The Space for Expatriates
The good folks at Wordpress suggested that I re-visit some of the themes that were read most last year. Makes sense to me, if that’s the information people are looking it should be as up-to-date as I can make it. One of the most common searches was the cost of living. So, since I just happen to have last week’s grocery receipt sitting on my desk waiting for someone to pick it up (why someone would want my grocery receipt is another blog) let’s talk about what I spent on groceries last Saturday.
First, remember that we pay for kilos of product in pesos. A kilo is about 2 pounds (2.2 to be exact). And the peso conversion rate varies daily; lately it’s been in the high 13’s. Today is 13.8 pesos to the dollar, so that’s what I’ll use to convert to dollars so that you can compare our costs to those in the US. And last, remember that Cabo is almost an island; almost everything in our stores was imported from the US or mainland Mexico.
So, what did I buy? Well the first thing on my receipt is the deli. You’ve got to love buying cold cuts in Mexico! Oh, we’re beginning to see pre-packaged, probably for the benefit of the tourists, but the deli counter is a hive of activity in most markets. Mexicans take cold cuts very seriously, and there’s a great ritual to be followed every time you order. You’ll ask for what you want, say a quarter kilo of Zwan brand turkey breast. The clerk, who more than likely works for another brand, will point out that they are having a special on San Rafael brand turkey and that it is very fine and would I like a taste. She (deli workers are almost invariably female) then very ceremoniously cuts and folds a slice of the product in question and presents it. The buyer accepts the sample with thanks and then makes a good show of examining its appearance and then sampling with a look of concentration on their face. Then, after careful consideration they agree that yes, it’s very tasty and will do nicely. Almost never do they insist on their original choice as that would be rude, and Mexicans as a rule are careful to be extra polite. Anyway, back to costs: premium grade turkey breast was $5.22 per pound, extra lean ham was $4.81, and manchego cheese almost exactly $5.00 per pound.
Over at the meat counter I paid $1.38 per pound for lean ground pork, a liter of chicken broth was fifty cents. Butter imported from Denmark was $3.19. A can of soup, I think it was clam chowder, was $1.75. That’s what importation does to your bill, I could have purchased Mexican made butter and soup much more reasonably.
As for the produce section, the sweet pineapple was 55 cents a pound, bananas were 46 cents a pound, and seedless grapes were exactly one dollar per pound. Bear in mind that it’s traditional in Mexico to eat grapes on New Year’s Eve, so the store might have been seizing an opportunity.
Now it’s been quite a while since I bought groceries anywhere but Cabo, but it seems to me that by and large our prices are quite a bit more reasonable, particularly on fresh products like meat and produce. Oh, there are exceptions, but my instinct is that when something is high priced it’s more than balanced by the many bargains. There is one caution that applies. Particularly in Cabo, where there are so many tourists, the merchants play a little mind game with branded products stocking both those imported from the US and those packaged here in Mexico. They’ll put the American Best Foods Mayonnaise right next to the Mexican Best Foods Mayonnaise. The bottles look identical, but one label is in English and the other Spanish. The tourists will just naturally pick up the label in English. What’s inside the two bottles is exactly the same, but that English label costs them an extra 30-40% in import duties, shipping and higher mark-up. So if you’re budget conscious (or just hate being ripped off like me) you’ll make an effort to buy domestic.
I’d like some feedback on this topic: am I right that our groceries are very affordable? What would the same products cost in the States? I’m looking forward to hearing.
Carol Billups is Broker/Owner of Cabo Realty Pros. She has enjoyed working with both buyers and sellers for over eleven years and still thinks hers is the best job on earth. She is also the real estate columnist for Los Cabos Magazine. You can read more of her articles on the website blog www.caborealtypros.com. You can reach her from the U.S. or Canada at 1-760-481-7694, or in Cabo at 044-624-147-7541. You can listen to our 24/7 broadcast on http://www.livecabo.net for a mix of happy music, weather reports and local information.
© 2012 Carol S. Billups