It’s 6:30pm, and Amanda and I are just getting home. Hmmmm, not much in the kitchen to cook for dinner…luckily, there are several ventas all within two blocks of our house in Batahola. Ventas are like small convenience stores, usually on the porch or front room of someone’s home. While you can usually find all the staples such as rice, beans, oil and sugar, there isn’t much to choose from as far as produce is concerned, beyond the crucial onions, tomatoes and plantains. The venta is also a convenient place to buy prepaid minutes for our cell phones
Most of the items sold at the venta can be bought per unit rather than per package. You can get one egg for 15 cents, a stick of butter for about a dollar. Rice, beans, and sugar are sold per pound. You can buy a single roll of toilet paper, and even bring in an empty plastic soda pop bottle to refill with vegetable oil. This makes it easier for households that rely on a small daily cash income to buy only what they need for the next meal. Also, it’s not really common to stock up on cooking ingredients here, since not every home has a refrigerator.
The abundance of ventas makes me think that they’re a popular small business venture. Venta owners can start out small by buying a few products and gradually expand their inventory. And there is the convenience of working at home, where you can take care of your kids, clean or cook meals whenever there are no customers. According to statistics, most venta owners are women. However, it seems that I have seen multiple family members sharing the tasks in every venta I’ve been to.
For us, the best part thing about the ventas is that they are close enough that it only takes a few minutes to get last minute dinner or breakfast supplies. The problem is remembering to get everything we need in one trip!