We provide a guide to grocery shopping in Medellín with tips to save money. By smart shopping it’s possible to save substantially on your grocery costs in Medellín or other cities in Colombia.
The easiest way to grocery shop in Medellín is to go to a big store like Exito or Jumbo where you can buy everything. But this won’t be the cheapest option. By smart shopping you can easily save over 30 percent compared to the prices at Exito or Jumbo.
Our average monthly groceries cost for a couple has dropped over the past several years in spite of inflation. In 2014, we were averaging about 1,200,000 pesos per month when we were just shopping at Exito and Jumbo.
We have been able to cut our grocery costs substantially over the past few years. Our grocery costs for a couple are now averaging about 750,000 pesos per month.
We were able to cut our grocery costs by starting to shop at discount grocery stores like PriceSmart, Justo y Bueno and Tiendas D1. Also, we watch carefully for sales when we stock up.
We previously looked at several of the discount grocery stores on this website. We now provide a more comprehensive guide for grocery shopping with some tips to save money.
Grocery Shopping at Exito
Exito is a large supermarket chain in Colombia that also sells appliances, electronics, clothes, home furnishings, kitchen items, and many other things. An Exito in Colombia is similar to a Walmart in the United States. Also, Exito has the highest market share out of the grocery store chains in Colombia.
Exito has 26 of its large grocery stores in the Medellín metro area. It also has some smaller Exito local markets. In addition, Exito owns the Carulla grocery store chain, which has several locations in Medellín.
But don’t expect to find as big of a selection at Exito as you will find in big grocery stores in the U.S.
If you shop frequently at Exito and/or Carulla you should sign up for Puntos Colombia, which is a program that used to be known as Puntos Exito. Puntos Colombia is a frequent shopper program where you accumulate points for each purchase. You can use these points to purchase items in the future.
To sign up for Puntos Colombia you just need a Colombian cedula ID. And with this program it’s essentially like getting 1 percent cash back on your purchase that you can use for future purchases. With Puntos Colombia you get 1 punto for every 700 pesos in purchases. And that 1 punto is worth 7 pesos for future purchases.
Exito frequently has sales on groceries and other items like appliances, TVs and other electronics. Also, on Wednesdays, there is a 20 percent discount on fruits, vegetables and meats at Exito.
Grocery Shopping at Jumbo
Jumbo is a large supermarket that also sells appliances, electronics, clothes, home furnishings, kitchen items, and many other things. A Jumbo is similar to a Walmart or Target in the U.S.
If you shop frequently at Jumbo you should sign up for Jumbo’s Puntos (points) program. Jumbo Puntos is a frequent shopper program where you accumulate points for each purchase. These points can be used to purchase items in the future. However, to sign up you need a cedula.
Jumbo frequently has sales on groceries. Also, Jumbo frequently has sales on appliances, TVs and other electronics, which are similar to the sales at Exito. If you are furnishing a place, make sure to check out the sales at both Jumbo and Exito.
Jumbo used to be named Carrefour in Colombia. France-based Carrefour sold all of its stores in Colombia to Chile-based Cencosud in 2012.
Grocery Shopping at Tiendas D1
Tiendas D1 is a large chain of small neighborhood grocery stores in Colombia with good prices. The company now has over 500 stores in Colombia. By shopping at Tiendas D1 it is possible to save over 30 percent on your grocery bill compared to shopping at Exito or Jumbo in Colombia.
Tiendas D1 is a large chain of small discount grocery stores in Colombia that is owned by Koba. The major shareholder in Koba is Valorem and other shareholders include Capital Group from the U.S. and IHAG from Switzerland.
Most people shopping at D1 can save 30 to 40 percent compared to shopping at an Exito or Jumbo store for similar items.
D1 is able to offer lower prices with a no-frills shopping experience and low overhead. The D1 stores are small with an average of only about 500 products per store.
So, you won’t find anywhere near as big of a selection of products as you will find in a large Exito or Jumbo store in Medellín or other cities, which will have thousands of products.
Tiendas D1 doesn’t accept credit or debit cards at all locations, as some are cash only. And you are responsible for bagging your own groceries at D1. Also, Tienda D1 has a money back policy where you can return a product without explanation and they will refund your money.
The savings at Tiendas D1 can be substantial and I previously compared the pricing with an Exito and found the average savings at Tiendas D1 of the 20 items I surveyed was 35.5 percent.
Grocery Shopping at Justo y Bueno
Justo y Bueno is a chain of small neighborhood grocery stores similar to Tiendas D1 in Colombia with good prices. By shopping at Justo y Bueno, it is possible to save over 30 percent on your grocery bill compared to shopping at Exito or Jumbo in Colombia.
Justo y Bueno started to enter the market in the Medellín metro area in 2017 and had 34 stores in the metro area by the end of 2017.
After selling Valorem (the major shareholder of Tiendas D1), the founding partners of Tiendas D1 did not stand still and founded the competitor ‘Justo y Bueno’. The company started in Bogotá by reportedly opening its first store in February 2016. And the company has been growing very rapidly since.
The average store size is about 500 square meters (5,382 square feet), which is somewhat larger than the typical Tiendas D1 store. Justo y Bueno normally has about 600 products per store. This is about 20 percent more products than the typical Tiendas D1 store, which reportedly averages about 500 products per store.
In my opinion, Justo y Bueno could be described as a slightly upscale version of Tiendas D1. It has somewhat larger stores that are better laid out with about 20 percent more products including some fruits and vegetables.
Also, Justo y Bueno accepts credit cards and you are responsible for bagging your own groceries.
The savings at Justo y Bueno can be substantial and I previously compared the pricing with an Exito and found the average savings at Justo y Bueno of the 14 items I surveyed was 32.7 percent.
Grocery Shopping at PriceSmart
PriceSmart warehouse club in Medellín has good prices to enable saving over 30 percent on grocery costs compared to shopping at Exito or Jumbo. It also has many imported items that are hard to find elsewhere.
PriceSmart opened in Medellín in November 2014 with a reported investment of $20 million. I have shopped there since it opened.
But be careful as we have found that not everything sold at PriceSmart is cheaper than at Exito. For example, a number of the fruits and vegetables like onions, pineapples and tomatoes tend to be more expensive at PriceSmart. Also, several locally produced products can be less expensive in Exito as Exito buys in huge quantities.
To enter PriceSmart someone in your group needs a membership card. A member can bring up to three guests but only a member can purchase items. And members must be at least 18 years old.
The company has two types of memberships. The Diamond membership is intended for personal use. And for the current annual cost of 75,000 pesos you get two Diamond membership cards for two people.
The savings at PriceSmart can be substantial and I previously compared the pricing with an Exito and found the average savings at PriceSmart of the 12 items I surveyed was 31 percent.
Grocery Shopping at Makro
Makro is a chain of warehouse stores in Colombia with good prices to enable saving on grocery costs. The chain has 16 stores in Colombia, which includes two stores in Medellín that primarily sell groceries.
By shopping at Makro it is possible to save over 25 percent compared to the prices found at other grocery stores in Medellín like Exito and Jumbo.
Makro is an international brand of warehouse clubs, also called cash and carries. The company is part of the Dutch Group SHV (Steenkolen Handels-Vereeniging), which was founded in 1896.
In Latin America, Makro has over 150 stores including over 75 stores in Brazil, over 35 stores in Venezuela, 20 stores in Argentina, 16 stores in Colombia and seven stores in Peru
Warehouse stores like Makro are able to keep prices low due to the no-frills format of the stores. At these wholesale stores you can buy low cost wholesale value alcohol, groceries, sweets and other products.
To buy products at Makro you need a membership card. Unlike PriceSmart, Makro doesn’t charge for its membership. And you can sign up with a passport or cedula.
The savings at Makro can be substantial and I previously compared the pricing with an Exito and found the average savings at Makro of the 12 items I surveyed was 28.5 percent.
Grocery Shopping at Euro
Euro Supermercado is one of the other grocery store chains you can find in Medellín. The Euro grocery chain was founded in 2001 with its first store in Central Mayorista in Itagüí.
There are several Euro grocery stores in the metro area including two in Envigado, one in El Pobaldo, one in Laureles, one in Belén, one in Sabaneta, one in Bello and one in Central Mayorista in Itagüí.
I almost never shop at Euro as I have never lived near one. And I have heard from some other expats that the prices in Euro tend to be roughly similar to an Exito or Jumbo but it can have cheaper fruits and vegetables.
Grocery Shopping at Plaza Minorista
Plaza Minorista is a popular farmers market in Medellín with hundreds of small stores. It’s a place where you can find seemingly unlimited amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables. Also, Plaza Minorista is a good place to find many of the exotic tropical fruits of Colombia.
But it’s more than a farmers market with fish, meats, other types of groceries, kitchen utensils, clothing and many small restaurants.
I have shopped at Plaza Minorista several times over the past eight years. But I rarely shop there anymore, as it’s located a long way from Sabaneta where I live now.
Plaza Minorista is best known for its fruits and vegetables, which occupy the biggest portion of Minorista. But Minorista has two floors with hundreds of small shops in several sections. And many of the shops sell other products.
Beyond the huge selection of fruits and vegetables, you can find groceries, meats, fish, birds, plants, chocolates, grains, sauces, drugstore items, clothing, footwear, restaurants and bars.
You can find many things in Minorista for lower prices than in other locations in Medellín. That is why it’s a very popular place. Also, keep in mind you can negotiate the prices in many of the stores.
Grocery Shopping at Central Mayorista
Central Mayorista is huge area that is much larger than Minorista. Also, Mayorista means wholesaler. So, you will find many wholesalers in the area selling large quantities of goods. In addition, this is where some small grocery stores buy products and also some restaurants.
Mayorista is so big it has four grocery stores including Boom, Euro, Olímpico and Pacardyl. Also, in the wholesaler area you can find all kinds of groceries being sold by merchants. Here you can find huge bags of potatoes and onions and many other things for sale.
Approximately 15,000 people work in Mayorista with a total of about 1,500 merchants. And you can find many groceries being sold in Mayorista for lower prices than in Exito or Jumbo.
Central Mayorista is located in Itagüí but it’s easy to get on the Medellín metro, as it is located a short walk from the Ayura metro station. However, I rarely shop at Mayorista, as I shop more often at the grocery stores near where I live.
Grocery Shopping at Other Grocery Stores and Local Tiendas
There are several other grocery stores found in the local neighborhoods in the Medellín metro area. For example, in Sabaneta there are Merkepaisa, La Vaquita and Supermercado Sabaneta grocery stores.
In my experience these smaller local grocery stores tend to have somewhat lower prices than in Exito.
Also, some of these local grocery stores also provide domicilio (delivery services). For example, we use delivery services from the Merkepaisa and Supermercado Sabaneta grocery stores in Sabaneta to have groceries delivered to our apartment.
Also, throughout the Medellín area you can find many small local tiendas selling groceries and also fruits and vegetables with prices typically lower than you will find in Exito.
In addition, you can find many small butcher shops with prices for meat and seafood normally lower than in Exito.
Grocery Shopping Tips to Save Money
Here are seven tips to save money on groceries in Medellín and other cities in Colombia.
- Make sure to sign up with the puntos (points) programs at Exito and Jumbo. These puntos programs are essentially are like getting 1 percent cash back on your purchases. Over the past eight years I have likely saved well over $750 using the puntos programs.
- Shop at the discount grocery stores. By shopping at Tiendas D1, Justo y Bueno, PriceSmart and Makro it is possible to save substantially over the prices at Exito or Jumbo.
- Find out the discount days at grocery stores. For example, Exito has a 20 percent discount on fruits, vegetables and meats on Wednesdays. And the Merkepaisa grocery store in Sabaneta has 20 to 30 percent discounts on some products every day of the week.
- Shop at the local grocery stores, tiendas and butcher shops in your neighborhood. These smaller grocery stores, tiendas and butcher shops tend to have lower prices than in Exito and some even offer delivery services.
- Shop at Minorista or Mayorista. By shopping at these large markets, you can save compared to the prices in Exito or Jumbo.
- Shop the sales. Exito, Jumbo and the local grocery stores frequently have sales. With these sales you can typically save at least 20 to 50 percent on some grocery items and sometimes even more.
- Compare prices at stores. While the discount stores like Tiendas D1, Justo y Bueno, PriceSmart and Makro tend to have lower prices than at Exito. For some products, the prices can be lower at Exito.
The Bottom Line: Guide to Grocery Shopping in Medellín and Money Saving Tips
While it is convenient to do all your shopping at a big Exito or Jumbo you can save substantially by shopping at some of the discount grocery stores or the local grocery stores and tiendas found in most neighborhoods.
The discount grocery stores like Tiendas D1, Justo y Bueno, PriceSmart and Makro all tend to have lower prices on average than Exito or Jumbo.
Also, if you follow the tips in this article you will likely be able to cut your grocery costs by at least 30 percent compared to buying everything at Exito or Jumbo.
In addition, “Where should I go to buy cheap groceries?” is a common question asked by expats visiting Medellín. So, we included this question in our list of Medellín frequently asked questions (FAQ).
Also, if you live in Medellín, share your grocery shopping tips in the comments below.
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