Cost savvy: Where to get your groceries and frozen food in Malaysia?

by - June 14, 2016


For all Malaysian who don't cook. 

When I begin to live out alone, I stock my freezer with lots of frozen food. I got lazy on cooking. Frozen food is definitely not healthy but it helps on a hectic day, saves A LOT of time and it's better than eating instant noodles, and certainly not as pricey as eating out. Make sure you keep track of the sodium and fat content in the food.

Before nagging like an old granny on how to save some money on groceries, I have to clarify that am not a penny pitcher. I don't mind paying more for a better brand, quality assurance or taste. But I do mind paying higher than the market price [if it's a bribe to buy things below market price, could I report on business who charge me higher than market price?]  

Supermarkets have different pricing model. Using Tesco as the benchmark, the standard scale is around 5% cheaper at Econsave and RM1 more expensive per item at Jusco. For fresh items, this difference in price usually translate to a difference in quality  - you get what you paid for. Not so the frozen food or processed food. In fact, you will find items priced lower in higher end supermarket. Cheese, for example, is usually cheaper like-to-like in Isetan compared to Tesco.

Below is the price I recently paid for in May/Jun 2016. They are not promotional price and all compared in the same city (within few km distance).


Numbers don't lie. As you can see, we easily pay 20% premium on an item due to "inflation" that news makes us believe. The large price difference gap shows that inflation we get is much of domestic inefficiency instead of real feed cost. In order to maintain our buying power, we have to single out this inefficiency and work on having lower average cost. Consider that you consume just one item a day, it's RM 360 savings a year. Chances are you will use at least 5 items a day - food and toiletries included - that is a difference of RM1500 a year/person in the family.

It may be too time-consuming to compare prices every time you shop. This works better if you have mental power or keep a price note (instruction below). Malaysia once had a cacat (handicap) price compare app and it fails terribly.  I keep a note in my phone with the list of things I need to buy within <3 months.

Having a price note will help you recognize the rock bottom price and stock up earlier. Most people use price per unit as basis but it's not easy to draw in table in a phone. So this is what I use. 

Phone Note Method
Item Name, Price, Brand (if it matters), Size/portion, (Place symbol), Promo
Place depends on how many place you shop. 
E.g.Food
1. kampung egg, RM4.25, sandy, 10, T  
It'll be easy to find something if you soft by category and alphabetical order. 
Category I use : Fresh food, Frozen food, Toiletries, Stationary, Others

You could do this easier if you keep a price book. I don't like carry heavy things around so phone not is the best to go.

If you are lazy to go for the extra length - keep it simple by the following rule of thumb :

1. Household and hygienic items  (also Apollo* cakes) at Mydin 
2. Frozen food at Giant
3. Dried fruits nuts and premium items at Jusco or Isetan
4. Fresh groceries at Tesco (unless you want to get B.I.G. Supermarket quality)  If you ever bought salmon from Tesco and accidently overcook it, you'll get what I mean.
5. Face care and hair color at Watson
6. Medicine and health product at Caring / Guardian  

Other trends
1. Baking chocolate and dry herbs are cheaper at Tesco. 
2. Organic ten-grain rice that I eat is RM 13.60/kg in Tesco, but RM 36/kg in Jusco

Buy in bulk when you can to reduce the number of yearly trips. Pantry stocking is a powerful way to save money. 

Non-Halal The list goes on and spillover to other categories: 
Wine, if you can find the bottle, is surprisingly cheaper at Tesco. My favorite Lambrusco is sold for RM 70.00 at Jaya Grocer; RM 54 at Tesco (Or RM 90 for two). However, non-halal stuff is usually about 30% pricier in Tesco. .

*Apollo mini cakes is sold at ~RM4.50 per box at Mydin, versus RM9.45 per box at Tesco. 

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