Market vs Grocery Store Cost Comparison

I did a bit of an experiment.

I’m always surprised about how much I can get for a dollar in Ecuador. Fruits and vegetables are cheap and plentiful, especially in the market.

So I headed to the market armed with ten $1 coins. My goal: buy a dollars-worth of 10 different items, and then head to the grocery store and see what those exact items would cost there.

Is it actually cheaper to shop in the market? Even for a gringo that can’t negotiate? What’s the difference in price? Let’s find out.

Ecuador market
Inaquito Market – Quito, Ecuador

Comparing The Market and the Grocery Store in Ecuador: How Many Per $1

Items Yellow
Eggs Passion
Limes Strawberries Avocados Tomatoes Mandarins Bananas Red
Market 5 for $1 10 for $1 4 for $1 15 for $1 24 for $1 2 for $1 12 for $1 10 for $1 19 for $1 6 for $1
Grocery Store 4 for $1.74 12 for $1.81 4 for $1.06 15 for $1 (50% off) 22 for $1.09 2 for $0.56 12 for $1.80 10 for $1 10 for $1 6 for $1.68

Comparing The Market and the Grocery Store in Ecuador: Price Per Item

Items Yellow Chilis Eggs Passion Fruit Limes Strawberries Avocados Tomatoes Mandarins Bananas Red Onions
Market 20¢ each 10¢ each 25¢ each 6¢ each 4¢ each 50¢ each 8¢ each 10¢ each 5¢ each 16¢ each
Grocery Store 40¢ each 15¢ each 26¢ each 6¢ each (50% off) 5¢ each 26¢ each 15¢ each 10¢ each 10¢ each 28¢ each


When it’s all said and done when you shop at the grocery store you pay $4 more per $10 spent. The total cost at the market was $10, and the total for the same items at the grocery store was $13.93

The Grocery Store

Grocery store in Ecuador
Me shopping at the grocery store in Ecuador

Ecuadorian grocery stores are great. You can find almost anything in them. The biggest supermarket I know is called Megamaxi. The corporation that owns it also owns several other grocery store chains. They also own the biggest hardware store chain, the biggest furniture store chain, powerplants, and more. As an expat, it’s great to have a place where I can get some of the products I miss from my Canada.

Obviously, the market won in the battle of prices, however, I do want to mention a couple points. First of all, if you hit a sale at the grocery store, it is possible to save money on certain items. For example, the limes I bought at the grocery store were 50% off and ended up being the same price as the ones at the market, however the grocery store ones were a better quality lime.

Secondly, I believe that some items that are out of season can be cheaper in the grocery store. That being said, Ecuador has year-round great weather, so most items are in season at all times of the year.

While the market is almost all local goods, the grocery store might have a few options that you can’t find at the market. For example, they have various types of tomatoes that you can’t get in the market.

The Market

The savings is probably your biggest reason to shop at the market, however it’s not all about money.
Personally, I love the atmosphere of the market, the relationship you can develop with the vendors (and practise your Spanish), and the fact that my money is going to small vendors and farmers (and not the second most valuable company in Ecuador).

The market also offers more variety for the basic items. There are 20 vendors selling tomatoes, so you can find the ones that look best.

You can also buy the exact amount you want easier at the market. In the grocery store more items are prepackaged, so you might have to buy more than you need. It also means more packaging. While they love to throw things in bags at the market, it’s easy to bring your own bags and just tell them you don’t need theirs.

The market also allows for negotiating, which obviously you can’t do at the grocery store. I don’t negotiate much, but sometimes I’ll be short 20 cents or something, and the vendor will give it to me anyways.

It’s not really possible for me to do all my shopping at the market. Certain items just aren’t sold there. So you’ll probably be going to both the market and the grocery store, which is probably the reason why most people just get everything at the market. However, I find that there is almost always a grocery store within a 5 minute walk of an Ecuadorian market. It’s easy to park once and visit both locations – saving yourself some money, doing some good for the locals, and even helping the environment.