GROCERY SHOPPING ON AN ISLAND
Whenever you move to another country, you need to be prepared for some major cultural shocks, especially when it comes to grocery shopping. I happen to live on the island of Ambergris Caye, in the town of San Pedro. The upside to that is compared to the mainland of Belize, we have access to a lot more first world products. Kellogg’s, Del Monte, Campbell’s, Pantene, etc. are all readily found here.
The downside is some of these products can be quite expensive compared to what you might find in the U.S. Also, I personally prefer to buy authentic Belizean groceries, so having all the products that I was used to in the States honestly kind of bums me out.
There are many, many, many grocery stores on the island. It is quite a competitive field. Most of them are very small and cater just to their specific neighborhoods or the off-chance passerby.
There are a few “major” super markets on the island: Island Supermarket, Super Buy (two locations), Greenhouse Market, Richies Supermarket, and the Village Market.
My husband and I have tried all of them, and one oddity quickly arose. It’s almost impossible to go into any of them and get everything you need.
For instance, in Super Buy, by far my most favorite store for its decent selection, low prices and great location, the vegetables are very sparse, and quite often wilted or aged. Also, the aisles are crowded, and sometimes product spills out into them.
Conversely, Greenhouse has excellent produce, and a decent array of other food products, but no paper, household or personal products.
Island Supermarket has a great selection of almost everything, but we find that their prices are at least 10-15% higher than Super Buy, so unless we can’t find something somewhere else, we tend to not frequent this store. Having said that, the owners are very, very nice, and their location is excellent if you live in the South.
One other issue with a couple of the markets is their lack of proper refrigeration and/or adherence to expiration dates. On the mainland, we heard rumors that some markets unplug their freezers at night to save on electricity – yikes! We haven’t seen any evidence of that here, but it’s not unusual to find a container of milk or cottage cheese that is well past its expiration date.
So, in order to get everything you need to complete your grocery list, you usually go to one major supermarket. Then you can supplement by going to the dozens and dozens of fruit & vegetable stands. Normally the island receives their fruit and vegetable deliveries on Tuesday’s and Saturday’s, so those are good days to go.
There also are a few very good bakeries on the island to get bread, cookies, etc., that are freshly baked daily. Another fun thing to do is to go down to the lagoon and find a fisherman who has a “daily catch” so that you can buy fresh fish.
Once you get used to the routine, where to find everything, the best places and days to go, grocery shopping becomes a very manageable task. I actually find it quite fun, and it really makes me feel like I’m living a cultural experience because if it were easy and like Walmart, well then I might as well have not moved!!
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