Some people love grocery shopping. Some people don’t.
I happen to belong to the first camp. I LOVE grocery shopping. It’s fun to go to the hypermarket and pick between yellow and red onions haha.
When I first started to budget, my initial research was all about how to save money on groceries before I ‘graduated’ to other topics.
There are lots of ways to save money on groceries in Malaysia. In this guide, I will share what I know. I hope you’ll find it useful for your next shopping trip. I divided this article into helpful shopping tools to have and things to do before, during and after the trip.
Things that can help you save even more money.
- A car/ride-sharing – The more you stock up on one trip, the fewer trips you have to make. This saves petrol, parking and time, as well as reduces impulse spending (less trips = less temptations each time). Some personal finance bloggers have resources you can use to make just ONE major grocery trip a month.
- Grocery delivery services – If you can’t go to the stores in person. There are a few options, such as Happyfresh and Honestbee. Related: My Happyfresh review
- Fridge/Freezer – To stock up on perishable items
- Pantry/storage space – To stock up on non-perishable items
- Tesco/Mydin/Econsave/Giant brochures – to compare prices.
- Cashback credit card – Getting one that gives you 2-5% cashback is a good idea
- Calculator/phone – Sometimes you’re faced with two or more options and need to calculate which one is more worth it
Each one is a ‘hack’ on its own, but don’t worry too much if you don’t have some of them!
Before you go
Checklist before you make that trip.
- Eat first. Grocery stores tend to make you hungry because they make sure you can smell their freshly-baked bread. So sly right. When you’re hungry, you buy more food and snacks
- Know your staples. What do you/your family normally use and consume? For example, my family is proudly Nogori, so we make Masak Lemak all the time, therefore coconut milk is a staple in our household. I have a list of common Malaysian grocery staples further down this article.
- Check the store brochures to find especially good deals. If your usual dishwashing liquid is half the price, it’s worth stocking them up because you’ll use them in the future anyway.
- Make sure your fridge is empty. Throwing away perfectly edible food you still have at home wastes money 🙁 Eat them first.
- Leave the kids. Unless you can’t, of course. Kids request things all the time. Then they press the bananas.
- Prepare the route. You might have to go to two or more stores to take advantage of max savings. Preferably go to places that are nearby each other and not at opposite directions.
- Bring loyalty cards. For points bonus and extra member deals and free parking benefits if any.
- Bring coupons/vouchers. If you have them.
At the store
Things to do at the store:
- If you can, buy ingredients, not convenience and prepackaged items. I like to buy whole chickens and cut them myself (RM6-8 per kilo) rather than the individual parts (double that price!).
- Buy non-perishables in bulk, especially if it’s a good deal.
- For perishables like fruits and vegetables, buy smaller amounts of items that go bad faster (strawberries, leafy greens etc) and larger amounts of items that can keep for a while (cabbages, apples, carrots, potatoes, oranges, etc).
- When paying, check the register and the receipt because sometimes prices get rung up wrongly. Once my green peppers were wrongly tagged as another expensive vegetable. Thank goodness I found out at the register, because if not I would have paid RM35 for nothing.
- Check the bargain bins. I’ve scored a lot of still-good produce items from here. Soft bananas make really good banana cakes! Don’t get reduced-price fresh meat though. Any meat I found at the bargain bin always turn out to be bad.
- It’s easy to be distracted at the store. Allow yourself one ‘naughty’ purchase, but just one.
What to do after you get home.
- Keep the perishables in the fridge. Place the items that’ll go bad faster in front, so you’ll see and consume it before it goes bad.
- Be OK with less food variety as you run out of some food items. I think that expecting something different for every meal is a luxury that you can phase out (except for special occasions), especially if you’re really on a budget. You can also use tools like Supercook – enter your remaining ingredients and it’ll suggest some recipes you can make with what you have. My favourite frugal meal is cabbage soup with ikan bilis stock + rice.
- It’s also OK not to have meat at every meal. Going vegetarian sometimes is good for you and easy on the budget.
- Cook big batches of food. Turn dinner leftovers into lunch and bring it to work. It’s easy for some meals to be re-purposed into new meals, too. For example, rice becomes fried rice. Leftover chicken becomes sandwich filling. Soup becomes, err, thicker soup.
- Keep a list of what you have. I personally don’t do this because I generally know what I have, but bigger families can benefit from having a list.
- We throw away an absurd amount of food. Don’t let it go bad, so sayang.
- Go to smaller shops to stock up on perishables you need before your next big shopping trip. Pasar tani, pasar malam and local sundry shops are good places for these. You get to support local businesses, too.
Common staples for Malaysians
Things Malaysians buy (source: I look at people’s grocery baskets while shopping because its fascinating to peek into their lives). Tweak this list to cater to your family’s needs.
- Cooking oil
- Soy sauce
- Instant noodles/mihun
- Dried ikan bilis/shrimp
- Stock cubes
- Pasteurised milk
- Instant coffee/ tea
- Frozen vegetables
- Vegetables & Fruits
- Canned sardines
- Pasteurised milk
- Curry powder mix
- Tumeric powder / whatever herbs and spices you usually use
- Coconut milk
- Toilet paper
- Cleaning products
- Garbage bags
- Aluminium foil
- Pad/tampon (or switch to menstrual cup!)
- Diapers (kids or adults)
How do you save money on groceries in Malaysia?
So what do you think of the above? Simple but doable, no?
Using the methods above saved me a lot of money over the years. Buying groceries and cooking your own food is one of the best ways to stay frugal, easily one of the best skills I picked up. Makes a great hobby and impresses the dates, too 😛
Aside from the above, do you have any other tips? Any other shopping tools to recommend? Please share them in comments!
As always, if you find this helpful, please share them to your friends and family 🙂