Food costs, January 2011

After I posted my blog about grocery shopping in Jocotepec, faithful reader Joe J. commented that he would like to know what things cost down here, foodwise.  This morning I did a mercado/abarrote/Aurrera Bodega run and jotted down a few prices. 

The fruit and vegetable prices are all from the mercado and another shop just down the street from the mercado that sells only fruits, vegetables, chilies and herbs. 

With one exception, the prices are all for a kilo of product … which is about 2.2 pounds.  And I will use today’s peso to dollar conversion rate which, at 12.07 pesos to the dollar, isn’t particularly good.  But it’s better than 10:1, which is what it was when I moved here in April of 2008.  To do a quick calculation from kilos to pounds, just divide the per kilo cost by two.  That will get you in the neighborhood of my costs so you can compare it to your own costs in the US.    

Tomatoes … Roma size and style = $6MX per kilo = 50 cents US per kilo;

Tangerines = $3.50 per kilo = 28 cents US per kilo;

Oranges = $3.50 per kilo = 28 cents US;

White potatoes … reminiscent of Yukon gold style = $11 per kilo = ninety one cents;

Bananas = $7 per kilo = 58 cents US;

Large white onions = $10 per kilo = 83 cents US;

Carrots = $8MX per kilo = 66 cents US;

Cantaloupe = $8MX per kilo = 66 cents US; and

One head of iceberg type lettuce = $4MX = 33 cents US a head. 

Oh, and dried beans cost between $10MX a kilo and $12.50MX a kilo, so we’re talking about 42 cents a pound. 

At Aurrera Bodega, our Wal*Mart offshoot “supermarket” in Joco, I checked on a few things as well.  Packaged goods come in varying sizes, so you’ll have to just check the standard sized boxes and bags to get an idea of how things compare.

Special K cereal, 380 grams … not a huge box, but a large one = $28MX = $2.32US;

Corn flakes, Mexican brand, 660 grams … a HUGE box = $20.60MX = $1.71US;

Sugar, standard type, i.e. not refined, 2 kilos = $30MX = $2.48US;

Sugar, refined, 2 kilos = $40MX = $3.31US;

White rice, 1 kilo bag = $13MX average, depending on quality =  $1.08US;

Pasta, dry, 220 gram bag = $3.60MX = 30 cents US;

Dannon yogurt, 1 kilogram large container = $21.70MX = $1.80US;

Orange juice, 2 litres = $25MX = $2.07US;

Milk, 1 litre plastic jug = $11MX = ninety one cents US;

Philly cream cheese, 6 3/4 ounce size = $15.88MX = $1.32US;

Sour cream, 450 gram container = $14.88 = $1.23US;

Refried black beans, large 580 gram can = $13MX = $1.08US.

I only checked a couple of kinds of meat at the carnicerias.  Pork was averaging about $62MX a kilo … remember, 2.2 pounds … $5.14US, or about $2.34US a pound.  Ground beef was about $72MX a kilo, or about $2.71US a pound.

Most Mexicans in Joco don’t eat a lot of beef or pork and you can probably see why!  Chicken, which I forgot to price, is MUCH less expensive and is the meat of choice for most people here.  Oh, one thing, though, when you compare the cost of ground beef at your local grocery with the price here, remember that the ground beef here has basically NO fat in it, so compare the highest priced hamburger at your store with the carnicerias’ cost.

Hope this has given you some idea of what it costs to feed yourself here.  And it should be obvious that if you “eat like a Mexican,” that is, lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and rice and beans, you can get a lot for not much.  You’ll also notice that I didn’t give you the cost of tortillas, a Mexican meal staple.  Suffice to say that even if you are buying your tortillas, which are almost always corn tortillas here, not flour, you’re spending maybe a penny or two US for each one!

About Barbara

in april of 2008, i moved from the united states to mexico. during my working days, i held lots and lots of jobs....almost all chosen because they were fun or interesting instead of how much they paid. when i started thinking about retirement (in my 40s), i realized that i would never be able to retire to a country where english was the native language. and although i had traveled to every state in the US -- and lived in lots of them -- i had never been outside the country with the exception of canada and mexico. and since you now know that i could never afford to retire in canada (even to the french-speaking area), mexico won by default.
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8 Responses to Food costs, January 2011

  1. Michael says:

    Oh lord! 25cents a pound for my favorite vegetable? We just paid 1.74 per pound at Walmart. Sometimes our local Food Farm has specials on tomatoes for around 1.00 to 1.25. I’d move down there just for the tomatoes.

    • Barbara says:

      well, michael, you DO need to know that the tomatoes down here are not as tasty as some of those in the US. they’re great for making sauces and salsas, but to just slice and eat, they don’t compare to the really good tomatoes in the US. and by “really good” i don’t mean the ones that you normally buy in the grocery there which are also pretty tasteless in my opinion.

      i’ve been told that there’s something in the soil here that makes growing large, very flavorful tomatoes difficult.

  2. Craig says:

    Ms B,
    My last shopping excursion while in exile in Houston, TX (12/27) was of moderate interest to Jonnie and as it’s the topic of discussion today I’ll share my report with you and your vast readership. The first column is my best estimate of MXN prices based on Soriana, Walmart, etc. and the bottom line total was what was charged at Food Town, a relatively cheap-o, non-deluxe grocer, nothing like HEB, Randall’s or Kroger:

    120 2- RB multi-meat deluxe frozen pizzas
    50 2- 15 oz cans Wolf chili (no beans)
    20 2- cans kidney beans (I hope that’s what you said)
    40 2- 15 oz cans whole tomatoes (store brand)
    30 1- 16 oz pkg Skinner Vermicelli
    20 1- 1/2 gal milk
    20 1- frozen OJ
    15 1- Parade brand mac & cheeze
    35 1- 16 oz jar Jif PB
    25 1- wheat bread (store brand)
    25 1- lb 80/20 hamburger
    55 1- 5-link pkg Italian sausage (mild)
    455 MXN vs. 23.70 U$D actual or a 54% increase at 12.5/1 exchange rate.

    Here was my take on it which isn’t meant to be contradictory but supplementary.

    I think the only bargains in food products down there are in fresh produce. Meats are breakeven for what we know to be definite lower quality. Prepared foods, like frozen pizzas, faggetaboutit – no way, José. If it isn’t what the average guy buys and consumes its outtasight. Expanding on that theme, take electronics, electricity, phone, and internet. Only the essentials or minimum usage consumption levels are reasonable but not what I’d consider a bargain. And that’s what makes it difficult for typical US immigrants to adjust. The waste and excess in this country (US) is amazing and reprogramming yourself to avoid the extraordinary selective (=rip-off) costs that would result down there is a necessity.

    • Barbara says:

      craig, you are, of course, correct. some things either are not available here or are available but very expensive. i get delicious “mexican” recipes from a friend in the US, but invariably they call for ingredients that are too expensive or unavailable here.

      but there’s no way that i could live in the US for what it costs me to live down here. the primary reason for that: health insurance. paying for health insurance in the US would take my entire social security check. here in mexico, i have the national health insurance for which i pay about $300US a year. yes, a year. it only pays for care at government clinics and hospitals, but it IS health insurance.

      and i, for one, really like the graduated plan that the electric company here in mexico uses. you don’t just pay more if you use more; if you have a lot of electrical appliances and/or are wasteful with your usage, you pay a lot more for every kilowatt hour.

      so, over all, i think i live a much better life here for $10,000US a year than i ever could in the US.

  3. Gigi says:

    I Barb! Here in Bastrop, TX, I just asked a friend to recommend somewhere to get my hair cut. It would be $40 (plus tip). I just can’t bring myself to do it – my FAVORITE haircutter ever in Jocotepec charges 50 pesos!

    • Barbara says:

      yeah, gigi, we forget about things like that! and about the cost of buying my high blood pressure meds over the counter at less cost and without the added cost of having to go to a doctor just to get the prescription renewed.

  4. Michael says:

    Nothing to do with the price of food, but Karen has to go to dentist tomorrow. Her molar cracked. Root canal starts at 2300.00 and extraction is 298.00 + 98.00 exam and xray fee. In MONTANA of all places. Most of our population don’t even earn a living wage unless they work 2 or 3 jobs. And in spite of what many of our politicians want us to do there is just about no way to “shop” for medical services. This is not like consumer electronics. Call around and you find that most of the docs are just about charging the same prices. So what are dental prices down in your area???

  5. From Craig’s comments, re. Houston Trip
    I skipped items that are available in Joco or Guad and the prices and quality were equal, e.g. milk
    RedBarron multi-meat deluxe frozen pizzas – Costco’s own brand 120p
    15 oz cans Wolf chili (no beans) – No substitution possible and unavailable at any price as far as I know. We have our “burros” bring this down quarterly.
    kidney beans (I hope that’s what you said). Ditto and I was surprised that such a frijole oriented culture had not discovered this delicious legume.
    15 oz cans whole tomatoes (store brand) – Costco, but costly. Del Monte, don’t remember the cost, but sometimes the price is not the thing.
    Frozen OJ – Even the wife doesn’t mind the juicing with prices so low and the taste just can’t be beat.
    Parade brand mac & cheeze – Kraft and local brands available at U.S. prices.
    16 oz jar Jif PB – Walmart in Ajijic or Guad. Think it’s even available at Mega.
    80/20 hamburger – Just a note for Joco and especially Guad shoppers. Beware of hamburger patties and other beef products with brands like “America’s Best” or “Texas Prime” and other U.S. style names. I grabbed one of these packages in a Walmart that said something like “USDA Choice” or something to that effect. After just one burger I said “Wha?!?!”. On closer inspection I found they were MX products with questionable ingredients.
    Italian sausage (mild) – For a very decent mild Italian sausage all you have to do is go to the Joco Mercado, left (west) side, last carniceria before the west entry door. Sorry, I forget his stall number. He normally has Italian, oft times gringo breakfast, and can make several other varieties given a few days to a week. Unfortunately I have not been able to get the hot-sweet variety of Italian sausage down this way.

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