Its sort of overwhelming returning to the States after almost 3 years. I expected the vast choices and the higher prices. I expected to be shocked at how much everything cost, and I was. It was like blow to the gut paying $4.50/lb for something that I used to pay 99 c/lb three years ago. Between the recession, normal inflation, center city prices and my newly acquired (but skewed) Filipino sense of cost, shopping stateside seems filled with crazy store owners making up prices to see how high they could push me me before I said no! A short shopping trip around the wonderful Dupont Circle farmers market cost $60 for the week’s vegetables for two people. That’s about half my totally weekly shopping allowance in NJ three years ago. For carrots, peaches and lettuce, really?! But then again I took them home and stored them well in the fridge and they stayed fresh and beautiful all week. Dewy fresh, beautiful and tasty. Goodness knows how much money I wasted in Manila on “cheap” fruits and vegetables that started to rot within 24 hours no matter how carefully I stored them. I often threw away more than half of the produce that I bought because we didn’t use it immediately. A real crime anywhere, but especially in a developing country where people don’t have enough to eat.
Restaurant portion sizes are huge here and so is the tab. But again…if the cheapest lunch item on the menu is $15 and it fills you up or you can share it between two… and the quality is there… that’s pretty good value. In Manila we often order a “family size” pizza just for Latham or ordered him two dinners. At that rate the prices were the same as DC but for lower quality. It often wasn’t truly “cheaper” to eat out in the Philippines. What was a real deal were the drinks. Local beer was $2 a glass in a fancy restaurant. Here we’re paying $6-9 for a bottle in a neighborhood place. Then there’s that weird flip on the meaning of local. In Manila local meant cheap. Here in the states it means artisan and expensive. Managing my financial expectations is taking some resolve and the occasional deep breathing exercise.
I’ve found that value for money changes meaning for me all the time. Cheap and value for money are not the same thing, but sometime its cheap that gets you what you want and other times it’s something expensive (that lasts) that you really need. Here on home leave pivoting back and forth, on the road, on the run, shopping is not for the faint of heart!