Saturday August 11, 2012
Six simple steps to follow while grocery shopping
By EUGENE MAHALINGAM
IT'S a given that food prices and consumption will always go up. However, this does not mean your grocery bill has to follow a similar trajectory.
The following are some simple steps to follow to keep your food costs down.
Get only what you need
It's that familiar story: Many of us walk into a supermarket or hypermarket with the intention of picking up just a couple of items, only to end up strolling out with a shopping cart full of stuff with the inevitable possibility that half of which will never be used.
“It's always advisable to write down what you need or to have a shopping list before you go shopping,” says K. Devi, a housewife.
A regular shopper, she however admits that jotting down a list as easy as it may sound, is not something a lot of people do.
“Sometimes you forget or you're sure you have it in your head. But when you go to the supermarket, you tend to get enticed by special offers or discounts or products you don't need.
“You certainly need to have the discipline to shop for what you only need,” Devi says.
Sometimes it's a matter of “cutting off” what you don't need.
“How many of us have purchased items we thought we needed, only to use them once or twice or never,” asks Halimatun Zarinah, a homemaker.
“It's worse when the item is a perishable good. If you don't use it enough, you'll just end up throwing it away,” she adds.
Buy in bulk
A good way to save cost on food and beverages is to buy in bulk, says Kassim Selamat, a Segambut-based store keeper.
“Buying in bulk from a wholesaler is cheaper than buying the items in individual units. It's also a great way to stock up your inventory if you know the price of the product will go up in the future.”
He, however, cautions that buying in bulk is not necessarily the best option when it comes to stocking up perishable items.
“Only buy perishable goods in bulk if you feel you can finish using them within the stipulated expiry date,” Kassim says, adding that he stocks up in store inventory based on customer demand.
Discounts, promotions and special offers is a partial way to keep your grocery bill down.
“Have a keen eye or nose out for special offers, especially those at hypermarkets,” says Devi.
“It's also the best time to purchase in bulk or to get something that's a little off your budget.”
She points out that special offers and discounts can also result in an “escalated grocery bill.”
“It's during promotional periods that people tend to overspend, as they want to make full use of the time to get what they need at discount prices. But one also needs to be frugal to keep their bills in check.”
Devi also notes that typical “buy one, get one free” promotions were also clever marketing gimmicks that are actually intended to drive consumer spending.
“It's pointless when the free item you get is a perishable good. Buying more then you usually need, especially if it's an item you don't always buy, will just be a big waste of money if you're not going to use it all.”
Buy from the open market
Food, especially fruits and vegetables, can be purchased at a cheaper price when bought at an open market compared with supermarkets or hypermarkets.
“Also, if you know the vendor well, you can actually bargain and get a good deal,” says Halimatun.
Grow your own fruits and vegetables
For you adventurous bunch, growing your own fruits and vegetables can be both a cheap and fun way to reduce your monthly food or grocery bill.
“Granted, not everyone would like to get their hands dirty. But it's cheaper then having to drive out and buy the fruits and vegetables from outside,” says K.C. Chan, a clerk who grows sugar cane and pandan leaves in his backyard.
You may have the intention of wanting to get your hands dirty. But what if you don't have the land?
“Some people either find or make space for it,” says M. Tishalini, who grows vegetables outside her house.
“There's a small area outside our house that I've allocated for fruits and vegetables. We have also fenced the place up to keep animals out.”
T. Ratna, who lives in a terrace house in Kuala Lumpur, meanwhile says that she “shares” a piece of land with her neighbour, who lives in a corner lot with “ample planting space.”
“My neighbour was interested in growing her own vegetables but did not know how to. I had the experience, so we struck a deal where I'd share with her my experience and we'd both use her land to grow vegetables.
“We evenly share whatever we grow on the land.”
Cut down on expensive/luxury items
A frugal way to keep your food or grocery bill in check is by cutting down on luxury goods or only buying them sparingly.
“I used to cook exotic dishes regularly but it soon became quite expensive. Now, I just cook them on special occasions,” says Halimatun.
“Still, cooking your own exotic dishes is a lot cheaper then dining out. I usually look out for promotions or try to purchase most of the ingredients at open markets, where the price is not as high as the items sold in hypermarkets,” she adds.