The Art of Grocery Shopping in Mexico

February 8, 2017           

The Quest for Bottled Water

As is generally the case in the Latin American countries I’ve visited, there are a LOT of little stores that have a very limited selection of items. Many have cold drinks and lots of snack food. I went to these types of stores to buy water before I found a better solution. Now I have huge bottles of water delivered. You need a dispenser for them; my neighbor helped me out with that.

Before I was getting my water delivered, I found a place near my apartment that sold cold 1.5L bottles of water for 11 pesos, which I thought was pretty good—that’s about 50 cents. Then, another day, I got really lucky and found a 5 liter bottle at the absolute closest store for only 16 pesos! Clearly, the cost of water varies widely.

Boutique Grocery Stores

I’ve found places to buy organic food. It’s pricier than conventional, of course, but it’s nice to have the option. There’s a weekly organic market on Saturday mornings, too. There are also a couple of stores that are open all week that sell exclusively organic food – Natura and Via Organico. Via Organico also has a small restaurant that serves organic food.

Natura is the first grocery store I went to upon my arrival in San Miguel. It looks like a “boutique” grocery store. Instead of the shelves being crowded and overflowing with cans and jars, this store has a few bottles of olive oil and coconut oil sitting on the shelves as if they’re decorations.Boutique tiendaAll I can figure is that they don’t have the resources to buy enough to fill the shelves so they buy what they can afford and what they believe they can sell. Natura always seems to be busy and they do have a plentiful selection of produce.

I also saw this in another store (not organic) I’ve stopped in a couple times. It just seems to carry things that come in jars and bottles. I found mayonnaise and ketchup there.

The Challenge of Finding Pickle Relish

These days, no other salad dressing appeals to me like Thousand Island dressing does. I found a bottle here, but was not very impressed with it. So, I decided to make my own since I learned that it’s pretty easy to make. The challenge for me was to find all the ingredients. I found the catsup, mayonnaise and vinegar at various little stores. The sweet pickle relish was the biggest challenge. I had to go to “La Comer” for that, after scouring the rest of the stores in the city for it and not finding it.

Another thing I noticed at a couple of the small stores is they wipe the dust off your purchase as part of the check-out process. They did this to a bag of potato chips at one store and a bottle of water at another store. It’s nice to see this level of customer service.

How to Avoid Getting Traveler’s Diarrhea (at least in Theory)

When you come to Mexico, drink bottled water or other purified water. It’s okay to brush your teeth with tap water, though.

I have been eating salads every day. I started out with organic greens, which is the same stuff in plastic  containers I was buying in the U.S.

However, over the weekend, I went to the organic market that takes place on Saturdays. I bought a big head of green leaf lettuce and a bag of spinach. I made one salad from that before going to dinner at some friends’ house.

My friends told me that when you eat raw produce that grows in the dirt (i.e. not up in a tree), you must always disinfect it with a solution that contains iodine. This is because growers sometimes use untreated water to water the crops. I got a little freaked out and made myself feel slightly sick when I heard that.

Disinfecting Produce You’ll Eat Raw is Essential

So, I went to La Comer again, the next day, and bought the disinfecting solution. It’s now a nightly ritual to soak my greens, tomatoes and apples in the solution for 15 minutes. I know, the apple is over-kill, but one cannot be too safe. Another option would be to peel the apple.

Well, I missed something because I did get traveler’s diarrhea at the end of my second week in San Miguel…not a pleasant experience, for sure. I’m going to blame an under-cooked hamburger I had 2 days before getting sick. I started disinfecting my produce 4 days before I got sick, so I don’t think produce caused my illness.

Since getting sick, I learned that there are some great doctors in SMA who speak English as well as some European languages. I’ve been told that they even make house calls for only 300 pesos (about $15USD). I didn’t need to see a doctor, but it’s nice to know where to find good ones if I ever need one.

There are still more observations and stories that I’ll be sending out soon, so stay tuned.

I welcome your comments and questions in the comment section under each article.

Yours in prosperity,
Sophia Hilton (A Savvy Woman)

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