Buy at the market
If you want to save on the money you shell out for fresh vegetables and fruit, your best bet is shopping in the markets. Not all markets are the same, so feel free to compare prices until you find the best deal for the quality of produce you receive.
I find that costs can differ as much as Dh5 (USD1.37) for basic items, so make a mental note of prices when you visit different grocers. For example, I happened to notice that one product I buy for my toddler is Dh4.55 (USD 1.25) more per piece, from one particular store, and I buy 16-20 pieces per month. That’s between Dh72-Dh91 (USD25) more than I need to pay. If that does not move you, it works out to an unnecessary expenditure of up to Dh1,092 (USD300) annually. And that’s just the amount you can save on one product. Cumulatively, every extra dirham adds up, especially for those things that can be bought ahead in higher volumes. Furthermore, if you have to buy larger volumes, do not be afraid to ask the store manager for a volume discount. Other countries have wholesalers – it is a pity this has not caught on in the UAE.
There is no shame in telling someone, reasonably, that their prices are way too high if you note that the same goods of the same quality and origin are available in the marketplace for much cheaper. I don’t hustle or browbeat vendors and purveyors and respect the prices that farmers have for their products. However, if there is a huge gap, I do not feel compelled to buy it and they deserve to know why.
Bulk isn’t always better
If you are drawn in to every “promotion” at the supermarket, you may find things you do not need consuming your budget while your cupboards are cramped for space. Just because items are wrapped together with a sticker on them does not mean it is a good deal. Do your math. Is it really cheaper? And do you need all that dishwashing soap at once? Sometimes, buying just what you need is the trick to keeping your cash flow liquid if things are already tight financially.
Eat more vegetables
Vegetables are a great source of vitamins and minerals, while the non-starchy ones are also great sources of fibre. They quickly bulk up your plate and meal while adding lots of nutrition – making you feel fuller for longer periods. Adding lots of vegetables to every meal will make you eat less of other more expensive or unhealthy ingredients. Carbs fill you up quickly but processed carbs and grains also make you hungry quickly as well. Buy fewer quantities of whole grains (like brown rice and whole grain breads) and supplement with more vegetables. Also look out for fruits and vegetables that are in season because they are cheaper.
Adding vegetables to protein dishes also makes the portion look a lot bigger than it is. Be sure to avoid the tendency to overeat protein by only serving it with alongside rice or other carbs. Adding veggies to your meat has several benefits because it is healthier and more filling. It is easy for one person to eat 2-4 pieces of chicken but you can serve each person the equivalent of 1-1.5 pieces if they are cut up into small pieces and added to vegetables in a stir fry.
Tuna, tuna, tuna!
Tuna is a staple in my cupboard for a whole bunch of reasons. It is quick, easy, cheap and has lots of omega-3. I have so many tuna recipes, I could actually write a tuna cookbook. If you are looking for cost-effective ways to add protein to your diet and to stop yourself from ordering takeout or delivery when hungry, tuna is the answer. Plus, it is way cheaper and quicker than delivery.
Other canned fish
Sardines, mackerel and salmon are also great sources of omega-3 as they are all fatty fish. Omega-3 is a heart-healthy fat and is known to be a mood booster. Be sure never to buy anything with tomato sauce in the can as the acid in tomatoes corrodes the lining of the tin and causes harmful chemicals to leach into your foods. If you like fish in tomato sauce, it is best to buy it plain and then add the tomato later on.
Coupons & Groupons
One great way to cut back on your dining out expenses is to look for great deals. Groupon usually have great deals on their website and The Entertainer coupon/voucher book has 2 for 1 main course deals in some of the most impressive restaurants. Even top restaurants use these deals to bring in new clients during slow periods so you are spoilt for choice with some great eateries on offer. Otherwise, you can burn a hole pretty quickly in your pocket paying premium bucks while dining out regularly.
Buffets & Set Menus
Buffets and set menus are a great option to control your price when dining out. You also know exactly how much your bill will come up to up front so there is no surprise when the cheque is presented table side.
Half Board Vacations/Staycations
When staying at a hotel at home or abroad, you can choose a half board package or at least a Bed and Breakfast package to ensure that you have your main meals (both breakfast and dinner) taken care of. If you are more adventurous and are willing to explore outside the hotel and eat more local and possibly cheaper fare, then select the breakfast only option and by all means head out at evenings to explore the city/town. You should also treat yourself to some of the restaurants of note in your hotel as well and not just stick to the all day dining buffet.