A Guide To Grocery Stores and Shopping on Ambergris Caye

Going grocery store shopping will be a part of your trip to Belize whether you are renting a home for a long stay or spending a week at a resort.   Even the traveler who packs fastidiously will need to pop into the local shop for a forgotten item.

It’s not difficult.  We speak English…that’s good.  And the conversion rate is a super simple $2bzd = $1USD….

But shopping in Belize isn’t as straight forward as you might think – especially if you are used to a large all-in-one mega-marts.

Here are a handful of tips and guidelines that should make things easy.

The Basics:

All Stores take both US dollars and Belize Dollars.  Note that US dollars with rips or marks are not accepted by our local banks so when you bring cash from home – make sure to check the bills.    Read more about handling money and credit cards in Belize here.

Tax.  Belize’s GST or General Sales Tax is included in the price.  Don’t worry about calculating and adding the 12.5% sales tax.

There are no big international chains in Belize – at all.  No Walmart, no McDonald’s, no Taco Bell.

Not all stores have the same quality or the same products or the same prices.  There can be a good deal of fluctuation depending on the size or ownership or even location on the island.  The coffee creamer that you purchased for a good price in town, might cost twice as much at the small shop just outside your resort.

There are no 24 hour supermarkets.  Some open as early as 7am, most by 8am.  Almost all close by 9pm.

Meat – While you can find almost all meats in Belize, all are not equal.    And all are not available at the supermarket.   You will almost always find chicken – the common cuts are boneless and boned breast, legs (which includes legs and thighs), parts and whole chicken.  All are local – grown in Belize-  come with skin and bones unless otherwise labelled.

They are always frozen and there is one word to remember.  TURNOVER.  I like to buy chicken at the butcher (Lino’s) or the chicken distributor (there are 2 Quality Poultry shops in San Pedro) – or at stores with high turnover.  If the packaging is open or it looks like the blood has thawed and refrozen or the chicken is deep within a glacier, I’d step away from the freezer case.

Beef that grows in the tropics tends to be flavorful but a bit tougher.  (Often restaurants stick to imported steak or high quality local  more “boutique” beef – feel free to ask!)    Pork is DELICIOUS – more tasty than much of that served in the states.

Fresh or frozen seafood are NOT generally sold at supermarkets.

Fruit and Vegetables:  Turnover and selection are again key.  So for the best prices and selection buy your produce at a produce stand.  The super markets tend to have a smaller and often older selection.

Produce stalls and markets are everywhere – hard to miss.  And they carry a local selection.

For a broader selection try The Greenhouse on Middle Street.  It’s the only place you are going to find a leek or a brussel sprout or a fresh berry alongside a nice selection of local veggies and fruits.

YOU CAN FIND AMERICAN (and other international brands) BUT THEY ARE GOING TO BE MORE EXPENSIVE.

Anything that is imported into Belize – from veggies to frozen White Castle Burgers – is subject to GST + a hefty import duty.  So not only did those Klondick Bars come down as refrigerated cargo, there were numerous fees for packing, packing and inspection, plus transport to the island, on the island AND a heavy duty was applied at the port.

You are ABSOLUTELY incentivized to buy LOCAL.  More on this below.

Specialty items marked Vegan?  Gluten Free?   They are starting to make their ways onto the larger supermarket shelves.   Very slowly.   Soy, rice and almond milk are becoming more common – and almost always sold in boxes.  I’ve seen vegan American cheese (is it even cheese?) at Caye Mart.  I’ve seen Gluten free pretzels at the Greenhouse – but you are going to pay for it.

Caye Mart has a new sign now…but you get the idea

Examine your products:  Since imported items have been…well…imported, there is a chance that your very perishable item has changed in transit.  This is happening less and less as things move quicker and more efficiently but check.  My last batch of chocolate chips looked like this when I opened it.  (It could have been the heat of my golf cart though…)

That’s my fault – I didn’t check.  Plus it’s no big deal – I chopped the block and mixed into my cookies.

Also check expiration dates on your American/imported items…stores sometimes don’t check as they might elsewhere.  And some do and will give you the item at a discount.  I am a giant fan of 1/2 price newly expired cheese.  But that might just be me.  🙂

Buyer beware.

Alcohol:  Again, local vs imported is going to mean a huge cost difference.  Local rum runs about $30bzd a liter or less, where imported liquors are significantly more.   These prices are median-ish.

1 Liter Absolut Vodka:  $89.95bzd

1 Liter Tanqueray Gin:  $115.95bzd

Here is some information about buying liquor at the airport before you leave.

EAT LOCAL

Food is most definitely the largest part of my budget here on Ambergris Caye.  I’ve tried to estimate how much I spend on grocery shopping in older posts – and I’m SURE I always underestimate.  Food is expensive.

Eating local products makes a world of difference.  This pertains to the basics like rice and sugar, meats and Fanta soda water (instead of Pellegrino).  (Here’s the scoop on all the Fanta flavors – all bottled in Belize.)

The key is in the tops!

It also applies to lots of other products – juice.  You can buy a $15bzd carton of OJ or a $13.95bzd can of Dole Pineapple juice from the states. But just as good and way cheaper is Belizean juice in a box – Caribbean pride.  It’s GOOD and only $4bzd.

If it’s your first time shopping in Belize, take a few extra minutes, do some comparison shopping.

Sample Grocery Prices:  These are prices from this recent week.  They are a guideline, an example.

1lb sugar:  $1.00bzd

1lb flour:  $1.25bzd

1lb onions:  $3.00bzd

 

16oz box Lucky Charms Cereal:  $14.95

1 loaf of local white bread:  $2.00bzd

1 carton/box of Lala Milk:  $3.95bzd

1lb ground beef:   $7.95bzd

Eggs:  3/$1bzd plus 50 cents for the styrofoam dozen container

1 roll of Roses Toilet paper (Belize made):  $1.75bzd  (Local)

1lb rice:  $1.75

1lb chicken boneless breast:  $6.95

1 bottle Belikin beer:  $3.00 + .25 bottle deposit

1.5L Crystal water:  $1.50bzd

Bananas:  4 or 5 for $1bzd (other parts of Belize, up to 10!)

vs. Imported

4 pack of Charmin Ultra Strong:  $11.95bzd (Imported)

Tampax RegularTampons (10 pack): $10.95bzd

Friskies Dry Cat food 32.4oz bag:  $18.95bzd

Can of Off Mosquito Repellent:  $18.95bzd

One spray can of Ocean Potion 50SPF Sports Spray:  $32.95bzd

One Jar of Skippy Super Chunk Peanut Butter 16.3oz:  $10.95bzd

One bar of Philadelphia Cream Cheese:  $6.95bzd

One pack of frozen Toufayan bagels (we eat the Everything flavor ALL the time):  $9.95bzd

One roll of Bounty Paper towels:  $7.95bzd

LASTLY, some of the smaller stores, corner shops don’t mark some or all of their products.  If I’m running in for one or two things, that’s fine…I don’t mind asking before I buy.  But if I’m doing a “big shop”, I like things marked.  It just makes the whole process easier.

So…hopefully that helps.

Here are some of the stores that I like.  I have not visited every one on the island.  But these work for me and if you are brand new here, a good jumping off point.

Large Well Marked Air Conditioned Supermarkets with a Varied Selection:

Caye Mart:  Just north of town at the Traffic Circle

Mermaid Supermarket:  South of town across from the Belize Yacht Club and bonus:  Maria’s Fruit Stand is just next door

Super Buy – in town – and Super Buy South

Greenhouse – located on the middle of Middle Street, Greenhouse should be on everyone’s list.  Though they are a bit more expensive for the basics, they have THE best and most varied food selection.  (No paper goods, cleaning products, etc.)  They are THE fantastic “specialty shop” – with things like homemade sourdough loaves, gorgeous hummus and pestos, brussel sprouts, grapes, shallots, fresh herbs and all “exotic” produce – maybe even a lemon!  They will also have the widest selection of whole grain, gluten free, vegan items.

Put Greenhouse on your list.

For more posts about this topic, see below.  Happy Shopping!

 






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  • Mike

    If you want scotch, bourbon or vodka, buy it at the inbound duty free store in the Belize City airport before coming through customs. Only about $18 per liter there vs. $50 to $70 on the island.

    • Totally – thanks for the updated prices – I put a link to an older scoop in here about that. It’s a GREAT tip.

  • Billizer

    …great scoop, Rebecca. Can’t believe you priced all those items. My favorite grocery is the Costa Rican grocery in Escalante Subdivision near Secret Treasure Restaurant. They are super friendly and happy for your business…which, in my book, more important than price.

  • ToBeAlive

    Finding ‘necessities’ ok here in Placencia. Hope Ambergris Caye will supply us too with Shitake mushrooms and spicy bean sauce, rice noodle.
    Also, kalamata olives, artichoke hearts…

    • Dried shitake, yes. Yes, yes, yes…kalamata…hmmm…yes but probably expensive. Artichoke hearts YES! I’m getting much cheaper roasted red peppers and artichoke hearts and on my sandwiches made with French baguettes from the new bakery? Ooooh lala !

      • ToBeAlive

        yay! now, a good source for curry ingredients… travel spoils me