Food shopping for a family is often an area that is hastily overlooked when calculating those outgoings, especially if you drop in daily, rather than doing a ‘big shop’ each week. After all, AED 50 or AED 100 here or there might not seem like much, but when added up over the course of a month, you might get a nasty surprise. But with a little planning, some savvy spending and the right companies, you can cut that bill while filling the fridge. Here are some of my top tips on shopping smart.
1. Buy big
If you have the storage space, stocking up like the zombie apocalypse is coming can mean cutting your spending. The larger stores or hypermarkets are best for bulk buying toiletries, cleaning products, nappies, rice, etc., so do a regular haul there, rather than grabbing smaller quantities that offer less value when you’re caught short.
2. Go online
Wholesaler Kibson’s supplies many of the UAE stores, but you can also buy direct, and make some big savings. With fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, frozen meat (the meatballs are awesome), and a few extras all available via their website, I can guarantee you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the prices. Simply set up an account, load up your virtual basket by choosing items by weight, and select a delivery time, then pay by cash or card when it all arrives in a lovely cardboard box. My top picks are the punnets of berries, which are often less than half the price in stores, with raspberries for AED 9.
3. Don’t be loyal
While it’s, inevitably, easier to buy everything from washing powder to cheese from the same supermarket, your wallet won’t thank you for it. Check out weekly deals such as Spinney’s Market Day on a Monday and Carrefour’s flyers for what’s on offer, and plan accordingly, as well as cruising the ‘last chance to buy’ section. But be warned – as with any ‘bargain’, it’s only good value if you actually need it, otherwise you’ll end up with a cupboard full of stuff you’ll never use or eat.
4. Plan, plan, plan
Some people thrive on sitting down once a week and planning menus for the next seven days. I’m not one of them. It does, however, result in a more focused visit to the supermarket, rather than spending AED 200 on food that could only be eaten together if you’re a pregnant woman with some bizarre cravings. Take a regular inventory of pantry items like pasta, tinned tomatoes and spices, then look online for recipe inspiration before making a shopping list for what you need that week. Don’t forget to factor in breakfasts and packed lunches, as last-minute purchases can often be the most expensive.
5. Let someone else do the hard work
Companies like Dinnertime and Hello Chef (my favourite) offer a helping hand to those of us who lack both time to shop and imagination when it comes to cooking. Choose the package that suits you best (based on number of people and preferred diet such as low-carb or vegetarian) then pay from AED 280 per week and a fresh delivery will arrive at your door. Inside you’ll find healthy recipes for four nights, with everything you need to make them – including the pre-measured quantities, so you can feel like a TV chef as you create dinner. Portions are generous, so there are often leftovers, and you’ll add some new dishes to your cooking repertoire.
Helen Farmer is founder of The Mothership, a blog that takes an honest look at living, working and parenting in the UAE, covering everything from family-friendly activities to real issues facing mums. She has been in the Middle East for 10 years, working in publishing and broadcasting, and has one daughter – and another baby on the way. The Mothership won the Time Out Dubai Kids award for Parent Blog of 2016.