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Monday, July 15, 2013


One of the disadvantages of living near the beach is rust, the second is sand, carried by the wind it tends to cover everything. The sand I can take care of by dusting and sweeping daily. The rust that corrodes anything metal is a bigger problem for us because both Wally and I hate to paint!

So, instead of painting our old garbage can, we arranged to have it replaced with a  55 gallon drum (the garbage can style of choice here) with a new one. That project was way overpriced, I feel. A new can from the feria costs about 800 pesos and the Louis pair wanted 2500 pesos. Still, my old can would have to be removed, un-welded from it's stand and a new one installed. I also had upgraded the design years ago by having another Hierro guy add a lip or flat rim around the edge so that the can would close firmly.  This way I wouldn't cut myself on the thin edge having a rim installed. This new Hierro guy said he could use my old rim and give me a new installed drum can with it.

I wish I had asked the iron worker if he could have made me a new rim as well but I was trying to save money by having him use the old rim, (it was newer than the original can). I would have liked to have known, what he would have charged me for "my design" totally done up new. Most cans here, don't normally have that type of edge added. I guess I'm feeling kinda of petty right now because although the people of Uruguay are not particularly materialistic in the same way as back in the States (USA) I just noticed that today, my next door neighbor just got a "new trash can" from these same guys and they added "my trim design" to their new can. I don't know what they paid for it but because their can included a new rim, right from the beginning, not a cut out version, re-tacked onto their can. Their can looks so much better than mine does! The edge seams are not as ragged looking as mine. My neighbors also unknowingly have me to thank for another upgrade that I probably paid for them.

A few days after my can was installed, I went to dump my trash bag into it and I noticed, the title of this post, "RUST!" Again! This time the rust was inside the can. If unstopped I'd be right back where I started from. The workers had painted the outside green and I thought that the inside was coated with a silver paint as it was mat-like and looked painted.

I waited for a few days, after some rainy weather passed and bought some paint for rust prevention, a red paint sold here and also a spray can of silver paint to spray over the red paint when it dried. Remember, that I hate to paint! Well, when I went out to finally do the deed, that's when I saw my neighbor's can being installed, the neighbors were at work during the install. Well, I called the workers over, this time Louis the father was with his son and I showed them my rust problem. I said that the same thing would happen to my neighbor's can and that "they should have theirs also painted inside". The workers mentioned that they should "up the price" in the future to include that. I showed them my tiny can of red paint and the father offered to paint the inside bottom of the can with it. I then offered them 100 pesos if they could go and buy a bigger size can of red rust preventive paint and completely paint the inside for me, top and bottom. I mentioned that the neighbor should have their can painted as well. So off the father went to the store. Apparently, the bigger size can and his labor, cost me 150 pesos more (about $8) but it was worth it to get everything done. I asked if they had change for 200 pesos, they said they did, but then, could only find 40 pesos in change to give back to me. Then they painted my can and the neighbor's can completely inside. Something that I know, they had not intended to do for the neighbor as I saw the can installed and it was without paint inside of it, like mine was.

1) My neighbor's new can. 2) My can. 3) A  3rd. neighbor's can, standard original sharp-edge, rimless design. 
It's the weirdest thing how my mind works. I can be oddly generous and petty at the same time! How sad! I don't mind that I actually payed for the inside paint job of my neighbor's can, unbeknownst to them. I am glad I stopped a big future problem for their can. I am only "kind of miffed", that their can is so much more, better looking than mind is because of "my design" being incorporated new from the start into theirs. Their old can did not have this design feature. However, the really "petty thing" on my part is that I'm actually mad that I got shorted 10 pesos or .50 cents! Go figure? However, I guess if I really put things into perspective, it's really all just rust and garbage in the end. I think I'll go to the beach and remind myself of why I enjoy living here in Uruguay!

***July 20th, COLD, COLD, COLD!

This isn't worth adding an entirely new post about, so I'm linking it with this one.

Starting Thursday, July 18th, we were put on "Orange Alert" through Tuesday, because of an Arctic Cold Blast of weather. I sometimes forget, how close we are to Antarctica!  You can click on the link and read the newspaper in Spanish about what's expected to occur each day (Good practice if your moving here). I decided to load-up on my indoor firewood stock, so I wouldn't have to go outside during the night.  Normally, I just keep a few logs under the stove, not on the entire living room floor.

My fire keeping me warm. The sky at 10 am. Saturday!
It's going to be "the coldest week of the year". although 43 degrees F. to 46 during the days doesn't seem cold there will be frigid Polar cold waves. Seeing that it is now Saturday the 20th, I can attest to the fact that the nights are indeed not just chilly but biting cold! The sensation feels like 6 to 10 degrees below 0. Of course, that is 0 Celsius which means only from 24 F to 26 degrees F. Still, If it rained that would mean snow!  Argentina had snow one day about 5 years ago, Which was really big news!

I've used up 1 and 1/2 ton of firewood so far this winter as shown by the empty space.
I awoke to frost on my lawn. Even my cat who dashes out the door to escape whenever it opens decided he didn't need to go away today. He didn't even step on the frosty grass! Even Shila, my dog couldn't believe Nathan wasn't coming!

So this is what's happening weather-wise in Uruguay this week!

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Price of Eggs!

This is not some political commentary, it's just a much asked about;  price comparison list.

Many people who think about living in a foreign country want to know about the "nuts and bolts", the "nitty gritty" or among other things, the basic cost/price of things for sale. Usually, they want to know about food prices. Hence the title, "the price of eggs".

Remember that, 1 gallon equals 3.78541 liters, not quite 4 full liters.  100 grams equals .22 or under 1/4 pound. 500 grams equals 1.10 pounds, 1 Kilo (1000 grams) equals 2.20 pounds (.20 over 2 lb.). That's important to know because we use liters, grams and kilos in shopping here. We also count on exchange rates changing, when figuring out our living costs here.

Since many expats get paid in US dollars or get USA social security checks, we have to exchange this for local currency. As the exchange rate changes (drops or raises) changing money into another currency can mean getting back fewer pesos (when it is low) or we can receive more pesos in exchange for our dollar (when it's high), hence the buying power of the dollar changes,  for us expats. Lately, It seems that I always have fewer pesos given back to me in exchange for my dollar hence, it's becoming more expensive for me to buy goods as the exchange rate seems to drop more than it rises.

When asking, "What does it cost?" or "What is the price of eggs here?  The answer is not that simple!

What equals 1 US dollar is a little tricky to compute, when comparing it to a peso. It depends on the exchange rate! It can be worth 18.70 pesos (we were averaging that for a while, sigh). Worse, it can get you even less pesos, going down from that amount or it can suddenly go up! Giving you 20 or more pesos in exchange for your dollar means you can buy a few more things. This past 2 weeks it amazingly went up to 20.50 pesos per dollar, Yeah!!!. In times past, I have heard tales of $1 (dollar) getting up to 34 pesos in exchange. Five years ago, just before we came here, you got 24 pesos for your dollar. Oh, how I wish, we got that now. That would be good for us expats but bad for the country, I guess.

To make figuring out what things cost in dollars, a little easier, thinking and adding with a 20 to 1 ratio in mind is a lot quicker than figuring up partial dollars. You could of course, be constantly checking a bank daily for it's exchange rate. To be on the safe side in budget figuring, I use a middle of the road average, a 19 to 1 ratio. If a candy bar cost say, 19 pesos, it roughly costs 1 dollar , sometimes more, sometimes less than a dollar, depending on the exchange rate, that's why I said roughly a dollar. At 19 pesos to the dollar, if something cost 95 pesos, I would be paying about $5 (in US dollars) for it. At a 20 to 1 peso exchange rate, 100 pesos would equal $5, you get 5 extra pesos to play with. The higher the exchange rate the more spare pesos you get, thus increasing your buying power.

In comparing what I used to buy in the United States,  regarding amounts and money to what I now buy and pay for here in Uruguay, I use a bizarre "on the fly" method of money and volume figuring,  I would need to buy at least 4 bags of milk (a liter per bag) to approximate a gallon of milk, since they won't let me walk out of the store with 3 bags and a partial .79th of a bag. 4 bags of milk cost 62 pesos (@15.50 pesos per bag). So I pay about $3.26 US (62 divided by 19) for a (plus some) gallon of milk at a 19 to 1 exchange rate. At a lower exchange rate of say, 18.75 pesos to a $1 exchange rate, I would be paying $3.31 (US) for a plus gallon of milk. A 5 peso difference! At a higher exchange rate of 20 to 1, I'd be paying only $3.10. So depending on the daily exchange rate my 4 bags of milk could cost me an equivalent in US dollars either, $3.10 or $3.26 or $3.31 or more, or less!!! Exhausting and frustrating to keep up with budget planning for sure.

Someone from Washington State in the USA sent me a list of items that they buy and wanted to know how much they cost here. This is why I'm going into such detail.

Milk is sold here in little, 1 liter bags for 15.50 pesos a bag. You have to buy a separate container to stand the little bag up in. This container has a handle but not a lid. I hear that in Canada and other places they sell milk in bags too. As a hearty milk drinker I miss my gallon plastic milk jugs with their sturdy handles and little plastic caps. I am forever trying to carefully cut a small corner off the bag. I then seem to always spill some of it as I pour the milk, despite trying to carefully hold the container hoping that the bag doesn't flop out of it. It's a good thing that I actually get a little more than a gallon.

Butter cost 46 pesos for 200 grams (under 1/2 lb.), salted or unsalted ($2.37 US @ 19 to 1). The price has gone up about 1 peso a year since I've been here.

Eggs can be gotten in a six pack for about 22 pesos (a little over $1.15 US), in a 12 pack or in 15 egg packages.  At the feria the eggs are wrapped together in newspaper. That is great during the winter when we need newspaper to start our wood stove fires. The price of eggs can vary as they sell both white eggs and brown eggs and with the number of eggs in a package. One time Wally was even able to buy consistently some double yolk eggs. The seller must have known the chicken and its habits personally. Prices range from 45 to 56 pesos a dozen. ($2.37 to $2.95 US a dozen)

White Flour (wheat and bleached) can cost 34.50 pesos for a 1 kilo bag (2.2 lb.) in a regular store. I go to the feria and buy it for 23 pesos for a kilo bag. So I usually buy 2 bags at a time from the feria. I   look for the "0000" cut as it's a finer flour. You can also buy  "000". The price is roughly the same. Rice is about 25 pesos for a kilo at the feria.

Hamburger, I buy in a store at the butcher counter.  In case you haven't figured it out by now, I'm very thrifty so I look for offerings that look fresh but are a bargain. I buy the "oferta (offer)"at 97 pesos a kilo (2.20lb.) versus 157 pesos. Hamburger is generally leaner here than in the states so the cheaper priced one suits me. I recently bought at the feria, a package of 8 hot dogs (73 pesos), 2 little pork chops and 2 chorizos (sausages) and the bill was under 150 pesos in total. I will definitely go there again!

Potatoes, you can get the ones with red skins or white potatoes also Yams and sweet potatoes which are a little higher priced. Usually they are from 35 to 45 pesos a kilo (2.20 lb.) This week, I got a great deal from a stand and I paid only 26 pesos per kilo. I got 12 nice sized red skin potatoes. The neighboring stand was selling them for 30 pesos a kilo so it pays to go from stall to stall not only looking for the cheapest price but for the best looking ones as well, I got both!

I have a basic "core list" of what I call expat items. These items are what I feel I need to buy to indulge my North American taste buds with when cooking at home. Some products like the eggs (huevos), milk (leche) and butter (manteca), flour (harina) and sugar (azúcar) would obviously be on anybodies list, Uruguayan or not. Still, as mentioned in another post some things like Peanut Butter would not be a normally, regularly bought item for a Uruguayo, but is a must have for an expat.

Sugar, yes, it is bought by many a Uruguayan, but expats also seem to have an odd need for brown sugar. In the USA you have your choice of "light or dark" brown sugar. Here you can only get the light brown and it's called "blond" or Azúcar Rubio (blond sugar). It is made here in Uruguay but it's one of those items that is not always available. About two years ago, expats were busy online asking each other and the local forum where did the brown sugar go? Where can I buy some? People started trying to concoct home made recipes but maple syrup or even molasses the main ingredient is not really available here either, so that didn't help.  It seems that the "blond sugar" mysteriously disappeared from off the shelf. I don't know if it was a strike or simply that they only make it when they have time off from making other stuff. That's the strange thing about Uruguay, items can be like shopping in Costco, if you see it, get it while you can.

Brown sugar is back! Expats now usually buy 2 to 3 bags of it at a time (their marketing strategy all along??). Well anyway, we've learned to stock up! It cost 31 pesos per 500 gram bag.

Powdered sugar is called, Azúcar Impalpable, which always cracks me up, as the word impalpable in English means; "that cannot be felt or easily perceived". Polvo means "dust" or "powder" in Spanish and "en polvo" means 'powered". This term is used for other products called powdered but not in this case. So by all means, add to my shopping list, "that which can not be easily perceived"!

Ketchup I buy the biggest bottle I can. The best price is at Disco supermarkets but it costs 234 pesos for a 64oz (4pound) bottle or about $12.32 US for a bottle! More people here use "Mayo" (Mayonnaise) and Mustard (Mostaza) instead. At restaurants I always have to ask for ketchup when served French Fries.

Soy Sauce (Soya) and Worcestershire Sauce are 2 expat staple items "not normally found" on a local's grocery list. Maybe expats don't need the worcestershire sauce as much as the Soy sauce. Regarding soy sauce, I've had some Uruguayo friends invite me for a "special" chinese dinner in which they used some soy sauce on vegetables and rice. It was a novelty to them. I use it often. Worcestershire is by the way spelled with a "cester" spelling not "chester" as I used to spell it.  I broke down and bought some "Heinz brand" worcestershire sauce instead of my usual "Lea and Perrin" this time because of the 20% more offer, resulting in a 12 oz. bottle for only 120 Pesos (slightly over $6 US)  instead of a 10 oz bottle. The Soy sauce cost 127 pesos $6.50 US.

Pancake Syrup costs a whopping 174 pesos or about $9.16 US a bottle yet it still flies off the shelf and then disappears for months at a time from our supermarket that caters to foreigners, (Tienda Inglesa). It's not a named brand either. At my store you have 1 choice, a HY-Top syrup made with 2% Real Maple syrup. When it disappeared for a while an expat homemade recipe was born and passed along to many an expat. A friend Debi, who lives in Colonia made some and gave us a bottle of homemade syrup. It  tasted like, what we had been buying. Wally says, he wants to start making our own. The only trouble is you need someone to send you some "Maple extract", a small bottle used for cookies etc... from the USA or brought in as a gift. Then with a few drops of that, you can basically cook up sugar water, browning it on your stove top and make your own syrup. Until I have some maple extract, I will still have to buy it at the store when I can find it.

Olive Oil I now buy at the feria in a smaller (non-virgin oil) 1 liter amount for 130 pesos or 180 for virgin oil. Otherwise I would have to pay 230 to 280 pesos for 1.5 liters (albeit Virgin oil) at the supermarket. Of course, quality varies according to brand and country but I use it in cooking when I can, as I think it's healthier.

Coffee 500 grams (1.10 lb.) cost 122 pesos or 6.42 dollars (at Tienda Inglesa, it's cheaper there).I think that coffee maybe tied into the exchange rate somehow because last week when it was higher the coffee price actually dropped in price, Kind of like 2 savings in one. Most expats don't like the coffee here (it's not Colombian). Instead the Industria Uruguaya roasts the coffee with sugar, Café glaseado. Since Wally and I drink our coffee with milk and sugar anyway, the way in which they roast the coffee here is not an issue with us. But most other true coffee connoisseurs seem upset with it. Many go out of their way in search of the beans to grind themselves but still have problems finding green beans that have not already been roasted with sugar. I buy the tienda Inglesa brand, Café glaseado (glazed) but other expats like Melita, it's also sold in Tienda Inglesa. It has a stronger coffee/Café fuerte flavor. Mate not coffee would be on a Uruguayo food list.

Toilet paper. He did not give a price for that but mentioned a 12 pack.  Normally here, a family sized package would be an 8 roll pack. Only a 1 ply tissue is sold at the feria. Paper products are very expensive here and the quality has no comparison. TP here is very coarse. The common grade is even a little grey colored like it is unbleached. There are now some softer tissues making it into the market. I even saw one printed with little teddy bears on it. I pay 80 pesos for 8 rolls, ($4.21 @19 to 1) a great deal.

So that's my core list. 4 bags of Coffee, Peanut butter, Brown sugar, Pancake syrup, Soy and Worcestershire sauce, Ketchup and Olive oil. Over $75 US a month for these few items but they are what I use and crave.

I hope this list gives you a better idea of a basic grocery list for an expat's taste. The fact is that Uruguay is not known for its cheap prices or cost of living but rather for its slower pace of life and its close knit friends and family attitudes. So, come here for the pace of life, not for an imagined cost effective one.