As we settle into our first days as “snow birds” in Playa del Carmen, Mexico we scoped out the local grocery supermarkets. Two of the bigger ones here are Chedraui and Soriana. The Chedraui is much fancier and tourist centric with slightly higher prices, but beautiful selection and presentation with lots of high priced liquor.
Although it is tempting to try to find the brands that we are familiar with in the stores, we do prefer to find a Mexican equivalent, which is in keeping with the “buy local” philosophy, plus they tend to be less expensive than the imported brands.
The other BIG challenge is that there is virtually NO ENGLISH on any of the product labels. So the easy solution to this problem is using the IMAGE version of Google Translate. It lets you simply point to a product label with your phone camera, and it re-displays a translated version of that label on your phone. You do need a phone data plan to use this feature, but it’s invaluable. See sample photos at the bottom of this post.
The seemingly simple task of buying Milk. First of all milk is NOT in the cooler section – it is sold in BOXES on the regular shelves. – I prefer “homogenized” whereas Cathy prefers low fat. We knew “Leche” is spanish for milk, but all the other aspects could be challenging. Eventually I figured out that RED is usually my homogenized milk preference!
Some distinctly Mexican unique foods:
I guess they have a problem with people stealing the chocolate sauce, because there were these cute little sombreros (Security devices) on selected items. Also in the cereal section, there are random white labels covering up things on the cereal boxes that might “attract” kids to un-healthy cereal choices!
Fresh fish, beef and chicken
Sampling of brands and prices
(Canadian = 7% of Mexican, MX$100 = CAD$7, or US$5)
Getting bottled WATER
Bottled water is very important here, since the water that leaves the city water plant is clean and filtered, but the pipes delivering the water to buildings are always suspect. Therefore even brushing teeth should be done with bottled water. So this of course spawns a whole sub-industry of bottled water and its delivery. Although every corner store and the grocery stores sell it, we found a personalized water delivery service guy with his cool motorbike truck, that can park in motor cycle zones, who charges even less!
Using Google Translate
Here are some screen shots of using the photo mode of Google translate. Example trying to read meat labels to find the best before date. Plus when you turn your smart phone sideways (landscape) the translated words fill up the whole screen, so you can show a clerk who is behind plexiglass Covid windows.
Hard to get Expat items
Although our preference is to buy local and adapt to the Mexican choices, there are a few items that are hard to give up.
|Cheddar Cheese in brick – blocks||Most all the cheese here seems to be white, like gouda and mozzarella, and is generally in thin slices for sandwiches, not as a brick or block. There are “American” cheese slices, which look like Kraft cheese slices.|
|Guinness Beer||Most local beer seems to be the lighter variety, more like Corona. There is a Mexican “dark” beer (Modello – negra) which is not a stout like Guinness. Eventually I did find a bar on 5th that sells Guinness in cans (“garbage” according to the waiter). And I picked up a few other local Stouts. Its an expensive way to buy beer at pub prices, but I am told Walmart and other places sell some of the local stouts.|