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Need suggestions__Food to bring from home for villa in St John

Need suggestions__Food to bring from home for villa in St John

Old Apr 29th, 2005, 07:04 AM
  #1  
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Need suggestions__Food to bring from home for villa in St John

From reading travel websites, I have learned that many folks will pack a wheeled cooler with food & other household items for their stay in a St John's villa. I understand that, since all their food is imported, the price of certain groceries can be quite high in St. John. I need some suggestions as to what are the best food/staple items to bring along to save a little money. My husband and I are leaving in just a few weeks for 7 nights in St John, and this is our first trip there. Thanks for any advice you can give.
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Old Apr 29th, 2005, 07:23 AM
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Hi camillec, STJ is one of our favorite islands, but the groceries can be expensive.

I'd definitely bring an assortment of herbs & spices for cooking. Olive Oil. Frozen meats. Any dry goods that travel easily...cereal, oatmeal, pasta, rice.

We typically eat breakfast & lunch from the villa (picnic lunch if we're not there) and go out for dinner in the evening.

I'd try to bring as much staples as you can and just buy produce, bread & dairy items on the island.
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Old Apr 29th, 2005, 09:24 AM
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Sunnyboy
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You are correct, many people do bring food with them when they visit the islands and I'm sure you'll get a lot of helpful hints and suggestions from participants on this forum but I have a slightly different take on this. While it is true groceries on St. John are probably going to be higher than they are "back home" you have to weigh the pros and cons associated with packing and lugging a cooler with the potential cost savings when you are only purchasing a week's worth of groceries. You have to also keep in mind that most airlines have luggage weight restrictions so you may incur an excess baggage fee for your cooler which will offset potential savings. If your normal weekly food budget is say $300 you'd probably spend less than $50 more to purchase the same items on St. John. Ask yourself if that difference is worth all the extra effort it takes to pack and lug your cooler full of food. If it is then by all means bring food with you, if it is not then make it easy on yourself and leave the food at home. Whatever you decide have a great trip - St. John is a wonderful destination.
 
Old Apr 29th, 2005, 09:59 AM
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sunnyboy, I'm with you, I would not want to drag a bunch of stuff with us. Seems like it would be a pain, That said, I think Trish's suggestion for the spices is terrific. Its not something I would have thought of. I think I will bring small containers or baggies of my favorites when we go to St John. They can be costly to buy even around here.
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Old Apr 29th, 2005, 10:31 AM
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I wanted to bring a cooler of food when we go to St.John in June..however my husband said there is no way that he is going to lug around a cooler.I might bring some condiments,cereal,perishables packed in a suitcase.Hope that it does not go over the weight limit.

Sunnyboy-you are right...it does not sound to be worth the hassle.

camillec-maybe bring a few perishables and condiments if you decide not to bring a cooler.It will still help with costs.
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Old Apr 29th, 2005, 11:59 AM
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Having just been in St John in March, I have to disagree about the food bill. Ours at least doubles for our family of 6. We usually go to Cayman for Easter but spent much more at the grocery store in St John. Our villa was stocked with many spices from past guests. I would suggest coffee,micro popcorn, and I would pack a small cooler of frozen steaks because meat was very $$$$. We stayed on the east end and the grocery stores were more expensive. We spent $425.00 for the week on groceries. Our best meal was on easter( a picnic on the beach with balogne sandwiches and chips)
Susan
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Old Apr 29th, 2005, 12:58 PM
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In my opinion it is worth every effort to bring a cooler of steaks, chicken and whatever else you like. I am the "chef" in the family....probably the only reason my wife married me . When we rent a villa on St. John, I always pack a Playmate cooler filled with chicken breasts and tenderloin steaks. The quality and prices are far superior. Check out the meat section at Dolphin Market or the other main grocery (name escapes me) and you'll be glad you brought your own, especially if you are somewhat of a Gourmet. We love our evenings on the verandah, dining under the stars with the awesome views St. John affords. While quality and price of meats do not matter to some, to us it is a big thing. I'd even consider bringing salmon or halibut with us next time as the seafood isn't very good, as well, surprisingly. Most of the good seafood goes to the restaurants, I am sure. Anyway....just my thoughts!
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Old Apr 29th, 2005, 01:38 PM
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Old Apr 29th, 2005, 01:38 PM
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Old Apr 29th, 2005, 02:15 PM
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I don't mean to be critical or start a controversy but while at first blush "susan's" food bill seems high at $425 for the week; for 6 people that comes to about $71 per person for the week (or about $10 per day per person). Perhaps I'm a bit out of touch with grocery prices (my wife does most of our shopping) but that doesn't seem overly high to me.

Since "camillec" is talking about only 2 people one has to wonder just how much "savings" she would achieve packing and lugging a cooler full of food which was the main point of my original post.

If, however, bringing food is purly a matter of quality as is important to Caribbean Soul than that is a totally different matter. Obviously some people have access to gourmet food shops near their homes that offer the finest quality meats and produce which are most likely superior to what one can get on St. John - dare I hint that the gourmet cuts of meat Caribbean Soul might buy might be more expensive than the meats available on St. John. As I pointed out in my original post one has to way the pros and cons of each alternative than make the decision that is right for you. It just seems to me that the potential dollar savings one achieves by bringing food for a week's stay is not all that significant in the overall cost of the vacation and should not be the major factor in deciding whether or not to bring a cooler full of food. One other suggestion, if you are going through St. Thomas on your way to St. John you could always purchase some or all of your groceries there as they are a little less expensive on that island.
 
Old Apr 29th, 2005, 03:05 PM
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I do enjoy, occassionally, a splurge at the local market for a gourmet cut of tenderloin. But we actually go to Costco and buy our steaks and chicken. I freeze the meats before we leave, place them in the cooler the day of travel, and they are still frozen by the time we get to the villa. And we travel from Seattle. It really is the only way to go if quality is important to you. We like nice thick cuts and what you'll find in the local groceries on St. John and anywhere in the USVI, doesn't come close. But it really boils (no pun intended down to how important it is to you. I can be just as happy with a hamburger (thick, of course) sitting on the patio listening to Jimmy Buffet sing about cheeseburgers!
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Old Apr 29th, 2005, 03:08 PM
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I have to agree that the meat quality on STJ was definitely disappointing. Even chicken parts were yucky IMO.

Spices are no question worth bringing...little baggies of the ones you use most would be perfect.

Dolphin Market is, in my experience less expensive than Starfish Market, and Love City Grocery in Coral Bay is even less. Of course you might need to go to all three to get everything on your list...We've done it!

No need to bring a huge cooler. A medium Playmate would be perfect. Just enough for frozen meat. The dry goods & spices can go in your suitcase.

We even vaccuum sealed bottles of wine (in case they broke in transit) because our favorite cheap CA reds were $20 or more in STJ. Buy liquor in the duty free shop in the airport on your way in too.
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Old Apr 29th, 2005, 03:33 PM
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Anytime we are going someplace where we will be cooking and want to save some money, I find that it is the little food items that really bulk up the food budget. For example, if you drink tea in the evening, you can save a good chunk of money by bringing 7 tea bags rather than having to buy a box of 40. Apply same principle to any item where you would not use up even the smallest unit you would buy (same idea as the spices)
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Old Apr 29th, 2005, 03:36 PM
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Sunnyboy,

Good point about the food needs of a family of 6 compared to two. I must defend my food bill with some examples
We drank bottled water 12pck was $25.00 Bag of salad $6.95, tinfoil $8.00 (a must for cooking on the grill) Ribeyes for 6 $45.00, Grouper $35.oo. Also having two teenage boys will add up. We also cooked breakfast and dinner in the villa, ate out for lunch. We also noted the stores in cruz bay were out of many things, in coral bay they were very small, limited with no meats. We also enjoy grilling on our patio and were also suprised how bad the fish was. We usually bring a small collapsible cooler for steaks and lunchmeat but were unable to do so because we stayed a night in stt, its never been a big deal, even with kids in tow.
Susan

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Old Apr 29th, 2005, 06:43 PM
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In regard to spices, I vaguely remember reading about a store in Cruz Bay that sell spices and the like. Anyone know the name and where it is?
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Old Apr 29th, 2005, 06:57 PM
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The place you are referring to is St. John Spice. Awesome selection of spices! Also...to respond to "tpatricco" and the wine dilemma. I know of a place in Cruz Bay called Mixology that has a very nice wine selection. I am not sure if they are still in business...they were in 2002. Non-domestic wines (non-US) tend to be a better value in the USVI due to their "duty-free" status. We found Australian wines to be the best value and there are a couple of Shirazs' that can hold a candle to the big CA reds!
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Old Apr 29th, 2005, 07:16 PM
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hi camille, how fun. you have brought up one of the major points of disagreement on this board.
i do take a Wheeled cooler. not the smaller ones as they are hard to carry in the airport and everywhere else too. we pack meat - steaks, chops, chicken, lamb racks travel well and grill well(last time took a pack of bacon for blt's), juices(canned type), often some homemade (or store bought) premade appetizers, butter!,and we packed a container of lobster meat and had lobster salad sands on dogs buns one afternoon on the beach after snorkeling. we were pretty sure we were cool at that moment.
you can seal-a-meal meats but leave the original packaging with usda seals showing (for customs). repackage dry stuff (cereal,pasta,coffee/tea) into ziplocs as open containers get stale fast in the islands.
and finally the cooler makes an excellent space for all the trinkets and island clothes you buy on the way home.
i do not find it difficult to pull one wheeled suitcase and 1 wheeled cooler and i think you would have to pack some very heavy things to exceed weight limit.
hope this helps.
now lets just hope nobody wants to swim with the dolphins...
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Old Apr 29th, 2005, 07:36 PM
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I can add to the food lugging as some put it! Yes it can be somewhat a bit of a pain. We typically travel over Thanksgiving to the Carib so normally bring the turkey as there's never any guarantee turkey will be available to purchase...and well Thanksgiving isn't the same without a turkey, however me personally barring all my travel companions thoughts I'm happy with fish for Thanksgiving. That said, we lug one about every year, twice we didn't and found it there, in Barbados once at $50 for about a 15lb and in Bonaire for a far more reasonable price, they even had hams, we cooked both.

If you really want to bring food, here is my best advice. Don't take a real "cooler", find a sturdy styrofoam cooler and fit that inside a sturdy cardboard box, tape it up and check it. You should not be charged for any extra luggage if you don't exceed the total requirements, a med sized box counts the same as a piece of luggage. The idea of styrofoam/cardboard box is its all disposable and you don't have to lug it back.

For what to pack in it, things stay frozen pretty good but whole chunks of meat fair best, vs. pork chops that thaw quick. Stick with whole poultry and roasts. Things you won't find in the islands are as someone else mentioned, fresh herbs, those are great to throw in. However, I will mention a bit of a comical time at customs in Trinidad when they wanted to see inside the cooler and were pulling out baggies of herbs, I was at same time saying, oh thats, parsely, thyme, oregano. Without being stripsearched we were on our way

If you're a fan a delicacies such as smoked salmon, actually that tucks in well inside the cooler or any small items to fill in the gaps....you may as well. Good cheeses, whatever. Just think about what you can't get there, but at the same time my mind always thinks about what we can get there but can't get here....thus my personal reluctance to drag a cooler along.

Long story short, I don't care to bring stuff, its too much of a pain though some in my group can't part with some items and in the end we're glad to have it. But if you were to ask me, skip it, unless its some important item such as a turkey for Thanksgiving...buy what is there, yep it costs more but you're on vacation and prices if you ate out would be even more. Its all an adventure, the shopping routine and entertaining.

Happy travels.
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Old Apr 30th, 2005, 04:16 AM
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Tho I travel, like Caribbean Soul, with a veritable kitchen (am literally packing up the larder today), the following packed into a carry-on are lightweight and always hard to find on island: Spices & herbs in Ziploc bags and then all in a plastic lidded jar; cheese, in original packages wrapped then in aluminum foil and Zip-loc bagged again, all wedged into a small flat lidded plastic container; rice for risotto; truffle oil/or butter (makes anything taste better).
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Old Apr 30th, 2005, 12:41 PM
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This thread is great - we're off to St. John in two weeks. I love to cook so I'm taking notes from all these good ideas (esp.the lobster roll idea, yum!) The idea of the styrofoam cooler in a cardboard box is inspired too, since we don't want to lug it back home.
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