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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Day in the Life Living in Cuenca Ecuador

Frank can't resist some of the locally grown fruits and vegetables in Cuenca. This time of year cherries are in season and they are so delicious. We walk by the vendors and they call out the price to us, and even though we have much more walking to do in Cuenca, we stop and fill our packs with some locally grown fruits and veggies. This is one reason why we always have our packs with us. Ya never know when you might see something delicious and buy it! This is a day in the life in Cuenca Ecuador for goodness sakes!

                

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Searching for a Local Priced Rental in Cuenca Ecuador: A Day in the Life

All I want to do is rent an unfurnished house for the local price of $300 a month. That’s it.  Is that too much to ask?

It’s the threshold the local taxi driver said we should stay under when we first moved here. It’s the price the blogs were saying was the going rate at the time, only a few short months ago!  And it’s a whopping 75% of the average personal income, although it may be only 30%-40% of household income, which makes sense under the rule of 3 & 4.

Everybody knows we only pay $250 a month for a three year old house, but we’ve already pounded that nail all the way through.  So when a friend asked us to help him find a house for rent in Cuenca for the local price of under the now infamous figure of $300 a month. We agreed!

So when I called an ad in the local paper (spoken in Spanish) and asked the Ecuadorian lady the price on the vacant three bedroom house, and she said $500, of course my next question was – why?  “Why is it so high?” I wanted to know…”does it have a big yard?”. “No, it’s just average sized” she replied.  “Is the house very large?” I asked inquisitively. “Not particularly” she answered, as she described the average floor plan of kitchen living room, laundry room, downstairs, and three bedrooms upstairs w/2 baths.“Is it newly remodeled?” She finally got impatient with my questions and interrupted…”well you know, it’s by Supermaxi”.  Well lo and behold, that explains everything.  “Are you flexible on the price?” I ask.  “No”.  She says, “ok, have a nice day, good bye”.
 

Undaunted, I call another ad.

This one has the price clearly in the ad, it screams at me $300 DOLLARS.
Excellent.  Always looking to save money on my cell bill @ .25 cents a minute, I call that one next.  Here’s the conversation, in Spanish.

Me:  Hello? – I’m calling about the house for rent for $300 dollars.  How many bedrooms does it have?

Landlord: It has five bedrooms, but where are you from?

Me:  (a little skeptical at the question) err…I’m from here, I live here, why do you ask?

Landlord:  You sound like a gringo. For you the price will be higher.  Chuckle.

Me:  (Not laughing) uhm, oh, well, ok, have a nice day.  Good bye.

Ok, well, I’ve made a commitment to help my friend so, as if I am a glutton for punishment, I keep going.  I call the next ad:

(remember, Spanish paper, speaking in Spanish)

Me:  Hello?  I’m calling about the large house for rent.  How much is it?

Landlord:  It’s $800 a month. 

Me:   Uh, why is it so much?

Landlord:  It’s furnished and it’s for foreigners, plus it’s by Supermaxi.

Me:  Isn’t that a little high?

Landlord:  Yes, but, it’s for foreigners.

Me: Ok, thank you and have a nice day.  Good bye.

My Ecuadorian neighbor/friend decided to get in on the foreign rental action. She approached me with a super duper rental deal, I figured she got offered a commission.  Two “large” (her description) houses on one lot, with a pool for $600 a month. Sounds good so far right?
So I called the lady myself, and find out, it’s only one house, it’s only 2000 square feet, and the pool is empty.  I tell my friend, it’s too high.  She frustratingly says:  “is it for you?” as if to say, who cares if it’s too high, it’s not for you, it’s for the foreigners.

Somehow, I didn’t find it appropriate to explain to her, that I don’t appreciate gringo pricing, even if it’s not directed toward me exclusively.

When we were in Salinas, while walking the Malecon an Ecuadorian promoter approached us for boat rides, and condo rentals, etc. so we decided to talk with him and go look at a few.  All his rentals were for $1000 to $1200 a month, furnished two or three blocks back from the beach, and unfurnished waterfront, $1000-$2300.

I patiently explain I’m not a tourist; I want a long term, unfurnished rental at local prices, not tourist prices. “Ok, I’ll call you”, he says.  It’s been almost a year, still haven’t heard from him.  Apparently, there’s no money in it for him.Same thing happened when we walked in to the Spanish speaking Spanish Real Estate Company offices, again, in Salinas, because we saw some advertised houses in the $400 per month price range, on their website, in Salinas.  (We always avoid the gringo agencies as they told us themselves the prices are $800-$1200)

We find out the $400 houses have been gone for two years, and they haven’t updated their website!  But hey, we have some $800-$1200 houses over here.  “No thanks”. We practically beg them to call us when they get some more $400 dollar houses for rent. We even stretch our boundaries to $500.  Many, many moons later, we’re still waiting for the call. But without holding our breath!

This will be the last example.

The ad on Craig’s List had pictures of furniture, so it’s a furnished three bedroom right? $450, ok sounds reasonable so far.   I call the ad, and well, no, it’s not furnished.

Me:  “Why are the pictures of a furnished house then?” I ask.

Agent:  “I forgot to remove those pictures” says the Spanish Real Estate agent. The house is $450 a month.

Me: But that’s a furnished price, for that size of house.

Agent: yes, but it’s not furnished.

Me:  Yes, but that is an unfurnished house and at that price, it’s too high.

The very next day, we saw the same ad on Craig’s List and he had lowered the price by $50!  I still thought it was too high at $400.  Almost all the prices on Craig’s List are too high.  Very rarely do you see something priced properly to the local prices.  It is very skewed toward English speaking foreigners.

So why did I write all this?  Am I trying to discourage you? Absolutely not! To the contrary! We want to give you a feel for the real picture.  That is why the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide is a very necessary addition to your arsenal for living well on smaller means here in Cuenca Ecuador. Avoid the foreign hype, be ahead of the game, get the guide today.  Because you will need all the help you can get.  If you're interested in learning more about the local priced rental market click here.


Friday, January 25, 2013

You Can Now Retire on $1,400 Instead of $900 Instead of $600 in Cuenca Ecuador

Article after article keeps coming out in the retirement press stating a new cost of living for Cuenca Ecuador.

You Can Now Retire on $1,400 Instead of $900 Instead of $600 in Cuenca Ecuador.

According to the popular retirement press these are the latest figures, and all within a span of a few months. A new article just came out on January 3, 2013 with the retirement press stating it is now possible to retire in Cuenca Ecuador on $1,400 a month.



That is quite a bit of “cost of living” inflation in 6 to 8 months time, don’t you think?  It looks like the trend is “up”, and the trend is your friend, but only if you’re a real estate/rental agent in Cuenca Ecuador!

What’s Happening to Cuenca Ecuador?

What happened to Panama City, Panama? What Happened to Merida, Mexico? What happened to San Jose, Costa Rica? Need we say more?

We inflate prices by bringing our standards of living and our comparisons to third world countries and Cuenca Ecuador is no different.  We also do it by going to the very same places that are popular in the retirement press magazines.

When lots of people bid on a finite number of items, what happens to the price?  And when those very same people make their pricing mechanism a comparison to where they come from, is that real local demand? Or hyped up foreign demand?

What happens to hyped up foreign demand in the long run? How are people treated and seen by the locals when they are paying far more than the local demand? Does ATM machine ring a bell?  How about envy?  What does envy turn into in the eyes of someone without any moral boundary?  Why are expats reporting to us much higher crime rates in Costa Rica and on the Ecuador coast?

And on a small potatoes note, err. or onions, why did onions spike up to $6 a bag from $2.50?  And guess what, now that the rains are back, the price is back to $2.50 again.  Obvious to me it’s not dollar inflation exported from the u.s as some are so quick to say. There are seasonal fluctuations here.  My sense is that it was due to drought caused shortage, i.e. too many people bidding up on a finite item. 
I hope you’re following me on this…

Did you know that the minimum wage (it just went up about 8%) is around $2.90 per hour in Ecuador or about $300 per month. Did you know that most Ecuadorian families rent for between $180 to $250? Did you know that many families are only scraping by in Ecuador? Did you know that 10 oranges for a $1 seems like a lot of money to people here? 

By the Way, when onions were $6 a bag here in Cuenca Ecuador, we weren’t buying.  We substituted garlic.  For some strange reason the u.s exported inflation didn’t touch the garlic. :-)

But seriously, the inflation is against hard goods/commodities versus paper money, so when the price of gas goes up in the u.s. what happens to everything that is trucked to your local store? Think about it: from auto parts to food, the centralized production system up north demands that the inflation will hit all prices and especially food.

Now, when we were in the northern country, we drove 1 & ½ miles to the local farmer and paid the then international spot price of $12 a bushel for organic wheat berries. Then we went home and ground it up into flour and made bread etc.  But is that what your average person is doing?  Or did they go to the grocery store and pay $4 a loaf? Up from $2?

It’s not surprising then that some people would think that price increases here in Cuenca are a result of exported u.s. dollar inflation.  Well it is partially correct but only on imported items. The price of (subsidized) gas has been static here, so the rest of the inflation has to be from shortages due to seasonal fluctuations etc.  And what is a shortage? Either not enough supply or too much demand or usually both.  And sure, if you want to call overpaying - inflation, then it’s exported gringo inflation.

Food Here is Not Cheap to the Locals

.... Ecuadorians have commented on our “food buying” videos telling us that to them the prices are normal, not cheap…so we stopped saying the food is cheap here because it’s not cheap to the locals.

For foreigners the cost of living is going to keep going up here. For the locals they’re cost of living is going to go up too, and faster because Cuenca is just too small to embrace the flood of rental demands that are coming in. Every week we see local rents going up...and on Craig’s List about $50 to $100 for the same amount of house!!  The locals are not getting more house for their money, just more expensive…this is happening in Cuenca now…and it is not going to stop anytime soon.

So with that said, if you’re thinking of  bringing your demands with you to Cuenca Ecuador of needing to live in a furnished condo, or brand new 3,000 sq ft home with a big yard, with around the clock security, and with the views and right across the street from the river, and walking distance to the historic center, then expect your cost of living to be around $1,400 a month…and seriously folks that figure is quite gracious…most expats are complaining that Cuenca is not cheap and they can’t live on their $1,500 retirement check. Some are going home.

Cuenca Ecuador - a paradise, or is it lost? My son says there’s lots of room still to the upside.  (Eye roll) ;’(
The old North American dream of prosperity and liberty can be yours but you might have to change some of your habits and integrate yourself within the local culture. No one can certainly tell you how to live, but if frugality and immersing yourself into the culture of Ecuador sounds like something you want to do then most of the Ecuadorians will welcome you here with open arms. For more details on how to live frugal and happy in Cuenca see the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide.  For rentals see $300 Cuenca Rentals



Tuesday, January 22, 2013

"Costto" Department Store in Cuenca Ecuador

Costto is sort of like Cosco but without as much merchandise. It has three floors. First floor is electronics, appliances, and automotive and the second floor is household, kitchen items, and the third floor they're still working on. They don't sell bulk foods either. Still, there were a couple of things in this store that were better priced than we've seen elsewhere in Cuenca, such as the Black and Decker grill and griddle which comes in handy when you have a lot of mouths to feed pancakes We've seen the Black and Decker pancake griddle for the same price at Coral but without the grill apparatus. The Oster griddle is $97 at Coral. Overall the prices at Costto seemed to be the same or even a bit more than we've seen in Coral Centro in Cuenca.

                    

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Casa Brasil Cafe in Cuenca Ecuador

We're trying out a new restaurant in colonial Cuenca called Casa Brasil Cafe. We walk by here a lot and have always been wanting to see what its like.  We already ate lunch so we just had a snack of nachos and coffee.  It was ok. The view from the balcony is interesting. We still have a lot of restaurants in Cuenca to try out and tell our readers about...so stay tuned!

                   

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ecuador Coffee Grown in the Mountains of Loja!

Coffee anyone? This is very good coffee grown in Loja Ecuador. Today I ordered coffee with milk. The coffee was very strong as they prepare it through a strainer which releases the full body of the coffee and the whole milk gives it a very rich flavor. Frank brings his Ecuadorian grown cocoa and we sit and relax for a few minutes enjoying some of the sights and sounds of Cuenca Ecuador. We bought a pound of fresh coffee beans for $3. There is several of these Loja-grown coffee houses in downtown Cuenca, this one is on Gran Columbia.

             

Monday, January 14, 2013

Guanabana Fruit Grown in Ecuador Kills Cancer up to 10,000 Times More Effectively than Chemotherapy!

We’ve eaten the (soursop) fruit before, known as guanabana here in Ecuador. Make sure the fruit is ripe before you eat it or you can get a stomach ache. The Guanabana fruit is widely avaialable in the Mercados and grocery marts all over Cuenca and for a very modest price. Amazing!



It grows in tropical climates in the Caribbean, South and Central America.  Here in Ecuador it is grown in the Ecuadorian rainforest.  In Ecuador they juice the fruit and make guanabana juice, which is the same process they use to make all of the juices they offer with the almuerzos, and unfortunately, we have discovered, they also add sugar to the fruit juice which pretty much counteracts the healthiness of fresh fruit juice.

In the Esmeralda Province guanabana is taken as an antispasmodic and has many other medicinal purposes as you’ll find out when you read the article below. Researchers have discovered it kills cancer cells better than chemotherapy!

*****

Soursop Fruit 100 Fold Stronger At Killing Cancer Than Chemotherapy      ---       http://preventdisease.com

The Soursop is a flowering, evergreen tree native to tropical regions of the world. It also contains a long, prickly green fruit which happens to kill cancer up to 10,000 times more effectively than strong chemotherapy drugs, all without the nasty side effects and without harming healthy cells.

According to Cancer Research UK, Annona muricata is an active principle in an herbal remedy marketed under the brand name Triamazon. The licensing for this product in the UK is not accepted due to its enormous healing effects on the body and potential loss of profits for competing pharmaceutical cancer drugs.

This tree is low and is called graviola in Brazil, guanabana in Spanish and has the uninspiring name “soursop” in English. The fruit is very large and the subacid sweet white pulp is eaten out of hand or, more commonly, used to make fruit drinks and sherbets.

Besides being a cancer remedy, graviola is a broad spectrum antimicrobial agent for both bacterial and fungal infections, is effective against internal parasites and worms, lowers high blood pressure and is used for depression, stress and nervous disorders.

Deep within the Amazon Rainforest, this tree grows wild and could literally revolutionize what you, your doctor, and the rest of the world thinks about cancer treatment and chances of survival.
Research shows that with extracts from this miraculous tree it now may be possible to:

* Attack cancer safely and effectively with an all-natural therapy that does not cause extreme nausea, weight loss and hair loss
* Protect your immune system and avoid deadly infections
* Feel stronger and healthier throughout the course of the treatment
* Boost your energy and improve your outlook on life

The source of this information is just as stunning: It comes from one of America’s largest drug manufacturers, the fruit of over 20 laboratory tests conducted since the 1970′s. What those tests revealed was nothing short of mind numbing…Extracts from the tree were shown to:

* Effectively target and kill malignant cells in 12 types of cancer, including colon, breast, prostate, lung and pancreatic cancer.
* The tree compounds proved to be up to 10,000 times stronger in slowing the growth of cancer cells than Adriamycin, a commonly used chemotherapeutic drug!

* What’s more, unlike chemotherapy, the compound extracted from the Graviola tree selectively hunts down and kills only cancer cells. It does not harm healthy cells!

The amazing anti-cancer properties of the Graviola tree have been extensively researched–so why haven’t you heard anything about it? The drug industry began a search for a cancer cure and their research centered on Graviola, a legendary healing tree from the Amazon Rainforest.

It turns out the drug company invested nearly seven years trying to synthesize two of the Graviola tree’s most powerful anti-cancer ingredients. If they could isolate and produce man-made clones of what makes the Graviola so potent, they’d be able to patent it and make their money back. Alas, they hit a brick wall. The original simply could not be replicated. There was no way the company could protect its profits or even make back the millions it poured into research.

As the dream of huge profits evaporated, their testing on Graviola came to a screeching halt. Even worse, the company shelved the entire project and chose not to publish the findings of its research!

Where Can You Find It?
As far as the fruit goes, you may be able to find it at some grocery and health food stores in your area. There are several different soursop juice manufacturers, distrubutors and suppliers worldwide. Caution would be warranted in purchasing from any company unless you have researched their reputability and extraction methods.

http://preventdisease.com

The article can be found here:  http://preventdisease.com/news/12/022112_Sour-Sop-Fruit-100-Fold-Stronger-At-Killing-Cancer-Than-Chemotherapy.shtml

Friday, January 11, 2013

Taking the City Bus in Cuenca Can Be Entertaining

You never quite know what to expect when taking the bus to and from where you need to go. On this day we enjoyed the music of a dad and son playing the Guitar. We like riding the bus in Cuenca. It's cheap, it's safe, and it's entertaining as well. The buses can get crowded though between 1:30 in the afternoon on Monday through Friday until about 3:00pm and you may have to stand, so hang on tight! This is when the school children get out of school and many of them take the city buses home. But other than the crowds, the bus is a great way to get around in Cuenca if you don't feel like walking.

        

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Pets and Taxi Cabs in Cuenca Ecuador


 A lot of taxi cab drivers do not want pets, especially big dogs, in their cab. Some of them don’t care, but most do care. Here in Ecuador many of the taxi drivers personally own the cabs they drive for hire. A lot of the cab drivers in Cuenca take great pride in the cleanliness of their cabs and some drivers will not stop if they see you have a dog. We know this especially to be true with bigger dogs.

We know firsthand of a couple here in Cuenca who was literally stuck in their apartment because there was no cab that would take their big 100 pound dog in the cab. After a few days of being passed by from the cab drivers this expat couple ended up having a local gal “pet sit” for them so they could go buy some much needed food and water at the grocery store.

On one occasion, another cab driver flinched when some expats we were with boarded the taxi with their small 25 pound dog. We all hurried in and sat down before he could say anything, but we could tell he was not too happy with having a dog in his cab.

A lot of dogs, big or small shed a lot of hair and it gets all over the seats of the cab, and if it starts raining, then that’s a whole other issue, they are animals after all.

It’s really just personal preference of the cab driver whether or not he’ll allow your pet in the cab. We just want to let you know that some cabs may just drive right by when they see you have a pet and especially if it is a BIG dog. We just want to make you aware of this before you move to Cuenca Ecuador with your pets, so you’ll know.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Discover Quito Ecuador with Frank and Angie!

When we were repeatedly told negative things about Quito by several different expats arriving to Cuenca, we thought, “Oh yuck, glad we’re living in Cuenca”. But when we went to visit Quito ourselves, and spent time there, living there, going out to eat, shopping, doing business, getting to know the people, walking around, we found Quito to be a delightful, cosmopolitan city with so much positive going for it.

                

Quito is a large city of a little over two million people. Quito has a neglected and well, let’s say, underdeveloped area, but what large city doesn’t? We’ve noticed throughout Ecuador, many people build their own homes, and some of them run out of money and cannot buy materials, so many homes are not finished, which doesn’t look very nice, especially when there are many unfinished homes in one area. In these areas you’ll find more garbage on the streets (dogs make the mess, not people so much) and it can make an area look pretty awful. We’ve all seen it in bigger cities in the US. We’ve noticed these unfinished homes and most of the garbage in only one area of Quito. Besides that, most of Quito is hermosa (beautiful)!

As you’ll see in our video above “Quito Ecuador by bus from Cuenca”, we enter in on the south end (part 1) …and work our way up to the tourist area, (part 2 and 3) which is nice and full of international caf├ęs, restaurants, culture and more. Of course there is not a big city in the world that does not have some things that are negative to talk about. Quito clearly has many more advantages and benefits than disadvantages and negatives…and the same goes for Cuenca!

Yep, we had a few factual negatives to say about Cuenca, but the advantages and benefits of living/retiring in Cuenca far outweigh the negatives. One important aspect to remember when you’re looking to move to a foreign country is don’t take anything anyone says or writes about written in stone, not from any source, person, forum, news story, journalist, magazine, company, blog, or website. YOU HAVE TO DECIDE for yourself what feels right for you, by visiting that city. And that’s how we were pleasantly amazed about Quito in contrast to what we were told by some expats.

With that said, in this video above and on the Discover Quito Ecuador Blog we offer our unbiased reporting of facts, experiences and observations about Quito just like we do about Cuenca. We don’t hold anything back…we’ll show and tell our readers the real deal, the good, the bad, and even the ugly. But if you’ve been a follower of our Discover Cuenca Ecuador Blog then you already know that.

If you are think about moving to Ecuador then here is another wonderful city to learn about.  Discover Quito Ecuador with Frank and Angie! Click here for the Discover Quito Ecuador Blog!
S-U-B-S-C-R-I-B-E and receive new articles every time we post.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Cuenca Ecuador Bridge Improvements- Before and After Shots

Cuenca is a developing country and some of the new developments and improvements going up in the city are pretty impressive. The growth in Cuenca Ecuador is remarkable with new condo units being built all over the city. We just got back from Quito, Ecuador the highways the whole way there were great. Ecuador has amazingly good traveling roads. This old wooden bridge in the video was off one of the highways in Cuenca going into a suburban neighborhood. It took about 6 months to build this bridge over the Yanancay River. I can sure bet the residents that live in this neighborhood are happy with the new bridge construction.


                      

Friday, January 4, 2013

International Living Names Best Retirement Hot Spot for 2013

International Living Reveals World’s # 1 Retirement Spot Abroad for 2013
PRWeb – Thu, Jan 3, 2013
Ecuador tops InternationalLiving.com’s Annual Global Retirement Index for fifth straight year, first among 22 nations ranked and rated.

Baltimore, MD (PRWEB) January 03, 2013
Ecuador is the single best place for North Americans to retire overseas, according to InternationalLiving.com’s newly-released Annual Global Retirement Index 2013.

In putting together the index, now in its 22nd year, InternationalLiving.com’s editors collated data from its team of experts on the ground in the most popular countries among U.S. and Canadian expat retirees.

Editors assessed factors ranging from the price of groceries and average temperature to utility costs and the friendliness of locals.

The information was then used to score each of the top countries out of 100 in categories such as “Real Estate,” “Climate,” “Special Benefits for Retirees” and “Health Care.”

Ecuador scored well over a number of categories, including “Climate,” “Real Estate” and “Special Benefits,” which examined the range of discounts and perks various governments roll out for retirees.

“Ecuador is the complete package,” said Ecuador resident and InternationalLiving.com editor Dan Prescher. “From its varied climate to the friendliness of the Ecuadorian people, it exceeds even the loftiest of expectations.”

Ecuador also scored high in the “Cost of Living” category. A visit to a doctor costs around $25, a local meal out can be as little as $2.50, a beer is $0.85 and an hour-long massage comes in at $25.

As a result, InternationalLiving.com’s researchers were able to find American expats living comfortably in Ecuador on less than $900 per month (if you include rent, a full monthly budget of $1,400 would be reasonable).

“Ecuador is inexpensive for everyone, but especially so for retirees,” added Prescher. He continued, “Seniors resident in Ecuador qualify for half-price entertainment and local transport, discounted airfares, and refunds of sales tax.”

Panama, with its excellent pensionado incentive program for retirees, came in second place in the 2013 Retirement Index, while Malaysia rounded out the top three.

Full details of the InternationalLiving.com Retirement Index 2013 can be seen here: “The World’s Top Retirement Havens in 2013”.
Carol Barron
International Living

Thursday, January 3, 2013

How Our Family of Five Eats for $400 a Month in Cuenca Ecuador!

Can you believe our family of five adults eats two meals each, plus, as much fruit as we want in the mornings for breakfast on $400 per month or less?

If you’re new to this blog and have not seen our monthly budget yet then by all means, click here and check it out. As you’ll see, our budget for groceries is around $400 a month, which is much less than what we were spending when we were living in North America…and we’re eating healthier, cleaner food!

How Can Five Adults Eat for $400 a Month?

Simple, after living here as long as we have you figure out the places to shop for less money. If you have lived in Cuenca for awhile you will have noticed that some grocery markets are more expensive than others, and quite a bit more expensive at that. Also the Mercado can be more expensive on many produce items compared to grocery stores such as Coral.

Many expats complain to us about the high prices at a certain grocery store here in Cuenca. They remark that the prices reflect US prices. And its true. Imported food items will even cost more than in the US. Don't be afraid to try out the locally manufactured brands, most of which are just as good but much more cost effective.

We know which fruits and veggies cost less at the grocery store than at the Mercado and we buy those things at the grocery store. On the same token we know which food items we can buy for less at the Mercado and we buy those items there. Note: meat and cheese are much cheaper at the Mercado but we have never bought our meat or cheese there, simply because it sits out in the open.

We also do some shopping at Ecuadorian super markets (non chain markets) where we get better price deals on coffee, nuts, butter, dried fruits, variety of flours, and legumes. If you have not yet read the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide, you missing out because there's lots of information about finding deals on food in there. And it’s no big deal to shop in different stores throughout Cuenca; it’s just a $0.25 cent bus ride, or a nice walk after all.

We do not deprive ourselves of good tasting foods. We eat well! In fact, we consider a lot of our home prepared meals gourmet and International. For an example, we make homemade gnocchi (Italian dumplings) with pesto or marinara sauce. Homemade pizza (even the crust) from scratch. Another nutritious meal is black bean and brown rice enchiladas, and they are so filling and substantial—rice and beans together are a complete protein. And for those lighter dinners we prepare soups such as, spinach and mushroom egg drop soup, thanks to our friend Karina, who shared her recipe with me. We eat tasty, healthy, complete meals but, do not rack up a huge grocery bill over it.

We also eat healthy sweet treat snacks, such as “oatmeal, peanut butter no bake cookies” or “cocoa, honey popcorn”, or “banana, raisin bread” made with natural sugars rather than processed. We use raw honey in our sweet concoctions that are not baked to make some incredible healthy sweets. To keep raw honey healthy is to simply never cook it. Once you bake honey into cookies or cakes the healthy goodness is partially destroyed.

Shopping at Coral Centro

Our monthly Coral Centro bill totals to something like $280 to $300. We eat meat only once or twice a week, which helps to keep the grocery bill down. Eating a little bit of meat we find ourselves healthier than eating meat every day. We also rarely eat red meat, perhaps once a month, at most. We have done our research and know what foods can be substituted for the protein and iron that you receive from meat.

Shopping at Feria Libre Mercado

We spend about $20 to $25 once a week at Feria Libre Mercado. At the end of the month that adds up $80 to $100. So let's break it down.

Coral shopping = $200 to $230
Feria Libre shopping =$80 to $100
Total = $280 to $330

6 Ways We Keep Food Costs Down

1) Prepare all meals from scratch
2) We don’t buy alcohol or cigarettes
3) We don’t buy pet food, yet. (It is very expensive here)
4) We never buy imported items, only those items made in Ecuador or S.A
5) We buy organic wheat berries and make all of our own breads, pizza, cakes, etc.
6) We never buy canned goods or prepared frozen dinners or other boxed foods

We do not have a single canned good, processed box item, or frozen meal, in our home. This is not something new to us; we have always cooked from scratch. You wouldn’t believe the amount of money one can save by cooking meals from scratch!


Cooking from Scratch is Healthier and More Cost Effective

Canned goods, frozen dinners, and boxed foods are not only unhealthy but they are waaaay over-priced. We learned a long time ago to save money and be healthy by not buying prepared foods that are touted as being healthy. Anything that is packaged up in a cute wrapper and touted as being healthy is a gimmick and we just don’t buy into it. 

There are two beautiful aspects about cooking from scratch. 1) No preservatives, sugars, dyes, chemicals, etc, and 2) its waaaaay less expensive. Our food bill would in no way be $400 a month or less if it were not for the fact that we eat freshly prepared meals all made from scratch including the pasta, which is made from half whole wheat flour which we grind ourselves!

So this pretty much sums up how we (five adults) can keep monthly food bill down to $400 a month. Of course this does not include eating out in restaurants. We eat out for lunch a couple of times a week and usually cook in for dinner. But if a family of five adults can eat well on $400 or less per month then so can a couple. Remember, it starts with fresh whole foods that you prepare yourself. This is one way to live frugal and healthy in Cuenca Ecuador.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Pets and Furnished Rentals in Cuenca Ecuador

Our pets are our wonderful friends that give us much love and companionship. For many of us older folks our pets have taken the place of our children who have married and left home. More than half of the foreigners that come to Ecuador bring their beloved pets with them.

We have encountered a few foreigners who are looking for a rental that have both dogs and cats with them. One expat couple we know brought three cats and a dog to Cuenca from the states. Another couple brought a huge dog with them. All three families with pets have something in common—they are looking for a furnished or semi-furnished rental.

Most apartments and condos do not allow pets, even when the place is without furniture. Although, there are exceptions but you will pay for it. Your best bet for housing when you have pets is a house with a yard rather than an apartment or condo because sometimes they will have a small green area, and or, a terrazzo for your pet, and of course because of this the landlord is more catering to those expats with pets.

Don’t you think it is only fair to your pet to have a yard, even if it is small? No dog likes to be cooped up without a yard to roam around in. Cats are different however, they are completely happy being cooped up in an apartment.

Pets and Furniture

We know that your pet would not scratch the furniture wood, or pee in the same corner on the hardwood floor, or get fur all over the furniture, but try and tell the landlord that. Most landlords do not allow pets in their furnished rentals and if they do, you will pay up to four times more.

Finding a two or three bedroom furnished at the local rental price rarely come up and the landlord will most-likely not allow pets…of course you can always ask, but you won’t pay local rent. We know this because we personally have asked about pets in many of the furnished rentals.

We’re not saying don’t bring your pets, but we are saying that it might be a lot more difficult to find a furnished rental that will take indoor pets. It certainly is not impossible, but just more difficult. But money always talks, it’s up to you if you want to over-spend on a furnished rental.

Here are a couple of things to consider if you are coming to Cuenca with your pet(s).

1) Don’t have an expectation of furnished at the local rental rates. Expect to pay $200 to $400 more for furnished. If you have pets expect to pay a hefty deposit to the landlord, just in case something gets ruined. You know your pet is clean and not destructive, but try and tell the landlord that after she just spent $1,800 on a new living room set.

2) Trying to find a furnished rental that will actually take your pet(s) will usually take some time; it could take days, or weeks until you find a furnished house or apartment that will accept pets. So, you can’t be in a hurry.

3) If you have pets, we recommend getting an unfurnished at the local rental rate and buy your own furniture. We recommend this for longer term stays just because in the long run it is much cheaper and there are more of the unfurnished rentals to go around and you will find a rental home much quicker and at a much nicer rental price!

4) So if you know ahead of time that you will be bringing your pet(s) we suggest you make room in your budget for buying your own furniture ($5k to 7K) for when you get here.

And here’s another thing to think about with furnished rentals. Many of the furnished rentals may have furniture that is not your style and you will end up not enjoying your new rental. We know personally that many of the homes and apartments that are furnished in the local price range have the bare minimum of furniture and it is 70’s and 80’s style furniture.

There is a lot of demand for even vacant houses with yards, and the local market is responding by raising rental rates. Our recommendation is: don't put yourself under time pressure to have to sign on any rental. This way, you can take your time and negotiate a more appropriate local rental rate rather than a foreigner rate.

The worst offender in that regard, as you might well have already guessed is: tah dah, craigslist. But if you're a reader of our DIY Cuenca Landing Guide, you already knew this.

For more, practical, how to, money and time saving advice and an inside look on how to live well on a budget in Ecuador see the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide today and if you want some assistance with finding a locally priced vacant long term rental see http://300dollarcuencarentals.blogspot.com/