The average family in Singapore spends about $350 to $475 a month on groceries (including food, beverage, alcohol and tobacco) – and that doesn’t include eating out. Here are some smart tips to save big on your grocery bill while still keeping your family happy and well fed.
One study found solo shoppers buy 65 percent fewer items than those shopping with family or friends. If you’re shopped with kids, you know how distracting they can be, but turns out it’s not a great idea to shop with your spouse either – Australian consumer group Choice found that couples who shop together often put more into their trolley, because each person has different views about what’s important.
It’s also a good idea to try using the self-checkout – maybe it’s fear of using the technology, but research shows impulse buys drop by 32 percent when shoppers have to scan their items themselves.
Shopping solo can get lonely, so put on your headphones and listen to some soothing music. Consumer psychologist and Deakin University senior lecturer Paul Harrisons suggests shopping with calming music as it can “help you make better decisions than if you shop with something fast or stimulating.”
Instinctively, we realise it’s not a smart move to go grocery shopping when you’re hungry – but research by Alison Jing Xu at the University of Minnesota found it’s probably better to feed yourself before any type of shopping, and that includes online shopping.
Her researchers scanned the receipts of 81 shoppers, then asked them how hungry they were. They discovered that hungry shoppers not only bought more non-food products, they spent up to 60 percent more. Hunger is such a primal force that it triggers us to want, want, want!
As Alison explains, “Whether you’re going on an actual shopping trip or shopping online, eat first. And if you’re really hungry, you’d better think twice before purchasing any items at all or you might regret those purchases later.”
If your supermarket has a in-house butcher or fishmonger, buy a large cut of meat and ask them to remove the bone for soup, mince the meat and package the fillets. This way, you can save on buying already prepared meat.
Frozen food is often cheaper than fresh – and freezing technology has really improved. It used to be that frozen food had a strange spongy texture, but now “flash frozen” fish are frozen on the boat where they are caught, preserving their texture. Flash frozen vegetables and fruit are frozen within hours of being at their peak, so they can often contain more vitamin C and taste better than vegetables that have travelled several days across Malaysia to get to you.
When dairy products are on discount, stock up and freeze whatever you cannot use immediately. Cheeses like mozzarella or cheddar can be frozen – just cut them up into smaller portions, wrap in grease-proof paper and pop into tightly sealed plastic bags. When you need them, simply defrost and use.
Dairy milk can be frozen for up to three months, so take note of the date if you plan to do so. It expands when frozen, so it’s best to remove it from the paper carton, or pour out ⅓ of the milk, so it has room to expand.
Frozen whole dairy milk also changes texture slightly – the fats in the milk separate out. This means low-fat and no-fat milks freeze best. To bring the normal texture back, just whizz your milk in the blender. It will cook just the same, and taste the same in coffee.
Milks made from soy, almond or oats become grainy after freezing. You can cook with these plant-based milks just like normal – but the texture is grainy in drinks.
Enticing displays at the end of aisles, and products at eye-level are naturally more easy to see – so you’re tempted to spend more. But ask yourself if you really need that item?
Likewise, tempting chocolates and deli items are usually stocked near the shop entrance, to catch your eye and prompt impulse buying. That’s why it makes sense to head to the middle isles first to buy the “boring” everyday items on your shopping first. After this you can circle around again to look at those tempting impulse buys… do you still want them?
If impulse shopping for foodie treats is your downfall, set alerts for online sales – you can indulge without breaking your budget. Cold Storage is one to bookmark because they have new items regularly in their weekly deals – and they’re often more gourmet than everyday groceries. Delivery is free over $59.
Supermarkets generally put their best special offers on the front page of pamphlets, or on the homepage of the website – that’s the page you see when you click on the website.
A loss leader is an item sold at a very special discount to lure you into the store – it may be labelled as a Weekly Deal or Bulk Deal. So if chicken thighs are the loss leaders on sale this week, you can plan several meals around them, and save big for the week!
You can also save on delivery charges by opting for “click and collect” services, offered by Fairprice. You still save time because your groceries are packed for you, and ready for you to collect.
Most sites offer discounts, flash sales or coupon codes at certain times, so keep them in mind for your next e-shopping trip!
If you shop for groceries online often, it’s worth signing up for member clubs and cards. Most sites offer discounts, flash sales or coupon codes at certain times, so keep them in mind for your next e-shopping trip! It may be worth buying in bulk and freezing some of your purchases for later use too.
Try these sites:
Delivery is free with purchases over $40. There’s no delivery charge at all if you are a member of LiveUP, Redmart and Lazada’s loyalty programme. You can buy just one bag of grapes and it’s still free delivery – but membership is $59.90/year or $5.99/month.
Worth checking out for groceries and household items. Free delivery, no minimum purchase and no membership fee. It also boasts bulk special offers and a sales section with cut-prices on more than 3,000 grocery products. You get a 5 percent rebate on your purchases when you spend $150 or more per month, too.
The online arm of Fairprice sometimes has deeply discounted clearance sales for products that have been overstocked, are at the end of season or are near expiry (but still fine to eat or freeze).
Delivery is $7 or free if you buy over $59. There’s a $3 charge if you use the Click and Collect option. Your items are bagged up and you can pick them up in your own time from 70 collection places around Singapore.
It’s worth checking out the promotions page of Sheng Siong’s online store to find items on sale, listed by category. They offer delivery for $6, or free if you spend more than $100.
With new items refreshed regularly in their weekly sales, Cold Storage Online is definitely one to keep on tab. Known to offer a slightly more gourmet range to your everyday groceries, their sales often contain organic snacks and fruits that might be hard to find in other supermarkets – like figs and blackberries. Free delivery is available for orders above $59.
Giant’s bulk deals are worth checking out too. Delivery is $7 or free with purchase over $59.
Additional tip: Before checking out, do a quick search on whether there are currently any available coupon codes or special discounts for certain bank cards. Using cashback sites like Shopback could also help you to save just that little bit of extra money.
Plan your meals ahead, and shop with a list. Because you’re not wandering up and down aisles, you’re less tempted by impulse buys – and you’re also less likely to get tired and hungry.
Shopping with a list is so effective It can cut 30 percent to 50 percent off your bill. Even better if you plan your list around “batch cooking” – this just means you plan your meals for the week, and prepare at least some of them ahead of time.
If you’re super-efficient you can pick one day of the week and prepare meals for the next seven days. Some people just prepare dinners, while others prepare the children’s breakfasts, school lunches and snacks.
Batch cooking allows you to buy exactly what you need at the market, plus you never have to crack your head at the end of the workday to decide what to cook for dinner. A great tip is to look for recipes that freeze well, such as Slow-Cooked Pork, Rempah Kuning, Cheat’s Wellington and Chicken Tikka Masala.
Text: Tara Barker, additional reporting: Tan Gin Yee