So it's no secret that for many people considering a move to southern Mexico for a permanent or long-term stay, the lower cost of living compared to the US or Canada is a big incentive. Perhaps second only to the fantastic weather.
With the advantageous exchange rate as of spring 2020 hovering around 25 pesos to 1 US dollar, or 17 to 1 Canadian dollar, pretty much any way you slice it living in Mexico is going to be less expensive than living up north. In particular if you are on a fixed-income after retirement or otherwise paying close attention to a monthly budget, if your income is in US or Canadian dollars, you are going to find southern Mexico to be very affordable.
In some areas, for example electricity costs or to buy fruits and vegetables, the difference is fairly remarkable. In other areas, such the cost of dairy products or the price of gasoline, you may find there is little difference. And one caveat to this is that yearly inflation is higher in Mexico than in either the US or Canada, and so prices can rise from year-to-year.
With that being said, here we'll take a look at some of the actual costs of food and other daily-use products in southern Oaxaca state, and try to give you an idea of budget considerations when you are planning on making the big move.
For the purposes of this article, we'll use a couple different online sources as well as a basic currency convertor to demonstrate costs in US dollars. As most Canadians are aware, you can add 25% to 30% to calculate prices in Canadian dollars. Of course there will be regular fluctuations in the conversion from pesos as national currencies take regular rises and dips, but this should give you a general idea of what to expect when considering a budget.
Something else to note is that if you settle into a smaller community in southern Mexico, you will likely end up doing a lot of your regular shopping at smaller family-owned tiendas and speciality shops. Prices in these places will likely be a bit higher than if you were to settle in Huatulco, for example, where you have access to larger, national-chain stores like Chedraui and Soriana. These kinds of stores basically offer “one-stop shopping”, where you can purchase groceries, but also a wide range of other goods, from housewares and clothing to appliances and motor oil.
On the other hand, most small towns in Mexico have at least one dedicated market day, where vendors set up temporary booths and sell all kinds of produce at very good prices. Part of the fun of living in Mexico is to explore what your community has to offer, visit various shops and markets, and find your favorites.
For Americans, it should be noted that Mexico uses the metric system for weights and measurements. One kilogram converts to 2.2 pounds, while 1 litre is just over ¼ of a US gallon.
Daily Food Costs in Mexico
You'll get up in the morning to yet another beautiful, sunny day and want to put on the coffee. When it comes to water, most people have drinking water delivered to their homes in 20 litre (or 5 gallon) plastic bottles called a garrafon. To buy a new full bottle cost $2.35 US, but afterward you simply exchange the empty bottle for a full one for the cost of around $0.75.
You can find excellent coffee in specialty shops in southern Mexico, and can expect to pay around $5.75 for a kilo. If you add milk and/or sugar, a litre of 1% milk is $0.90 while a 600-gram bag of sugar is roughly the same.
For breakfast, you can find freshly baked bread for as little as 60 cents or up to $1.10 per loaf, a small jar of jam will set you back about 40 cents, while a single stick of butter also runs about 50 cents. If you're the kind of person who likes to bake their own bread, 1 kilo of wheat flour is around 45 cents. A dozen eggs will set you back $1.15, while a 250-gram package of smoked bacon (10 slices) is around $1.65
If you enjoy fresh fruit in the morning (one of the many perks of living in Mexico) a kilo of bananas or oranges cost just over $0.72, while apples are around twice that price.
When it comes to lunch and dinner, you of course have the option of eating out or cooking at home. In a medium-priced restaurant, a meal for two people with a couple of drinks will be in the $14.50 to $18.00 range. Or you can eat like a local at a small comedor and get a plate of tacos and a cold beer for around $2.55.
To cook your Mexican food at home, a half-kilo of fresh corn tortillas (about 30) is a mere 40 cents, while a 10-pack of the flour variety cost the same. Make your own salsa with tomatoes for $1.00 per kilo and jalapeno peppers at $0.90per kilo. A kilo of white onions will be just under $0.75.
Top off your tacos – or anything else – with crumbly queso fresco cheese, sold in a small round cake for right around $0.75, or buy a 600-gram pack of very popular Mexican-style Manchego cheese for $3.10. A kilo of dried black beans is only 40 cents, while the canned variety are generally about 55 cents for a 500-gram tin.
If you get a hankering for making a pizza at home, you can even find pre-shredded mozzarella in the larger grocery stores for about $3.250 for a 600-gram package.
And what if the kids are demanding a classic grilled cheese for lunch? You can even get Kraft American-style packaged cheese slices at $1.00 for a 8-pack, or whip up a tuna fish sandwich at 40 to 65 cents per can, depending on the brand.
Poultry is fairly inexpensive in southern Mexico such as $3.50 for two large (and we mean large) bone-in chicken breasts. If you prefer to have someone else do the cooking, you can get a rotisserie-style BBQ chicken at most large grocery stores also for around $3.60. Even better, find a small rotisserie chicken restaurant and take out a complete meal for 2 or 3 people – a whole chicken, veggies, rice, tortillas and salsa – for around $5.40.
When it comes to beef and pork, prices are a bit higher. A local butcher may charge $5.40 for a kilo of ground hamburger, or just under $7.20 for a kilo of beef strip loin or steak filets. One kilo of pork roast will be about $5.00, while a kilo of baby-back pork ribs will be about double that.
Tuna or mahi mahi filets or steaks will cost about $10-$12 per kilo to prepare at home.
Liquor, Wine and Beer Costs in Mexico
Having covered off some basic food items, we can look at some other products you'll be needing or wanting on a regular basis. If you enjoy watching the sunset with a drink on the patio, or entertaining at cocktail hour, you can whip up a pitcher of margaritas for $6.50 for a 1-litre bottle of Jose Cuervo (or other popular brands) tequila, and a same-size bottle of Controy orange liqueur for $6.00. Limes are sold by weight, but generally work out to cost 1 peso, or 5 cents, each. Grab a bag of ice from a local convenience store for $1.30.
If you prefer hard liquor, a 750 ml bottle of Johnny Walker Red Label whiskey can be found in larger grocery stores for around $18.00, while the same size of a 12-year-old Chivas Regal is $32.00. A 1-litre bottle of Bacardi white rum will be $12.00.
As for mix, a 3-litre bottle of Coke is $1.00, a 2-litre bottle of soda water is 80 cents. One litre of fruit juice for $1.25.
For wine drinkers, the most popular brands of reds and whites from Chile or Argentina can be found everywhere for $8.00 per bottle, while higher-end imports from Spain or France can run up to $11.00 or $12.00 per bottle.
When it comes to beer, the bottle variety of ubiquitous Corona typically sells for 60 cents each or just under $14.50 for a case of 24. This is usually the price you would find at smaller tiendas, (where the cost includes the deposit on the bottles, which you receive back when you return them) but discounts can be had if you shop at larger grocery stores.
A more premium brand of beer such as Bohemia (dark or light) will run you $4.10 for a six-pack at a grocery store, $0.80 more at most tiendas. More and more craft beers are becoming available in Mexico but they are more expensive at $1.50 to $2.50 per bottle, depending on the brand.
Toiletry and Cleaning Products Cost in Mexico
Of course, on a day-to-day basis you'll need other products such as toiletries and cleaning products. A 16-pack of toilet paper can be bought for around $2.05, a bar of soap such as Zest is 70 cents, a brand such as Pears will be just over $0.80. Popular brands of toothpaste such as Colgate or Crest are just over $0.80 for a tube, but a more specialty brand like Sensodyne is more expensive at around $3.85 for a tube.
A 400 ML bottle of shampoo such as Pantene costs right around $2.15, a 700 ML bottle of Head & Shoulders will be $3.24. Disposable razors for both men and women are curiously expensive in the grocery store, running around $3.00 to $5.00 for a three-pack.
As for cleaning products, Fabuloso is the go-to product for mopping floors, and a 1-litre bottle is $1.00. Clorox bleach is used for everything, and costs a mere $1.00 for a 2-litre bottle. White vinegar, which in Mexico is used as a cleaning product more than a cooking product is also around 70 cents for a 1-litre bottle. A 2-litre bottle of detergent of various brands for washing clothes is $3.00.
The Cost Of Pets in Mexico
If you have a pet, hard kibble for dogs or cats can be found either in grocery stores pre-packaged or in most tiendas in bulk for $1.50 to $2.00 per kilo. Canned pet food can usually only be found in large grocery stores where you'll pay about 90 cents for a tin of cat food, twice as much for a can of dog food double the size. Cat litter can only be found at large grocery stores and costs $3.75 for a 7 kilo bag.
(Pro tip – if you're bringing a pet cat to Mexico from Canada or the US, also bring along a litter box and scooper, as such a things basically do not exist in most places in Mexico. In fact, most Mexicans find the whole idea of litter boxes for cats very odd. Cats are supposed to live and do their business outside.)
Cost Of Daily Transportation In Mexico
When it comes to daily transportation, the most economical way to get around is to ride in a pasejero, which is a small truck with a covered box and benches running along the sides. Typically a 30-minute journey will cost around 80 cents. You can also choose to wave down a collectivo taxi, which is a regular taxi, but which will stop and pick up and let off other passengers as you go – in other words you are ride sharing. The same 30-minute journey by collectivo taxi will be around $1.50.
If you choose to take a private taxi, you can expect to pay about $8.00 for the same 30-minute trip. As a word of caution, taxi prices can fluctuate widely and most taxis are not metered – always ask the price to your destination before you get in.
Finally, if you happen to have your own car, gas in Mexico as of early 2020 is selling for around $1.07 US per litre, or roughly $4.00 for a US gallon. Gas is one product where the cost has risen fairly steeply over the past few years (almost 50% in the last five years or so), and like everywhere else in the world this increase is one of the prime drivers of higher costs for other products that have to be transported to market.
Basic Health Care Costs
While doctors' appointments and services can vary widely, a typical general medical doctor's appointment will cost between $15 and $30. General laboratory exams including having blood drawn and testing for cholesterol, glucose, etc., will cost around $10.
If you're buying a car in Mexico or bringing your own, generally basic checkups and repairs are cheaper than up north. An oil change will run about $7 including a liter of oil, having the wheels aligned about $9, replacing a windshield will cost about $50 while replacing a side mirror about $3.
While not a complete list, the information above should give you a basic idea of how you will want to be budgeting your income as compared to your lifestyle up north. Once you start to add it all up, you’ll likely come to the conclusion that day-to-day living in Mexico can be very financially attractive.