Cost of living? Food prices? Let’s take a look at how much Brazilians spend.

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When I look back at the things I wrote down in my teens, using the internet for the first time, I always remember this message posted on my girlfriend’s page, where I said “I love you more than Del Valle juice”. For those not acquainted, of course fruits are a big market in Brazil, having registered a profit of nearly a billion real in 2020. Some people buy them at the supermarket, others in open fairs; but it’s part of our culture and something we learned from our grandparents. My grandpa, at some point, preferred the powdered juice, because it was more practical and also cheap. Since we didn’t buy any fancy brands, it was literally 1 real to make a whole jar for everyone to drink at lunch. 30 real a month. Add that up.

Of course, for lunch, we never had too much variety, but it was mostly things my grandma cooked easily and for years on. I never really liked the chayote, but we ate that a lot with ground meat. Eggplants too, the same way. Then my grandpa cooked manioc, sweet potatoes and the regular, big ones. Carrots were for the salad, with lettuce and sometimes arugula. Vegetables like pods and peas, pumpkins and zucchini, were always brought home and prepared with some olive oil and maybe things like parsley to make it more interesting, along with onions and garlic. Rice and beans, of course, are essentials of Brazilian cuisine, and sausage to cook with the beans. There’s also things like salt and sugar that eventually you have to buy. They liked to eat meat that wasn’t too expensive (depending on the cut), and also fish sometimes. Maybe one day my dad would make some pancakes (the one he used to make with shrimp, along with his eggplant recipe with tomatoes, pepper and other vegetables, actually made us avoid many fights at home). Sometimes we’d do something with cabbage and cauliflower. We ate bread for breakfast, sometimes with some kind of dairy product or ham, but mostly not even butter, choosing margarine instead; then again in the evening. And today, I’ll tell you all that has been reduced to a minimum. For example, we drink water for lunch. There’s also pasta, which saves us every time. No dairy, just margarine. How much would that cost, at the end of the month?

There’s a big supermarket chain that is run by one the the billionaires in Brazil, Abílio Diniz. His business is so successful he was invited to host a program on CNN Brasil to talk about how he sees the future of the economy. I’ll use Carrefour, his business, to make a list of all the things I’ve mentioned (and of course there are more, some months less; but I wanna make this interesting. Father asks the son: “would you go downstairs and buy some stuff to bring home?” — and then hands out a list. Maybe, since we’re all doing it, you’d buy it all online and pay some tax for delivery. I’d skip the sections where these product are, cause we all figure that out eventually, don’t we? But it’ll be interesting if you can visualize yourself in the supermarket.

FOR VEGETABLES
chayote – R$12.79 (3kg)
eggplants – R$16.38 (2kg)
manioc – R$15,98 (2 vacuum packs of 700g)
sweet potatoes – R$12.87 (3kg)
potatoes – R$17.97 (3kg)
arugula – R$7.99 (pack)
tomatoes – R$25.18 (2kg)
pods – R$8.39 (400g)
peas – R$14.36 (4 cans)
pumpkins – R$9.42 (whole)
zucchini – R$9.78 (2kg)
pepper – R$20.89 (1kg)
cabbage – R$9.78 (2 packs)
cauliflower – R$11.39 (1 pack)

FOR SPICES AND CONDIMENTS
olive oil – R$17.69 (1 liter bottle)
parsley – R$3.19 (pack)
onions – R$19.98 (2kg)
garlic – R$11.79 (600g)
salt – R$1.87 (1kg)
sugar – R$5.99 (1kg)

FOR MEAT
shrimp – R$49.38 (400g)
meat – R$50.49 (1kg rump steak beef)
sausage – R$23.89 (1kg)
fish – R$77.29 (1kg)
ham – R$12.58 (400g)
ground meat – R$41.69 (1kg)

FOR DAIRY
margarine – R$19.18 (2 packs of 500g)

FOR GRAINS
rice – R$17.39 (5kg)
beans – R$12.78 (2 packs of 500g)
flour – R$4.39 (1kg)
bread – R$381.60 (6 units, morning and night, 30 days)
pasta – R$16.36 (4 units of 500g)

OTHERS
powdered juice – R$30 (30 units)

Okay, that’s a lot.

Now, I assume that you’d be taking out some of that stuff. But a few things pop my eyes out: the price of pepper, for example. It’s a strong spice, for sure, and you won’t always use it, but it really doesn’t have to be that expensive, I think. Of course we live in Brazil, not in Mexico, so maybe that applies. Also, what everyone’s been talking about: the price of meat. There are families who eat meat every day: rice, beans and beef, maybe with an egg (I didn’t include that on the list because you don’t go to the supermarket for that, I think you might get it in one of the cars that passes by your street — or not). Meat got very expensive, and I chose a cut that’s cheaper than most. It also surprises me that even for the standards we have today (where a lot of these items would never be included on the list, especially freaking shrimp, or fish), we do eat 12 units of bread every day, sometimes less when I’m not hungry, in particular (my sleep patterns are horrible); still, that’s a lot of money. What you need to know, before I give you the actual total of this monthly purchase, is that we get rice, beans and a few other condiments from a “basic needs basket” that comes in a carton box every month from my aunt. Some social assistance institutions and NGOs provide that for families. But we still have to buy the bread and other stuff. And there you go: just the bread is expensive enough to make us, living with R$600 a month from the government’s social program, have to cut expenses to the maximum. Of course you remember that we have other bills to pay, right? I honestly don’t know what my dad is doing.

Total amount (for a Brazilian lower lower-class family): R$968.13.

Add to that an internet combo of TV, landline and internet, which goes for R$94.99 with the ISP Vivo; add to that a R$200 electricity bill; add to that a R$150 water bill; also add the condominium, which averages R$200, sometimes more.

The actual total expenses for the Brazilian lower class family is around R$1613.12. That’s 300 dollars.

Before people started talking about inflation, minimum wage in Brazil was R$1100. The increase did not adjust to inflation, but as the story from Brasil de Fato points out, the adjusted value is a little over two hundred dollars.

I could talk about how some people loved to watch Anthony Bourdain. I’d say how some people adapt, being vegans. Or maybe I would finish with a strong paragraph, and quote some marxist theory, because Brazil is, after all, among the world leaders in food production, and we should own what we produce. I could say that Class E, the lowest in Brazil, makes from zero to R$1429, while adding class D would make about half of the Brazilian population. But instead, I have a genuinely blunt question: isn’t it time for us to think about what’s the real concern for Wall Street? Because I don’t think a trader would be happy with 300 dollars a month.

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