Mexico City is super affordable and some things are dirt cheap, making it a brilliant budget destination and a great place to settle in for a while.
Cervezas (beers), for example, cost around $1, the same price they cost when we first visited 17 years ago! However, somewhat surprisingly, it can actually be cheaper to eat tacos at a street stall or taquería than it can be to buy ingredients to cook a meal at home.
If you do want to cook at home — and you probably will if you love Mexican cuisine and take a cooking course, or at the very least, you become smitten with the Mexican breakfast eggs as we did years ago and want to whip up some huevos revueltos con chorizo — then do as the Mexicans do and shop at the mercado (market).
The mercado is best for buying fresh fruit and vegetables, dried chiles, herbs, spices, fresh salsas, and freshly-baked tortillas, which you can also buy at a tortilleria.
The quality was fantastic at every mercado we visited in Mexico City — flawless shiny onions, perfectly formed pieces of fruit, potatoes that looked liked they’d just been uprooted, crisp greens — everything looked super! You’ll find other groceries at the mercado as well, but you’ll need to hop between a number of stalls to get everything you need.
Most mercado stalls display their prices on small blackboards or signs, though not all do, so ask the price first: “¿Cuánto cuesta?” (how much?) or “¿Cuánto cuesta esto?” (how much is this?), then specific how much/many you want. It’s helpful to make numbers the first Spanish you learn.
Mexicans are incredibly polite and gracious, so when dealing with shop-keepers and stall-holders preface everything with “buenas días” (good morning; the markets are always best in the morning), don’t forget to say please (por favor) and thank-you (muchas gracias), and address the stallholder as señor/señora (sir/madam).
There are no proper supermarkets in the centro histórico of Mexico City, just 7-Eleven convenience stores, which seem to be on every second block. They’re handy for snacks, cold Coronas, milk, bread, and a bottle of wine. They also have some basic groceries including tins of refried beans, corn tortillas, jalapeños, salsas, and crema agria (sour cream) so you can slap together some nachos.
The closest market with a good range of produce is Mercado de San Juan on Calle Ernesto Pugibet, a short stroll through Alameda park then down calle Luis Moya. Most visitors to the city will be comfortable walking here through the busy streets.
La Lagunilla market has a better range of produce and groceries, however, not everyone will feel safe in this neighbourhood, which marks the start of the Tepito barrio, one of Mexico City’s dodgiest ’hoods. The best and safest way to get here on foot from the centre is to walk north along Calle Allende (which runs off our own street, Bolivar), which leads directly to the market, or take a taxi.
Once at the markets, you can buy a couple of eco-friendly, bold-patterned shopping bags — some with Frida Kahlo, skeletons, and other icon Mexican symbols on them! — to carry your groceries home. But as usual, to keep things equal across all our destinations, we visited several local supermarkets to get a good sense of the prices for our Mexico City shopping list.
The prices below are what things cost at the time this story was posted; the first column is in Mexican pesos ($), the second and third columns are the conversions to US$ and UK£ using the day’s currency rates.
|1.5 litre water||$8.50||US$0.66||£0.42|
|1 litre milk||$11.70||US$0.90||£0.58|
|Bottle of local wine||$100.00||US$7.72||£5.00|
|Local 325ml beer||$10.00||US$0.77||£0.50|
|100g Instant Coffee||$33.00||US$2.55||£1.65|
|250g coffee beans||$45.00||US$3.48||£2.25|
|Lipton’s tea 50 bags||$50.00||US$3.86||£2.50|
|1 kg sugar||$18.00||US$1.39||£0.90|
|Jar of pure honey (300g)||$36.00||US$2.78||£1.80|
|1 loaf of bread||$23.00||US$1.78||£1.15|
|250g quality butter||$20.00||US$1.54||£1.00|
|200g cheese (Manchego)||$32.00||US$2.47||£1.60|
|500ml Corn Oil||$10.00||US$0.77||£0.50|
|1 dozen organic eggs||$24.00||US$1.85||£1.20|
|1 kilo tomatoes||$11.00||US$0.85||£0.55|
|1 kilo onions||$11.00||US$0.85||£0.55|
|1 kg apples||$18.00||US$1.39||£0.90|