Saturday, January 30, 2010

Shop like an Australian...

I have just received an email from a cost-conscious Singaporean student from my old kampung, asking me to help keep her grocery budgets in check. Hmm. Where do I start? First of all, here are couple of tips on frugal living to consider, and you'll be right, mate. One caveat: Go through these at your supermarket to make sure they break new ground for your menu-planning. If not, it will just be another expense on the monthly tally and getting extra funds from Mum and Dad's ATM.

Think like a frugal foodie: Being a frugal foodie is easier with strategies such as these for the supermarket and kitchen. And can also save you enough money for an extra flight home to enjoy the hawker food you missed so much.

Shop like an Australian: Do not shop like Mum back home in Singapore. You can particularly get anything under sun in the Singapore supermarkets. Unlike Australia's strict quarantine regulations, they are able to source food items from anywhere in the world or any seasons. Buy fruits when they are in season and buy perishable items — such as fresh produce, bread and deli meat — more frequently. Inexperienced shoppers can unintentionally blow a budget by buying items you don't need or buying the wrong quantities or products of the items you do need. It's not malu (shame) to check out with a banana or a tomato at the grocer shops or supermarkets.You need not have to buy the whole 1kg bag, by buying in smaller quantities, there is less chance of waste.

Play the game like a pro: Saving money at the supermarket is skill you can learn. Take time to compare prices. And multiple-stop shop. Different stores are going to offer different prices on canned goods, meat and produce. Check the weekly supermarket's flyers in the letter- box for their specials.

Making the grade: Even without attending a single economic tutorial or lecture! Have on hand both cheap and higher-end grades of ingredients such as balsamic vinegar, olive oil and spices. You can almost always substitute in less expensive meat, cheeses, nuts and fishes for costlier versions. Cook with the less expensive stuff. You can wow your mates with a splash with the costlier condiments for drizzling, vinaigrettes, or when the flavor features more prominently.

Do your home work: You think you can escape from Mum's daily reminder since coming here to study. No, you are mistakenly wrong! You can't go out to shop without finishing your homework! Take a few minutes every week to plan and write out your meals. Without planning, you spend more time at the kit ai tiam, spend more money than you budgeted for, and may end up cooking more food than is needed. Yes, your mum is right.Have you finished doing your homework?

Don't shop hungry: Last but not least, a basic shopper's sutra that can't be repeated often enough. Never go shopping on an empty stomach. It has a way of magically overfilling a shopping trolley.


  1. another tip is buy in bulk.

  2. Hi BY,
    That's a good idea for toiletries.. but not for perishable leh.

  3. Hi BY,
    Someone had emailed to enquire how you cook rice in your thermal pot. Could you kindly share it with us here.

  4. One of the emails from a new kaki, :)

    Hi Phil,
    I'm staying in Newtown and I agree so much with your blog about how Singaporeans don't cook because I am one of them who have just started cooking and budgeting, etc, etc. Your blog really helps and wah, when I saw your recipes, I started salivating!
    No problem for the post of my email! Happy to contribute to your informative and insightful blog.
    Can't wait to use your bak kut teh recipe... .shioks sia.

  5. Hi U_P,

    When grocers or supermarket or shops selling meat & fish, in Sydney, putting out special or discount these perishable items, does it mean they are nearing their expiry date, or quality that are of a shade lower, etc ? (In Singapore, we normally avoid buying, especially fish, meat or chicken that are on special or discounted)


  6. Hi Anonymous,
    Yes, it is also practiced here. My local grocer sells leafy green and slightly willted vegetables at half price, one hour before closing time. I have no problem with that if I use them immediately. It is simple to look for telltale signs for freshness when buying fish and chicken. If buying trimmed cutlets or fillets of chicken or fish even if presented in a plastic wrapped tray, the flesh should be firm and moist with a creamy pink coluour.If buying whole fish, look for lustrous skin and firm flesh.