For so many expat-related questions there are solid resources to get specific answers, but I’ve noticed that when it comes to prices of groceries it can be nearly impossible to find the information, or to trust if if you do find it. There’s a TEFL (teaching English) site that provides lists of groceries and their costs in each city, but I’ve found that they can be wildly off depending on who gathered the information. In other words, the page says orange juice costs $4 per liter in Bangkok, for example, when I was getting it for $2.50 a liter myself.
I also figure some expats in other parts of the world who aren’t considering moving to Turkey could find it interesting what things cost here. Many things are shockingly cheap here while others are either unavailable or shockingly expensive.
I’m an American who has been living in the lovely Mediterranean village of Kas, Turkey for about 9 months now. It’s a village of about 7,000 permanent residents, including several hundred Brits and a couple hundred Germans, Dutch, and Scandinavians. For such a small town I was surprised to find that there are 5 grocery stores here and even more surprised when I discovered that all 5 are within 200 meters of each other.
Out of the 5 grocery stores, 3 are “full service” markets that have butchers and sell alcohol, while the other 2 are smaller “discount grocers” (like Aldi or Lidl) where some of the merchandise is sold out of its shipping boxes and some items might not be in stock at any given moment because they buy the odd lots for cheap. I do most of my shopping at one of the discount chains, which is called “A-101″ so most prices quoted are from there. Most things at the full-service markets cost 10% to 20% more.
Meat and eggs
Even though Turkey is secular, nearly everyone is a Muslim and therefore they don’t stock pork products at all. “Hot dogs” made of chicken meat are common and cheap (and horrible) while beef hot dogs are very expensive.
All prices in Turkish Lira. Current exchange rate is 1.77TL to US$1.00.
- Whole chicken: 4.90 Turkish lira per kilo (US$2.78/kg as of today)
- Ground beef: 22.00/kg
- Beef steak: 33.00/kg
- Chicken hot dogs: 6.00/kg
- Beef hot dogs: 25.00/kg
- Eggs: 3.70 for 15 large eggs
Bread and other diet fillers
I’m not sure if it’s a national law or a local one, but loaves of fresh bread here are 0.75TL everywhere they are available. They are made daily and almost any meal in a restaurant comes with a stack of slices. The taste isn’t much and it’s mostly air. I’d estimate that these loaves are meant to be .5kg each, or maybe a bit lighter.
- Packaged sandwich bread: 2.00 to 4.00 per loaf (and never fresh)
- Dry pasta: 0.80 for .5kg (very cheap)
- Rice: Not sure but I’ll check and enter it here soon.
- Lentils: 2.50 to 4.00 per kilo
- Kidney-style beans: 3.50 per kilo
- Flour tortilles: 2.70 for 12 large in a package (They call them something else but they are EXACTLY like good-quality supermarket flour tortillas in the US, at less than half the price.)
Fruits and vegetables
Most vegetables are grown in hot houses in nearby villages so they are available at similar prices year round. Fruits tend to be very seasonal so they are cheap and plentiful at the peak and totally unavailable at other times.
- Lettuce, Romaine-style: 1 to 1.25/head, but can very greatly in size
- Tomatoes: 1.00 to 1.50 per kg, depending on season (very cheap and quite good)
- Potatoes: 1.50 to 2.00 per kg
- Onions: 1.00 per kg
- Green peppers: 1.50 to 2 per kg
- Red peppers: 2.50 to 4 per kg
- Avocados: 2.00 each
- Apples: 2 per kg
- Oranges: 1 per kg
- Bananas: 2.50 per kg (seems expensive to me)
- Cherries: 2 per kg (short season in summer)
Cake mixes and such
I don’t have an oven so I don’t do any baking, but I have checked a bit and noticed that things like cake and cookie mixes and breakfast cereal and other dry goods are generally quite affordable here. A box of cake mix might be, say, 4 lira, for example. The rule is always that if there is high enough demand for it to be made in Turkey then it’s going to be fairly cheap, while if Turkish people don’t want it then it’ll be imported and expensive or unavailable, at least outside of Istanbul.
They make a lot of cheeses in Turkey, but almost all of them are fresh rather than aged. The fresh cheeses are usually very cheap and some semi-soft and hard cheeses are reasonable, but imported hard cheeses are very expensive. There are at least 10 different forms and consistencies of spreadable cream cheese, all very cheap.
- Feta-style goat cheese: 2.70 per .5kg
- Basic semi-soft sandwich cheese: 12 per kg
- Fancy hard cheeses: 16 and up per kg
Fruit juices are weirdly cheap here, and that’s for actual juice rather than a watery “drink” instead.
- Milk: 1.50 for 1 liter
- Orange juice: 1.70 for 1 liter
- Peach, apricot, nectarine, pineapple, etc juice: 1.50 to 2.00 per liter
- Bottled water: 1.30 for 5 liters
- Ayran (yogurt drink): 2.20 for 1 liter
Taxes on most alcohol are very high in Turkey so it’s an expensive place to be a drunk.
- Beer (Efes brand): 3.25 per .5l bottle (no bulk discounts in supermarkets)
- Table wine: 5.99 to 8.99 per bottle for decent Turkish wine
- Better wine: 11.99 and up
- Raki (local anise-flavored spirit): 33.00 for .5l bottle
- Imported cheap vodka: 50.00 for .7l bottle
Other things that are expensive
In the US you can get a small bottle of pepper sauce, which is the stuff you make Buffalo wings out of, and it’s around US$1. Here, because they have to import it, you’ll pay around 6TL, which is about US$3.50. Anyone not on a high local salary will have incentives to adjust their diet and tastes to things that are made or picked in Turkey. You’ll also have to eat chicken primarily if you eat meat because anything else is either very expensive or hard to find or both.
Last year I had a craving for ramen noodles, which are available for almost nothing in the US and in Asia, but I couldn’t find them here in any store at any price. I’m sure you can find them in Istanbul or Antalya or Ankara, but this is an example of even a cheap and seemingly common item that you have to do without here.
Of course, there are local alternatives for many things, including those fantastic flour tortillas that are very cheap here. If a person has a flexible diet then they can eat for very little money in Turkey.
I’m going to be adding a few more things to the above list in the coming week, but if anyone who reads this has any specific requests and I’m still living here I’ll be happy to have a look if you leave a request in the comments.