It’s been almost a month since I left my comfortable Ohio life to spend three months in Central America. One thing I didn’t think I would miss is being able to walk into a Giant Eagle and find all of the ingredients and snacks I needed. Everything was organized in a sensible way, at least the way I was used to.
As you may have gathered, that’s not the experience that I’ve had these past few weeks in Belize. Because I’m on an intern’s budget, quite similar to a college student’s budget, I’ve returned to a diet of ramen and peanut butter sandwiches when I’m not enjoying a delicious meal at one of the many beachside restaurants, street food stalls, or the bi-weekly bagel delivery to the office. My friend, however, has much higher standards for her at-home meals, so we’ve learned some of the basics of navigating grocery stores in San Pedro.
When we first walked into a grocery store, we didn’t have any expectations. We knew it was going to be a challenge to get used to. Our first experience was at a store at the edge of town, called Island City, and we’ve since visited both Super Buy North and Super Buy South, along with Mermaid and various small produce and fruit shops.
The organization of the stores are sometimes a bit goofy, so you may be searching for a few minutes for something you thought should be right next to the spaghetti sauce. If you really can’t find something, there’s a good chance they were out or they never had it in the first place. If they ran out, they probably don’t know when they’re going to get more. If they do have it, the employees will gladly help you find it.
Fruit and Vegetables
When I left Ohio, we were entering the coldest part of the winter, so fresh fruit wasn’t abundant. Because of this, I made eating fresh fruit one of my priorities. I can’t say I’ve necessarily met that goal to the extent I was hoping, but I have had my fair share of pineapple. I do know, however, that buying local fruit is the best route. This can sometimes be found in grocery stores, but you are more likely to find the freshest fruit at fruit stands.
This is where the fresh pineapple, bananas, plantains, papaya, and watermelon can be found. Those are the fruits that are in season all year long. My best advice is to buy what looks and smells the freshest. If you’re looking for other fruits like grapes and berries, it may cost you. Importing fruits will bring up the price. That’s why it’s best to try and eat local fruits, instead of sticking with what you are used to back home.
I have yet to buy a vegetable from a store while I’ve been here, but my friend needed some onions and peppers for her favorite spaghetti sauce recipe. We have found those at a few of the grocery stores, but the most appealing place we’ve found is a produce store that doubles as our favorite place to get smoothies. I’ll drink my banana smoothie and look at the cucumbers, ginger root, and various spices while she picks out the proper onions and peppers. This store also has meat, which leads to the next lesson.
Other than ground beef and chicken, we haven’t ventured much into the world of meat. The island seems to favor chicken as the meat of choice, which is fine by me. If you are looking to buy meat, use your discretion. Look for a store that specializes in fresh foods or meats if you’re looking for good chicken or beef.
Pork is also abundant on the island. The Sausage Factory is located on the south end of town, and its products can be found in various grocery stores. Speaking from experience, the sausage goes great with Eggo Waffles.
I have a terrible attachment to cereals that feature marshmallow bits as a main ingredient, so milk is a necessity in my trips to the grocery store. Half gallons of milk can cost up to $5 USD, which is steep compared to what I’m used to, so I’ve found that LaLa Light is a life saver. LaLa is a brand of milk that comes in a 1 liter box for $1.50 USD, which lasts me about a week with my daily bowls of cereal.
Also, when buying dairy products, make sure to check the expiration date. Sometimes grocers will forget to pull recently expired products or hope they will sell soon. This is a tip for buying any food products.
I haven’t done much drinking while I’ve been here, outside of the few beers I’ll have while playing trivia at Crazy Canucks on Fridays, but I have browsed the aisles and checked out some prices. If you aren’t a fan of rum before you come to the island, you will become one before you leave. It costs money to import alcohol, so some of your favorite spirits from back home can be double the price. Rum can be a thrifty $15-$25 BZD for a liter.
You won’t find your favorite beer here either, unless you’re already a fan of Belikin or Lighthouse, the two beers brewed in Belize. You can also find an occasional Guinness, but not everywhere. I’m not too picky, so I’ve embraced the local brews.
Finding everything you need isn’t terribly difficult. You just need to be prepared to look in a few different stores to get everything you need for the right price. As long as you’re checking dates on the packages, you should be in good shape.