January 17, 2018

No Spend/Pantry Challenge Continues: Straight from Guatemala


Even though I am in Guatemala, and you may think that I took a short hiatus from my No Spend, Clear out and Eat from the Pantry, Fridge and Freezer Challenge, think again. This week I have dug into that premise more than ever. Now, honestly, some of you after reading this may think I am crazy, but hopefully it will encourage you that the way I travel is an option.

In the past, I have shared many ideas on how to save money on food while on vacation and this “mission trip/vacation with a purpose” to Guatemala is no different. The orphanage that we are staying at offers full meals to their guests at only $4.40/meal. Now while this may be a “great deal,” we have six people here from our family (we left our youngest daughter being loved on by grandma/pa/auntie/cousins). That equals over $25/meal or $75/day for food. That was just not an option, but did take two meals at the dining room. Fortunately, the missionaries told me before leaving that there was a small kitchen in our room and I had the capability of making meals for our family. So I implemented many techniques that I use while on our vacations in the states and I packed food in my suitcase.

Since I knew that I would not be able to shop before our first few meals. I brought spices, peanut butter, crackers, cereal bars, granola bars, oatmeal for breakfast, dry soup mixes, as well as some dry rice/seasoning dinner mix which we ate the first evening at the orphanage.

On Sunday, I went to the store for the first time (not pictured) and I realized that the prices were not any cheaper. In fact, some of the options were more expensive. I spent $50 for a few necessities, like chicken, and left with a small cart full of food. Definitely not enough to feed our family well for a week. I inquired how Guatemalans could afford to feed their families at a grocery store when the average wage is $2ooo/YEAR. Yes, a year. That is not a typo. Well, a grocery store is not where the majority of the natives shop.

This is where families shop  – the market, and I LOVED it.

We have been eating so healthy because the abundance of fresh produce is what is affordable. Now, not all of it would be safe for us to eat. You have to choose wisely. Everything has to be soaked in special solution before eating to avoid getting a parasite or other nice addition to your system.

Can you guess why I bought the fresh chicken at the store and not the market? I thought you would be repulsed if I actually showed the up close picture of how they store their meats.

They don’t.

See the meat hanging in the background, with the chicken on the counter? Yes, every single booth has similar fares for sale. No refrigeration, and thousands of flies swarming are thrown in as an extra special bonus.

Stray or street dogs are in masses everywhere.

Every aisle, every road has packs of dogs scrounging for food.

My heart does a little pitter patter every time I see the grain in bulk. This is the kind of buying I LOVE, and I actually do this shopping at home. Here I just get to avoid my I Love Lucy routine to get great prices on bulk food here.

And the fresh fruit and veggies?

Divine. We bought an HUGE papaya for about $0.60. Six of the most delicious apples were only $1, as well as avocados, peppers, tomatoes etc. We were advised not to purchase strawberries or lettuce, since it’s hard to get those items clean enough to consume.

My family is eating a LOT of rice and beans this week. I realize that everything just takes a long time to make. For the women here, that’s ok. They don’t have places they are rushing too. Feeding their family is a day’s work and those chores of providing for their family simple meals is their goal. They go to the market every other day, since there is no way to keep it and it spoils quickly. Food is quite bland, but their desire it to fill bellies, not provide 5 star provisions. (Although making homemade corn tortillas is a daily chore, and I am so sad I didn’t get a tutorial from the pros.)

So, more than ever I have been implementing this challenge. The items I brought and purchased at the store have stretched all week. I added in some fresh produce through out the week, but these last few days have been a CHALLENGE since purchasing more from a grocery store wasn’t an option.

For the last two days, it’s been some form of beans, chicken and rice, fried egg sandwiches and oatmeal.

Last night for dinner, our youngest son looked at this and said, “I am sick of beans and rice.”

Guess how this merciful mother responded, as my prayer is to allow opportunities to peel back the layers of character development slowly rooting, “Too bad! The children all around you eat this every single, day of their life. You can suck it up for one week.” 🙂

So, hopefully, you enjoyed this peek into the Guatemalan market place. Trust me, their “kitchens” give us pause to be even more thankful.



  1. You are amazing, and so inspirational. Thank you for sharing.


  2. My husband and I have been the cooks for a Mission Team to Honduras on 3 different occasions. We do buy lettuce and serve salads to the team but its a process to get it to what we would consider edible…..1. peel away the outside leaves that are yucky. 2. take the lettuce head apart leaf by leaf. 3. Each and every leaf gets washed in soapy, bleach water then rinsed in bleach water then rinsed a 2nd time in pure, clean filtered water.

    Every one loves the salads everynight but going though this process with 4-5 heads of lettuce for the meal is a long process. But it does clean the lettuce and make it edible to American tummies.

    *The water is nasty when finished ~ so much so, that when done,I don’t want to eat salad.


  3. Amanda Y. says:

    I love learning/hearing about foreign cultures! No matter how much I’ve travelled, it still both humbles me and helps me remember the important things in life (and in some ways, isn’t it easy to be jealous of them? That cooking all day and fresh food at market every other day, that’s life!). Although I personally am not very interested in the religious aspect, I hope you will share more/as much as you can about your trip and the culture!


  4. Love your pictures & your post. I grew up about 3 miles from rural Mexico (as a crow flies) so I saw first hand how poor and industrious the folks are from Mexico and Southern Texas. It has always had such a strong impact on me & my life. I have never complained about what Im eating, any time, anywhere, even if it wasnt to my liking. I have so much to be thankful for, food in my belly, and I’ve always been very aware of it.
    I think its a wonderful mission you all are on.. Many blessings to you all!!


  5. Jennifer says:

    My husband and I lived in Costa Rica for 6 years and going to the market was a weekly thing that I loved to do!!! Fresh produce, as in Guatemala, was cheap and certainly stretched our modest missionary income! I learned how not to complain about the food we were eating and learned how to make a lot of new meals that we still eat today! I sure do miss those days! Thanks for reminding me of those days!!!


  6. Oh! I love these pictures! I’ve gone to Guatemala for the last 4 summers and know exactly what you mean about the markets and the “kitchens” in the villages! I hope you can share more about your trip. Our family has gone on two mission trips (to Guatemala) together, and I treasure the moments we served together.


  7. Elizabeth says:

    I studied Spanish in Guatemala for three months when I was in college, and it was the best experience. The town we stayed in was very nice (Antigua), but we did travel to outlying/rural areas and it really does put everything into perspective when you see people living in houses made out of scrap metal.

    And it IS a shame you didn’t get a tutorial on how to make those tortillas! They are the best tortillas I’ve ever had. So thick and delicious! I wish I knew how to make them.


  8. I’m inspired by your dedication to the Pantry Challenge even while you are on a mission trip!! I definitely ought to be able to stretch a few meals from my pantry if you can. And those colorful vegetables made me want to add more to our dinner tonight – so I included red and green peppers, red onions, tomatoes, corn on the cob, and peas to our fish. Thanks for the update!


  9. Wow! I’m impressed! 🙂

    The pictures are fabulous.

    The meat just hanging with all the flies has disturbed me so much when I go to these countries…but this is what they do…


  10. It brought back memories of my time in Bolivia! I stopped eating meat while there, after seeing the meat markets and more appropriately smelling them. I got good at holding my breath! It took me awhile to be okay with it here too! Meat hanging in the sun was not yummy!


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