Provisioning and Lessons Learned

Before heading further south into Mexico we spent three months in Ensenada (60 miles south of the border) getting Camille ready and driving across the border to San Diego once a week to buy parts and gear. During this time I was learning what types of food are available at Mexican grocery stores but we had a hard time weaning ourselves from what’s familiar. So we filled Camille to the waterline with all of our favorite foods from Trader Joe’s and cases of wine from Whole Foods (only $2 per bottle and much better than the two buck Chuck from TJs!). In retrospect, the food is the same here, just some labels are unfamiliar (and in Spanish of course).

At the US-Mexico border. Waiting to get into the US. This usually takes about three hours!

Not quite a year later and some of that food is starting to expire! And we’re left wishing we had stocked up on things other than food. Not to mention that food is MUCH cheaper in Mexico and we could have saved a ton of money!

Case in point: We are currently adding a new sunshade to the cockpit and in order to install the twist snaps (which we brought back from our recent trip to the US) we needed a lot of stainless steel machine screws. We went all over town to find size 6/32 machine screws in half inch – we should have bought more when we were in the states. Stainless is nearly impossible to find in this country! Especially when you need a specific size. Either that or it is extremely expensive. We were able to find one inch screws at the local marine store (think: a third to half more expensive than West Marine) and Mike had to cut them to size.

Parts for repair and maintenance for the boat are also pretty hard to find and cost at least a third more because import duty and taxes have to be paid. Forget about getting anything shipped here. It is not cheap and might not make it! Better to fly back when you have a long list of needed items.

If we had to do it over we would bring more spare parts and trinkets for the boat and a lot less food before leaving the US. Though we have spare parts for nearly everything on board, Murphy’s law mandates that only the things you don’t have spares for will break – like our galley faucet which luckily was available at Home Depot. Note that not all Home Depots are created equal. When you first walk into the chain in Mexico you feel like you have been ported back into the US but you soon notice that the selection is limited. No stainless screws, nuts or bolts for example…

To provision for passages or long periods at anchor I have a master grocery list of all the items we have bought before and eat/use regularly. My list is kept on my phone in the Reminders app (update: I now use the Google Keep app). Things we do not need are listed as completed and before we go shopping I go over my list and uncheck the items we need to buy. While/after shopping we click on the check box and once again complete the item.

The more we spend time away from grocery stores the more I learn how much of an item we will need and I usually just guesstimate quantities while shopping (one/two per day of such and such). Fresh items are the hardest to plan for. After a week and a half we are usually down to a few apples, oranges, limes, onions and potatoes. Avocados will ripen overnight in this climate but will last over a week if kept in an open green bag in the fridge. I also use green bins in the fridge. Carrots, and jalapenos, and even things like strawberries will stay fresh much longer in a green bag or bin.


This post was written as part of a blog-hop. Visit the Monkey’s Fist website for posts about this topic written by other cruisers or check out these topics:  

Why do we Cruise
Relationships Aboard
Pink and Blue Jobs Aboard
Leave it or Bring it: Stuff
Swag and Approaching the Natives
Clothes and Laundry

10 Responses

  1. You must be in heaven if you can use that iPhone app for shopping. That must mean you are shopping in stores that you know what is on each aisle and what is normally stocked. OTOH, we buy whatever is available and have to search all over the store to find any specific item….if we are lucky that particular day. Mexican stores must be more like American stores than are stores in Turkey.

    1. Grocery stores around the big cities and towns are just like in the US. So we try to stock up there. When we are in the more remote areas we have do the same as you: just buy what’s available.

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