(written for a fellow foodie who is coming this way soon)
Let me preface this by saying IMHO one can eat really well down here without bringing anything.
One example: the steaks in Mexican supermarkets are leaner here, but we see that as a GOOD (healthy) thing. We marinate ours with olive oil and balsamico and they are delicious. More expensive, U.S.-type, and probably imported from U.S. (more marbled) steaks CAN be found here at Costco. (>$25 a kilo I seem to recall, we don’t bother with them)
Uncooked meat wait to buy in Mexico, sometimes it’s a mad cow scare or swine flu (didn’t I just read about a bird flu thing going on in Europe?) or something that gets the attention of inspectors and they can make you discard items when you enter the country.
Example two: Some items are here, maybe not commonly found, but more expensive or less variety: quinoa is here and more costly (2x?) and I can’t recall seeing “red” or multicolor types
As food nerds and we HAVE the ability and opportunity to bring goodies down, so we DO! We are probably particularly spoiled based on the fabulous availability of food items in Northern California.
Here’s what’s on OUR running list: YRMV…depends on what you like and use a lot of!
- Last 2 drives down we have stopped at Corralitos southeast of Santa Cruz 831/722-2633 – We buy some of their smoked sausages…they will vacuum pack…we drive them down the baja in an iced cooler…then keep them in freezer for months. Favorites: coarse Polish, Bavarian, German. On rare occasions you’ll find some Johnsonville polish type sausage here.
- California wines – cost 2x and more down here, and price will only go up…one can enjoy the French, Auz, NZ flavors in Polynesia.
- Mexican wines we haven’t learned enough about (impression is good ones are more than we like to spend), we find some Chilean wines here we like in the $8-10 range.
- Premium liquors – if you have a Grey Goose or Bombay or Glenlivet, etc. habit…stock up.
- Precooked bacon, keeps a long time in fridge or freezer, no grease mess from cooking raw bacon Costco Cabo often carries, possibly PV Costco
- kirkland canned chicken
- kirkland albacore tuna, pretty sure costco cabo has
- pancetta and proscuitto
- kirkland canned smoked salmon is decent too, pretty sure costco cabo has
- good Italian sausage! – In general, the sausage down here seems to be made with leaner pork, so they add salad OIL to the sausage. Also seasonings are not as good IMHO….Exception is two vendors at the La Paz farmer’s market – a wonderful German girl Manuela who makes some lovely sausage (brats) and pate, smoked pork, baloney, and other treats. Also a gringo couple making decent Italian sausage, quiches, and other savories.
- your favorite nuts, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, smokehouse almonds, pignolis, etc. – somewhat available here but pricey, Cabo prices for big bags of nuts are not bad
- good hard cheeses – some imported cheese available here but pricey we like dry gouda, dry jack, grana padano, asiago, that basque cheese from TJs or costco
- those great trader joes trail mix varieties
- dark chocolate
- canned mild green chiles (would you believe it! Often hard to find here)
- crushed ginger in the jar
- Dijon mustard (yellow ubiquitous, spicy brown fairly common, 200 gr Maille Dijon – 500p)
- Soba noodles (rice noodle and/or bean threads can be found)
- Kalamata & nicoise olives (plain black and green available)
- Perhaps your favorite pickles, sweet and dill relishes and some selection ARE available…I make a lot of “refrigerator pickles” with cucumber and/or chayote
- Pastas – FWIW, barilla often found, some whole wheat varieties in various brands becoming more common
- Tomato paste in the tube
- Canned water chestnuts
- Basmati or Jasmine rice, white or brown
- Peanut butter (cheaper in U.S. and more varieties)…watch out for a Mexican one (skippy?) with honey added YEEEECH! We won’t make THAT mistake again!
- Sesame oil, sometimes sold as mixed with veg oil, occasionally full strength is available
- marinated eggplant in a jar, other goodies you might find in a mid-east market (couscous is here)
- anchovy paste in the tube
- poppy seeds (can’t sell in mexico?)
- good paprika, variety chili powders – like ancho, chipotle (maybe they are here, just easy to bring down from U.S.)
- not sure I’ve seen bulgur here, but only use occasionally
- liquid agave sweetener (double the price here?)
- your favorite dried fruits from Trader Joes (raisins common)
- Red wine vinegar in gallon size, finally found one in Loreto last week! Smaller sizes available in misc brands…Regina, carbonelle are maybe the most familiar.
- I like those small bottles of delallo lemon juice, don’t take up a lot of room in the reefer once opened. (Nob Hill in San Carlos). WHEN you find lemon juice it’s going to be reallemon or a generic. Fresh LEMONS are not common, limes of course ubiquitous.
- Marinated artichoke hearts – if you use a lot, get a couple big jars from US Costco, I think I have seen in Cabo.
- Canned portabella mushrooms (Giorgio brand), canned buttons commonly available
- I’ve been bringing down those “litehouse” brand freeze-dried spices, have not formulated a strong opinion as to their quality. decent traditional spice selection here – have not seen oddball flavors like “herbs de provence” and celery flakes – fresh herbs other than cilantro and parsley are a rarity. Bi-weekly (albeit small) farmer’s market in La Paz often has nice fresh Basil, arugula, some other goodies like that.
- columbus or molinari salami those big chubs can be unrefrigerated for weeks (not found @ Mexico Costcos) ****
- good crackers, (lots of cookies sold here, much less selection of crackers) – one can find Breton-type or Dare and Stacey’s pita chips available at Costco
- good heavy duty Reynolds aluminum foil and Kirkland stretch-tite plastic wrap
- trash COMPACTOR bags…sturdier than regular kitchen bags if for storing trash while traveling
- ESPECIALLY IF YOU HAVE A DOUBLE SINK to store it in – buy the biggest that will fit SNAPWARE plastic box and lid for your “biodegradable trash” (veg peels, etc. stuff that can go overboard)…it will allow your “regular” trash to stay drier and sweet smelling until you find somewhere ashore to dump it or burn it.
- canned diced tomatoes – avail. from Costco Cabo
- ziploc bags – pricey here
- Sugar-free hard candy, such as Jolly Rancher
- Crispy chow mein noodles, guilty pleasure
- Good black teas (earl grey, Darjeeling, English breakfast, etc.) and DECAF, lipton seen often
- Jasmine green tea (I like a lot of different teas)
- I also like the instant green tea singles you can get at Japanese markets, one gets tired drinking plain water
- Coffee – we DO find stuff we like here – Blason espresso style for one, but also bring down some dark roasts: Peets, Starbucks, Archer farms (nice coffee bean purveyor in La Paz, also La Cruz farmer’s market has some decent vendors)
- Brown sushi rice, or fancy asian rices kagayaki etc.
- Sugar free Torani coffee syrups (I like the Vanilla)
- Canned bean sprouts
- Instant liquid stock (chicken, veg, beef, etc.) concentrate…those small packets (like Swanson or TJs) that make a cup or so of broth
- Sharp or extra sharp cheddar
- SodaStream CO2 cartridges and flavor syrups, if you’re “into” that…
- Dolmas canned, i.e.: stuffed grape leaves, nice treat
- Lipton instant onion soup mix, good in the pressure cooker (I bought a smaller one for the boat than I have at home – a 4 qt Fagor, use it a lot for boiling pasta and other non-pressure tasks)
- Precooked wild rice (trader joe’s seems to have discontinued theirs but I have found another decent one at target – “simply balanced”), nice change from other carbs
- If you want some upper end bread flour (king Arthur etc.), rarely seen here – there’s lots of ordinary” white and whole flour around…we are just starting to play with bread making. “No Knead baked in enamel/cast iron – le crueset-type pan (we have a cheaper lodge, is short enough to barely fit with oven rack removed) – has been most successful for us so far. Yeast is available, blocks more commonly found than individual packets.
- Packets from bay area Asian markets like hot and sour soup mix, thai curry (Lobo and Aroy-D are two brands) seasonings
- Crystal light sugar free flavors singles that you can add to bottled water (or 16 oz servings)
- good paper plates (if you wonder where all the stryofoam went, it is here in mexico)
- paper cocktail napkins, white or designs (if you like that sort of thing!)
- parchment paper
**** fairly often one can find SLICED Columbus salami (and turkey and chicken) at COSTCO CABO and PV…Bill likes his sandwiches! me too
While I was hunting some info from some past receipts (I scan most – too much time on my hands!), here are some prices from some miscellaneous items purchased at Mex. chain grocery stores during late 2013 & 2014. One CAN eat inexpensively here if one focuses on the basics, but I have a feeling we spend as much on groceries down here as we would in the U.S.
Exchange rate floats around 13p/dollar
Canned corn, Delmonte 9 p – so about $0.70
Barilla pasta, 500 gr 43.8p – so about $3.36/LB
Frozen peas, 500 gr 28.9p
Rice wine vinegar 40p
Ocean spray cranberry sauce (yep!) 39p
Smucker’s orange marmalade 34.7p
Canned garbanzos 439 gr 18.1p
Cirio pasta sauce 190gr 91.2 versus TJ’s Marinara for $1.29 Hunts canned pasta sauce/mushroom @ 15p (not really impressed with any, I keep trying different flavors, doctor them up with stuff occasionally if I am not too lazy. We don’t make “homemade” pasta gravy aboard as I don’t want to run the stove all day nor fill my freezer with the gallon of finished sauce!)
Generic brand canned green beans 10.8p (S&W brand sometimes found)
Shallots, fresh (hard to find) 169p/KG!
Orowheat sliced bread 40p
Diced tomatoes can 32p
Heinz yellow mustard 17.5p
Sliced provolone (6-8 oz) 61p
Coconut milk, canned (thai cooking!) 400 ml, 30p
Hellmans Mayo 350gr 18.5 (available almost everywhere!)
UHT milk, Lala brand 1L 15-16p
Sushi nori 30p
Canned mandarin oranges 17p
Ground sirloin 119p/kg
Chicken breast (probably were boneless) 75p/kg
Boneless ribeye steaks 160p/kg
Roast whole chicken 76p
Wonton skins (forgot if fresh or frozen, 454 gr – 24p
Tillamook sharp cheddar (rarely found) 10-12 oz? 57.6p
UHT orange juice, 1L, Jumex 23.2p
Kikkoman soy sauce 296ml – 55p (cheaper in US!)
Borges olive oil 500 ml 69.9p I like some of the ones from TJ’s, also bring some down from fav spot in Kelseyville
Danon 150gr greek yogurt, plain 8.5p
1L size fruit flavored yogurts, Danon or Lala or Yoplait for breakfast – about 24p