Often when we sit down to a meal as a family we will take turns sharing something we enjoy about living in Mexico, or something here we like. As the kids took turns sharing about some things they enjoy about Mexico the other day (Jude was mentioning his admiration of cinder block construction and Iris her love of being with her family) it occurred to me that I really enjoy grocery shopping here. Of course it’s a lot more comfortable now than it was at first when I couldn’t speak or understand any Spanish! I do not miss the days when I could not ask where something was or understand the vast array of questions I would be asked at the check out and I had no idea what they were saying! Now I understand when they are asking for donations to a charity, when they are requesting other variations of change or they want to know if I want more minutes on my phone, etc! There are several differences in the experience of grocery shopping here that I now really appreciate, so I thought I would share!
I’ll let you tag along with us and our puppy Marvel to my favorite grocery store here in the city, one my sister & brother in law introduced us to early on. It is called “Super Amigo”. After over a year of passing through their doors for groceries, I now do consider them my “Super friend”. 😀 Get ready for lots of pictures and my silly kiddos!
I love Super Amigo because it has a market feel and the prices are better than anywhere else. They also have a few items that I cannot get for a good deal unless I drive all the way down town. This grocer also sells a lot of stuff in bulk style and that’s nice.
Here Jude is standing in front of the “Salchichoneria” or delicatessen area of the store. Above his head you can see a case of “Chicharron”, fried pig skin which is super popular here in Mexico. I can’t say its too popular in our house yet… just give us a few more years.
Say “Queso!”! Get it? “Say Cheese!” “Say Queso!” Ha, I am cracking myself up over here! 😀 Cheese is really good here in Mexico. It’s fairly different than cheese in the USA-a total lack of added coloring for a start (like many other countries!). A large portion of the cheese we and the locals here use is actually Mennonite made. There are huge Mennonite areas in Mexico and one of the products they do a fabulous job producing is their cheese! But whether we buy “Queso Menonita” or other kinds of Mexican produced cheese, I have yet to buy a block I didn’t like!
One example of something I can only find here at Super Amigo are these blocks of “gold”. “Mantequilla Menonita”, Mennonite butter! There is nothing like it! Whenever it’s here, I get some! Super yummy!
This section is one of my favorites, dried spices, seeds, nuts, and dehydrated foods. There are only a few things I buy but it’s so beautiful and it smells great too! The little bags are good for balancing on small heads and there is always something new to try.
The farm fresh eggs are a bit tricky to perch in your cart and keep from falling but they are worth it for the good value! The kids get the job of transferring them into normal cartons when we get home. I have only broken three eggs in a year and a half buying them this way! I think I am doing well!
The bags of green stuff in the bottom corner of the above picture are diced “Nopales”. Nopales are cactus pads that are edible and very common in mexican dishes. I have had them in fresh salsas, in burritos and in cheese sauces and I enjoyed them in everyone of those ways. I love watching the employees in the stores when they are chopping off the poky parts of the cactus and dicing them up to be bagged and sold. Learning how to prepare nopales in many different ways is on my to do list! 🙂
This beautiful stuff to the left is called Piloncillo. It is raw unrefined cane sugar. It has a super rich taste similar to molases but is simply pure cane sugar. In order to use the “cones” of Piloncillo you have to break them up or grate them into powder. It tastes so good in things like granola, peanut sauce or homemade syrup.
As I am sure you know, Mexican food is full of peppers and often very spicy flavors! Though I could never break a record for eating the spiciest of things, there is no doubt that both Tom and my pallet for spice has grown a lot since moving here! But of course Tom does regret the time he tested a habanero pepper in a grocery store thinking it was a mini sweet bell pepper he had recently had. Ha! He won’t make that mistake again!
When we have all that we need it’s time to check out. In this store and in all others here in Mexico there are grocery baggers. Typically the grocery baggers are either senior citizens or youth… sometimes even young kids. Baggers work only for tips as they do not receive a wage from the grocery store. Sometimes there are very few working and sometimes there are so many that they have to take turns bagging so that everyone gets a fair turn. We enjoy seeing our “regular” baggers at the grocery store down our street and the kids get no shortage of admiration when a Grandpa or Gramma type is bagging. 🙂 They are always very sweet and will often push my cart out the door (even if a kid is in it) for me as I lead them to my vehicle and they help me unload my groceries and return my cart for me.
Baggers and unloaders are one thing I really like about shopping here. You rarely find a parking lot with a stray cart just sitting out and since a lot of parking lots are on hills here it’s super helpful to have someone holding your cart and kid while you open the car and unload groceries… so everything doesn’t roll away! Sometimes I don’t have change on me to give them a tip which is basically my worst nightmare but the very few times this has happened they don’t mind and are always polite and helpful anyway. But don’t get me wrong- I try very hard to always have change! 😛
At Super Amigo the kids love to ride in the little car ride at the check out. (This is the only store they do this in) Jude is probably too big but he doesn’t care and neither do I. Ha ha. So for a healthy 3 pesos ($0.16 US) they can ride and have a blast. Even the kids watching are highly entertained as well so, win-win!
Aside from Super Amigo there are many other grocery stores in the city here that I enjoy shopping at. There is a store called “Alsuper” that is right down the street from our house and super convenient for quick runs now and then. I’ve befriended one of the cashiers there so it’s fun to see her when she’s working.
One of the biggest adjustments I have had to make in shopping here in Mexico is that I can rarely find everything I am looking for in one store. As an American, I can be a little too concerned with time and sometimes I can be easily upset by how long something takes to get done. This is why in the area of shopping it can be frustrating if I go into a my shopping with “American” expectations that I will quickly get all that I need at one place.
As long as I have the right expectations and wisely plan my shopping trips when I am in different areas anyway, I can easily get what I need when I need it, even if it takes going to three different shops.
So there you have it, a brief glimpse into something super practical that happens in our lives (especially mine :D) every week and keeps us kicking!