Cost of Living in Spain: February 2014

Cost of Living in Spain

Every day, around one hundred people find themselves visiting my blog after typing the search term “Cost of Living in Spain” into Google.  It’s a popular subject, and for that reason at least a couple of times a year, I publish a list of the current prices of a number of items here in southern Spain.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the following information is relevant to the kind of lifestyle and area where I live, east of Málaga.  We choose to live like locals, eating fresh, seasonal produce and frequenting bars full of Spaniards rather than tourists.  Similarly, if your choice would be to only buy internationally branded foods and eat in tourist areas then you will find costs are considerably higher.

So …. whether you are fed up of the wet weather in the UK, have been dreaming of living in southern Europe for many years or you’re just curious – here’s my updated list of standard grocery items for your perusal.

For the sake of comparison,  I have once again used the largest Spanish supermarket – Mercadona.

Mercadona supermarket, Spain


This is the up-to-date Standard Grocery List I have published previously.  The first price shown is as it was in August 2013, with this month’s prices in RED alongside.

Milk (semi–skimmed UHT, own brand), 1 litre   0.59 €      0.60 €

Loaf  (white, baguette 250g)   0.45 €      0.45 €

Loaf (white, Bimbo brand, 460g 100% natural)  1.49€    1.49 €

Butter (250g, own brand)   1.05 €        1.25 €

Sugar (1kg, white)   0.93 €    0.93 €

Coffee (ground, 250g, Santa Cristina)   1.89 €       1.89 €

Eggs (12, own brand caged, medium)  1.35 €      1.35  €

Olive oil (1 litre, extra virgin, own brand)  3.35€   (5 litres 15.50€)    3 €   (5 litres 14.50 €)  **

Rice  (1kg, long grain, own brand)   0.71€    0.71 €

Pasta  (1kg, own brand)   0.79€      0.75 €

Pasta  (500g, wholewheat)   0.99€      0.99 €

Tinned tuna  (6 x 80g, own brand)  3.39€      3.35 €

Chicken breasts (1kg, boneless, skinless, packaged))  5.80 €       5.80 €

Pork chops (1kg)  4.60€     4.75 €

Beef mince (Store brand, pre-packed, 700g)   3.80 €       3.80 € 

Fish  (1kg Salmon steaks)  10.75 €      10.75 €

Fish  (1kg Dorada, Gilt-head bream)  6.95€       6.95 €

Apples (1kg, green, Golden Delicious)  2.00 €       1.85 €  **

Oranges (1kg)  1.19 €     0.79 €   **

Bananas (1kg)  1.29 €     1.39 €

Potatoes (1kg)  1.25 €     0.89 €    **

Lettuce (1 head, Iceberg)  0.85 €      0.87 €

Red Peppers (1kg, loose)  1.95 €    1.89 €

Green pointed “Italian” Peppers (1kg, loose)  1.35 €      1.99 €   **

Tomatoes  (1kg, loose)   0.99 €       1.29 €   **

Coca-Cola (1.5 litre bottle)  1.09 €     1.09 € 

Water (2 litre bottle)  0.42 €       0.42 € 

Domestic Beer (1 litre bottle, Cruzcampo)  1.25 €       1.25 €

Imported beer (6 x 25cl bottles Heineken)  3.05€       3.65 €

Bottle wine (medium priced)  3.00 – 3.50€      3.00 – 3.50 €

Colgate toothpaste (100 ml)   1.75€       1.75 €

Pantene shampoo  (300 ml)   3.00€       3.00€

Toilet rolls (pack of 6, own brand)   1.95 €      1.98 €

Washing powder (Box, 35 washes, Elena brand)   4.87 €       4.87 €

** Seasonal changes

For the costs of accommodation, utilities, motoring, public transport and entertainment – prices are largely unchanged since last time.  Please see HERE.

Village houses in Cómpeta, Axarquía, Spain

Many people dream of moving to southern Spain with the promise of better weather coupled with a healthier, outdoor Mediterranean lifestyle.  There are many other considerations to bear in mind when trying to compare living costs, and the following may be some of them:

  1. Unemployment in Spain is currently running at record levels with 25% of the adult population out of work.  If you are considering moving to Spain, you would need to be confident that your finances are secure or you might end up having to return to your home country after failing to find employment.
  2. Tied in with the issue of employment, comes health cover.   Unless you are employed, self-employed or retired, (thus qualifying for cover under the Spanish health system), you will be required to take out private health cover.
  3. The cost of living is really only half of the equation.  Salaries and wages may be very different in Spain from what you are used to elsewhere.  What is important is what is left each month after you have paid for your essentials.
  4. Fluctuation in currency exchange rates can make a huge difference to you if your source of income comes from outside of Spain.  For example, when we first came to live in Spain ONE BRITISH POUND bought us ONE EURO AND FIFTY-ONE CENTIMOS.  Very handy when we were purchasing our house.  However, a couple of years ago, and completely outside of our control,  we only received just over ONE EURO for each BRITISH POUND – a staggering drop in income of almost one third.
  5. Spanish houses in this area are built to keep out the sun in summer rather than to retain heat in winter.  With tiled floors, small windows and inadequate heating systems, houses can be surprisingly chilly during the winter months, making them expensive to heat.
  6. Whilst some costs are much more favourable in Spain (for example our cost of IBI is about one quarter of the cost of a similar property in the UK for Council Tax), other costs are significantly more (i.e. when purchasing a property, costs amount to approx 11% of the purchase price).
  7. You might have to factor in the cost of flights back home to the UK (or your home country) to visit friends and relatives.  Often these can be bought through budget airlines for reasonable prices - but what if you need to return quickly for a family emergency?
  8. Then there is the question of taxes – not only of the personal variety, but also related to any property purchase.  There are many factors at play, depending on personal circumstances, and whilst I often receive messages from visitors to my blog regarding such matters, I am not a tax expert and would always recommend you seeking professional advice given your own personal financial situation.

MY ADVICE:  There are many more things to bear in mind when considering the cost of living in Spain, than the price of bread and milk.  DO YOUR RESEARCH FIRST!

How does the cost of living compare where you live?  Have you ever considered moving abroad?

Easy Chocolate Fudge That Will Make You Drool

Chop the chocolate fudge into squares and ENJOY!

We went to a friend’s house on New Year’s Eve, rather than pay loads of money to eat out somewhere.  I supplied the bubbles and a starter, whilst she made the main course.  I also took this ridiculously easy-to-make chocolate fudge, which was a big hit.

It’s very simple to make and literally takes five minutes.

Here’s what you’ll need:

I cup chopped chocolate (I chopped up 1 x 150g bar of supermarket brand, milk chocolate – but use dark or white chocolate if you prefer)
170g tube of condensed milk
1/8 cup butter
1/8 cup peanut butter (if you don’t like peanut butter – make it 1/4 cup butter instead)

I also added a handful each of roughly chopped almonds and currants, but you can just as easily leave these out.

Here’s what you do:

Put the condensed milk, chopped chocolate, butter and peanut butter into a bowl and microwave at 800W for 2 minutes.

Take out, give it a good stir and put back into the microwave for a further 1 minute.

In the meantime, roughly chop the almonds and currants.

When the microwave pings, add the fruit and nuts to the mixture and give a final stir.

Line a plastic sandwich box (mine was 20 x 13 cms) with greaseproof paper and pour the thick mixture into it.  Spread out into the corners and allow to cool slightly before putting into the fridge for an hour to chill.

Cut up into squares and ENJOY!

What’s your favourite recipe that is quick and easy to make?

If you like this, you might also enjoy these other recipes:

Easy No-Bake Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Cookies

Patatas a lo pobre: Poor man´s potatoes

Fresh Figs Stuffed with Goat´s Cheese and wrapped in Smoked Bacon

Let’s Talk About Tapas: Boquerones

Tapas: Boquerones in vinegar

Last month, I started a new feature called Let’s Talk About Tapas, when I gave you a general overview of what to expect if you want to eat tapas in Spain.

Each month I will be telling you about different tapas, and often I will include a recipe so you can make them at home for yourself.

So, what are tapas and how did they originate?

Well, it’s thought that originally in the wine-making regions of Andalucía, a cover in the form of a small plate or lid was placed over glasses of wine to keep fruit flies away.  Titbits of food were later placed on the lid to be eaten with the wine.  Remember too, that the word “tapar” in Spanish means “to cover”, which is where we get the word “tapas” from.

Let’s get started with one of my favourite tapas – Boquerones en vinagre (anchovies in vinegar).

Boquerones whole

You can buy boquerones from fish merchants or any supermarket with a fish counter such as Mercadona, where a kilo costs around €3.

They are not very difficult to prepare and are absolutely delicious!   When we first arrived to live in Spain and rented a house for the first twelve months in Frigiliana, my Spanish next door neighbour showed me how she prepared them.

First you need to head and gut the fish.  Do this by holding each fish using two hands – with the tail in one hand and the head in the other.  Squeeze behind the head and pull it off.  Split open the fish with your fingers and take out the guts, backbone and pull off tail.

Boquerones filleted

Rinse in cold water until the water runs clear and place the filleted fish white-side up into dish.

Boquerones soaked in white vinegar and sprinkled with salt

Sprinkle with salt and cover with white wine vinegar.  Depending on how many fish you have, you can arrange them into layers – making sure you perform this same task with each layer.  The top layer of fish needs to be covered with vinegar.

The boquerones will start to turn white almost immediately as they “cook” in the vinegar.

I usually cover the dish with clingfilm and pop it into the fridge overnight to marinade.

Chopped garlic and flat-leaf parsley

Boquerones in olive oil with garlic and parsley

Next morning, drain the salty vinegar away and cover the boquerones with extra-virgin olive oil, lots of chopped garlic and a little freshly chopped parsley – and by lunchtime they will be ready to eat with freshly baked bread.

Eat your boquerones with a glass of chilled white wine or manzanilla (dry fino sherry).

What are your favourite tapas?


Whilst you’re here, you might also enjoy:

Let’s talk about tapas, shall we?

Spanish Omelette: Tortilla Española

A Celebration of Fried Breadcrumbs


Let’s talk about tapas, shall we?

Well stocked tapas bar in Spain

I’m going to be starting a new feature all about tapas soon, so let’s start by finding about what they are.

It’s thought that originally in the wine-making regions of Andalucia, a cover in the form of a small plate or lid was placed over glasses of wine to keep fruit flies away.  Titbits of food were later placed on the lid to be eaten with the wine.

The word “tapar” in Spanish means “to cover”, which is where we get the word “tapas” from.

How wonderful that Spaniards thought it unacceptable that a fly ends up in your drink, but it´s fine if it lands on the accompanying snack!

Other stories suggest that tapas were invented by a bar owner in Seville, who decided to put a cover (tapa) over his guests´ glasses of wine, using a slice of bread to keep out flies.  He later put a piece of ham or cheese on top, so that his customers could have a bite to eat with their drink.

Rioja and scrummy tapas!

Either way, the idea spread, so that nowadays the types of food served as tapas are limitless.  Most Spaniards don´t drink alcohol without a tapa and many bars, especially in southern Andalucia, provide them free of charge.

The original Spanish “fast food” is usually displayed in refrigerated glass cabinets on the bar and served in small terracotta glazed dishes. Some examples of the type of tapas normally available include gambas (whole cooked prawns in their shells), boquerones (fresh anchovies in olive oil, vinegar and garlic), chorizo (spicy Spanish sausage), albondigas (meatball…often in a creamy almond sauce), queso (cheese…often manchego), habas con jamon (broad beans with ham), ensalada rusa (Russian salad) or just a few olives.

Delicious tapas

Your choice of tapas is usually accompanied by a small piece of crusty bread which helps to counteract the adverse effects of the alcohol through drinking on an empty stomach.

What a sensible idea!

In many establishments, if you stand at the bar along with the locals you will be given one tapa free with each drink you buy.  

That’s right …. free food!

Tapas in Spain

Should you choose to sit away from the bar, you can pay for a tapas or two (usually about one euro in this part of Spain), or opt for a larger serving known as a ración (ration) or medio ración (half ration). This is a great way to eat a variety of dishes, and a pretty sociable activity as groups generally tend to share their dishes.

The food is generally very good, even in remote villages around the Axarquia.

Where is your favourite tapas bar?   Which tapa do you choose, time and time again?


You might also like to look at:

All at sea with the Virgen del Carmen

La Noche de San Juan: Families, fires and football!

Bus Services: East of Málaga