One of my favorite Monty Python blackouts is the "Been shopping?" bit.
Two women sit on a bench. One asks: Been shopping?
The other responds: No, ... I've been shopping.
First woman: What'd you buy?
Second woman: A piston engine.
For some reason, it is one of the funniest lines on television. And I have just been waiting to pull it put during a conversation.
But, as likely as the topic is, today is not that day.
I have been shopping, though.
Like many of you, the most frequent question I am asked is how expensive is it to live in Mexico?
Of course, the real question is: I have heard that an American can live in a beach house with a pool, a maid, and a cook for $800 a month. Does it cost that much?
I usually ask the questioner: How much does it cost to live in the Unites States? And the response is always: "It depends."
The same problem exists with the Mexico question. It depends on how you want to live and where you want to live.
Any more, I simply cut to the chase. I tell my friends that I managed to reduce my monthly living budget in Salem to $2000 a month. In Mexico, I have been able to save about 10% to 20% off of the prices I would pay in Salem.
Most of them get stuck on the first figure.
Let me give an example. I went to the fruit and vegetable stand on Wednesday. I purchased:
- 1 head of red leaf lettuce
- 3 bananas
- 6 limes
- 2 jalapeño peppers
- 1 red pepper
- 1 yellow pepper
- 3 cucumbers
- 1 head of garlic
And I paid only 40 pesos for the lot. Currently, one US dollar purchases about 13 pesos. My total was just over $3 US.
When I left Salem, one yellow pepper cost $2.50. I have no idea what the rest would cost.
So, you are probably asking: why am I not saving more than 10% or 20%?
If I became a vegetarian, I could probably save a bundle -- or a bundlette. (My food bill is only about 10% of my budget.)
What is missing from the list is meat. Chicken and beef are generally more expensive than in an American super market. The chicken is better in quality; the beef is terrible -- tough and tasteless.
Pork, on the other hand is a succulent bargain. And that was before the Great Swine Flu Husteria of 2009.
But, before we leave the food basket, I have an opinion to pass on.
Before I came down here, I was told that the fruits and vegetables were better-looking and tastier than anything in my local super market.
That is true for the fruit. The bananas, mangos, and pineapple are almost indecently good -- because they ripen on or near the source of production.
Not so much the vegetables. With the exception of the carrots and onions, vegetables have been a major disappointment. Most of them look like the vegetables you would see in the cart of a hip organic shopper mere moments before the produce would be chucked out the back door.
Looks are not everything. After all, think of how tasteless some good-looking vegetables are.
Well, I am here to tell you that the ugly vegetables here just do not have much taste to them at all. Like the homely girl whose personality is extolled -- these have no personality.
That was a bit disappointing. But I have managed to develop some recipes where liberal amounts of pepper flakes can disguise the blandest potato.
Perhaps, I simply need to learn how to cook a piston engine.