Provisioning to Cruise Mexico

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!

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  • Jennifer Good Spires on Facebook
    Posted at 10 June 2013 Reply

    I still don’t think people in Mexico eat toilet paper. lol!

  • The Boat Galley on Facebook
    Posted at 10 June 2013 Reply

    No, but they do use it . . . and yes, you can buy it everywhere. No need to take 500 rolls from the US! 🙂

  • Waterwoman
    Posted at 10 June 2013 Reply

    Thanks Carolyn!

    I’m wondering if the almond milk is original & if it comes in unsweetened original and also ground flax meal and almond meal (flour). We don’t eat grains, and use these items for breads, cakes, crackers & cookies. I imagine I will need to take quite a supply unless I take a battery operated grinder to grind the almonds/flax seed. Just wondering if any of your readers have come across these items…maybe Costco or Sams? Thanks.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 10 June 2013 Reply

      Well, I doubt that I’d count on it always being a certain type . . . the more “exact” something has to be, the harder it is to find. For example, with soy milk, you might find vanilla one time and plain the next. Almonds can be found in lots of places, particularly in farmer’s markets (we bought them quite often). Rather than a battery-powered grinder, I’d probably get a 110-volt one and run it off the inverter (I haven’t tried a battery powered grinder but my experience with a battery-powered Dremel tool is that 110 works a LOT better and I’m thinking the same would be true of a grinder). You don’t run it all that many minutes at a time, so it wouldn’t be a huge drain. I used a 110 coffee grinder and the same one supposedly works for seeds — here’s my article on it:

  • The Boat Galley on Facebook
    Posted at 10 June 2013 Reply

    Duh, just got it. Okay, poor wording.

  • Rose
    Posted at 10 February 2014 Reply

    It is great to know supplies like almond milk and cheddar cheese are getting easier to find. We buy the big Costco size asiago cheese regularly. Any luck finding it in the larger stores. Sorry …. question mark not working! I envision us having 10 asiago blocks in the bottom of our not really big fridge!


    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 10 February 2014 Reply

      You may find it one day and not another. But Mexico has a lot of wonderful cheeses, so you may find some new favorites!

  • Deanne Gresham
    Posted at 02 March 2014 Reply

    We’ve been cruising Mexico for the past year, and I’d be lost without your cookbook! We found thick cut pork chops and pork tenderloin for the first time just recently at Costco in Puerto Vallarta. They were nowhere to be found in the Sea of Cortez. But we never had any trouble finding boneless chicken breast. Even up in Bahia de Los Angeles.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 02 March 2014 Reply

      Fantastic! Thanks for the update, things change every year. Or actually every week.

  • Lynn Kaak
    Posted at 07 October 2015 Reply

    Same with the Caribbean, for the most part. Just about every island in the Lesser Antilles has a medical school, and they “need” their comforts of home, too. And the French islands are great for cheese, wine and other European goodies.

  • James Gyore
    Posted at 07 October 2015 Reply

    Chuckle, you know, the one thing I always over provision is toilet paper! I have it falling out of just about every locker.

  • Verena Kellner
    Posted at 07 October 2015 Reply

    I find it hard to find unscented feminine products in Mexico. Much of the TP is also scented.

  • Verena Kellner
    Posted at 07 October 2015 Reply

    I also have a hard time finding decent sponges. I like the blue Scotch ones. All I can find are sponges made out of that other material that doesn’t reallly absorb water (do you know what it’s called?)

  • Chuck Glick
    Posted at 08 October 2015 Reply

    ya can’t get MARINE OR RV tp. maybe in LaPaz but good luck anywhere else. no real peanut butter, mac&cheeze, cheep spam or chile and boat parts – don’t even think of looking for it – bronze – yeh right.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 15 October 2015 Reply

      Just don’t put TP in the head — do as the Mexicans do and put it in a lidded trash bin. We got real peanut butter everywhere.

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