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Cuban Food Rationing Booklet: Cuba, Through My Eyes - Vol. 2

In Cuba, the government gives families a food rationing book to use each month. And there is a particular bodega (market) you can only use for this. Each person in the family is allowed these items every month. You have to pay for this, but it is a smaller price. With 20 Cuban Pesos (Not even 1 US Dollar) you can buy what you need.

5 pounds of rice, 3 pounds of sugar, 2 pounds of beans, 5 eggs, 1 package of salt, half a liter of oil, 1 package of (4 ounces) of coffee, 1 chicken leg and 1 pound of soy hash what is the most stinky and disgusting thing you can never eat.

To children under 5 years and people with health problems, you can receive 1 pound of beef. This is not available every month. Sometimes one time every few months.

For children from 9 months to 2 years, you can receive 4 packages of powder milk and 5 cans of compote. Compote is like a strong fruit juice.

For children under 5 years, every other day, 1 liter of milk and for children from 5-9 years, 1 liter of soy yogurt.

Additional items each month are 2 soaps (one for the shower and one for make laundry) and a half a tube of toothpaste. Because my family was 4 people, they gave us 2 tubes of toothpaste.

When you go every month to the market to buy what the family needs, the person in the store will ask for your “Libreta” and write down what you have. If you are running out of rice or beans or any other product, you cannot buy from the bodega, you have to go to another market and pay more.

So the rest of the groceries you got to buy from markets who belong to the government, but the price of 1 pound of rice is anywhere between $5-8 Cuban pesos, a pound of beans $10-15 Cuban pesos, 1 egg $2, a package of chicken legs around 6 or 7 legs $ 4 CUC, meaning $100 Cuban pesos, 1 pound of pork $25-45, I mean everything for us, and according to a regular Cuban salary of $300-$400 Cuban pesos = $12-16 cuc, and I’m not counting the rest of the things like salad, or vegetables or pay for water, electricity, personal care and all the little details we all know we need, is really expensive.

Another interesting thing about my country is, we can buy chicken legs, but you will never find a chicken breast in the stores. The breast in Cuba is designated to tourists and restaurants. For example, Hotels, restaurants (paladar), even with money, you can’t find it, unless you buy from a person who works in this place, they steal and sell it.

Beef is 100% illegal!!!! If you own a cow and you want to kill it to eat you can go to jail for that. Like chicken, fish and seafood, you can’t find beef anywhere, just like I said before, only in hotels and restaurants and of course the black market.

So far what difference I see between the US and Cuba is that everything is available, but you need money. In Cuba, you can have all the money in the world, but can’t find what you need.

Thank you so much for reading. I will be posting much more about growing up and living in Cuba in the weeks to come.

Jany Novik

About the author

Jany Novik

Hi. I’m Jany Novik. I worked for Avalon as the cruise director aboard the flagship vessel, Avalon II in Jardines De La Reina, Cuba. I now live and work in the United States with my husband, Brett. I bring to Tidehead, years of “hands on” experience working for Avalon, strong relationships with Avalon guides and staff and a passion for providing a memorable experience for all of our guests.

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