One of the big questions for any cruiser is always what provisions they need. And the questions just multiply if you’re planning to head to a foreign country: what won’t I be able to get?
NOTE: I wrote this in 2013, after a trip to visit friends that we had cruised with. We stayed on their boat and cruised with them for a week after attending LoretoFest. In emails correspondence since then, they say it continues to get better!
Meeting with cruisers in the Sea of Cortez (Mexico) a couple of weeks ago, I asked about the current state of provisioning in Mexico. I knew that it had been pretty good when Dave and I cruised there from 2002 to 2008, when I could get almost everything I wanted although some things were a little hard to find.
New and experienced cruisers all gave me the same answer: provisioning just keeps getting better and better! They all basically had one thing to say to anyone planning to cruise Mexico: you DON’T need to stuff the boat to the gills with everything you’ll need for a year. The only things you may want to bring with you are items where you really HAVE to have a particular brand.
As an example, when we were cruising, canned tomatoes were hard to find outside of major cities. Now they are available everywhere except the tiniest fishing villages. Cheddar cheese was a real treat and now can be found in most towns – not necessarily in every store, but in many.
Horseradish used to be something that I could get only at one store in LaPaz; now it is readily available in Loreto. Imagine Dave’s surprise when he found jars of it with the condiments for the brats at LoretoFest.
In seven years of cruising, I never found rye flour and only rarely found rye bread. I’m told that rye flour is now available in larger towns and rye bread can be found in many supermarkets. (In Loreto, it’s available at Gavilan’s, across the street from the one supermarket, El Pescador).
And perhaps the biggest surprise is that beer and soft drinks are now sold by the case. When we were cruising, all were priced individually and very rarely came in a case-type package. Now, larger supermarkets are selling cases and yes, they are discounted from the per-can price.
For some reason, Americans have thought for years that they wouldn’t be able to buy paper products in Mexico and stuffed their boats with toilet paper and paper towels (and feminine hygiene products). Even when we were cruising, we never had a problem finding any of these – even in the tiniest fishing villages where the “store” was room in someone’s house.
Meat is the one area where there are still differences. Beef is just cut differently, and many cuts that we’re used to are not available in Mexico except in an occasional specialty shop. Roasts are almost never found; you can find “large-chunk” stew meat and use that in many recipes (yes, I made “roast beef” that was already in bite-sized pieces).
Typical steak cuts – NY Strip, rib eye, Porterhouse and so on – are still hard to find. But you can find whole beef tenderloins in most supermarkets and easily cut them into filet mignons yourself.
Thick-cut pork chops are still almost impossible to find – Mexicans eat them cut fairly thin. But again, you can often find whole loins and cut them into boneless chops.
When it comes to chicken, it’s still unusual to find any boneless skinless breasts. You’ll still have to bone and skin it yourself, although you’ll almost never have to cut up a whole chicken.
All that said, this information will probably be outdated in the next month or two. Robin (whose boat, The Cat’s Meow, we were staying on) told me that every time she provisioned she’d find things that she hadn’t found the time before. More and more “luxury” and specialty foods are readily available.
While I didn’t go to the supermarket with Robin, I did stop in a couple of small tiendas and was very pleasantly surprised at how well stocked they were. In particular, the small tienda at Puerto Escondido (known as Pedro’s, shown in the photo at top) had an amazing selection of items, including soy milk and almond milk, bagels, cheddar cheese and so many more items that were hard to find anywhere just five years ago. The little store up the road at Tripui (Modelorama) is also really well stocked.
So the bottom line is that if you’re heading to Mexico, don’t worry about being able to find food or any other provisions. You’ll be able to get everything you need and you’ll probably discover some new favorites too!