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5 tips to help you shave a few more dollars off your grocery expenses IMAGE: 123RF

Groceries Getting Expensive? How To Save Money When Meal Planning

Groceries seem to be getting more and more expensive and stretching your hard-earned salary is not as easy as it used to be. But how do you get the best bang for your buck while still making sure your family eats as healthy as possible?

Try these 5 tips to help shave off a few more $$ from your meal planning:


Avoid recipes that need a special, expensive ingredient

I can’t stress this enough. The last thing you want to do is run up a huge grocery bill, all because of one fancy key ingredient and its ensuing accompaniments. It’s really not worth the time or the money. 

Beef, chicken, pork and seafood are getting more and more costly, especially when you need to feed a family, so keep the cooking at home as simple as possible and leave the fancy stuff for a special occasion. When planning family meals, I recommend coming up with recipes to finish what’s in the fridge already, and swapping out animal proteins for cheaper - but just as nutritious - vegetable proteins like tofu and tempeh (for more texture). But if you still can’t do without meat most days, online grocery store OpenTaste offers great value and savings on fresh meat and produce (as well as household and pantry stuff too). 

And you might not be able to buy all your groceries from local sources, but buying regionally from around the neighbouring countries will give you fresher and cheaper options, compared to those that have to travel a longer distance to get here. Can’t make it to the store? Online grocery deliveries such as Redmart, NTUC Online and Giant Online all offer weekly or 3-day specials and other promotions, so that you can easily compare prices at home, and shop around for the best value for what your meal prep needs. Plan around what is in season, easily available and thus cheaper, rather than something exotic and expensive. 


Maximise store specials deals 

Meal planning and shopping lists are essential when trying to save $$$, so that you know exactly what you need rather than getting tempted by impulse buying and unnecessary purchases. And try to be prudent about items on sale too because you might end up buying something (or too much of something) just because of the discounted price, without actually needing it in the first place.

But having said that, if you do find something useful on sale that is discounted because it expires soon, take advantage of it and make the date work for you! 

If possible, take advantage of the different discounts and promotions offered by different stores, including downloading the respective apps for the different supermarkets, because every dollar spent really does add up when it comes to points.

Also, if you are shopping with a parent, senior citizens enjoy 4% discount every Tuesday and Wednesday at Sheng Siong (spending limit of $200 per receipt for eligible customers); ditto on Tuesdays at Giant; and 2% on Tuesdays at NTUC Fairprice (also capped at $200). NTUC also offers discounts for Merdeka & Pioneer Generation cardholders, so consider shopping on those particular days with them if someone in your family meets the age criteria. Also, I find shopping on Fridays is the best day for member value deals, especially for fruit. 

Likewise, consider applying for the credit card that your preferred supermarket is linked to (Giant offers great cashback schemes with the UOB One card, while NTUC Fairprice has a tie up with Visa Trust cards). 


Go to wholesale and wet markets

We all go to wet markets for daily or weekly marketing, but sometimes, buying directly from a wholesaler can help save a few more $$$ when planning your weekly meals. The 24-hour Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre in the west for instance is considered to have fresher produce that is around 20 per cent cheaper than that sold in wet markets and supermarkets.

Like the idea of going to a wet market, but prefer the convenience of online shopping? SgWetmarket brings the wet market home to you, with its extensive online selection (over 250 items) of fresh produce, including meat and seafood, and it’s been in business for the past 13 years already, so you know you’re in good hands. They also offer dry goods and a wide choice of fresh produce flown in from neighbouring countries. 

And if you haven’t tried them already, Market Boy is also great for simple wet market shopping. They started their journey in April 2020 during the circuit breaker period to help out local wet market hawkers digitalise, as well as help families who weren’t able to get fresh groceries due to the safety restrictions at the time, with home delivered groceries.


Shop house brands, especially for frozen foods 

House brand items are (cheekily) placed on shelves either above or below eye level because they tend to be cheaper than their branded counterparts., especially when it comes to things like frozen foods! For instance, Giant homebrand and FairPrice housebrand products can be up to 15% cheaper than comparable products of other brands, both offering over 1,000 quality daily essentials ranging from fresh goods to household items for better value. Frozen fruit and vegetables are much cheaper than their fresh cousins, but just as nutritious, as they don’t lose their quality while travelling through the supply chain to get to you.


Buy ugly

Just because something doesn’t look perfect, doesn’t mean that it’s spoiled. Most grocery stores offer a big discount on fruit or vegetables that may be slightly scarred and don’t pass the usual ‘beauty test’, but are still just as healthy and nutritious. Companies fighting food waste such as UglyFood offer misshapen fresh produce at a great bargain, as well as different bundle deals, depending on the items they have on hand. Bundle deals are often cheaper than in the supermarket, and are delivered directly to your doorstep.

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