Everyone claims groceries are a predictable expense, but they’re often not. Think about it - how many times have you walked into a supermarket thinking you’ll spend $40, and then walked out having spent $120?
Supermarkets are so cunningly well-designed, you can’t stroll past an aisle without a week’s worth of pay vanishing.
But with these simple tips, you can manage your grocery expenses without busting your budget.
Maximise your credit cards for grocery shopping
The best method of payment is to use a cashback credit card, optimised for groceries. However, it’s not just ANY cashback credit card. Aim for the credit cards that give you the best cashback for grocery shopping. But you’ll have to think about the savings in the long run.
Maybank Family & Friends Card
- 1.6% cashback on all grocery-related expenses
- No cashback cap
For example, the Maybank Barcelona FC Visa Signature Card gives you 1.6% cashback on all grocery-related expenses, with no cashback cap for the whole year.
Maybank Family & Friends Card
- 8% cashback for your grocery spend
- Complimentary Samsonite Orfeo Luggage with Maybank Credit Cards and CreditAble
There are other cards such as the Maybank Family & Friends Card that gives up to 8% cashback for your grocery spend. Do note that there’s an annual cap of $600 for the bonus cashback of up to 8%. The good news is, you’ll still earn a 0.3% cashback beyond the cap.
Of course, there are more cards that might suit your needs. Perhaps you are looking for a card that offers reward points for grocery spend, and intend to use it to redeem other offers. Whatever the case, we’ve got you covered!
Compare credit cards
Opt for online grocery shopping
Use online grocery shopping such as HonestBee, RedMart, or even the online stores of your favourite grocers. Why? Because you can compare prices between different stores in the convenience of your home.
Yes, we know you can do that by visiting multiple supermarkets and taking note of the prices. But let’s be honest: you’d be less inclined to walk or take a bus to a different supermarket, to save a few dollars.
Online grocery shopping, however, takes just a few clicks to choose the lower priced product. The more you minimise the effort of comparing prices, the more you’re likely to save.
Don’t be too quick to purchase “premium” milk powder
Right now, the price difference between milk powders ranges from $35 to over $55. But the only reason why you’ll have to go with a higher-priced variant is because your child has a preference for that.
Infant formula has become notoriously expensive in Singapore, even prompting a investigation by the Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS). This is because the prices of infant formula rose 120 per cent between 2016 and 2017.
The Ministry of Health (MOH), however, has issued a statement saying that all milk powders are required to have the same essential nutrients. It also pointed out that scientific evidence supporting special additives, such as in “DHA fortified milk”, is weak.
Plan your dinners around the supermarket’s promotions
Supermarkets like NTUC Fairprice often have deals, which are prominently displayed in the newspapers or on their website. Try to plan family meals around these promotions to keep costs low.
Note that sales promotions don’t mean stale or lousy food. The promotions happen either because the suppliers are trying to increase market share (thus dropping their prices), or because certain foods are in season. Discounts for asparagus are more common between mid-April to mid-June, for example, simply they are in season at the time.
Look at the lower rows in the supermarket
Suppliers pay supermarkets for shelf placement. Many brands pay top dollar for the middle rows on shelves, as this is where most people look first. However, some brands might shave costs, by spending less on marketing to get better pricing.
These generic brands are often located on the lower shelves. It’s worth occasionally squatting down to peek at them: the quantities may be the same or greater than mid-shelf products, but at a much lower cost.
Incidentally, the most desired spots are at the ends of the aisles, where displays are arranged. Not only are you more likely to see them, most people assume that the end-of-aisle products are on sale.
Look for closing time deals
Many supermarkets have closing time deals. This is when food items that won’t keep, such as sushi or cooked chicken, will be sold at a substantial discount. Prices can fall by as much as 50 per cent.
To get these deals, try swinging by the supermarket after work. Once it gets to around 8pm, you can find a lot of closing time deals. This could get you a cheap dinner for the day.
Use the neighbourhood market instead
If you have a traditional wet market nearby, take advantage of it – go there for fresh produce like fish or vegetables. As the stalls are run by sole proprietors, they are more personal and take better care of their customers.
Once a stall owner recognises you as a regular, you can get lower prices and even the occasional freebie. Watch closely and you’ll see that long-time regulars (those who have patronised the same stall for 10 or 20 years) often pay a fragment of what the produce costs in a supermarket.
Buy what you need, don’t be distracted even by bulk sales
One of the easiest ways to overspend is through bulk sales. $35 for 10 bottles of, say, premium peanut butter might be a steal. But do you eat that much peanut butter in the first place?
If the answer is no, and you’re subsequently pressured into buying bread and making peanut butter sandwiches for two months, then you ended up buying something you never intended to spend on.
Bulk deals are great if they apply to something you were about to buy anyway. Otherwise, never go out of your way to make an unplanned purchase, just because of the flashy sale signs and bulk discounts. Stick to buying what you need.
Be aware that free samples aren’t just for you to try
Singaporeans are, overall, nice people.
Companies know that. This is the real reason behind giving out free samples, and having a friendly sales promoter: even if the product is just average, most of us will buy because of guilt.
If you’re like many people, you feel bad for walking away after a free sample. And the longer the sales promoter talks to you, the guiltier you’ll feel about not buying.
If you can’t get over the guilt, it’s best not to take the sample at all.