Learning to Love the Mini-super and Live Like a Local

by Marcia Bales (Sept. 2014)

It is no secret, shopping can be a challenge if you are not near a large, convenient grocery store with beautiful produce and all the things you need in one place (such as a Chedraui). Most people have no idea we can get what we need in a mini-super.

At first glance, all they have are chips and soda coolers. Those of us who live in Mahahual, and a few other small towns along the beach, have no option at all. If you are in Mahahual, the nearest Chedraui is 90 minutes away. But all little towns have little mini-supers.

If one is not accustomed to buying their groceries in mini-supers, one might think there isn't anything nutritious there, with the exception of some bananas, onions, tomatoes and some packaged goods. However, those who like an adventure, will find the challenge of shopping in a mini-super to be fun when they are empowered with the help of a few tips:

  • The good stuff is seldom where you can see it ... OR ... they all have a back room with more stuff.
  • No one is going to say "Can I help you?" unless they know that you are a big spender like me. (Most of them know I own the Mayan Beach Garden Restaurant and they sometimes ask me if I want help, but don't think they are rude if they don't ask you.)
  • They all carry more or less the same items.
  • Few of the vendors speak English. Learn as many food words in Spanish as possible or download a translator on your smartphone.
  • Ask for anything you can't find (hence the need to learn Spanish for food items). In a mini-super, you would normally need to ask for avocados (aguacates). They may not be out in one of the bins.
  • Don't feel afraid to rummage through coolers piled with unidentifiable gray plastic bags and some kind of herb (usually cilantro) rolled in paper Maseca bags. Good things are hiding in there like mushrooms, red bell peppers, poblano chilies, carrots and spinach.
  • The secret to buying cilantro out of one of the rolls of brown paper is either to take the rolled-up cilantro to the counter, or pull a handful of it out of the paper bag.
  • Don't assume that a store only has poor-looking produce. Simply ask "¿Hay algo mejor?" (Is there anything better?) and point to the bad produce. 75% of the time it works—they disappear into a back room and show up with beautiful produce.
  • Don't offend the store owner by going into the back room without asking; that would be rude.
  • Because most of the stores are family owned and operated, you seldom receive a "No hay" (We don't have it), unless they really don't have it. But it never hurts to ask if they are sure—"¿La verdad?" (The truth?). Sometimes they go and check.
  • Always be nice. If you are rude, they will ignore you. They hate a mad foreigner.
  • On the Yucatán Peninsula stores are often owned by Maya families and they don't really like to shake your hand, and they certainly don't like to look you in the eye. If they look away when you say "Buenas días," they are just being polite, in their culture. It isn't being unfriendly either.
  • If you see a freezer chest in the store, open it. If not, sometimes there is even a freezer in the back with frozen meats.
  • Most mini-supers carry fresher eggs than the supermarkets and you can buy just one egg, if you want.
  • Enjoy the experience. You may even gain a new friend in the store owner, especially if you frequent that mini-super.

Best Wishes from Mayan Beach Garden

Mayan Beach Garden Inn – Boutique-style hospitality on the Costa Maya
US VoIP: 206-905-9665
Restaurant (español) (cel) 52-1-983-732-0643
Mobile cel 52-1-983-130-8658


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