Ministry of Health Singapore. All Rights Reserved.
Save money and stretch your food dollar with these 10 grocery budget hacks when shopping for ingredients to cook up nourishing meals for yourself and your family.
Before you head to the grocery store, sit down and plan the meals you and your family members will eat at home. Think about the preferences and needs of each one and then, create a family menu. Do not forget to list snacks and beverages too. Meal planning will help you buy enough groceries for everyone who will be eating at home.
Remember to create meals that include ingredients from all the food groups to help your family members achieve a well-balanced diet. Now you need to become creative.
Focus on replacing expensive ingredients that you are used to with cheaper but equally nutritious items. So, if salmon and cod are featured on the menu, you can replace it with local fish like ikan kembong and ikan batang. They provide just as much protein as the more expensive fish.
If broccoli was the centrepiece of your Sunday dinner, swap it with the more economical greens like kailan and kangkong they are rich in fibre, vitamin C and beta-carotene too.
Now that you know what you plan to prepare at every meal and snack time, write down what you need to buy. Plan your grocery list by writing down the main items and the ingredients too.
Based on the number of family members that will be at the meal, estimate how much you need. But don’t rush to the supermarket and start spending money to buy groceries just yet.
Check your kitchen cabinets to see what you already have and cross it off the list. This exercise of preparing a healthy shopping list on a budget may seem tacky, but it will help you buy enough and not too much.
Plan your shopping and stick to that grocery list you’re written down. Don’t make impulse purchases. Shopping on impulse will make you buy things you may not use and, this may cause you to waste your valuable dollars. As you will be tempted to pick up things on sale or promotion, shop after a meal instead. Shoppers give in to impulse buying when the stomach growls.
If you feel that only expensive items are good for your body, think again. Shopping on a budget doesn’t mean that you have to compromise on your health. Expensive fish like salmon and cod can be replaced with more reasonable items like canned fish. Look out for tuna canned in water and canned sardines with the Healthier Choice Symbol. These canned fish contain almost all the valuable nutrients that expensive fish contain including the healthy omega 3 fats.
So, be street smart! Look over the newspaper advertisements. There are many full-page advertisements strategically printed closer to the end of the week. Compare prices of foodstuff advertised and you can get a good sense of which supermarket offers you better deals. Check out the different supermarkets in your neighbourhood so you can decide where else to shop if you can’t find a particular item on your grocery list.
In addition, talk to your friends, some of them may already have identified where the cheapest offerings are available. With all the information you have, factor in transport cost to see if it is worth your effort to travel to get the most economical deal. Sometimes, it may make better sense to shop at your nearest wet market, even if you have a promo code you can use for cabs and private hire cars.
You can save money on your groceries by avoiding brand names, the same way we do for clothes. Branded goods are often more expensive than unbranded items. So, before you reach out to pick the most familiar product, look around the shelves and compare prices of similar products. Housebrand items offered by some supermarkets are cheaper and can replace your regular choice if it is more expensive.
When it comes to buying staples like rice, stay with the basic wholegrain or long grain rice and avoid buying expensive fragrant rice or branded items. That can save you a fair amount of money in the long run.
Meat and seafood are usually the most expensive items on a grocery bill. For a good meat cut, you do not have to buy steak; you can have a portion of round or loin. Alternatively, you can buy cuts of meat meant for stewing or braising. Not only are these cheaper and lower in fat, stewing or boiling uses much less oil and makes for a healthier meal.
On occasions, to cut cost, replace the main meat dish with a legume dish featuring tofu, taukwa or lentils. Avoid indulging in expensive items like prawns and abalone. Replace these items with protein-rich fish or chicken.
Produce on our supermarket shelves come from all corners of the world. Freight and forwarding charges add a premium to products that travel the distance. Produce from neighbouring countries tend to be cheaper. Ask yourself, must you really have imported sweet potatoes from Japan for dinner tonight when a cheaper alternative is available?
Pick up leafy greens instead of more expensive vegetables such as broccoli or Japanese cucumbers. Papaya and bananas, which are available all the year through, are cheaper than the blueberries and raspberries that are seen in the supermarket just for a few months each year.
Some hot favourites, like mangoes and durians, drop in price during the harvest season so, check the prices in the market carefully and buy them for your family when the prices drop.
If you have a large family or if you could get a few families to buy together with you, you can get real savings by buying in bulk. The wholesale centres offer discounts that small grocers and supermarkets cannot match.
If you figure out the sums, you will find that a sack of rice or a basket of vegetables is cheaper than small bags or loose items you buy at retailer, priced on a per kilogram or per 100g basis.
You can also choose to make your bulk purchases online; there are many retailers that offer free delivery above a certain sum, which won’t be that hard to hit when you buy in bulk. Just save your credit card info so you don’t have to enter your credit card information each time.
The whole cold chain system needed to deliver quality fresh meat to your local market adds quite a bit to the price of the product. Frozen items are easier to hold and transport and therefore, are available at lower prices in Singapore.
At local wet markets, frozen beef and lamb sell for less per kilogram than fresh items! So, you don't have to give up your family's favourite dishes, just buy frozen items, they are just as nourishing.
Keep stock of frozen vegetables in your freezer, they are easy and economical for the occasions when you run out of fresh vegetables or want to whip up a nourishing and colourful meal in a jiffy.
And, if you ever believed that they were not as good for you as the fresh variety, you can be rest assured that they are. Frozen vegetables are picked fresh, processed briefly and frozen immediately to capture and retain the most nutrients.
On the other hand, many fresh items that you see on the shelves have travelled quite some distance and have been stored for quite a few days before they got to you.
Remember what we mentioned about impulse buying? Sales on food items can be a double-edged sword you may be so entranced by the discounted price that you buy more than you need, store it and, never use it. On some occasions, manufacturers, importers and retailers do put up items on genuine sale.
If you do need it, buy it. And, if they will store well, do buy it. However, if you are tempted to buy something that is unhealthy or items that you will not use, then refrain from spending money on unnecessary items.
Look out for coupons or promo codes you can use for online grocery shopping. Some supermarkets also offer discounts for senior citizens on one day of the week. Another may tie-up with a credit card company to offer supermarket vouchers if you chalk up enough points. So, be sharp, use the discounts or promo codes to get your much-needed groceries at a lower price or even free.
If you really are having difficulty meeting your food bills, visit your Community Centre (CC) as some of these grassroots organisations may be able to offer you free groceries or even a subsidy to buy food. So, talk to the staff at the CC nearest your home.
These tips are just a few to help you get started on this awesome adventure of getting the best food deals to keep your family well-nourished. And, it can be done! Soon you will have your very own tips that will help you save even more.
There is just one thing to note as you try to save money when buying groceries - at no time should you compromise on serving up a nourishing and well-balanced meal for your family.
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This article was last reviewed on
Thursday, December 5, 2019
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