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Chuck Bolotin of Best Mexico Movers – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account

Supermarket shopping at Mega in GuadalajaraIf you're generally interested in the food in Mexico, you'll enjoy the Best Places "Food in Mexico" playlist.

Restaurants in the Ajijic / Lake Chapala area will generally be a bit less than half of what you would pay in a comparable restaurant in the US, sometimes much less than half.

For food you buy to take home and do your own cooking, here are some places to shop in the Ajijic / Lake Chapala area:

  • American-style supermarkets.  Yes, we have Wal-Mart, on the main road, just out of Ajijic.  In Chapala, we also have a Soriana, which is a very large Mexican supermarket chain.  Both are similar to what you would find in the US or Canada, except for the aisle signs in Spanish and some of the inventory; for example, you'll find more tortillas in your Ajijic Wal-Mart than in the US version.  Some US brands will be missing, such as Ben and Jerry's ice cream and perhaps your favorite potato chip.  Most of the time, there are very good substitutions and sometimes, you'll find the same exact thing.  For some reason, Philadelphia brand cream cheese is a big hit in Mexico and is available everywhere, and of course, you'll have zero problem finding Coke.  The prices for Mexican-sourced produce in these stores will be about 40% less than in the US and the non-produce Mexican-sourced items will be from the same to 20% or so less.

 

  • Traveling farmers' markets (tianges).  Local merchants will set up shop at rotating locations in the overall Ajijic / Lake Chapala area, sometimes with a different theme.  For example, towards the center of Ajijic, a general farmers' market will be on Wednesday (video here), and on Thursday, if you prefer higher-end products, you can to ship towards the west end of Ajijic, where they set up more of an organic-feeling specialty market (video here).  There are other markets as well.  Prices on produce will tend to 10% to 30% lower than if you shopped at Wal-Mart.

 

  • Specialty stores catering to expats.  About three times the size of a 7-11, if you just gotta' have that Ben and Jerry's iced cream or matzos for Passover, you can get them at Super Lake, which will have your specialty items... at a price. They also carry more standard items.  If you can't find it at Super Lake, you may not be able to find it at all.

 

  • The Guadalajara alternatives.  Depending on where you live in the Ajijic / Chapala area, Guadalajara is generally about an hour away.  Here's some of what you can find there:
    • Costco.  Just like you would imagine and very similar to the US.  Larger amounts of high quality food at good pricing, but also like the US, you probably can't emerge for less than $100.  You can also get chocolate-covered almonds, huge bags of trail mix, etc.
    • Mega.  A very large supermarket and supermarket chain with more upscale items (think Bristol Farms), including a gourmet section that's pretty impressive.  Ours is located directly next door to Costco, a convenient, but somewhat expensive situation.  Here's the video we made at Mega, before they stopped us from filming.
    • Abastos.  This is a huge, bustling, busy, crowded wholesale market, with hundreds (maybe thousands) of vendors.  Here’s the little secret: a huge percentage of the produce you find at the local farmers’ markets doesn’t come directly from the farmers— the vendors purchased them at Abastos.
    • Specialty shops.  We have found several Asian markets, which are OK, but not as great as you would expect to find in a larger US or Canadian city.

 

  • Abarrotes.  Local, usually family run, small markets.  You find them everywhere.  Generally, it’s where the locals shop.  Most are about half the size of a 7-11.  You’ll find a wide range of merchandise, in small quantities.  If you want to walk out your door and get some pastries for your morning breakfast and be back in five minutes (like I used to do when we lived in the village of Ajijic), this is a great alternative.  It’s also nice to make friends with the proprietors and support the local economy.
Pictured: Jet Metier at Mega Supermarket in Guadalajara.  To see the video, click here.
 
f you need a mover to move your household goods to Mexico, be sure to check out Best Mexico Movers.
 
Joan Silver – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Sincronizada, pictured – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingHow much you spend on food in Chapala and Ajijic really depends a lot on your lifestyle. First of all, the quality of food in Chapala and Ajijic is fabulous. When we first arrived here, we learned about some berry farms that were on the south side of Lake Chapala where we could get different berries that are very inexpensive all year round. Now, because of the explosion of berry farms in Chapala and Ajijic, we can get just about any berry such as raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and blackberries.
 
The fruits and vegetables in the markets are predominantly local produce in Chapala and Ajijic, which makes the cost very inexpensive. I remember the first time I cooked broccoli and cauliflower, neither of which are my husband's favorite, it was like eating a whole new vegetable. We didn't know that vegetables in Chapala and Ajijic could taste that good.
 
The prices of vegetables in Chapala and Ajijic are about a third of what they cost in Canada. We also have the advantage of picking fruits and vegetables from our own garden, which is way cheaper and better. Spending 150 pesos (US $8.00) a week on vegetables is already pretty high. Bananas costs 8 pesos a kilo (less than $0.25 per pound), oranges costs 6 to 12 pesos a kilo (less than $0.50 per pound), and pineapples are priced at 10 pesos a kilo ($0.25 per pound). A little loaf of multigrain bread, which is not from a commercial bakery, will cost you 30 pesos (less than $2.00). We buy the whole rotisserie chicken and spend about 90 pesos (about $5.00). The price of cleaned shrimps has gone up to250 pesos a kilo (a little over $6.00 per pound).
 
The restaurants in Chapala and Ajijic are great. We get a variety international cuisine such as Thai, Indian, Chinese and even Greek. Argentinian food is very popular here in Chapala and Ajijic. We think street food in Chapala and Ajijic is fabulous but you need to observe the street vendor first before you decide to eat there. You want to look for cleanliness and if a lot of Mexicans are eating there. If the person cooking the food is also handling the money we walk away unless they put a clean plastic bag on their hands, or if every single plate is not covered with a new plastic bag. We don’t want to eat at a place where they're washing plates behind them in a bucket of water. You see your food cooked in front of you at street food places, whereas in restaurants you don't know what's going on behind those closed doors. Street food in Chapala and Ajijic is excellent and I love the home made salsas and chopped up cilantros.
 
My husband loves to eat tortas, which are 34 pesos (less than $2.00). Torta is a dry hard bun in which they take the inside out and put a layer of bean sauce. They put lots of wonderful pork and you pour tomato sauce over the top of it to make it soft again. You can get 3 tacos at the market in Chapala and Ajijic with all kinds of toppings, for 30 pesos (less than $2.00). A “lonche” which is like a submarine sandwich that has meat, tomatoes, avocados, onions and sauce, will be about 30 to 35 pesos (less than $2.00). You can get a good BLT hamburger and fries for 60 to 70 pesos (less than $4.00) at El Jardin de Ninette Restaurant in Ajijic.
 
I love meat but hate to cook it so I always enjoy going out for an excellent meal of steak or ribs. The prices of steak or ribs here in Chapala and Ajijic are a quarter of what we would pay for the meal back in Canada.  Adelita Bar & Grill claim they're the best rib place in Chapala and Ajijic and is where you can get a whole rack of ribs for only 149 pesos ($8.00) on Tuesday nights. Tony Roma's Steakhouse Restaurant has an American menu with steaks, ribs and chicken that costs from 150 to 200 pesos ($8.00 to $10.00) which is fairly pricey but a very nice meal. The Mexican side of the menu will have tacos, burritos and sincronizadas that cost from 40 to 80 pesos ($2.00 to $4.00). Sincronizada is a tortilla-based sandwich the size of a dinner plate, which has meat, green peppers and onions, and is sliced into six. A sincronizada is very similar to a quesadilla.  
 
(Sincronizada, pictured.)
Magy Carmona of Magy Carmona at Lake Chapala Realty – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Market in Chapala, Mexico – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThe price of food in Chapala depends on the places, the food that you eat, and the wine that you choose to drink. For example, for a daily budget of 50 pesos (US $2.41) per person, you can cook at your place and have great food.
 
Food prices also depend on the mercado (market) that you go to. For example, if you go to the Ajijic Street Market on Wednesday, you will find that the fruits and vegetables are more expensive there than if you go to the street market in Chapala on Mondays. Chapala is the best place to buy fruits and vegetables. You may find zucchini for 15 pesos (US $0.72) a kilo (less than 35 cents a pound) at one place in Ajijic, and you may find the same thing for 11 pesos (US $0.53) at some other place. That’s a difference of 3 or 4 pesos (US $0.14 – US $0.19). 
 
I cook for four people- two adults and two kids. In a week, I spend around 3,000 pesos (US $144) on food. When I go the supermarket, including all the miscellaneous things that I buy, I would pay around 2,000 pesos – 3,000 pesos ($96 - $144). That’s expensive, but that’s because I don’t usually care about the prices that much when I buy food because I need it. I need tomatoes, so I just go and grab tomatoes regardless of the price. 
 
For just the food, I’d say I spend about 700 pesos ($33) for the four of us for a week. That’s if I organize my shopping, because fruits and vegetables are cheap. Instead of going to Wal-Mart, if you go straight to where you’d find fresh chicken, a bunch of tortillas, or some cheese and beans, you can get a better deal for the price, especially if you go to the street market.  
 
(Market in Chapala, Mexico, pictured.)
Mirna Segura of Ajijic Rentals – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Fruits sold in Chapala, Mexico – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThe cost of food in Ajijic is a little bit higher than in Chapala. If you go to Chapala, you will find really good prices. In Chapala, we have the El Mercado, which is a farmers’ market, where you can find meat, chicken, vegetables, fruits, and they are all fresh. El Mercado is less expensive than if you go to a supermarket like Walmart or Soriana. (Soriana is similar to a Kroger’s or Safeway.)
 
I personally go to Soriana or Walmart if I want to buy something special or something that you don’t find in other stores but I don’t buy vegetables and fruits in Soriana or Walmart because it’s very expensive there. If I need vegetables and fruits, I buy them at the Mercado or at the small stores around the area. One of the best things about buying at the mercado (market) is that you can buy the quantity that you want. If you want three eggs, you can buy three eggs. You don’t need to buy by the dozen. 
 
The following are some examples of what you can buy and how much they are in the mercado:
  • Egg = 20 pesos for a tray of eggs (24 eggs) or 50 US cents per dozen. 
  • Bolillo bread, which is like a bun that’s enough to make one sandwich = 4 pesos or 22 US cents 
  • Croissant = 4 pesos or 22 US cents 
  • Mango = 10 pesos per kilo or about 24 cents per pound
  • Guava = 8 pesos per kilo or about 20 cents per pound
  • Orange = around 8 pesos a kilo or about 20 cents per pound
  • Bananas = 10 pesos a kilo or 24 cents per pound 
  • Beef = around 110 pesos per kilo or about $2.70 per pound
  • Pork = 75 pesos per kilo or about $1.85 per pound.
  • Chicken = 46 pesos per kilo, or about $1.15 per pound
If you go to Walmart or Soriana you can expect for the price to be about 30% more. 
 
We also have the tienditas, which are the small stores. Food in tienditas are a bit higher than in El Mercado but it won’t be as much as Soriana or Walmart.  
 
(Fruits sold in Chapala, Mexico, pictured.)
Anne Dyer of Casita Montana – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Street market in Chapala,  Lake Chapala, Mexico  – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThe cost of food in Chapala and Ajijic varies depending on where you buy your food. Imported food is more expensive. We have a Wal-Mart, which is quite less expensive compared to the Wal-Mart in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where I am from. It is stocked very well and you can buy the many of the same things. The merchandise is displayed the same way. We also have Soriana, which is a large Mexican supermarket chain similar to Kroger’s or Safeway but it is less expensive. When you go to Soriana, you will find the prices to be about 25% less than you would if you went to a Kroger’s or a Safeway in the US.
 
You could also go to the street market where you can buy any kind of fruits and vegetables and many other things. There are still a couple of other markets here that you can go to. Generally, the cost to buy food here in Chapala and Ajijic is about 25% less than it would cost in the United States, so it is definitely cheaper than in the US or Canada.
 
The street markets here in Chapala and Ajijic are fun, and are all around the city. There is a street market on Monday in Chapala and on Wednesday, there is a street market in Ajijic. Then there is one on Thursday in Jocotepec, which is to the west. They are like farmer’s markets. People sell vegetables, fruits, cooked food, artisan products, jewelry, clothing, etc. The best part is that you can barter. The prices are definitely less if you buy at the street market, plus it is definitely a lot of fun. The quality is excellent, especially the fruits and vegetables and other food. They are all very fresh and it’s great. The prices in the street markets in Chapala and Ajijic less than they are in the US, too.
 
(Street market in Chapala,  Lake Chapala, Mexico , pictured.)
Rosa Elia Cepeda of Charter Club Tours – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Tianguis, Ajijic, Mexico – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingI work, so I do not have a lot of time to go shopping for groceries. As a result, I usually just buy food at Walmart, even though, by the standards of Chapala and Ajijic, Walmart is expensive. If go to Walmart and buy enough food for two days, I would usually spend around 500 pesos (less than US $30). I buy fish, beef, vegetables, rice, and everything else to cover two meals for two people.
 
Vegetables and fruits in the markets in Chapala and Ajijic are fresh, as opposed to frozen. They are not expensive if you buy from the tianguis, or the street market. If you have 100 pesos ($5.50), you could buy enough fruits and vegetables for two people. Raspberries, for example, cost between 25 to 30 pesos per kilo (about US 55 cents to 66 cents per pound) depending on the season, so it is very inexpensive. If you go to the fish market, you could buy shrimp that’s enough for two meals for two people for 90 pesos (less than US 5) . If you buy the same thing at Walmart, the price would be double.
 
Expats like going to the street markets to shop because they have better prices. There is also the Wednesday market where everyone goes early in the morning to buy what they need for the week. It works well for the expats since they are retired and they have lots of time to go around and look for things to buy. You will see more tourists in the street markets than Mexicans.
 
Different towns set up their own street market on a specific day each week. The street market in Chapala is open every Monday, Ajijic is on Wednesdays, and Jocotepec is on Thursdays. The organic market is only on Mondays. So you can go to the markets every day and find very good deals. The quality of the food in the street markets is better than the food at Walmart. The fruits from the street market are tastier. They are fresh and they haven’t been in the refrigerator for a long time. You can even buy produce directly from the farmers if you to the street market.
 
The expats love it here because food is inexpensive. They tell us that they find it inexpensive even to eat out at restaurants. Meat and even a glass of wine are cheap here; less than half the price they pay for the same food in the US or in Canada. Many people here in Chapala and Ajijic do not cook. People here prefer going out to eat at restaurants. Restaurants in Chapala and Ajijic have a different deal every day.
 
(Tianguis, Ajijic, Mexico, pictured.)
Thomas Hellyer of Lake Chapala Real Estate – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Tortilla dishes at a restaurant in Chapala, Mexico – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThe cost of food in Chapala and Ajijic depends on where you purchase it and at what stage of processing it is.
 
You can buy well-priced food at the local markets or shops such as the butcher shop and the street markets.  We also have grocery stores and the big box stores such as Costco, and we have specialized markets where people pre-prepare foods at a higher cost.
 
Fruits and vegetables, dairy products, meats, and other fresh foods, they are very well-priced. You can get avocados for about 10 to 20 cents each, depending on what time of the year it is.
 
 We have fresh fruits and fresh vegetables all year round in Mexico. They are not imported so that keeps the prices low. The area around Chapala and Jalisco, in general, is very much an agricultural area. Also helping to keep costs low in Chapala and Ajijic is that we are close to Guadalajara, which means that we have a huge distribution center close by, enough to handle the 8 million people who are in Guadalajara.
 
Our vendors have access to very well-priced fruits and vegetables from all over Mexico. For meats, you can go to the butcher shop and get meat that was butchered that day. There are also some places, where if you have the stomach for it, you can select your chicken and come back 20 minutes later to pick up the chicken meat from that same chicken that was alive 20 minutes earlier.  My wife doesn’t like to do that but you can if you choose, and the prices are good.
 
Compared to back in the States, the cost of food here is about 70% less for the basic things. If you buy at the big box stores, you would still get about 40% savings compared to how much it costs in the US. If you go to Costco and buy the same Costco chicken breast in the States, they are about the same price here. They are available here, too. You can also go to Costco and buy chicken breast with a brand from Mexico and it will cost less.  
 
(Tortilla dishes at a restaurant in Chapala, Mexico, pictured.)

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