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Thursday, June 13, 2024

65-year-old retiree left the U.S. for Mexico: ‘I now spend $160 a month on eating out and shopping—here’s a look at my typical day’

Mornings have always been my favorite time of day, and here in Mazatlán, Mexico, where I moved to from California to retire in 2006, that's still the case.

When the nesting swallows outside my bedroom windows start chirring at 6 a.m., I'm up — bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I make coffee the night before so it's ready to pour into a glass with ice first thing in the morning.

I slip into my flip-flops, and coffee in hand, walk half a block to the beach to check out the waves. If conditions are right, I'll go surfing. Otherwise, I might stroll on the beach or just go for a swim.

Being right on the Tropic of Cancer, the blue sky is gorgeous practically every day of the year! This is Los Pinos Beach, my favorite surf spot.Photo: Janet Blaser

Here's what the rest of my typical day — e.g., what I eat and do, how much I spend — looks like in Mazatlán:

Waves, walks … and some writing

Early in the day, there's a special camaraderie among folks out on the malecón, Mazatlán's 8-mile-long beachfront boardwalk. Joggers, dog-walkers, cyclists, fishermen, surfers and others all take advantage of the cool morning air before the sun comes up.

A morning walk along the beach near my house, with Mazatlán's three islands just offshore.Photo: Janet Blaser

I love breakfast. My go-to meal at my favorite café is huevos rancheros con salsa verde, usually with a second iced coffee. The total cost is so inexpensive (120 Mexican pesos/$6 USD, including tip) that I often think, why cook?

Paola, the barista at my favorite coffee shop, starts my iced Americano as soon as she sees me. It's ready before I sit down.Photo: Janet Blaser

Most places have free Wi-Fi, so I'll sometimes bring my laptop to check emails and maybe do some work. Although I'm retired, I still do some freelance writing about expat topics and also promote my book.

After a morning swim, hair still wet, I'd rather eat at my favorite coffee shop than cook at home. And — oops! — I match the colors of the walls!Photo: Janet Blaser

Grocery shopping: Fabulous fruit and fresh fish

I do my food shopping a few times a week at several different places.

For 45 years, Maria Guadalupe and Antonio have been squeezing and selling fresh orange juice from their stand on this corner.Photo: Janet Blaser

Basics include a liter of fresh orange juice (60 pesos/$3) from a stand near my apartment, a loaf of fabulous whole grain sourdough bread (65 pesos/$3) from a local bakery and fresh fish, like sea bass (50 pesos/$2.50 per pound) — cleaned and filleted — at a stand on the beach where fishermen bring their catch.

Jesus dodges hungry pelicans as he holds up fresh-caught sea bass for me to choose from. Photo: Janet Blaser

The small grocery store in my neighborhood, called a tiendita, offers almost everything you might need, from fresh produce to detergent to homemade tamales. It's so handy to be able to easily get any missing ingredients once you've decided what you want to make for dinner.

Piled above, below, behind and around Lorena's counter is just about everything you could possibly need, from band-aids to onions to fresh-baked pastries.Photo: Janet Blaser

I also shop at the mercado, a big outdoor market where about 75 vendors sell a wide variety of items, from fruits and veggies to bulk spices and canned goods.

When it's too hot to shop outside, I'll go to one of the air-conditioned big-box stores like Walmart and Sam's Club or Mexican chains like Sorianna and Ley. 

Midday fun: Gelato and setting up my new apartment

In May, I moved into a new apartment half a block from the ocean (rent is 8,500 pesos/$428 per month). I'm still setting it up and just splurged on a gorgeous hand-woven, traditional Oaxacan rug (2,400 pesos/$120).

Colored with natural dyes and loomed by hand, the designs in traditional Oaxacan wool rugs tell stories of the Zapotec people and the cycle of life.Photo: Janet Blaser

With summer on its way, cooler clothes are in order, so I also got myself a dress of nubby homespun manta cotton in a luscious jewel-tone purple (500 pesos/$25).

I think plants are an easy way to add texture and color to a home, and they're pretty inexpensive here, so I bought a 4-ft. palm, a giant hanging fern and a lush spider plant (120 pesos/$6 each).

All that shopping is tiring, but an afternoon snack of gelato on a cone (45 pesos/$2.25) or an ice pop of fresh lime and mint (30 pesos/$1.50) is a nice pick-me-up.

Scrumptious artisan gelato in unusual flavors like Mixed Berries & Lavender, Lime Pie with Rosemary, and Mango, Lime & Cardamom is a perfect afternoon pick-me-up.Photo: Janet Blaser

At the end of the day, Happy Hour beckons

A glass of ice-cold Pacifico beer, served with fresh lime juice and a salted rim (30 pesos/$1.50), hits the spot, especially when chips and salsa are complimentary. Sometimes I'll opt for a chilled Chardonnay (80 to 120 pesos/$4 to $6).

There are several beautiful outdoor patios in restaurants set in renovated turn-of-the-century buildings I like to go to. Or I can sit on my own balcony and watch the sunset with my favorite beverage in hand.

Mazatlán's Centro Historico is full of beautiful, renovated turn-of-the-century buildings, like Casa Garcia, a family hacienda transformed into an upscale restaurant and bar.Photo: Janet Blaser

Dinner, unless I decide to cook at home, often means tacos, so I'll head to Tacos Raymundo for a couple of carne asada tacos (25 pesos/$1.25 each).

Classic carne asada tacos on fresh-made corn tortillas with all the fixings—what's not to love?!Photo: Janet Blaser

Or, I'll go for a papa loca, a fire-baked potato — split open, topped with butter, crema, guacamole, salsa Mexicana and carne asada (90 pesos/$4.50). Fresh-made corn tortillas are used to scoop out the steaming-hot, delicious potato-y mess.

Tacos Raymundo, a family-run food stand serving one of Janet's favorites: Papas locas — potatoes baked in an open fire, split and mashed with butter and sour cream, then covered with carne asada, guacamole and salsa mexicana. Fresh-made soft corn tortillas are used to scoop out mouthfuls of deliciousness.Matt Mawson

For dessert, a cup of homemade arroz con leche — rice pudding — hits the spot (25 pesos/$1.25).

Grateful for my simple, happy & affordable life

It might sound like all I do is wander around and spend money, but that's not the case at all!

Other than the basic necessities like rent, utilities, gas and groceries, I spend an average of $160 a month (3,180 pesos) on "extras" — e.g., eating out, going to the theater and the occasional whimsical purchase.

Recently, I've had to dip into my savings to furnish the new apartment.

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