience has been that expats are a helpful bunch. I think they could offer all the support you’d need. I hope that helps.

  3. my daughter just livings in Recaurte on setp.2017.
    May i buy some foods by online in the stores of Cuenca ( include delivery to her house in Recuarte or she can pick it up in the stores) ?
    Could you inform us how we can do?
    thanks for your helping.
    Nam nguyen
    email: [email protected]

    • Thanks for your question, Nam. Unfortunately, since we no longer live there, we don’t know what services are currently available in Cuenca. We’d suggest that you ask the members of Cuenca Expats Magazine on Facebook. They would be able to give you an accurate answer.

  4. My name is George and I am planning a trip to Cuenca in May/June 2017 to see if I would like to live there for a few months. Your information was very helpful……. I look forward going to Cuenca to check it out. Tks George. [email protected]

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