Shopping at ethnic grocery stores can offer big savings compared to large supermarket chains. Mexican grocery stores in particular provide access to authentic ingredients and foods at affordable prices. But is shopping at a Mexican grocery store cheaper than a regular supermarket? There are some key factors to consider.
One of the biggest ways Mexican grocery stores save shoppers money is through produce prices. Large supermarkets tend to mark up the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables significantly. Mexican grocers are able to offer produce like avocados, tomatoes, peppers, and other fresh ingredients for a fraction of the cost.
For example, at a typical supermarket, avocados may cost $1 or more per avocado. At a Mexican grocer, avocados can often be found for $0.50 or less when purchased in bulk. The savings quickly add up when purchasing multiple pieces of produce in one shopping trip.
|Produce Item||Supermarket Price||Mexican Grocery Price|
|Avocados||$1.00 each||$0.50 each|
|Bell peppers||$1.50 each||$1.00 each|
As seen in the table, even basic produce staples like avocados, tomatoes, and peppers can be purchased for around 25-50% less per pound or per item at Mexican grocery stores compared to traditional supermarkets. Over many shopping trips, these savings make a significant impact on the overall grocery budget.
Meat prices at Mexican grocery stores also tend to be lower compared to big supermarket chains. Specializing in ingredients for Mexican cuisine means these grocers have access to quality cuts of meat used in dishes like carne asada, al pastor, chorizo, and more for less.
For example, flank steak for carne asada may cost $7-8/lb at a regular supermarket but can be found for around $5-6/lb at a Mexican grocery store. Chicken thighs, pork shoulder, and other popular cuts for Mexican recipes are all typically available for 10-20% cheaper than mainstream supermarkets.
There are a few reasons for these meat savings:
- Lower overhead costs for smaller Mexican grocers allow them to price meat affordably
- Relationships with specialty meat suppliers focused on cuts for Mexican cooking
- High demand and turnover of their most popular meat products
Regardless of the reasons, the bottom line is big savings on meat for shoppers buying ingredients at Mexican grocery stores.
Dry Goods & Pantry Items
In addition to fresh produce and meat, Mexican grocery stores also provide savings on dry goods and pantry items. This ranges from spices and chiles to beans, rice, canned goods, tortillas, and more.
Authentic brands and ingredients from Mexico tend to be much cheaper at Mexican grocers than the same products at big supermarket chains. For example, a bag of dried chiles may cost $3-4 at a regular supermarket but only $1-2 at a Mexican store. Large bags of rice and dried beans also tend to be offered at nearly half the cost of mainstream grocery stores.
Canned goods and other processed items imported from Mexico are almost always cheaper than the U.S. versions of the same products as well. A can of chipotle peppers can be $2-3 at a regular grocery but may only be $1 at a Mexican store.
|Pantry Item||Supermarket Price||Mexican Grocery Price|
|Dried chile peppers||$3.99||$1.99|
|Rice (10lb bag)||$8.99||$4.99|
|Black beans (5lb bag)||$6.49||$3.99|
|Chipotle peppers (15oz can)||$2.69||$0.99|
As shown for typical pantry staples, shopping at Mexican grocers for the dry and canned goods used in Mexican cooking leads to 50% or more in savings compared to large supermarket chains.
Tortillas & Baked Goods
Tortillas and Mexican baked goods like bolillos, teleras, and pan dulce are other categories with major savings at Mexican grocery stores. Access to authentic tortilla factories and bakeries means these grocers can offer fresh tortillas and breads for up to 75% less.
At mainstream grocers, store-bought tortillas may cost $3-4 for a dozen corn or flour tortillas. At a Mexican market, tortillas from local tortillerias are often only $1-2 per dozen. The savings are even greater on specialty items like telera rolls and pan dulce sweet breads that may be $5 or more per package at regular stores but only $2-3 at Mexican grocers.
For households that eat tortillas and Mexican breads regularly with meals, the savings from buying these items at ethnic grocers adds up very fast. Bulk purchases of multiple packages at once leads to even more savings.
Is Shopping at Mexican Grocers Worth It?
Based on the major savings possible on all the essential ingredients in Mexican cooking, shopping at a Mexican grocery store is almost always cheaper than buying the same items at big supermarket chains. The exact savings will depend on current prices and sales at each store.
However, the following estimates demonstrate the average savings possible from shopping at Mexican grocers:
- Produce: 25-50% savings
- Meat: 10-20% savings
- Pantry items: 25-50% savings
- Tortillas & baked goods: 50-75% savings
For a household that cooks a lot of Mexican food and goes through all these ingredients regularly, it’s easy to save $20, $30, or even $50 or more per week by shopping at a Mexican grocery store instead of a big supermarket chain.
Maximizing Savings at Mexican Grocery Stores
To maximize the savings from shopping at Mexican grocers, keep these tips in mind:
- Buy produce in bulk on sale – stock up on items like avocados, onions, tomatoes, jalapenos, etc. when marked down
- Purchase meat in large quantities and freeze what you don’t use immediately
- Take advantage of bulk bins for dry goods like beans, rice, spices, chiles etc.
- Check unit prices – bigger packages are not always a better deal
- Look high and low for bargains – sometimes the best deals are on bottom shelves
- Ask about any family packs or discounted bundle deals not on display
- Shop on weekdays to get the best selection and prices if possible
Using strategies like these ensure you get the lowest prices and maximum savings from shopping at Mexican grocery stores.
Potential Drawbacks of Mexican Groceries
Although the savings are big, there are some potential drawbacks to relying entirely on Mexican grocers for food shopping:
- Fewer national brand options – more imports and specialty Mexican brands
- Less variety for items not used in Mexican cuisine
- Smaller store footprints in general
- Inconvenient locations in some areas
Due to importing costs, Mexican grocery stores tend to stock less of the national American brands carried at large supermarket chains. The variety and selection outside of ingredients for Mexican cooking may also be smaller.
The store sizes are smaller as well, which can lead to a more crowded shopping experience. And depending on where you live, the nearest Mexican grocery could involve a longer drive than the local supermarket.
For shoppers looking to purchase some American brand items or non-Mexican ingredients, a trip to the regular supermarket may still be warranted even when shopping primarily at Mexican grocers.
Balancing Supermarket and Mexican Grocery Trips
Given the limitations of shopping exclusively at Mexican markets, many households split their grocery shopping between regular supermarkets and Mexican grocers.
A typical approach is to do a major shopping trip once a month or so at a large supermarket to stock up on non-perishable American brands and any other items not easily found at the Mexican market.
Then, weekly or bi-weekly trips to the Mexican grocery store are made to replenish fresh produce, meat, tortillas, and other perishables at lower prices.
This hybrid approach ensures you get the savings on ingredients for Mexican dishes while still having access to convenience items and national brands carried at big supermarket chains.
Shopping at Mexican grocery stores provides major savings on produce, meat, pantry staples, tortillas, and other ingredients used heavily in Mexican cuisine. Average savings of 25-50% on core food items purchased weekly or monthly leads to hundreds of dollars in annual grocery bill reductions for the typical household.
While some supplemental trips to conventional supermarkets may still be needed, Mexican grocers should be a primary grocery destination for any household that cooks authentic Mexican food on a regular basis.
Taking advantage of the affordability these smaller ethnic grocers offer makes it easier to enjoy delicious and authentic Mexican meals at home without breaking the bank!