Types Of Markets
You’ll find a lot of different markets around Mexico, with a little bit of overlap between them, but if you know what you’re looking for and where you’re looking, you can really stretch your budget farther and get fresher food. Some of the more important types of market to know:
- Hypermarket – stores like Soriana, HEB, Costco, and Walmart sell everything you need in one place. I recommend stocking up on staples like oil, spices, and snacks here.
- Mercados – aka farmer’s markets, these are where you should do the bulk of your shopping for produce. Depending on what city you’re in, these will run daily or weekly. Designed for locals, be prepared to pay with cash, and don’t be surprised when the total cost is even lower than you thought. This and the following types of shops are the best way to put cash back into the local economy.
- Tienditas – these are like small convenience stores that may specialize in vegetables or fruits, but you can likely find other convenience store staples and last minute beans, tortillas, or soft drinks here.
- Carnicería – among other specialized stores, this one seemed to be the most common. They sell cuts of meat and maybe some common cheeses. If you’re not comfortable with what you want or asking for it here, you can find common meats at the larger super/hypermarkets.
- Oxxo – At the very least, you’ll run into a lot of Oxxo stores. They don’t have produce, but they do have slightly higher priced items and they accept card (tarjeta.) We picked up bottles of water.
Buying Your Kitchen Staples
Head to a local supermarket to load up on the items that will bulk up your meal like rice, pasta, or beans. I also like getting my butter here because cremerias aren’t always available to purchase it closer to home. This would also be the time to grab any products like paper towels, soap, or foil.
Buying Fresh Produce
Get ready to open your mind and have fun with this part. The produce in Mexico is going to be fresher, cheaper, and different than what you may be used to in the U.S. I recommend loading up on staples during your supermarket trips, but just grabbing a couple things of produce at a time from more local tienditas to ensure freshness. These are plentiful so don’t feel like you’ll have to trek out across town if you forget a lime or onion.
You may go out with a specific recipe in mind, but keep a backup or two in mind in case you can’t find one. I went out to grab a lemon for a calamari pasta, but had to switch to a roma tomato and garlic instead when I couldn’t find a lemon.
Here are a few key, helpful tips for when you’re grocery shopping in Mexico:
- Take a tote bag with you. In January 2020, Mexico began banning single-use plastics which includes the plastic bags commonly used to transport your groceries. I recommend this Osprey totepack which converts from personal item carry-on to useful tote bag when I’ve arrived to my destination.
- Eggs don’t need refrigerated. Eggs in the United States are thoroughly washed to reduce salmonella, in the process destroying the protective cuticle layer of the egg. In Mexico and most of the world, the egg is not washed, leaving the protective layer intact and the chickens are, instead, vaccinated against salmonella.
- Ditto for milk not needing refrigerated. If you pick up a carton of milk, it’s likely pasteurized in a different manner than what you’ll find in the U.S. or Canada. The milk in Mexico (and most of the world) is heated to a higher temperature (more costly to do it this way) which gives the milk a much longer shelf-life than it’s fridge-ridden counterpart.
- Quick conversion: 1kg = 2.2lbs. Similarly 1lb = 0.45kg (450g).
- Phrases to know when grocery shopping in Mexico:
- ¿Aceptan tarjeta (de crédito/débito)? – do you accept (credit/debit) card
- Solo efectivo – cash only.
- ¿Cuánto cuesta? – how much is it?
- No necesito una bolsa – I don’t need a bag. (Use your tote bag and save the world, one piece of plastic at a time.)
- Gracias – thank you. (The easiest way to be a good person.)
5 thoughts on “How To Grocery Shop In Mexico”
You really don’t need to refrigerate your milk?
Once it’s been opened, the sterile packaging can’t keep it as safe and should be put in the fridge. Before that, it can sit out in the pantry for months.