Friday, June 9, 2023

Shopping in Mexico

As an over-planner, being prepared for a multi month trip to another country is a fun challenge. It's even more challenging when I have a couple thousand pounds of cargo capacity and every pound is a liability. There is a lot of rope to hang myself, and having overloaded my Jeep, I was especially careful with a travel trailer. 

Nevertheless, there are things that are now in the way that I wish I had left at home. I have too many jackets and warm clothes. We've been in weather over 90 degrees every day, although we're about to head into more temperate climates. There's a 5 gallon water bottle I would like to give away (I think we know where to re-home it). I've got a container of "just in case" RV leveling gear that I would love to find a happy home for, but I'll keep it as spares. I could cook a gourmet meal in my kitchen (if I could find a gourmet chef), but instead I use about 10% of my kitchen gear. What about the things we have trouble finding on the road? As a store owner, I find the logistics intriguing.

RV Supplies. There are no RV supplies in Mexico, other than in the largest cities. We can get RV repairs done by local people, provided they don't need parts. Labor is cheap, as are raw materials. We had my cabinets rebuilt with bits of scrap wood and screws. The biggest need is for tank treatment that breaks down waste.  I started with three gallons of the stuff and I'll be short towards the end of the trip. My buddy discovered we can order it online from Home Depot in one of the larger cities and pick it up.


Hardware Stores. Speaking of Home Depot, it's not uncommon to have something break in an RV. I've got a list of ten RV projects that require repair. For example, I had a sliding door that was installed wrong and if I were at home, I would have ordered a fancy latch and several door tracks (from a field of half a dozen) on Amazon. It would have arrived in a day. In Mexico? There are no fancy latches or door tracks anywhere and Amazon Mexico is a pale shadow of the US version. The solution was to re-install the existing strap properly and re-install the existing track with the appropriate anchors. The anchors were kinda hard to find, but were thankfully at the Home Depot outside of Guadalajara.

Fabrication. Lacking the needed hardware, if you can speak some Spanish, you can have a local mechanic fabricate, weld, bend, or otherwise make things for you for a small fee. My buddy needed to fabricate some brackets by cutting some threaded rods and we found a local mechanic who did the work for about ten dollars. 

What About The things I really wanted on were things imported from the US and boy were they expensive! What couldn't I buy that I desperately needed? The previously mentioned RV chemicals, name brand cleaning supplies (Swiffer) and the like. It was going to be hundreds of dollars, so I'm adapting.

Wal Mart to the Rescue. In the ex pat community of Ajijic, English speaking customers can opt for a personal shopper to navigate the store. Wal Mart, probably because of its size, is the best bet for finding American products like body wash, cleaning supplies, and the like. Finding an Extra Grande bathing suit was a challenge that Wal Mart was up to, even though there was a choice of one.

Follow the Money. Where there are a lot of people and wealth, we've also found a couple high end grocery stores. Yesterday I bought several Amy's brand pizzas for a small fortune at one of these. Every box looks like it went on an adventure the thousands of miles from the US. Some foods that have been hard to find include good quality coffee beans, and in the fancy grocery stores there's often a dozen local and imported options, for a price.

Office Supplies? Working remotely, that means electronics. There are no Apple stores but we've encountered third party "Mac" stores in big cities. If my MacBook Pro were to suddenly die (it's pretty new), I could eventually get to a city to replace it. Likewise, I just bought a second phone at Wal-Mart, where I now need to go to find a case for it, since nobody else has them (it's too new at six months old).

Adapt and Overcome. Eating local and changing our diets has had positive health effects for all of us. We feel better eating fresh and avoiding the heavy carbs of an American diet. That also means less need to travel to find our favorite foods. I mean, if they show up in front of us, sure, but giving up bread for something like corn tortillas has been fantastic. 

Anyway, that's the gist of this. It has been fun going out a couple times a week to shop fresh. We buy corn tortillas, eggs individually or by the dozen, large bottles of drinking water, and fresh queso.

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