What’s the Skinny on Food Prices in Jamaica?
Guests staying at non-all-inclusive properties often wonder about food prices in Jamaica. Is food cheap? Or does it cost an arm and a leg?
It’s a little hard going to a foreign country not knowing what to expect in terms of the cost of food. It’s also hard to predict because each person’s needs and tastes are so varied.
Also, since most of us haven’t had the experience of buying a week’s worth of food for over a dozen people, it is easy to underestimate the food shopping needs as well as the costs.
Read on as we give you a frame of reference that you can use to plan for your groceries in Jamaica and avoid a surprise bill from the grocery store at the end of your stay.
Table of Contents
Food prices in Jamaica: Is food expensive in Jamaica?
Expensive is relative so let me answer the question another way. Food is not cheap in Jamaica, especially if you are pleasing an American palate.
If you are from a big city with an already high cost of living like New York, Los Angeles, or London, food prices might not seem exorbitant to you. If you shop at Trader Joes versus a garden variety supermarket like Meijer or Walmart, prices might seem similar. Otherwise, it might surprise you to know that many fruits and vegetables and items that are not heavily consumed by locals will be more expensive than you would imagine. This will be especially true if you are in the more touristy areas of Jamaica.
Recommended Food Budget for Your Jamaica Villa Vacation: How much can you expect to spend on groceries in Jamaica?
When planning your stay, we recommend that you budget about US$65-75 per person per day, on average, for groceries in Jamaica. This does not include alcohol or snacks.
Will that figure work for you? We can’t tell for sure; but, in our experience, most guests come in at or below the $US65 figure.
The question only you can answer is, “How well does your group want to eat on vacation?”
Once you have answered that question, you’ll be better able to budget accordingly.
Buying Groceries in Jamaica - 9 Factors that Affect Your Food Budget When You Stay at a Jamaica Vacation Rental
The cost of your groceries in Jamaica will vary up or down based on several factors.
1. Supply and demand.
The cheapest foods, especially fruits and vegetables, are those that are locally grown and in season.
2. Origin of the food
Imported foods, as a rule, cost more than locally produced items; however, those that are used mainly by locals generally cost less than those geared towards tourists.
3. Transportation or delivery charges
The further you have to travel to get what you need, the higher the transportation costs. Also, each trip to the grocery store costs money.
If you are able to plan your meals ahead of time, there are usually fewer trips. If you fly by the seat of your pants with your daily menu, then you have to expect multiple trips.
4. Your eating habits
If you want three meals per day, with hors-d’oeuvres before dinner, plus snacks, your food bill will be higher than if you eat only two meals per day. If large portion size is your forte, you should expect a larger food bill.
5. Your menu
What you expect to eat will definitely impact your budget. Seafood, lamb, goat, oxtail, and steak are more expensive than chicken.
In general, eating more local dishes tends to lower the bill; however, imported meats, which are more expensive, tend to be used for local dishes that are made for tourists.
Fine wines and branded alcoholic beverages are expensive. Champagne, in particular, is expensive. Local liquors tend to be cheaper.
6. US exchange rate
The exchange rate of the US dollar affects everything, including food prices in Jamaica. Prices go up whenever the Jamaican dollar gets devalued. As a result, there can be fluctuations in prices.
Like many other places, location affects the price of food in Jamaica.
Grocery stores in smaller towns tend to be more expensive than in larger towns.
Local farmers’ markets in larger towns have better prices than grocery stores. Your villa staff can handle shopping at these markets for you. These markets, like street vendors, only accept cash and usually don’t give receipts.
8. Jamaican government’s consumption tax (GCT)
At an average rate of 15%, this tax is added to most purchases, including food. It is excluded from certain basic staples like bread, milk, eggs, local fruits and vegetables, and rice.
9. Group size
The size of your group affects how accurate the estimated per person food budget will be. Smaller groups often notice a higher per person cost than larger groups. This is primarily because larger groups are more likely to take advantage of bulk purchases, which might be associated with additional savings.
How to figure out the cost of food in Jamaica in US dollars?
To convert Jamaican dollars to US dollars, divide by the current exchange rate.
So, let us assume that the exchange rate at the time of purchase is US$1.00 = JA$144.
JA$288 is $288 /144 = US$2.
Food prices do increase with devaluation of the Jamaican dollar.
How to figure out the price of food in Jamaica - converting kg to pounds
In the US, you are used to pounds and ounces. In Jamaica, nearly all food labels in the grocery stores are in the metric system, even though in the markets, and in general, most people use pounds and ounces 🙂 Strangest thing.
1kg = 2.2lbs. It is handy to use 1kg to 2lbs as a rough conversion to help you avoid sticker shock.
1 liter = 0.264 gallon (a little more than a quart), and 4 liters = 1.06 gallons.
Sample Grocery Store Food Prices in Jamaica
So how much is food in Jamaica? How much is a loaf of bread in Jamaica? A gallon of milk?
Here are some Jamaica food prices for a variety of select items from a guest’s bill during a stay in May 2022.
The food was purchased at L & M Meats in Salem, Runaway BayThe US to Jamaican exchange rate offered by L&M (5/5/2022) was $US1.00 = JA$144. (Note: Stores are allowed to set their own exchange rate which could be less favorable than the Bank of Jamaica rate.)
There is no guarantee that these prices will be the same during your stay; but, at least they will give you a rough idea of food prices in Jamaica.
Food Prices in Jamaica at L & M Meats in Salem – May 2022
National Giant Sliced White Hardo Bread, 2lb loaf – JA$445
Jasmine Rice, 2 kg – JA$1105 US$7.67
Brown sugar, per kg – JA$350
Eggs, 1 dozen – JA$480
Miracle Pure Cows Milk, 1 L – JA$455
Tru Juice Guava Pineapple Juice, 1 gallon – JA$1113.04+
Lasco Icool Water, 6L – JA$304.35+
Fruits & Vegetables
Pineapples per kg – JA$496.04
Ripe Banana per kg – JA$264.55
Julie mangoes, each – JA$130
Strawberries (local) – JA$2025
Watermelon, per kg – JA$429.91
American Red Seedless Grapes per kg – $2108.75
Cantaloupe per kg – JA$661.38
Honeydew Melon per kg – JA$760.59
Cabbage, per kg – JA$264.55
Plantain, each – JA$150
Cauliflower, per kg – JA$1984.15
Broccoli, per kg – JA$2094.37
Local carrots, per kg – JA$330.69
Tomatoes, per kg – JA$992.07
Zucchini, per kg – JA$440.93
Tostitos Blue Corn Chips 9oz – JA$965.22+
Lay Sun chips Harvest Cheddar 6.5oz – JA643.48+
ACTII Butter lover popcorn, 3 pack – JA$530.43+
Meats or Main Dishes
Grey snapper fillet per kg – JA$4552.50
Saltfish, per kg – JA$1773.28+
Best dressed grade A chicken, per kg – JA$529.11
The “+” indicates an item that attracts GCT.
How much is food in Jamaica? - Why Do We Shop at L & M Meats
Almost all of our guests, like most other villa guests in Discovery Bay, get their groceries from L & M Meats, a grocery store in Salem, Runaway Bay.
To be clear, we have no financial relationship with L & M of any kind.
Shopping at L & M is like shopping at Whole Foods or Trader Joes as opposed to Meijer or Walmart. The foods there may cost a little more than other stores and the foreign currency exchange rate there may not be the best but there are several distinct advantages of shopping there.
1. Paying the bill at the end of the stay is very convenient.
They will come to the villa to settle up the bill with you and process your credit card. No need to worry about either having to find cash to give to the staff to go grocery shopping or going to the store yourself to pay with your credit card.
2. They are the only grocery store in the area that delivers. And the fee is reasonable. By the time you factor in the transportation costs and the time to go to a bigger store, the savings might not be as much as you would imagine.
3. Do you want almond milk? Do you want smoked salmon? If there is a specialty food item that you need, you will most likely find it there compared to the other stores.
4. They will take back unopened, non-perishable items. Good luck at most of the other local stores.
5. Since they serve villas, there is relatively fast turnover of items that are popular among Americans but not Jamaicans, such as certain boxed cereals and pancake mix, so those items are likely to be fresher there than at the local stores.
6. They are more likely to carry brands with which you would be familiar.
7. While you can’t beat the local farmers market for freshness and price, they have more variety. You can get broccoli and asparagus right alongside lettuce and tomatoes.
8. You don’t even have to go to the store to shop. Our staff prefers to select the items themselves; but, the shopping list can be emailed to them ahead of time which can be a big plus.
Grocery Stores in Jamaica: Are there alternatives to L & M that might even have better food prices in Jamaica?
We generally suggest that people stop at Progressive Foods in Montego Bay, barely 10 minutes from the airport on the way to the villa, to purchase alcohol, sodas, and snacks. They have more variety than L & M and better prices on alcohol, in particular. Plus, if you pay in US dollars, either cash or credit card, they have traditionally given a fantastic exchange rate! We stop here on almost every trip.
Megamart in Montego Bay, which is west of the airport, is more like a Walmart. It is in the opposite direction from the villa so we tend to not go there so often.
In Ocho Rios, there are a few large supermarkets that are worth considering if you are buying a large quantity of food. Another Progressive store is there. General Foods and Money Worth are also good choices. These stores are about 30-40 minutes away from Mais Oui Villa.
In case you are wondering, there is no Walmart in Jamaica!
Hopefully, after reading this article, you will have a better idea about food prices in Jamaica so that you can budget accordingly and plan on having memorable meals at the villa without fear of overspending.
For further reading, check out this blog post: Unfounded fears that can ruin your Jamaica villa vacation – Food shopping.
Food prices in Jamaica: Pin this
Til next time. Think and dream Jamaica!
Sherry, Darrell, and Darrian
Considering a visit to Jamaica? Contact us today for more information about, Mais Oui Tennis & Spa Villa, our boutique 8-BR ocean view Jamaica villa rental experience in beautiful Discovery Bay, Jamaica. Perfect for multi-generational families, groups, and intimate destination weddings.
Visit our website: https://MakeItJamaica.com
Like AND follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MakeItJamaica
Follow us on Instagram: @MakeItJamaica
Give us a call: 833.624.7684 (toll-free) or 914.709.0457
Sign up for our newsletter and immediately get our Free Discovery Bay Insider Guide to discover what you won’t find in the guidebooks.