Updated: May 12, 2021
Anybody who follows my blog or videos knows that I like a bargain. Since my most popular content is about the cost of living in Mexico, I'm guessing that you guys do too. Mexico is known as a destination where expats can get more bang for their buck. People want to retire in Mexico to stretch their pensions. Most blogs that I have read are written by foreigners living on generous pensions or income from international jobs. How budget-friendly is living in Mexico really?
I decided to challenge myself to eat for a whole day with just US$1 or 20 Mexican pesos. Would it be possible or would I be going to bed hungry?
Shopping in the market
While you can get some good deals in supermarkets, there's no doubt that on such a tight budget, the local market was the place to go. With just 40 pesos in my pocket (20 for me and 20 for my husband), I set off to see what I could get.
I visited my first stall and things didn't look too promising. As I explained by plan to the woman working there, I was met with a confused look. Of course, this woman worked out straight away that I wasn't going to be a profitable customer for her. She didn't seem too excited about cooperating and refused to sell me small amounts of things. My heart dropped as I imagined surviving for the whole day on just rice and beans.
Finally I was able to convince her to sell me just 250g each of rice and beans, which cost me MX$15 in total. Not bad for half a kilo of food but I'd spent nearly half my budget for the day! Next up, fruit and veg... Fortunately in this stall, the owners were a lot more understanding of my situation and they suggested how I could eat well with the money I had remaining. I walked out of the stall with a tomato, 2 bananas, a potato, some chiles and more for just MX$13 in total. It looked like I would be have some variety in my diet today after all!
After this, I passed by a dry goods stall. The people there were so friendly, I wish I had gone there first. They were able to sell me very small amounts of different items so I bought MX$4 worth of oatmeal and MX$3 of lentils. On such an extreme budget, meat was not going to be on the menu today but I could try the vegetarian lifestyle for a change. With MX$5 left in my budget, I went for the Mexican staple food, tortillas. I was able to buy about 250g, which seemed like more than enough for 2 people.
I was surprised with how much food I was able to buy for just US$2! Now I just had to turn it into something appetizing.
It turns out that MX$4 of oats is more than enough for two people. We split the banana between us and had a hearty, if boring, breakfast.
Lunch was a little more exciting. We prepared the lentils with onion, tomato and nopal and accompanied this with rice and tortillas. We had plenty of lentils left over for the next day.
I have to say. It tasted pretty good! It's an excellent budget meal that I will definitely make in the future.
Our dinner was the highlight of the day. Despite my husband burning the beans, our tacos turned out pretty well. While you might pay MX$30-40 for vegan tacos in a hipster restaurant downtown, I was able to make these for just a couple of pesos. We were able to add lime, onion, and tomatoes to make these more exciting. I just wish that I had saved a peso to buy some cilantro to give these tacos the finishing touch. That's something to remember for next time.
How did it go?
I was surprised at how easy this challenge was. Not only were we able to eat very well with a budget of just $1 a day, but we also had plenty of beans and lentils left over for the next day!
If I was planning this over a whole week, I'm sure I could afford to add a little more variety to the food and still cook up 3 tasty budget meals a day. We might even be able to fit in a little meat!
I don't think I'll be making a habit of this because beans and lentils can get boring after a while but it's good to know that as long as I have a dollar, I won't be hungry in Mexico!
For more information about cost of living in Mexico and other insights, check out my Youtube channel or my other blogs!