THE COST OF STAYING IN

Or, Part II of Moscow’s Cost of Living (go here for Part I – The Cost of Going Out).

Grocery prices in Moscow vary widely from one store to the next. In the area where I live there is only relatively large supermarket – Azbuka Vkusa (Alphabet of Taste), well-known for its sky-high prices and several incidents of selling expired produce. That’s why Azbuka stores are located almost exclusively in the Center. Needless to say, I do not shop there. Instead, on most weekends I head out to a much more reasonable Auchan – a French retailer that’s become popular in Russia over the last decade. There are 16 Auchan megastores in Moscow alone. There’s also a Pyatyorochka – a small “neighborhood” grocer, like a Gristedes in New York – next to my office, where I occasionally pop in for fresh kefir (fermented milk drink) before heading home.

Holiday madness as Auchan

Holiday madness as Auchan

Below is a selection of what I could call my family’s staple foods, acquired on last weekend’s shopping trip to Auchan (prices in rubles and USD, at $1=RR33; if you want to convert to Euros, it was at €1=RR45; roughly 2.2 lbs to a kilo, and so forth):

Milk, 1 liter – RR44 / $1.35
Chicken legs, raw, price per kilo – RR161.35 / $4.88
Apple juice, Russian, 2 liters, – RR68.05 / $
Bud (beer), 0.5 liter (16 oz) can – RR46.35 / $1.40
Sparkling water, Russian, 1.5 liters – RR22.42 / $0.68
Gourmet liver pate, price per kilo – RR521.55 / $15.80
Eggs, a package of 10 – RR52.65 / $1.60
Cucumbers, price per kilo – RR83.06 / $2.52
Cherry tomatoes, prepackaged, price per quart – RR102.95 / $3.12
Bananas, price per kilo – RR37.40 / $1.13
Herring, marinated, 150-gram package – RR46.05 / $1.40
Cheese ‘Rossiyskiy’ (like a less buttery Havarti), price per kilo, 50% off – RR323.95 / $9.80
Baguette (fresh and crusty) – RR9.90 / $0.30
Clementines, prepackaged, price per kilo – RR84.95 / $2.57

Other Russian staples that were not on this tab:

Kefir (a fermented milk drink that is a Russian staple), RR46 / $1.40 per liter
Smoked sausage (like salami) – RR350-900 ($11-27) per kilo 
Smoked salmon, unsliced and prepackaged in 300 gram pieces – RR289.30 / $8.75 (or RR 964 / $30 per kilo)
Vodka (because of course you want to know), starting at RR200 / $6 for a 0.5 liter bottle
Imported wine (France, Spain, Italy) – starting at RR200 / $6 per 0.75 liter bottle
Grains (especially popular for porridge) are pretty cheap, but I cannot think of a reference price at the moment.
 
You know you always wanted to see a vodka aisle in a Russian store!

You know you always wanted to see the vodka aisle in a Russian store!

It's a sausage-fest!

It’s a sausage-fest!

These numbers are comparable to what I would find at a Nash (Ours) – another popular grocery chain, and re a little bit lower than at Pyatorochka. At Azbuka Vkusa most of these items would be priced 20-100% higher, with some, like the bread, costing up to three times as much. Ditto for small corner stores (creatively named Produkty, or Groceries), at least in the center, where they take advantage of limited shopping options.

Welcome to my little corner of the world.

Welcome to my little corner of Moscow. I live right behind the bubble.

In the summer Muscovites prefer to buy their fruit, vegetables, berries and herbs at rynki, or farmers’ markets. Most of the produce at a rynok is actually not local, but shipped from Russia’s southern regions or the Near Abroad, but it still tastes better than most store-bought options. Some highly seasonal goodies though – like forest strawberries, gooseberries, wild porcini mushrooms – are best bought from little grandmas at informal open-air stalls by the Metro.

Other assorted staying-in expenditures in Moscow:

Rent – most apartments are rented out furnished. A spacious studio in the Center goes for RR50,000 / $1500 a month, not including utilities (those vary like crazy based on the neighborhood and building set-up, but heat and water are almost always included); go toward the end of a metro line, and that price will drop down to RR30,000 / $900. A two-bedroom apartment (a ‘three-room’, in Russian parlance) in the Center rents out for about RR100,000 / $3,000. It is almost guaranteed to be in an older building, most likely pre-war.

Internet, because what are you going to do without it if you’re staying in? – RR3600 / $110 to buy a multi-user router, then RR 800 / $24 per month for high-speed internet. For a single user I recommend a wireless Yota service, which plugs into a USB port. Annual subscription, which is the cheapest option by far, costs RR10,000 / $300.

Anything I missed? Please let me know if there’s a particular Moscow expenditure you’re curious about.

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30 thoughts on “THE COST OF STAYING IN

  1. Surprised to see that the groceries aren’t that much more expensive than here! In Auchan anyway 😉 Your little shop is so cute and tiny 😉 Rent is OUTRAGEOUS though!

    • I’m mostly concerned with the price of beer 🙂 RR46 for a 16 oz Bud is the cheapest I’ve found – RR85 is the most expensive I’ve seen, and it broke my heart!

  2. Your produce seems expensive, but your dairy, bread and meat seem pretty reasonable. But wow on the rent!
    During the 10+ years I was with Microsoft I never did get to travel to Moscow (my big regret, along with India). Anyway, I do remember though that Moscow had some of the highest hotel room rates of any international city. (We had a list of acceptable hotel prices, by city, to avoid triggering expense audits.) Moscow had crazy high limits, because apparently you couldn’t find a cheap hotel there. True?

    • Absolutely true. Now they are hostels and a handful of mid-range places, but in the good old Soviet days the only people who would visit would be diplomats and such, and so there were super expensive, ‘intourist’ (foreign traveler) places for them, and then really cheap crappy ones for Russian out-of-towners on official business. Nothing midrange. It is a liiiitle bit better right now, but not by much. I like to stay at cute B&Bs when I travel (did so in Rome, Prague, had friends do that in Paris) and there’s no equivalent of that either. It’s a big problem for our tourism.

    • Hm. I do, I do…but, as with any big question, it’s sort of complicated. For high-level professionals in banking, corporate, private medical, energy engineers etc the salaries are about the same as in the US and Europe, but after the first 6 months they are taxed at 13%. Which means A LOT of disposable income. For other, regular folk worker bees, the salaries are significantly lower (for example, a fast-food employee makes about $1000/month gross) but, again, as are taxes, plus anyone who’s from this region originally usually lives in a family-adjacent apartment (which were sort of leased by the Soviet government) as relatively low cost. Now, if you’re a Russian NOT from Moscow, well…I do not know how you survive.

      • Honestly, taxed at 13%?! Meine Güte how low. But thanks for the info, and yes, I know, it is tricky to answer these kind of questions as there are always so many levels and aspects to consider.

          • I actually meant to express surprise as I have heard many Russians complain about the taxes, which made me think they are very high over there 🙂 Naturally there are around the world many ways to organise the division between how much the state organises and how much it wants its citizens to pay for individually in their lives, and I believe all of these have their pros and cons.

          • Ha. Ok, I guess now it makes sense – under the soviet regime people didnt pay any (well, they got paid net amounts), so 0 to 13 is quite a bit I guess.

  3. Something I always appreciated in Moscow was the ability to live cheaply (aside from rent near the center, obvz). But groceries are very reasonably priced, especially for the staples (eggs, cereals, dairy, cabbage, etc). In Mytischi I lived next to a Spar and LOVED it. It was the perfect mix of variety and quality and without completely outrageous prices. When I moved to live with my husband near Khimki, the closest store was a Pyatorochka, and while it was okay for the very basics, was so, so lacking for anything else. Great job comparing the types of stores (produkty/hypermarkets/grocery store chains). Oh! I would mention both chains like Perekryestok, for being mid-range with quite a few options and the department store Stokmann as being a purveyor of many great imported/hard to find goods, which comes at a price, obviously.

    • Excellent points, all. I wrote mostly about the markets I am personally familiar with – is Perekryostok kind of like Pyatyorochka? And OMG Stockmann is still around? I remember it was a huge deal in the 90s, but I thought regular malls and Azbuka Vkusa had taken over. I know that I was advised to go to AV for hard to find imports, like Italian salad dressing.

      • Stokmann is around — they’re in big shopping centers (like the MEGAs). I love wandering around and just touching all of the expensive imported goods. Same goes for AV, since I can rarely bring myself to buy anything.

      • Perekryostok is the same company as Pyatorochka, but it’s way, way nicer and slightly pricier with a lot more options. It often seems to be in the basement level of shopping centers. There appear to be hundreds of them in Moscow/the Moscow region.. http://www.perekrestok.ru/shops/moscow/ (way more than I realized!)

        And yeah! Quite a few Stokmanns– they have the whole department store thing going on, too, so I think AV doesn’t offer that much competition?

  4. Hmm. I think I might disagree about rent. I rent out my 1 bedroom (2room with a decent kitchen, balcony, appliances incl. laundry machine, etc.) in a very nice neighborhood, next to diplomat’s neighborhood. on “Prospect Mira” for RR 38,000, which is $1,250 ish, right? And I just recently raised rent from RR30,000. I regularly make renovation there, etc. Obviously, It’s not located in a Stalin’s building but still it’s a very nice apartment, which is definitely larger than my rent-stabilized studio in NYC in UWS. It’s probably on-par rent-wise and size wise with my studio in Stamford, CT. Anyway, I believe that there is a stock of apartments for expats and stock of apartments for locals…

    • That might be. But I also know that my Russian coworkers rent studios (1-kom) for RR30,000 at places like Belyayevo. So maybe you should you’ve been giving it away practically for free! 🙂

  5. Yeah, I heard that apartments in Msocow were pretty expensive and quite a shock for those expecting “East European” prices. I’m aware that some of the hotel prices are insane.
    I do like the fact that you showed us the inside of a Russian supermarket ‘cos I like that sort of thing seeing what local people eat and drink, etc.
    Nice one!

    • Yeah I had to be super-stealthy do that, or risk being thrown out. But overall, they look more like huge American supermarkets than anything I’ve seen in France or Spain.

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