What to know about Grocery Shopping in Mexico
Grocery shopping in Mexico can be a great experience if you know what to expect beforehand. While you will find many familiar products also available in the U.S., Canada, and other countries, you may be sorely disappointed if you expect to fulfill every single item on your grocery wish list. One of the wonderful things about the foods in Mexico is that there are fewer packaged goods, which means if you choose to cook while on your Mexico vacation, you can expect to be eating more whole foods. With that being said, you can find basics just about anywhere, including the local mom and pop corner store should you need something right away. There are several large national grocery stores in Mexico that offer a wide variety of goods, including clothing, sporting goods, electronics and more. Here is a rundown of what to expect when you go grocery shopping while on a Mexico vacation:
Fruits and vegetables are generally very fresh and inexpensive at the supermarket, although for even fresher and cheaper produce, you can visit your local produce market. Larger grocery stores carry many items you may not find in your local corner store ranging from bagged salad mixes to yellow lemons and snow peas, so they are a good resource for these types of things. As you walk around the produce section on your next Mexico vacation, take a minute to look over the fruits and vegetables you might not see back home. A number of exotic fruits are native to the country, making grocery shopping in Mexico all the more fruitful.
Meat, Fish, and Eggs
Most grocery stores carry a wide selection of freshly butchered meats at reasonable prices. Fresh fish and seafood are also widely available in most coastal areas like Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos, although this is often better purchased from the local fish market when possible. While it may seem strange at first, almost all eggs sold in Mexico are unrefrigerated. At grocery stores, they are generally sold by the dozen, packs of 18 or even 24, while the corner store may sell them by weight and you can buy as many or as few as you like (although they are placed in a bag so transport them carefully!)
Dairy products are extremely popular in Mexico, especially yogurt and crema (sour cream). Almost all yogurts are sweetened even when labeled “natural”, so check the label carefully if you want plain yogurt without added sugar (they are sold in major stores). Cheese lovers will want to indulge as Mexico is known to have a large variety of cheese. There are a few great varieties perfect for making quesadillas on your Mexico vacation, such as Oaxaca, Manchego, and Asadero, while others have a bolder flavor and are often crumbled atop refried beans, guacamole, and Chilaquiles, a famous Mexican breakfast. Butter often has additives and the flavor can be quite different than what you may get back home, so read labels and find one with a very short ingredient list! There are apps that can help you translate ingredient lists should you need it. Also, keep in mind that Mexico uses a different format for the date, placing the day before the month and year. So something that expires on February 1st will read 1/2/17, not the other way around as in the United States and other countries.
Just about every large grocery store in Mexico has an impressive bakery that turns out wonderfully fresh bread and pastries each day. You grab a large tray and a pair of tongs, pick out what you want and then take the tray over to a counter where your items will be bagged, priced and labeled so they are ready whenever you check out.
While there is a wider variety of packaged snack foods available than ever before, most items are distinctly Mexican. Crackers are not very popular and therefore selection is quite limited, while chips are everywhere you turn (flavors are typically different than back home with a hint of chile added to the recipe). There are many types of cookies including Oreos should your sweet tooth crave some. If you are looking for an extra special snack on your Mexico vacation, grab a few avocados, an onion, cilantro, limes, and a few tomatoes (and a serrano pepper if you like spice). Mix all the ingredients together for a delicious guacamole that goes perfectly with totopos (Mexican tortilla chips).
Teenagers and senior citizens bag groceries for tips, so give them a few pesos if you are feeling generous on your next Mexico vacation! These individuals rarely get paid by the store itself.