Wednesday, February 27, 2008

10 Luxuries We Can't Afford

Or maybe a better title would be: 10 things that are way more expensive than they should be, and we just can't bring ourselves to pay that much. (Prices are in US dollars with today's exchange rate of (ugh!) 1.68 Brasilian Reais to 1 US dollar.)

1. Flour Tortillas: In the rare supermarket where you can actually find tortillas, they run you $10.78 for a pack of 8 soft taco size tortillas. On the up side, I have just about mastered homemade flour tortillas, but the next time my flight gets rerouted through Mexico I must buy a tortilla press. It is a slow process when you have to roll each one out by hand!

2. A Dishwasher: I swore long, long ago that I would never, ever, under any circumstances live without a dishwasher. Of course, that was before I knew I was moving to Brasil and before I knew that a USA comparable dishwasher costs $1,487. (And do you have any idea how many dishes I dirty preparing just one meal? It's quite ridiculous actually...especially when I am making my own salsa, tortillas, taco seasoning, etc.)

3. Good Peanut Butter: Good ol' JIF or Peter Pan is rarely available here, but when it is you are going to pay over $13 for a 12 ounce jar of it. There is one cheaper domestic brand of peanut butter, but it is really a shame to even call it such. It's not so great. I debated getting all pioneer like and making my own peanut butter, but then I'd have to find raw peanuts which are also not so readily available.

4. Syrup: We have this really awesome Professional Belgium Waffle Maker we got for our wedding. We love making waffles for breakfast on the weekends. We hate that we don't have syrup to put on them. A small bottle of maple syrup is going to run you $20.80. (Granted, it is the real stuff and not that sugary imitation crap my husband loves, but still!)

5. A Ford Fusion: A Ford Fusion starts out at $49,773. Compare that to the starting price of $18,010 in the USA! Yes, we will be sticking with our little Fiat Punto (which BTW, we just found out is scheduled to be delivered from the factory on March 18!)

6. Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup: Are you ready for this? A can of condensed cream of mushroom soup costs $5.35. And that's not those big cans either, just the little normal ones. Do you know how many of my casseroles (I am, after all, a good Southern girl, and so you know I gotta have a gazillion casseroles in my arsenal!) include cream of mushroom soup as an ingredient?

7. M&M's: This one is really painful for a girl who loves her chocolate. I saw a small bag (like they would have enticing you in the checkout line in the US) for $4.17.

8. Decent Sheets: Seriously, thank goodness I brought the snazzy new sheet sets I got as wedding gifts. You can find inexpensive sheets here, but they must have a thread count of like 25 or something. They look more like cheesecloth than bedsheets, and I am not exaggerating. I came across decent sheets with a thread count of 250, so nothing real special, but a queen set was going to run me $119. I am fine with paying more for good sheets...but 250 t.c. doesn't qualify as good!

9. Nike's: On our very first flight down here, there was a big group of teenagers returning from a trip to the US. We immediately noticed that every single kid was wearing a brand new pair of Nike's. Once we got here, we realized why. So before moving here, I bought a pair of Nike running shoes in Iowa on sale for $39.99. The same pair of shoes here cost $154.00. (Of course there is that guy on the corner that always has Nike's for sale at a great price on the roof of his parked car...but Eric has a misfortune story of getting this wonderful deal on a pair of Nike basketball shoes when he was down in Mexico as a kid. About his fourth basketball practice back in the US, the Nike "check" fell off as he was running down the court. He thought would just ignore the lost article, but then someone picked it up off the court floor and said, "um, I think this came off your shoe." I can only imagine how much he got picked on for that one as a 13 year old!)

10. Anything made from cheap plastic: Think of the cheap junk you can buy at the Dollar Tree in the US: small plastic trash cans, a plastic mixing bowl, a plastic pitcher. Well, here you're going to pay a heck of a lot more than $1 and usually you are better off financially to buy glass. Much, much cheaper than anything plastic!

Now, granted, we can also go out and stuff ourselves on a nice big filet mignon supper complete with sides and a couple beverages each and pay $23 total. Or, we can both eat lunch at a cheap buffet for total of $4.90. Or, I can come home from the fruit market loaded down with all the bags of fresh fruits and vegetables that I can possibly carry the two blocks back home for less than $12. So I am not totally complaining here, just making a few observations. (Well, I am complaining about the dishwasher, but other than that...)


Karl said...

I have to say that after living here for over two years, there are several things on this list I had not thought of. Though, in Teresina I don't think it would be possible to find tortillas or peanut butter at all.

I have heard that Brazilians do not like peanut butter, but everyone I know wants to steal mine!

wondering ego said...


I stumbled on your blog when I was looking for the impressions of north-americans living in Brazil, as I want to know the cultural differences because I am moving there for three years soon... I know its a blog for family and friends, but... you know... I live in BH too. I like your blog, it very "human" and you got a positive eye on many issues around, I can see that... and feel...

May I help you with some comments about the "culture" behind some of the items on your list?
1. We don't know mexican food... Its not important here.
2. We don't have that habit also... They are becoming more popular... my sisters have the average ones, and I think they will work fine for like 2 or 3 years... maybe u should try one of that... Not necessary to buy the fancy ones...
3.Amendocrem is horrible... I know... Peanut butter is not an issue here... But u can find lots of raw peanut at the Mercado Central
4.Syrup... there is Karo... but its ordinary... not too much an habit here too...
6. Food in cans: we don't have this culture here...generally...
7. That M&M price seems very out of range... maybe its the shop you were...
8.Decent sheets you can buy at stores for hoteliers. Also decent towels, etc... There are exclusive shops for domestic use... but its way too expensive
10. cheap plastic ware... go the shops downtown, around Mercado, Avenida Paraná... popular shops... there u find like 1,00 Real plastic products...

Keep writing! Have a nice stay!

Emily said...

(insert "blushing" here)

wandering ego:

First off, I hope I don't offend you with some of my thoughts. I certainly don't mean to be critical, because I do love living in Brasil; it's just that there are many things (both good and bad) that are very different and sometimes I like to discuss those. (And sometimes it comes out quite frankly-since most of my readers are Americans!)

I do appreciate your cultural notes and the tips! We've been down to Mercado Central once for a short visit, but we haven't been back again yet. I have been told though that the shops in and around there are really reasonable and good! Now that I know I can get raw peanuts, I'm just going to have to go back soon!

P.S. Where in North America are you moving?

Laural said...

My mother-in-law has a tiny dishwasher that she hung on the wall. So funny! And she's only used it once while we were there, I think to show us that it works. When we move to Brazil, we'll be bringing shipping our whole kitchen!
I'm going to be in Brazil in April. I can bring a few things with me and then ship to you once I get there. Interested? I mean, life without pb and cream of mushroom soup? I feel for you!

wondering ego said...

I am not offended at all, quite on the contrary, as I said, I can see your positive eye and feelings on many issues (you have just shown the beautiful side of many things! :) )

BTW, do you know that street market (feira) is a tradition here in Brazil, that the customers and the merchants know each other by name, etc... I don t buy meat there... but I think even meat is trustful... Try and tell me! :)

Ah! Around Mercado you can find so many things for your kitchen! A friend of mine, french, found eve a tray for cooking "carolines"... which is a very french thing...

I am moving to Boston.

Keep writing, and I promise to keep reading, if u don t mind.

Good places to go:
"Pedacinho do céu" at the Caiçara district. It is a very simple bar with nice simple people (also known to many iniciated) were the owner and his friends play "chorinho" an awesome sort of brazilian music; first class! You two don't want to miss that being here in BH.
(more tips to come!)

Kate said...


Sounds like I need to send a care package! Skippy, jiff, or Doug's favorite Peter Pan?

Kristi said...

Thank you for this post! I took a little break from packing (we are moving to Brazil next week!) to read it and found it most helpful :) And wow I wish I was moving to the same town, it is great that you have brazillians reading and giving you shopping tips. Gotta love blogging...

Leonardo said...

my oh my... do I miss my Belgium waffle with Canadian maple syrup, or what?!@?!?!? :-\

Anonymous said...

Great blog Emily. I am moving to brasilia and I wonder if you have more tips about appliances, in particular TV.

Emily said...

Feel free to shoot me an email at I can give you lots of information about appliance and TV's!