It is a common conception that living in Japan can be expensive. Indeed, it is expensive, but there are many different methods to help to reduce the cost of living and making it more bearable. There are already many articles written on the different ways to save money in Japan, such as buying discounted bentos in the supermarket after 8 p.m. (or for some departmental stores, 9 p.m.), but this article will be focusing on the aspect of grocery shopping.
If you are staying in Japan for a substantial period of time, do invest in some cookery equipment such as pots and pans. It is really worthwhile to cook even though food outside (such as discount bentos) can be cheap and good. Furthermore, you know what is going into your food when you are cooking on your own.
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1. Know Your Supermarkets Well
There is no one shop that sells everything cheaper than others, that is if you are not comparing a supermarket located in the outskirts versus one located in Ginza. Let’s say if you are living in central Tokyo, there are some supermarkets that will certainly be more expensive than others. Do look around your vicinity for cheaper supermarkets, but not every item will be cheap in that supermarket.
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For example, Supermarket A may sell eggs cheaper than B yet a packet of milk may be more expensive in A. So if you are hard on saving money, take a mental note for the prices of the items that you wish to purchase and compare them respectively at the different supermarkets.
2. Use Discount Coupons
Places like Don Quixote are the gem for discount coupons. Sign up for their membership card, download their app, and you will be allowed access to their machines placed outside their stores. Scan your QR code and click on the “coupon” button, and choose the items that you want to get. The discount coupons, like its name suggest, are coupons that significantly discount items off their usual price. For example, with the coupon, a packet of Kit Kat costs only ¥180 (without tax) while it normally costs ¥240 (without tax). However, the popular items are usually snagged by others so do obtain your coupons quick.
A Coupon Machine outside Don Quixote
3. Sign Up for a Point Card
Normally after cashing out at convenience stores or supermarkets, the cashier will ask if you have a point card. These point cards can be quite useful if you buy a lot of items from that particular store. For example, if you visit Lawson’s often, each ¥100 you spend gives you 1 point. Each point is equivalent to ¥1. So let’s do the math, it is 1% off on your purchase. Personally, I find it very difficult to earn those points, but if you constantly buy things from that store, it would be good to get a point card so you can save a little.
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Lastly, here are some of the supermarkets that I recommend in Central Tokyo:
- OK Supermarket is well known for their cheap produce. The prices for their milk, cheese, biscuits and other produce can be quite reasonable.
- Seiyu for meat and fish. Though they do not have discounts, their price per weight is already quite low to begin with.
- Hanamasa for meat. No discounts, but wide variety of meat to choose from.
Of course you can always search around those small shops near your neighborhood for vegetables and fruits. Personally, I find vegetables and fruits expensive in supermarkets, so try to look around your neighborhood for those small shops flooded with many grandmothers or mothers – a sign that the produce in that store is cheap.