The rule about shopping in San Miguel is this: If you see something you like, buy it. If you see something you REALLY like, buy more than one. Popular items are not
necessarily stocked regularly here, so you can't count on something to be in stock today just because it was there yesterday, two weeks ago, or two months ago. This can turn
ordinary grocery shopping into an exciting treasure hunting expedition in which riches are regularly found.
A great source of reliable discounts is the San Miguel V.I.P. Club. Purchase a VIP Club Card and receive discounts ranging from 10% to 20% off food and drink for your party of four at over 50
restaurants in San Miguel. 70 other businesses and services also offer steep discounts to card holders. Unlimited use. For more information go here.
If you're willing to make the trek and large quantities appeal to you, you might want to visit Costco, either in
Celaya or Queretaro. While you're there, you can also visit Home Depot, as well as several malls. Celaya and
Queretaro are both about a 45-minute drive from San Miguel.
Currently there are three "major" groceries stores in town: Mega, located at the "Pipila Glorieta (the statue of the guy with the big stone on his back) on Salida a Celaya, Bodega Aurrera, located near the bridge and glorieta as you are heading toward the train station, on Calzada de la Estación, and Soriana, located at the Luciernaga Mall (sometimes known as Liverpool because of the Liverpool department store there). Mega and Bodega Aurrea are both something like small "super" stores," in that they have household items and appliances, a pharmacy, clothing, and grocery items all under one roof. Soriana is a "regular" grocery store but does carry some cookware small appliances, and includes a small pharmacy.
Grocery shopping in Mexico is a little different than what you might be used to. First of all, certain items are not stocked where you might expect them to be, as indicated in the list below:
catsup – with salsa and tomato sauce. eggs – in the produce section mustard – with salad dressings, mayonnaise and vinegar. powdered sugar – with the produce or baking ingredients. puff pastry - Available in the refrigerator in the bakery section at Mega. raisins, dates, etc. – wrapped in plastic in the produce section, usually, not usually boxed. sugar – white and brown sugar are generally found either in the produce section or with other baking ingredients, like flour. Brown sugar is often not in stock.
Secondly, checking out tends to be slow. Cashiers frequently don't have correct change, for some reason the teens who bag your groceries frequently do not have enough bags, and using a credit card requires a slow verification process. So please, be patient. And keep in mind that those teens are not paid by the store, but rely on your tips.
Third, the people who work in the parking lot are not paid by the store either. While at times they might seem overly "helpful", try to remember that they are all just trying to make a living, and will not hurt you. They will offer to help you with your groceries, wash your car, and direct you out of your parking space, whether you need it or not. You will hear them say "sale, sale", which
comes from the verb "salir" and in this case means "go ahead, go ahead". You don't need to use them, but if you do, it's polite to tip them.
Finally, if you have a car full of valuables, take advantage of the fact that these attendants want to earn some money by asking them to watch your car ("Cuida mi carro, por favor") Then, when you return to find your car (and your stuff) safe and sound, tip them. (Some people even tip a small amount up front.)
I remember reading on the Civil List about some gringos who got their stuff stolen from the parking lot of Costco in
Celaya. I thought to myself, "oh, they must not have known about tipping the attendants." It's a small price to pay for not getting your stuff stolen, and like it or not, this is how it's done here in Mexico.
Espinos, (located where the Ancha splits near Centro) has a small selection of grocery, produce, and cooking items like baking pans, spatulas, ice cream scoops, etc. They occasionally carry natural food products and specialty foods, so it's worth it to keep an eye on their inventory.
Bonanza, located on Mesones (across the street from the parking garage), carries a wide variety of imported and
ethnic items, and has an impressive bulk section that includes spices, flours, seeds, and hard to find items like gluten (for baking bread) and dried fruit. They also carry imported household products like oven cleaner, spray starch and fabric softening sheets. Bonanza is also a great place to get all kinds of candles.
Tienda simply means store in Spanish. Most neighborhoods in San Miguel have a tienda or two on every block. Although their selection of canned foods, household items, some cold foods (like milk and
cheese), eggs and produce is often very small, you'll find these stores come in handy. Buying there is also a great way to get to know your neighbors.
While it might seem that the "safest" place to buy meat is at the grocery store, with all of its nice packaging, this isn't necessarily the case. In fact, your local specialty store often carries the freshest meat in town. That's why you'd better get there by noon, before they run out! While this might seem like a nuisance at first, rest assured that this means inventory is moving fast, and your meat is more likely to be very fresh.
There are specialty stores, or "_______ rias", for all kinds of food, and they're all over town. Take a walk and see how many you can spot. You'll see carnicerías, (meat) pollerías (chicken), panaderías (bread and pastries), tortillerías (tortillas), pastelerias (cakes) and fruterías (fruits and vegetables).
There are also deli's around which carry cheeses,
sausages, etc. A few notable ones are La Cava, located on Zacateros, and Luna del Queso, located on Salida a Celaya near the new convention center. Luna del Queso also carries many imported specialty items used in international cuisine.
If it's natural foods you're after, check out Natura, located on the Ancha across from the Instituto, and Via Organica, in Colonia Guadalupe. These stores carry local and imported natural foods, both fresh and packaged, including gluten free items, goat yogurt and cheese, and prepared deli
delitype foods. (See also the Organic Market section below).
For natural products like homeopathic remedies, herbs, vitamins and supplements, , check out Centro Naturista on Ancha de San Antonio 75, La Victoriana at Hernández Macias 72, and Moonrise Health at Organos 29 in Centro (which also carries a lot of imported items).
Finally, for those moments of intense grocery homesickness, the "Mini Market", located next door to Longhorn Steak House on the Ancha is the place to go. It's a small store that carries only American imports, and you will feel a pang of nostalgia as you stare at the Mug root beer, Newman's Own products, Butterfingers and that familiar red can of Boston Baked Beans.
The most famous specialty market is called the "Tuesday Market", known in Spanish as el tianguis, or here in San Miguel as la placita (and not the "mercado de martes", a common mistake).
A popular tourist destination, it's a cross between a flea market and a super store and should not be missed. Known for its giant selection of practically everything, it includes, but is not limited to:
new and used clothing, knick knacks, pets, flowers, plants, craft and sewing notions, produce and grocery staples, and a large "food court" where you will be serenaded by all manner of musicians. You can easily stay for hours, shopping, gawking, and eating your way through the Tuesday Market.
Of course, you can also go there as a "serious" shopper, picking up whatever fresh produce, fish and chicken that you'll need for the week. Open every Tuesday (duh), most vendors are set up by 9:30 and stay open until around 3:30, at which time they start packing up.
Another fun place to shop is the Saturday Organic Market, located at the entrance to the Rosewood Hotel just past Cardo on the Ancha. It's open from 10am to 2pm and
features fresh, locally grown organic produce.
With its prepared foods for sale and "cafe" area, it's as much a social scene as it is a place to shop. You can also
buy other products here like plants, natural skin care items and clothing made from natural fibers. Arrive early for best produce selection.
There are two daily mercados (markets) in town, San Juan de Dios, located
between Guadalupe Ave. and San Antonio Abad, and Ignacio Ramirez, located between Callejon de Loreto and Colegio. The main part of the San Juan de Dios market is covered, although there are also numerous outdoor booths. The Ignacio Ramirez market is all indoors
and backs up to the Artisans Market (see below). Both are like mini versions of the Tuesday Market and are open every day of the week. These markets are a great place to get fresh produce and fresh flowers, as well as other canned goods and household supplies.
If it's souvenirs you're after, don't miss the artisans (artisanos) market. Booths begin on Colegio street (just off of Loreto in Centro) and
stretch up the stairs and into the Ignacio Ramirez market. You'll find a large variety of handmade Mexican crafts, including embroidered tapestries and intricate
beadwork, as well as hand painted dishware, silver, pewter and tin items, jewelry,
paper mache, papel picado (colorful tissue paper cut into intricate designs) and more.
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|bakery||panadería||(pahn ah der REE ah)|
|chicken store||pollería||(poy eh REE ah)|
|fruit and vegetable store||frutería||(froo teh REE ah)|
|"go ahead" (in parking lot)||sale||(SAH ley)|
|groceries||abarrotes||(ah bah ROE tes)|
|meat store||carnicería||(car niece er REE ah)|
|neighborhood store||tienda||(TEE EN dah)|
|Tuesday Market||la placita||(lah plah SEE tah)|
|Tuesday Market||el tianguis||(el TEE AHN geese)|
|tortilla store||tortillería||(tor tee eh REE ah)|
|watch, or look after||cuida||(QU EE thah)|
CULTURE CLUB TIP #4
Difficulties and Differences
What should you do when you've tried everything nice you can think of and that item that was supposed to be delivered/fixed/ready or that person who was supposed to show up never materializes, for the fifth or tenth time?
First of all, make sure you understand clearly what is being said. If your Spanish is limited, you might have gotten the gist, but sometimes those little details that you didn't catch are just as important. Don't be afraid to admit that you don't understand and try to find someone bilingual to help you. In any case, under no circumstances should you lose your temper and start yelling, unless you want to be seen by
the Mexicans around you as completely devoid of couth and manners. You may not care what others think about you, but if you think yelling is going to help you get what you want, think again. The saying "You catch more bees with honey than vinegar" is especially true here in Mexico. You wouldn't want to be the "ugly (North) American", would you?
Secondly, it might be helpful to re-read the section about "Waiting" on page 8.
Thirdly, keep in mind that many extranjeros (foreigners)
get confused because they assume that Mexicans think about things in the same way that North Americans do. Sure, some things are the same, but MANY are not. Mexicans have different values and different habits. Don't get mad when things aren't done the way you think they should be. There's probably a good reason. Consider your troubles a learning experience, and adjust your future expectations accordingly.
Finally, try to understand these differences. Try to, dare I say it, enjoy these differences. And if you can't, try to accept them, because you definitely aren't going to change them.