Sunday, July 31, 2011

Where to Buy Groceries in Mexico?

This weekend makes it officially 4 weeks in Mexico. We’ve learned a thing or two, adapting to the local environment. For one, where to find all our essential groceries without going to Walmart, Costco, those ubiquitous evil empires, they are all over Mexico…but we’ve been avoiding those for now.

For dog food, our go-to place is Oxxo. Imagine a convenient store attached to a gas station, except there’s no gas station and the place carries some elemental groceries (cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, eggs), the cheapest beer in town and believe it or not...Pedigree kibble. We’ve found Oxxos everywhere we’ve traveled so it’s a sure bet for us and for our doggies.

Get your dog food here

For the staples (bread, milk, coffee, butter, olive oil, tuna), we head for the local chains like Farmacia Guadalajara. Like the name suggests, it is a pharmacy but with an identity crisis. As you enter, you smell the freshly baked pastries, cookies and bolillos (mexican baguettes). Wait, there’s an actual oven in the middle of the store? Every now and then, a pharmacist comes running to pull out a lovely tray of golden apple turnovers from the hot oven. Along the aisles…cleaning supplies, canned chilis, toilet paper, shaving cream, fresh cheeses, deli meats…and did I mention it's  a full functioning pharmacy? In any case, Farmacia Guadalajara, you've got me hooked...the place for meds and breads.

For fruits and veggies, we explore the local markets with the rainbow colors of verduras and fruitas. Yes, so fresh that you can actually see the army of ants carrying away the sweet ripened pinas (pineapples). My favorite and memorable encounters are the local tiendas or shops (usually run by the mama or papa). In Sayulita, the fresh basil sitting in the coffee can next to the cash register was planted by the owner’s wife. In San Miguel del Allende, at one tiny store, I asked grandpa, the owner if he had aguacates or avocadoes. He yells to the next room, no apparent door separates the living space inside his miniature tienda. Grandma’s on the bed, both feet up. ”Where did you put the avocadoes and how much do they cost again?” He disappears for a momentito and comes back with a bag that dwelled in a mysterious nook or cranny...fireplace, behind the laundry or under the bed? It just goes to show you, it never hurts to ask.

The produce is divine. Cream and milk that smells like heaven. Eggs with yolks as intense as a spanish sunset. Sugary mangoes, lustful guavas, forest green avocados, bright purple onions, tasty tomatoes…godly gifts, that just want to make you run immediately to a kitchen never to leave until you’ve fully experienced their poetic magic.

Mexico has been good to us and our money belts. Eating where locals eat, avoiding the turistas (wherever we can...its hard to avoid ourselves), shopping where the locals shop and cooking are helping us save some serious queso. And for that, I’m very grateful and very full.

By Mai Brehaut

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