Four Ways to Trim the Fat From Your Grocery Bill
By Brian S.
Being smart about where you spend your money for groceries can go a long way to helping you cut down overall costs over the course of a year.
First: Know Thy Enemy
Pattaya is blessed with well-stocked supermarkets. None of them has a monopoly on savings, but each will usually have a better price than the others on certain items. To determine which is best for you, make a list of 15 items you purchase regularly and compare the prices at each store. It sounds like a pain, but you only have to do it once and the savings can be substantial. You may find the total can vary by as much as 200-300 baht. Shopping once a week that’s an average annual saving of 15,000 baht. You may find you’ll maximize your savings by shopping at two stores. If this is so, plan your shopping trips so you alternate supermarkets each week.
Second: Plan Ahead
Before shopping, take an inventory of your pantry and fridge, paying particular attention to perishables and leftovers. Create a menu for the week with both the leftovers and perishables in mind so they don’t end up in the garbage bin. Make a detailed shopping list based on your needs and the menu you have planned. By knowing what you have on hand, you won’t over buy. By creating a menu, you won’t be throwing food you could have used away. By writing a detailed list, you won’t be wasting time or fuel on unnecessary trips back to the supermarket for items you forgot and you’ll reduce the risk of impulse buys. If you find you are still running out of items, analyze the reason. Try to determine if you are forgetting items on your list, or the list is incomplete, or you’re using up certain items too quickly.
Other useful tips that should be incorporated into your grocery game plan are:
1. Don’t go shopping when you’re hungry because you’ll end up buying all kinds of junk you really don’t need. Consume a good meal or a light snack before shopping and you’ll find it’s easier to stick to your list.
2. If you have children, try to shop for groceries when they’re in school or otherwise occupied. If you’re a parent you’re well aware of how kids will nag for all sorts of sugary things that probably didn’t make it onto your list. Leave the urchins at home and you’ll be sure to save money.
3. Have a budget in mind. Having a budget is almost as important as having a list. If you have a finite amount of money to spend, you’re less likely to fall for the flashy displays at the end of the aisles and less likely to overspend. Try to keep a running tally in your mind as you load up the shopping cart. You don’t need a calculator. If an item is priced at 22.50 baht round it up to 25 baht so it’s easier to add. That way you’ll know if you have enough left in your budget to buy that huge package of cookies that keeps screaming your name.
Third: Stick to Your Game Plan, But be Flexible
Always check the ‘unit’ price on canned, bottled and packaged products. Most supermarkets post the price per kilogram or ounce along with the price. Normally the larger size is a better value. But you’ll never know for sure unless you look. For example, the smaller package of say, frozen peas might be 7 or 10 baht less than the larger package or vice versa. If you do this every time you shop and save just 100 baht per week, that’s a 5,200 baht difference over a year. Most retail stores place name brand items, which are generally more expensive, at eye level. So scan the items above and below to see if you can spot a less expensive alternative. Keep your eyes peeled for unadvertised store specials, but don’t buy them just because they’re cheap, buy them because you use them or need them. All food and beverage manufacturers have to follow the same safety standards; therefore the quality of a generic brand often rivals the quality of the more expensive name brand at a fraction of the price.
Fourth: Smart Rules to Shop By
1. Stock up on items you regularly buy whenever they go on sale … even if they aren’t on your list or blow your budget. If the discounted item can be frozen or has no expiration date you’ll save money over the long haul.
2. Buy non-perishable items in bulk, think laundry detergent, toilet tissue, batteries, etc. By purchasing the jumbo pack of almost anything you’ll shave thousands of baht from your annual shopping bill.
3. Buy fruits and vegetables in their natural form. Forget about the pre washed, peeled, cut and packaged salad mixes in a sealed bag or the store sliced, fresh fruit. On average you’re paying about 40% more for the supermarket to do these tasks for you. Besides being more expensive the shelf life of pre-prepared products is shorter than their intact counterpart, so there’s a good chance you’ll be throwing them out long before you use them up.
4. When you’re buying fresh produce, try to stick to vegetables and fruits in season. These are always fresher and priced less than those that aren’t.
5. Think twice before tossing anything perishable or with an expiration date into your shopping trolley. Look at the expiration date and ask yourself, will I use it before that date? If you’re unsure put it back on the shelf.
6. When your favourite veggies are out of season, see if they’re available in a frozen or canned form. Frozen and canned vegetables are just as nutritious because they were processed or flash-frozen at the peak of their freshness. Frozen and canned vegetables are relatively inexpensive when compared to their imported, out of season, ‘fresh’ compatriots. Plus, unused frozen vegetables can be resealed in the package and returned to the freezer for use at a later date. If you store them properly there will never be any waste.