How do we provision for the Bahamas?

We had read many posts about how expensive groceries are in the Bahamas, so when we left last year we made sure we had three months of non-perishable food and other household goods.  We realize that people eat everywhere, but we wanted to be prepared until we could see the availability and prices for ourselves.

By the end of our first winter there we knew that, yes, some items are incredibly expensive.  Snack food in particular was very pricy.  For example, a small package of Dove chocolates were $10, a normal size bag of potato chips was $5 or more, and a box of brownie mix was $5.  Some items were from foreign countries but subsidized, so they were cheaper than comparable U.S. products.  We ended up buying Nabisco Club Social crackers from Peru (which we referred to as Peruvian crackers) which we prefer over Ritz, and I love the Hill Biscuit chocolate cream cookies from the U.K.  At $2/sleeve, what’s not to like?

Other food cost the same or less compared to the U.S, like very mild cheddar cheese, bread, or Kerrygold butter.

This year we were a bit more casual about provisioning for the Bahamas. We made a point on stocking up on items that were going to be more difficult (or impossible) to find, or crazy-expensive.  Into the lockers went a good three months worth of no-sodium vegetables, no-sodium tomato products, low-sodium tuna, etc.  We also brought plenty of brownie mix, natural peanut butter, and snack foods.  You get the idea.  The rest of it we figured we’d buy as we went. Although Pegu Club has an abundance of storage, she was VERY slow for the first 1/3 of our time in the Bahamas because she was so loaded down. We decided this year that the trade off in speed wasn’t worth the nominal cost savings.

How did we know what to bring?  A few months before we moved onto the boat I started thinking about the meals we typically eat (and how often we eat them) in a given month.  Then I thought about the ingredients in those meals, with a heavier emphasis on canned vegetables knowing that we wouldn’t have the same access to fresh produce that we did when we were living on land.

I made up a master provisioning list to cover four weeks, with the idea that we would always have at least four weeks of those items on board in case we went several weeks without being near a grocery store.  If we were near a store within a week or two, we would buy replacements for what we had consumed, bringing our supplies back to four weeks.  An added bonus was there was less to carry that way vs. doing a large grocery shop once a month.

As the months went by I fine-tuned the list, adding and deleting items, increasing and decreasing quantities.  By the time we were ready to provision for the Bahamas I basically took the one month list and multiplied the quantities by three for our anticipated three month stay.  Eight cans of tomatoes became twenty-four, four cans of clams turned into twelve, etc.

We are not slaves to the list.  We incorporate spontaneous items as we find them which adds variety and keeps meals from getting boring.  But I’ve found that having the master list as a baseline has worked for us.  Your mileage may vary of course.

Everyone’s list will look different so I’m not going to spell out our exact list, but when making a list make sure you think about EVERYTHING: condiments, baking supplies, spices, canned fruits and vegetables, canned tomato products, pasta and other grains, beans, canned meats, snacks, drinks, etc.  And don’t forget about household goods: paper products, aluminum foil, cleaners, personal hygiene products, over the counter medicine, etc.

Once you make your first list you’ll be surprised at how much you subsequently add. After all, generally we’re on auto-pilot when it comes to the food and products we use every day.  So don’t wait until the last minute to start thinking about it, lest you find yourself paying $10 for a small bag of Dove Chocolates in the Bahamas because you need that chocolate fix!

Bottom line? There’s no need to go crazy – people eat everywhere and we have yet to go hungry. We stock up on the things that are hard to find or ridiculously expensive, and keep a modest supply of everything else. It works for us.

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