The Kitchen

10 functional ways to lower your groceries cost

Groceries or food expenses have always been my worst friend in spending. Now that I cook more and sometimes prep meal for my housemate, savings in groceries becomes so much more important. I have here ten useful ways to save costs that are working for me and not much about changing your diet (mostly not).

1. Deep dive the groceries expenses and plan your trip

Based on my monthly grocery budget, I split the money by the number of trips I am making in a month. The aim is not spending above the amount on any single trip. I like the shopping list, but planning is getting harder with the supply chain disruption. I had traced the price of an apple costing RM0.70 a day, RM1.10 two days after, and gone down to RM0.40 a few days later. So it would be wiser to buy according to what’s on sale, based on what you like to make. I use the free Out of Milk to keep track of what I have.

2. Cheaper cuts
Explore cheaper cuts for meat and protein. I like getting fish collars or tail at the fish head section; it keeps the budget within RM15-20 a kg. I don’t mind getting older kampung chicken, which will be cheaper per kg. Ham chips are usually half the price per slice. Freeze everything that you are not cooking in 3 days (Tip: Use reusable zipper bags).

3. Two item challenge
I am not good at meal planning. Every one or two months, food will pile up in my pantry and fridge. So I challenge myself to buy nothing except for the two staples – egg and bread or milk until I finish the perishable food at home.

4. Buy in bulk or wholesale
At the wholesale price, a tray of 30 eggs is RM3.00 (Grade D) -7.90 (Grade A). NSK is the best place to look for buy-in bulk price if you are not too picky on the quality. For frozen or fresh fish, look for the online delivery store where you can get a kg of high-grade salmon for half the store price.

5. Co-sharing when you and your housemate buy the same thing
If you are not sharing meal costs with your housemate, it does make more sense not to buy the same thing. This arrangement works best with condiments and spices. In my case, I pay for what I want, and she’s free to use anything in the pantry, and I can count on her to restock too. Caution that this may backfire, and you have to be willing to be the generous party.

6. Handle leftovers or meal portion
Leftovers, you either love it or hate it. I prefer to eat leftovers the same day, or I’ll forget it, and it gets frozen. I like the idea of a meal portion more, which is to cook extras and portion the meal before I start eating. If I don’t set aside the dish, my tummy will finish the batch of food.

7. Buy subsidized products
You pay your taxes, get it worth. In Malaysia, you can find subsidized flour around RM1.30 compare to the non-subsidized version of RM3.50. I can’t find a full list, but I have found flour, oil, and sugar so far. Best of all, it is manufactured by the same company.

8. Use discount card
Use loyalty cards, credit cards, or store-linked credit cards to give a discount/ cash rebate. Particularly useful if you shop in one place. I shop on days when there is special off plus credit card cashback ( saves 2-10%).

9. Substitute one or two ingredients
When you want to try a complex recipe that calls for 31 spices, you may want to omit the expensive, non-main ingredient. Vanilla essence instead of vanilla bean, truffle oil instead of truffle shavings, cashew instead of macadamia. If it calls for four types of special cheese, I might make with three similar texture type.

10. Explore Zero Waste
I keep frozen scrap bags for different items—bone and vegetable scraps for stock, fruit scraps for fruit syrup. Boil bones with a splash of vinegar to bring out the nutrient. Make fruit syrup with brown sugar. Save fried potato skin and fried into a delicious treat. Cleaned eggshells can be crushed and baked to make color chalks. Stale bread goes into bread and butter pudding.

*****

Finally, something close to heart to a curious foodie is not buying novelty products. I have tasted many and most of these products comes with superb packaging and branding, but taste meh.

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