Monday, November 26, 2007

Grocery List

Cynthia commented on my post about some of the things that I can't always find for my cooking here in San Miguel:

What can't you find there, Billie? I'm curious since I've done so little cooking to date in SMA. I just wonder what it is you miss that is impossible to find in Mexico.

Besides the things I mention in that post, these are the things that are on my shopping list when I go to Texas. I don't know that all of them are impossible to find in Mexico but they aren't easy to find in San Miguel or they cost too, too much.

Brianna Blush Wine Vinaigrette - I saw it here one time for about 3X what I pay for it in Texas. I do make my own vinaigrette lots of time but I especially like this one.

Brianna Poppy Seed Dressing - I've tried a Mexican brand and I don't like it as much as I do the Brianna.

Canned Chili - Every once in a while I'd like a chili dog. Carey's might have it but again at 3X the price.

Chutney - You can find some kinds of chutney's here but not the one I like to use or you can make your own. I like to have a couple of jars on hand for some quick appetizers.

Triskets or WheatThins - Sometimes you can find a small box of triskets at El Tomate but at 3X the price.

Wild Rice - You can find small boxes of wild rice in Bonanza but it is expensive. I buy it by the pound at Central Market.

Grape Jelly - Ned's favorite. We did find some Smuckers grape jelly at Gigante the other day but it is the first grape jelly that I have seen in Mexico and it was imported. I don't understand this since Mexico grows grapes....but they don't make grape jelly.

Smart Balance - Haven't been able to find it anywhere here.

Vegetable Shortening - After trying to make pies with the Mexican vegetable shortening, I can assure you that I'm bringing it back from Texas.

Baker's Angel Flake Coconut

Chicken Broth - I saw boxed chicken broth at Costco one time but the last two times we have been I couldn't find it in the store. Yes, I can make broth but I have a hard time staying ahead.

Canned Tomatoes - Up until the last year or two I couldn't find canned tomatoes at all but now I'm seeing some Spanish or Italian brands. So far I haven't found one that has the flavor and texture that I want.

Tubes of tomato paste - The tomato puree here isn't like tomato sauce or tomato paste. Sometimes you only need a tad of tomato paste to add to a recipe so the tube works great.

Cans of tomato sauce and tomato paste.

Dried cherries - I can find dried cranberries and blueberries but not cherries. I have a great recipe that calls for them so I like to have some in the freezer.

Fresh pecans - you can buy packaged pecans and walnuts here but there is nothing like freshly shelled pecans from the Farmer's Market. When we lived in Houston, I'd buy eight pounds or so in the Fall when they were shelling the fresh crop and put them in the freezer to use all during the year. So much better than the packaged ones.

If I could I'd love to bring back a years supply of lemons. Sometimes you can get them and we all get excited when someone announces that Gigante or Mega has them. I'm surprised how many times I've wanted a lemon. Limes are a substitute but the taste is different especially when you are using the zest.

Crushed red pepper and Cayenne - I have bought a Mexican brand of Cayenne but it wasn't the same.

Baking chocolates - I can only find one brand here and it is okay but I can find a much better variety and quality of baking chocolates in Texas.

Sweet pickles, sliced dill pickles and Kosher pickles - I can get the sliced dill pickles at Costco in one gallon jars but that is too, too much.

Cling wrap - If you have ever tried to use the Mexican brands of plastic wrap, you will understand why I want Cling wrap.

I'm sure I could source many of these things out in Queretaro or Celaya but it isn't like you can use the yellow pages to find a store. Mostly you find places by word of mouth. Add to that finding your way around in Queretaro and Celaya is difficult. Just yesterday, friends took me to a Japanese tienda in Queretaro that had ingredients you need for Japanese recipes. I don't think I ever would have found it on my own.

We recently went to the new Gigante for the first time and I was impressed. So many things I use to bring down like pancake mix and maple syrup or Classico Pasta Sauces, I can buy here now. The same with rice. I use to bring different kinds of rice back but now I can usually find the kind I want at Bonanza. Food shopping is so much better than it was 5 or 6 years ago and I'm sure it will continue to get better. I will continue to adjust my recipes and my desires to what I find here BUT as long as I'm going to be in Texas, why not fill up my larder with some goodies. And besides it is fun when you invite someone over and are able to serve them something that they can't find in San Miguel either.


Anonymous said...

wow-that's a lot of items. i wonder why triskets or wheat thins would be so expensive. i suppose that would be the case with things that are imported.

i'm curious, how long have you lived in mexico? when will you be going to texas?

happy shopping!


Babs said...

Hi Billie - I have a huge lemon tree and have several people that I supply lemons to........let me know when you want some. They are wonderful and juicy. I think I must have the biggest and one of the few trees in San Miguel!
Oh and you can always get grape jelly at Walmart both in Q-town and Celaya. And now that Walmart is coming to San MIguel you won't even have to leave town!

Billie said...

Teresa, if Costco or Walmart imported them I don't think they would be as expensive but small stores that specialize in bringing in items that the gringos want and can't get any other way are bringing them and they charge what ever they can get away with. We've had our house here for almost 6 years.

Barbara, you're the best. I didn't know you had a lemon tree but I'll take you up on that offer one of these days.

Cynthia said...

I have wondered about the lemon thing and Mexico. I love their juicy little limes, but seems like if they grow limes like crazy, they would grow a lemon or two.

Glad to hear that your tree produces. We planted, in a pot on our roof, a lemon tree that we are told is a Meyer lemon. Of course, it may not be a lemon at all.

Thanks so much for the list. I see a few things I can't live without so I know what to pack next trip.

I love your blog by the way!

Jorge Arturo said...

Superama in Queretaro has several imported goods and Aladino's is a Supermarket in Queretaro that sells only imported goods.

Jonna said...

You can't emphasize enough that it is different trying to find things in Mexico. In the north, they get used to looking it up in the yellow pages or running a search online for it. It's never that easy here. Word of mouth is the best. Most of us have a running list in our heads of stuff we would love to find, wherever we are we are always on the lookout for anything on that list. I actually have several lists in my head, grocery stuff and house stuff and furniture/accessories stuff. It just makes shopping a more interesting sport. Also, impulse buying has a whole 'nother definition. If you see something you might want someday, you buy it because when that someday comes you won't be able to find it.

Billie said...

Jorge, where is Aladino's in Queretaro?

Joanna, you are so right. Buy it when you see it. Even things that you think would be standard items in a grocery store may be there one time and not the next.

Cynthia, thanks for reading. My list of stuff to bring back gets shorter each year. And some version of the things I bring back is available here most of the time but it is a little different. I could get by with just shopping in Mexico. But as long as I'm in Texas why not get these things.

D~ said...

Hi Billie -
We planted a lemon tree hoping to supply ourselves with plenty of fresh hard to find lemons. What we didn't know until much later is that we got a "dulce" lemon tree. It's not sour like the lemons we know and love, but sweeter like an orange. We are told they are good to eat to help cure high blood pressure.

Billie said...

That is a problem here in SMA....getting correctly labeled plants from the nursery. But still if it cures high blood pressure, you have a treasure!

La Gringa said...

Sorry for the late comment, but I was really surprised at this article! I've always been so jealous of you expats in Mexico and all the things you have available that we don't here in Honduras -- or at least in La Ceiba. But I saw several things on your list that I have seen here regularly and other things are getting to be more available all the time.

I'm with you on other things, though. Baker's baking chocolate is just not that great and has usually picked up some off flavor in the warehouse or store. Wild rice is just too expensive to justify (like about US $9 for a 4 oz. box! Kosher dill pickles used to be hard to find and I haven't seen dill relish in 6 years!

One tip on the tomato sauce/puree, unless you just don't like the brands, is to freeze it in an ice cube tray and then place the cubes in a plastic bag in the freezer for when you need small amounts. I do that for chipotle as well. I have a special smaller cube-sized tray that I use just for that as it can stain.

Dried cherries are available but all the dried berries are obscenely expensive.

I also agree that there is much more variety than 5 or 6 years ago. Do you suppose that is because of CAFTA or does Walmart get all the credit? ;-)

One thing nice about living here is when can you remember ever having a happy day in the US because you found chicken broth in the store? We learn to appreciate the little things, don't we?

I'm way behind reading your blog, Billie, but as always, I just love it!

Billie said...

La Gringa, From what I have read on your blog, the things we have that you don't are a fairly good variety of fresh vegetables. The dried cherries are very expensive in the USA too. $12.95 a pound. The wild rice was $9/lb, rather than $9 for 4 ozs. But I shouldn't be complaining about what we don't have here because we could live very well with what I can find in the grocery stores in SMA and it gets better all the time.

La Gringa said...

(I like this automatic comment notification. I forgot to set it up on some of the comments I left.)

The variety of veggies is definitely limited in La Ceiba and often not of very good quality. Broccoli, green beans, zucchini, broccoli, green beans, zucchini, ho hum. But I think that you have a lot of other things, too. I look at some of your recipes and I know that I couldn't find all the ingredients here.

Maybe I could find more things if I went more often, but I've just never been much of a shopper.

Hey, I know that you aren't complaining. I was just writing an article about that -- coming up soon.

Anonymous said...

I am new in San Miguel and have been searching for tomato paste to use in spaghetti sauce to thicken and all I've found is small cartons of tomato sauce. Someone mentioned you can find it in tubes but where?

Billie Mercer said...

You can find tomato paste in cans at Costco but it comes in boxes of 8 or 10 cans. I haven't looked for the tubes but I would look at queso de Luna or one of the organic stores. There is one on Salida de celaya kind of across from the Saturday organic market. And you never know, Espinos are Bonanza might buy the boxes of tomato paste and then sell them individually. Good luck. It was fun to reread this post and see how many od the things you can now find here.

La Gringa said...

Hi Billie! I'm still signed up for comments on this post. ;-) Oddly I don't see any way to get to the original article....

Anyway, do you all get Natura's brand tomato sauce, sofrito, etc. in the little foil packets? I think they come in 8 oz and 1 lb. Natura's does sell tomato paste in those foil packets, too (pasta de tomate). 'Salsita de tomate' is tomato sauce. Another brand I get here is Issima, but it might be local. They also sell a tomato paste.

These are much cheaper than buying imported Hunt's in cans. Maybe that will help anonymous find it.

Billie Mercer said...

I haven't seen any of the brands you mention but since I found the S&W brand at Costco where I have to buy 8 to 10 cans in a box, I haven't been looking. The price on the S&W brand is pretty good....not like the single cans of Hunts. So good to hear from you.