It takes as short as several months to as long as a year or two before prices of household commodities rise. No matter the length of time, it is a given that families have to set aside a large portion of their budget for food and other necessities. In the Philippines, there are a lot of stores ranging from your friendly sari-sari store to huge supermarkets inside the malls and stand-alone warehouses where you can buy grocery items among other things. How do you get to save on these purchases without sacrificing time plus your family’s health?
We asked several shopping-savvy moms to share their most practical grocery buying tips. As you will read, saving begins even before you step into the supermarket.
Before leaving the house
Create weekly menus. Knowing what you actually need to buy as compared to buying what you think you will need makes a big difference. “How many times did you have to throw away molding and wilted vegetables that sat in the refrigerator for more than two weeks because you bought it without having any idea yet what you’ll do with it?” asks Richelle Fabre, mom of four, who have learned her lessons well after experiencing such losses.
Make a shopping list and stick to it. Based on your menu, list down everything you will need in the next week or so. Look at your pantry and see what needs to be replenished. “If I want to purchase something that is not on the list, I just remind myself that it may not be necessary for me to buy it,” admits Chris Iguidez, mom to seven- and three-year-old boys.
Schedule your shopping. Angela Abella, an events coordinator and mom of three boys, and Jen Nancho, an executive with one child, both suggest, “Buy groceries once a month or every payday at the most so you can save time as well as parking fees, gas expenses, and tips for the bagboy.”
Go shopping on a full stomach. Unless you really plan on eating out before or after buying groceries, eat first at home before going to the store. Banker Laarni Enriquez insists, “Shopping with a growling stomach means you are likely to crave stuff which are not originally part of your list of items to buy.”
Don’t bring the children along. Unless there’s no one to leave your children with, avoid bringing them along to the grocery store as much as possible. “It’s difficult to turn them down when they beg you to buy them something, doubly hard if you have two or more children. If you give in to one request, you’re expected to give in to the others so they won’t think you’re playing favorites,” reasons Chris.
Select a store with a wide-variety of choices. This allows you to compare brands and prices better as well as saves you time from going from store to store to buy what was not available in the first one. “I now shop at Puregold or Unimart after comparing their prices with those of the supermarket chains found in malls,” reveals Jen. On the other hand, although Dee Choa shopped at SM Hypermart before for the reward points, she acknowledges that prices there are still higher, “Now I go to Metro Supermarket which is located along E. Rodriguez in front of the Quezon City Sports Club where goods are more affordable.”
Go for generic. Faye Mesina, mom to a seven-year-old girl, advises, “Try buying items with the supermarket’s cheaper house brand and see which are comparable to the branded but higher-priced ones. At SM, I get BONUS for the generic products like dishwashing liquid, bathroom tissue, etc.” Also, always be on the lookout for branded items that are good but also reasonably priced.
Know that more is not always cheaper. A common mistake shoppers make is assuming that they save more when they buy in bulk. Not necessarily. Bring a calculator along the next time you shop and you just might be surprised. As Angela maintains, “I always see to it that I compare prices based on product quantities like on a per liter or per kilogram basis or per piece basis against their total price.” For instance, why buy a pack of 12’s of bathroom tissues at P138.00 or P11.50 each when the individual items only go for P11.25?
Compare prices between stores. There is no one store that carries everything at cheap prices. If you have the time and options, plus a sharp memory that remembers how much your regular purchases are sold in this and that store, consider buying from two different outlets. Work-at-home mom Rizza Flores, who lives in Alabang, says she shuttles between Shopwise and Save More Supermarkets at the Festival Mall to find the best deals.
Check out the local palengke for cheaper fresh produce and other local products. If you don’t mind the smell and the heat, food items such as rice, eggs, vegetables, fruits, fish, and meat are way cheaper here than in any store with air-conditioning and well-paved aisles.
Apply for a rewards card. A lot of supermarket chains now have loyalty cards that give rebates for accumulated purchases/points made by regular customers. At Shopwise for instance, you even get discount coupons for non-food products when you redeem your rebate in the form of gift certificates. If you shop frequently at a particular establishment, it would be wise to avail of one. Some cards even have tie-ups with other stores where you can use them to earn more points as well as get discounts on purchases. “I shop at SM because of the Advantage card. Recently I had a rebate worth P700+ which I used to purchase more grocery items,” says Faye.
Be wise when buying items on sale. No matter how attractive the amount of money you might save, think thrice before buying a marked down item or packaged good with freebies. Ask yourself, “Can I consume them within the next two weeks?” According to Laarni, always check the expiry date because if you are not able to consume the product a week before it expires, avoid it. “I will not serve expired food to my family and throwing away expired items that were hastily bought which results in money lost in the long run,” she counsels.
Back at the house
Store your purchases well. Follow storage instructions found on container labels. Immediately put frozen foods inside the freezer while shelf-stable foods such as canned goods should be kept at room temperature inside cool and dry pantries to maintain their quality.
Protect food from moisture and pests. Transfer plastic or foil-wrapped foods into hard-plastic containers with tight lids and remember to use a dry spoon when scooping out powdered products. Keeping food in their original packaging may result to changes in color, texture, flavor, odor, and loss of nutrients.
Practice the “first-in, first-out” principle. Position newly bought items behind old stock to ensure that you first use the ones with the nearest expiry dates.
The bottom line – where you buy your groceries will depend for the most part on your location and what you value more: high quality or low price. Some shoppers admittedly can’t compromise quality with price while others make do with what they have the funds for. The important thing is, whether you can afford a lot of expensive things or not, it is always a wise decision to look for the best value that your hard-earned money can buy.
(This article is from MoneySense, the country’s first and only personal finance magazine. Visit www.moneysense.com.ph for more.)