I remember the good ol' days, when we first arrived in Playa del Carmen. On a cultural mission to test out the waters, (literally: those glistening, turquoise waters... ahhhhh) our family wished to understand and partake in Mexican traditions, to live the beach life for a year or so, and to learn Spanish. I imagined that by immersing myself into the community, I would be completely fluent in a couple of months. Four glorious years have come and gone. Yet, there are still times when my brain feels as though it's being squeezed in a vice when attempting to converse or remember the Spanish word for kale.
Grocery shopping in those initial months was particularly excruciating! I bought the necessities and prayed that the cashier would say nothing more than 'Buenos Dias'. The greeting I could handle, but beyond that, he could have spoken Martian and I would have understood as much. Embarrassingly for me, more questions similar to "Tiene usted una tarjeta de puntos?' (Do you have a points/rewards card?) or 'Le gustaría donar?' (Would you like to make a donation?) would leave me with a blank stare and flushed cheeks.
Eventually, after spending a few consecutive months or years here, expats such as myself, are able to commune with the locals just fine, albeit in a rough Spanglish dialect. However, for visitors who are new to the area and to the language, a simple trip to a Mexican supermarket can result in utter frustration. For this reason, we have compiled some helpful suggestions and tools intended to alleviate some of the stress that may occur when navigating through a grocery store in Playa del Carmen.
Grocery Store Jargon
Translator apps can save some anguish when traveling in a foreign country. Two helpful offline apps used for quick translation are Yocoy: Intelligent Translator and WayGo. If you have a Wifi connection, Itranslate and Google Translate can help to make your experience more pleasant. But just for fun, here is a short list of common words you can keep in mind that will serve you well when perusing the grocery superstores.
|Leche- Milk||Huevos – Eggs||Queso – Cheese|
|Sal – Salt||Pan – Bread||Pescado – Fish|
|Galletas – Crackers/cookies||Sour Cream –Crema||Papel Higienico- Toilet Paper|
|Pollo – Chicken||Jamon – Ham||Res- Beef|
|Cebolla- Onion||Ajo- Garlic||Lechuga - Lettuce|
|Arroz – Rice||Frijoles - Beans||Fresa - Strawberry|
|Pimiento – Pepper||Café – Coffee||Platano - Banana|
|Manzana- Apple||Naranja – Orange||Naranja – Orange|
|Mantequilla- Butter||Azucar - Sugar||Harina - Flour|
|Pepino - Cucumber||Jitomate -Tomato||Firma - Signature|
|Efectivo – Cash||Cambio – Change||Tarjeta – Card|
Where To Find Food Products In Playa del Carmen
The gorgeous variety of vibrant, exotic fruit is as abundant as the 'fruterias' (produce markets) in Playa del Carmen. These corner stores often have fresh cut, multi-colored fruit salads for your convenience or delicious blends of freshly squeezed concoctions, such as carrot and orange, beet or vitamin-packed green juices.
Dac on 30 Avenue, between Constituyentes and Calle 20 offers quality fruits, vegetables and an assortment of international grocery products. If you are willing to venture out of the way somewhat, Pasca Deli on Constituyentes between 70 and 75 Avenue in the Ejidal is an excellent source of hard to find international items, baking supplies and quality food products.
Mega - Comercial Mexicana
For more selection, there are several superstores around the city including Walmart, (30 Avenue and Calle 10) Comercial Mexicana (also known as Mega), (30 Avenue and Constituyentes), Chedraui (45 Avenue and Calle 2 Sur) and Soriana (in the Centro Maya Mall on the South end of town or on 30 Avenue, between Calle 38 and 40). Sam's Club and City Club, also on the South end of town along the Carretera Federal, provide a wide variety of bulk goods, but a membership card (usually $300 - $400 pesos annually) is required.
An Introduction To Mexican Products Worth Trying
Visiting a foreign country presents a terrific opportunity to introduce your taste buds to new flavors. Although supermarkets around the world are beginning to supply consumers with more choices in exotic and imported goods, there are many mysterious Mexican products worth getting acquainted with.
This thick, flat, oval shaped pad from a cactus plant is packed with fiber, anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals. Consuming nopales has shown to boost immune systems, optimize metabolic functions, regulate the digestive system and protect the skin from certain cancers. These firm, green paddles can be diced and added raw to salads or juiced, fried or roasted and added to tacos, scrambled eggs and stews.
The Chayote is from the gourd family and provides an adequate source of vitamins including C, riboflavin and thiamin as well as minerals such as iron, copper, zinc and manganese. Incorporating this low calorie, high fiber veggie can help to control cholesterol and aid in weight management. Julienne this pear-shaped vine vegetable and add it raw to salads and slaws or dice it in stir-fries, soups or casseroles.
These green tomatoes are roughly the size of apricots and are packed with vitamins and minerals known to reduce the risk of diabetes, increase digestive health, boost the immune system, improve vision health and increase energy levels. The sweeter, citrusy flavor goes well with slow cooked pork and is a staple in tangy, green Mexican salsas.
These dried red leaves from the hibiscus flower are found packaged in clear plastic bags or in bulk bins near the dried chile section of the market. Consuming agua de Jamaica or hibiscus tea has been proven to regulate blood pressure, as well as increase HDL or good cholesterol, which in turn lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Known as the Mayan green super food, Chaya has incredible health benefits including aiding with diabetes, acne, digestion, obesity and kidney stones. Studies have shown that chaya contains more protein and calcium than kale, while possessing twice the amount of iron and fiber than spinach. This nutrient-rich leafy vegetable can help to improve memory, vision and also prevent coughs. Simply chop it and add it to scrambled eggs or blend with whole limes, a natural sweetener and water for a refreshing beverage.
This natural sweetener is derived from the sugar cane and is an unrefined sugar. Since it has not undergone a heavy processing stage, vitamins such as calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and potassium remain intact. This unprocessed, raw sugar can be shaved and substituted for brown sugar in baking or used as a sweetener in coffee and tea.
Farm Markets, Organic and Vegan Products
Every week, vendors gather to sell local, organic and homemade goods at farmers markets around Playa del Carmen. Organic produce, fresh, homemade baked breads, empanadas, French tarts and pastries, jams, nut butters, bar soaps, lotions, and honey are just some of the products offered at these popular community markets.
On Tuesdays from 11a.m. - 1p.m, Kava Kasa (Calle 22 between 5th and 10th Avenue) hosts the first weekly market. El Papalote (25th Avenue between Calle 30 and 32) is the chosen location on Wednesday afternoons from 1-3p.m. Fridays, the market moves to Coco Beach (pool area of Condo Les Alizes on CTM and Flamingos) from 9-11a.m. Finally, every third Saturday of the month, Parque La Ceiba (Calle 1 Sur and 60th Avenue) opens its door and invites vendors to present their wares from 12-6p.m.
For organic and health food stores, Bio-Natural (10th Avenue between Calle 16 and Constituyentes), Bio Organicos (Calle 26 between 5th and 10th Avenue), Dac (30th Avenue between Constituyentes and Calle 20), Organik Boutique (Plaza Paseo Playacar in Playacar Fase 2) or Frutalesa in Paseo Tulum in Playacar Fase 2 across from the Centro Maya Mall offer the best selection in town.
Ideal Edenic offers delivery service of organic produce to Playa del Carmen. Each week they post a list of available products on their Facebook page and website. For more info or to place an order, call (998) 225-2342.
Grocery Shopping Tips
- The supermarkets here offer a high US dollar exchange rate, so save your dollars for groceries!
- The bigger chain stores are open from 7:00a.m. - 11:00p.m. Dac and the smaller markets close earlier.
- Taxis are readily available outside every main supermarket.
- It is customary to tip the people who bag your items. A rule of thumb to follow is $1 peso per bag.
- The sale of alcohol products is prohibited after certain hours but the time varies from store to store. Typically between 9a.m. and 5p.m, you can buy alcohol anywhere, except for on Sundays, many places stop selling alcohol at 2:00p.m.
- Wednesdays are commonly a much busier day than usual in Playa del Carmen supermarkets due to the specials on produce. If you are not keen to waiting in long lines, you will save yourself some time by choosing to shop on an alternative day.
- For fresh herbs such as dill (eneldo) or basil (albahaca), ask the clerks at Dac to retrieve some for you. They almost always carry herbs but they are kept in the cooler in the back of the store.
- If you find an imported product that is not easy to find in Playa del Carmen, stock up! Chances are, you will not see the rare item again for months, if ever!
Eco Market at Kava Kasa
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About the Author
Juanita Rodriguez was born and raised in a small Canadian town. Growing up in ruggedly cold climate, she eventually developed an affinity for palm trees and tropical living. This longing drew her to Vancouver with it’s moderate weather, where she worked in Public Relations for an optical company, became enchanted with international travel and studied to write for children through The Institute of Children’s Literature. Juanita is now married with three children and lives her dreams as a full-time resident of Playa del Carmen. She writes for the marketing department at Bric Vacation Rentals and is fascinated with all issues on the topic of travel.