Monday, October 15, 2007

Price Check, Please

Atencion, the San Miguel English language weekly newspaper had an interesting article this week by Jim Karger titled "Is it really cheaper to live in San Miguel?". I'd give you the link to the article if I could find a way to link to it but so far I haven't found one. Mr. Karger looks at both eating in and eating out and his conclusion is that food is about 25% less expensive than on the other side of the border. But his comparisons are in large grocery store chains on both sides of the Rio Grande and in Restaurants that cater more to the expats, the wealthy Mexicans who visit on the weekends and the tourist from around the world.

He has done his research and it is an interesting article but I think his premise on the cost of food is missing a couple of points. If you shop at the supermarkets and eat in the "up-scale" restaurants, I'd agree with him and in all fairness he is really addressing the belief of many people who are thinking about becoming expats in Mexico.

But there is another way to live in San Miguel. First, buy in the mercados and at the Tuesday Tiangus. Buy the local fruits and vegetables. I've been trying to remember some exact numbers from our trip to the Tiangus a week or so ago and I don't think I'm far off when I say that I could have bought 2 kilos of small yellow local apples for 20 pesos. Ahh...I just found a picture I made at the Tiangus and added it to the blog even though it isn't the a great example of my photography. The price was even better, 2 kilos for 16 pesos. And that is just one example. The prices there and in the mercados, except the one outside of Espinos, are less than the supermarket.

Secondly, if you are going to eat out look for some of the small neighborhood places that have some ambiance where the prices are more reasonable. Examples are Cha-cha-cha and Rinconcita. In fairness Mr. Karger was trying to look at restaurants that were similar to those you eat at in the USA and there the prices are higher than the neighborhood places. In general the problem with the prices in our San Miguel restaurants is that the food is not as good as we find in Houston. Restaurant food in San Miguel is okay, it is not bad and the tourist seem happy with it and most of the expats seem happy with it. But when compared to some of our similar favorite places in Houston, San Miguel food is mediocre. That I can't figure out since the ingredients for the most part cost less and the labor is cheaper. I don't know....maybe I'm just a restaurant food snob.

What we are really talking about here is "What is the Cost of Food in San Miguel?" I think Mr. Karger's article is not too far off. In my own personal experience I think we eat for about 30 to 35% less than in the USA. Next Mr. Karger is going to compare land and construction costs and I think that some people will be shocked at what those items cost here. But San Miguel, we are told, is one of the more expensive places to live in Mexico.

For those of my readers who live in other places in Mexico, tell me what you pay for a kilo of:
Roma tomatoes

What would be the cost of an entree at your favorite neighborhood place? At your "going out to DINNER" place? I'd like a "price check, please."


Jennifer said...

Even though I'm in Morelia, there is a huge price difference among vendors. When comparing prices, many foreigners have the tendency just to look at what an item is selling for over at the local tianguis, which makes for an isolated view of what things cost. Some things are less expensive at the tianguis, and some items cost more there. And then there’s matter of convenience and quality. Chicken is routinely less costly at any supermarket than at the tianguis.

There's hamburger, and there’s hamburger. It depends upon whether you’re talking about molida popular, molida especial or ground sirloin. All Superama offers is ground sirloin, which was going for $56 M.N. a kilo this morning. Now, I could’ve run over to Comercial Mega or stopped off at a carniceria, but I was at Superama, and I didn’t want to waste the time and gasoline going elsewhere.

One kilo of Bionatur hydroponic one-the-vine tomatoes went for $26 M.N. at Costco, more expensive than those sold at the tianguis. But each one was perfect, and there was the convenience factor.

Drilling into Profeco’s website,, should reveal the prices of a market basket of goods in various areas of the Republic. But then again, just as any place else, there are always the loss leaders.

Sure, apples can cost more – or less – just about anyplace in Mexico than in the U.S. But the quality of even the finest apples in Mexico just don’t begin to measure up to the ones given away for free at the Westin River North in Chicago. Price is not just a matter of apples and oranges.

Now, let’s do lunch. In Morelia, I can have a great lunch for $58 M.N. at Sabores, a lunch place which caters to the Tec de Monterrey and Balcones Santa Maria crowd, or I can have something even better at the Villa Montana. The most a dinner bill – salad, entrée, dessert, and a glass of wine – will set anyone back in Morelia will be around $40 USD. That bought me an appetizer, salad and a Diet Coke at Catch 35 in Chicago last Friday. The weekend before, salad, an entrée, dessert and a glass of wine at Ristorante Panorama in Philadelphia came to $85 USD per person.

wayne said...

I just happened to have gone to our local "super" market today and bought some of these items. Here is what they are running on the island (prices in pesos):

Roma tomatoes....4 for 8.22
Bananas..........23.82 a kilo
Eggs.............13.40 a dozen
Hamburger (good kind)..28 a kilo

Of course, this being a tourist destination island, the prices for restaurant meals are outlandish in most places. On the average, a good meal will set you back around 70-90 pesos, plus beverage. We can get tacos a our favorite taco stand for 11 pesos each but they come with all the fixings!

Hope that helps!

Billie said...

Oh, no....
I wrote a long comment and it hasn't shown up. I hate that letter verification thing!

Don't know if I can recapture my thoughts exactly but....

Jennifer and Wayne thanks for responding and I hope some others will respond too.

Jennifer you are right there are apples and there are APPLES. And those scrawney apples from the Tiangus probably wouldn't be a good, crunchy eating apple. You are in Morelia and maybe your supermarkets have fresher produce and a better variety than we get in San Miguel. I don't feel that the ones here are much different from the big mercado.

Besides that, even after living here 5 years, I still have this romance about "the Mexican village" and living closer to the land. I like taking my bolsa, walking to the mercado and seeing "my" vegetable guy who always give me a regalo or "my" chicken lady who gives me instruction on what to do with my chicken.

The bottom line is that we can eat in or out for less than we can in the USA. Is it 25% or 40%. I guess it depends on lifestyle and location.

Cynthia said...

Compared to what I pay here in Clear Lake (Houston), I find SMA prices amazingly low and love the quality of the produce. If I were in the city and could regularly shop the Farmer's Market, I might feel differently, but SMA fruits and vegetables cost much less and taste much, much better.

Jonna said...

Here are some prices from Merida, Yucatan. I'm staying out on the north side of the city, the upscale part, and the Mega Commercial I use is in a fancy mall so the prices are higher than if I were in another area of the city or if I went to the mercado.

I looked at apples, down this far south I think they must come from quite a ways. They looked OK, not Washington state great but OK. The Golden were $16.90 a kilo and the red onces that look like regular Delicious are called Starking and were $19.90 a kilo.

Roma tomatoes were $14.90 a kilo. They also had beefsteak tomatoes but they didn't look too good today, they looked a lot better a few days ago, I forgot to write down the price.

Valencia oranges were $3.90 a kilo and the Naranja Agria or Yucatan sour orange were $4.90 kilo.

Cucumbers were gorgeous and $7.50 kilo.

Papaya Maradol also look very good and are $14.90 kilo.

I got a kilo of ground sirloin from the butcher (not prepackaged) for $49.30.

I forgot to price the other stuff. If I get over to the mercado later this week I'll price the same things there.

Anonymous said...

Have to agree with Cynthia down here in Veracruz - my guesstimate is 35% savings on food. Prices vary seasonally much greater than in the States where the prices are almost always at the top end.

But more importantly is Cynthia's final statement "...fruits and vegetables cost much less and taste much, much better." When we go back to the States we feel like we are starving to death for lack of Mexico's flavors.


jennifer rose said...

Today at Mega in Morelia, roma tomatoes were $14.90/kilo, hamburger $47/kilo, and gala apples $28/kilo. Sure, I could probably have reaped a better deal at the tianguis, but I wanted the espresso doble with the mini-pan con chocolate while I shopped. And a boneless, skinless turkey breast for $59/kilo, which only Mega seems to carry.

The longer you live in Mexico, the more the enchantment of the mercado fades. It's sort of like opting for the faster cuota than the scenic route, just because you want to get to your destination more quickly, the view be damned.

Still, all of that was less costly than their equivalents would've been in the U.S.