We can’t run away from shopping for groceries every now and then unless we perpetually eat out and are clueless about cooking.
For those on a budget, take heart as there are easy and fascinating ways to save money when you shop for groceries.
In this guide, the information is divided into helpful shopping tools as well as things you should do before, during and after a trip to the supermarket.
Here is a run-down of things you can do so you save even more.
• A car/ride-sharing: The more you stock-up in one trip, the fewer trips you will have to make. This saves petrol, parking fees and precious time. It also reduces impulse purchases as you’ll be in the store a lot less.
• Fridge/freezer: To store perishable items.
• Pantry/storage space: To store non-perishable items.
• Tesco/Mydin/Econsave/Giant brochures: To compare prices.
• Cashback credit card: Get one that gives you 2-5% cash back.
• Calculator/phone: Sometimes you’re faced with two or more options and need to calculate which is more worth it.
Before you go: Make a checklist
• Eat first. It’s easier to resist the smell of freshly-baked bread wafting through the air in a supermarket. Remember, when you’re hungry, you buy more food and snacks.
• Know your staples. What do you/your family consume the most? Coconut milk for nasi lemak? Rice? Eggs? Onions?
• Check store brochures to find especially good deals. If your usual dishwashing liquid is being sold at half price, stock up on these because you’ll use them in the future anyway. An easy way to check is via the Hargapedia App.
• Make sure your fridge is empty. Don’t throw away perfectly edible food – make sure you consume everything first.
• Leave the kids behind unless you absolutely can’t, of course. Kids ask for things all the time.
• Prepare the route. You may have to go to two or more stores to take advantage of maximum savings. Go to stores located near each other and not in opposite directions.
• Bring loyalty cards for points bonus and extra member deals and free parking benefits, if any.
• Bring coupons/vouchers if you have these.
At the store: Stay focussed
• Do not buy prepackaged items. Buy a whole chicken instead and cut into pieces rather than individual parts already pre-packaged as these are double the price.
• Buy non-perishable items in bulk, especially if there’s a good deal.
• Buy perishables like fruits and vegetables (strawberries, leafy greens etc) in small quantities as these turn rotten quick, and buy larger amounts of items that can keep (cabbage, apples, carrots, potatoes, oranges, etc).
• When paying, check the register and receipt because sometimes prices get rung up wrongly.
• Check bargain bins. There can be lots of produce still in good condition here. Soft bananas make really good banana cakes but stay away from fresh meat or fish.
• Allow yourself one “naughty” purchase, but just one.
After shopping: Be smart with your purchases
• Store perishables in the fridge. Place the items that’ll go rotten faster in front, so you’ll see it and consume it fast.
• Cook with what you have and don’t be fussy about having every ingredient the recipe calls for. Use tools like Supercook – key-in the remaining ingredients in your fridge, and the app will suggest recipes you can make with what’s in hand. Cabbage soup with ikan bilis stock + rice is delicious.
• Go vegetarian now and then. It’s good for your health and easy on the budget.
• Cook big batches of food. Turn dinner leftovers into lunch and pack it for work. It’s easy for some meals to be re-purposed into new meals, too. For example, rice becomes fried rice. Leftover chicken becomes sandwich filling.
• Keep a list of what you have.
• Try to cook up every bit of vegetable and meat in your fridge before it goes off.
• If you run out of essential groceries, pop into smaller shops to stock up before your next big shopping trip. Pasar tani, pasar malam and local sundry shops are good places. You get to support local businesses in this way too.
Common staples for Malaysians
• Soy sauce
• Instant noodles/mihun
• Dried ikan bilis/dried shrimp
• Stock cubes
• Instant coffee/tea
• Pasteurised milk
• Cooking oil
• Curry powder mix
• Herbs and spices
• Coconut milk
• Salad dressing
• Canned food
• Toilet paper
• Cleaning products
• Garbage bags
• Aluminium foil
• Sanitary napkins/tampons (or switch to a menstrual cup)
• Diapers (kids or adults)
This article first appeared in ringgitohringgit.com
Suraya is a corporate writer-for-hire and the blogger behind personal finance website Ringgit Oh Ringgit. She is more of a minimalist, less of a consumerist, a konon DIY enthusiast, a let’s-support-small-businesses-over-big-corporations kinda girl. Prior to her current role, she worked in various capacities within the non-profit industry.