Friday, 17 October 2014

Provisions in Mexico: Hard-to-find items

Updated: October 22, 2014 & November 3, 2014

As boats congregate in San Diego,  preparing to head south to Mexico,  it seems timely to comment on provisioning in Mexico. 

By and large,  we were very pleasantly surprised at the variety and quality of food items available in places such as Cabo San Lucas,  San Jose del Cabo,  La Paz and Mazatlan.  Fruit and vegetables are better tasting and better priced than we see north of Mexico (although some vegetables/fruit often look a little "blemished", they are fine inside).  Meats are good (especially chicken!)  although cuts are smaller/thinner than up north (but,  you can always ask butchers behind counters for a thicker steak,  and many of the larger stores do put out thicker cuts). Liquor (especially tequilas and rums) is inexpensive and available everywhere. 

For the most part,  there is NO reason to stock months of provisions in San Diego -- Mexico is good for provisioning. 

HOWEVER,  some of our favourite food/drink items proved to be difficult (or impossible) to find in Mexico. We wished we had known before leaving San Diego.

Some items one can't really stock up on either due to practical (how much cheese can one store in one's boat fridge?) or legal (there are only so many bottles of wine/alcohol one is allowed to bring into Mexico -- though they don't really check boats) reasons. Still, some are easy to stock and even bringing a little extra would have been nice.

Here is a (very incomplete and subjective) list:

Orange Pekoe Tea (or other decent black tea): for many this may not be a big deal, but getting decent black tea (such as Dilmah, Tetley's, Red Rose) in Mexico was impossible. (We were always on the lookout, and occasionally found a couple of black tea brands, such as "McCormicks", but they were terrible.) So, for those tea lovers (listen up Canadians!) about to head south, stock up on decent tea.

[On the other hand, herbal teas (including Roibus -- "Rojo" -- tea) are plentiful and easy to find in Mexico.]

Aged cheddar cheese: One can find Joseph's Farms "suave" (mild, tasteless) cheddar cheese in many stores in Mexico. But good luck trying to find decent "old" or "aged" cheddar. There is one place we found this in Mexico: Costco. (But note: on the Pacific Coast, Costco is only in Cabo and Puerto Vallarta.)

Update October 22, 2014: Surprise, surprise, we found plenty of (small size) Tillamook Aged Cheddar (pretty decent cheese) at the Mazatlan Gran Plaza Mega store. 

Update: November 3: Unfortunately, no more Tillamook cheddar! And our hopes are dashed.... Aged Cheddar is very hard to find (even harder in La Paz)

Greek "Kalamata" olives: Stores in Mexico often have an amazing variety of olives, many of which we like very much. But Kalamata olives (for greek salad) were very rare.

Natural Peanut Butter:  We could only find hydrogenated "Skippy", "Jif", and "Alladino"  peanut butter.  

Bisquick: Great for making pancakes and quick biscuits,  we couldn't find Bisquick anywhere. UPDATE: We found Bisquick in La Paz!

Muffin mix: In Canada we have excellent brands of muffin mixes for many types of muffins.  These were hard to find in California and very rare in Mexico

Pine nuts: If you like to make your own pesto,  you'll search high-and-low for pine nuts,  to little avail (although we did find pine nuts in their shell -- seemed like a lot of work to use them). 

Beers other than lagers (e.g., Pale Ale): Lots of lagers,  and a very good dark lager (Negro Modelo)  are available,  but pale ales are hard to find.  (However,  San Jose del Cabo has a good micro-brewery producing great brews.  In La Paz,  go to "Harker Boards"  on the Malecon for great pizza and micro brews.

Wine: Leaving California,  you leave behind good inexpensive wines.  Decent wines ARE available in Mexico,  but at a higher price.  We became very fond of Ensenada wines: the L.A. Cetto Private Reserve Chardonnay ($14) is excellent; the L.A. Cetto basic Chardonnay quite drinkable ($7). Easy to find L.A. Cetto in La Paz -- not as easy in Mazatlan.

Maple syrup (the real stuff): (for Canadians) once you have real maple syrup, it is rather difficult to accept "Log Cabin" or "Aunt Jemina" "maple-flavoured" syrups. Only place we've found real syrup was at Costco.

Molasses: Still have not found molasses in Mexico.

Dental floss: OK,  this is an odd one,  but there only seems to be old-style thin and shredding dental floss available in Mexico. 

Update October 22, 2014: Another surprise, we see new varieties of dental floss  at the Mazatlan Gran Plaza Mega store. (Did they read our blog post?)


  1. Excellent list, I would add any english heritage products (HP sauce, quality marmalades, anything from cross and Blackwell), and anything special for Xmas that keeps if you plan xmas in mexico (Turkey and cranberry sauce available, other things (puddings, mince, etc.) not so much. Asian products other than nori, sushi rice and soy sauce are not common, so anything Thai, japanese or Chinese is worth stocking up on. Rice, while widely available, is not of the same quality we get in canada or the USA, so stocking up on rice is oddly worthwhile too.

    1. Thanks for adding to the list Rob. Are you back down yet?

      Here's another one:

      Molasses: never found it down here!