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.
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.