Bringing up families in Hong Kong doesn’t have to be expensive.
As parents, we are always looking for ways to feed our family with quality nutritious food. Unfortunately, supermarkets in Hong Kong can be very pricey, making it hard to stay within budget. However it is possible to save money on your groceries in the city, you just need to do a little extra planning. Here are some simple ways to become a more frugal foodie when feeding your family.
Be a Frugal Detective
Knowing your prices is the crucial starting point on your way to becoming a frugal foodie. Make a note of the price tag on staple items at your usual supermarket. Then you can easily compare when you head out in search of the best deal. These are three go-to stops on my grocery run.
Get to know the stall keepers and find out what’s in season and when they reduce the price of fruit and veg (at the end of the day or just before their next delivery). At my favourite stall, there is a $5 bargain bowl where I regularly find gorgeous mangoes, figs and other normally pricier goodies. Use these to inspire your weekly meals or freeze for later use. My best bargain – $17 for 10 free-range eggs (which are $70+ at the supermarket)!
Don’t pass by the “pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap” stores such as DS Groceries and PrizeMart. They are a great source of cheaper canned goods, pasta, rice, sauces, Korean and Japanese ingredients. You can pick up a can of chickpeas for $7 here, rather than $20 at more well-known supermarkets.
Independent Ethnic Stores (Indian, Thai, Chinese or even Nepalese!)
Check out local independent stores for harder to find cooking ingredients, spices, sauces and canned goods, as well as smaller, cheaper quantities of rice and dried pulses.
Head to Vanguard and USelect for cheaper cheese (feta cheese is around $37 here versus $60+ at the bigger stores), butter, canned and frozen foods, great veggie deals and some organic foods.
Make Your Food & Efforts Go Further
Fresh food sometimes has to travel a long way to get to us here in Hong Kong, and then unfortunately doesn’t last once it’s here. Now that you’ve saved money at the checkout, make sure that your efforts don’t go to waste.
Batch Cook Meals
This is a great way to save on time, money and effort. Cook extra large stews, soups, pasta sauces, casseroles and curries, and then freeze or refrigerate for a quick family ready meal. I also like to roast or steam lots of vegetables on a Sunday to see us through lunches for the week or a midweek dinner.
The Freezer Is Your Friend
Not only can you have your batch meals ready to go, but you can also freeze ripe fruit for a quick morning smoothie or cake filling. Peeled bananas and mangoes, as well as chopped kale and spinach, can easily be frozen and stored.
Fresh herbs also freeze well. Just chop, mix with a little olive oil (use a volume that is about a sixth of the volume of the herbs – e.g. 100g herbs and 16g oil), pour into ice cube trays, freeze, then pop into labelled zip lock bags.
Waste Not Want Not
Make your fresh food go even further by keeping the tops and tails of carrots, onions, turnips, cauliflower and broccoli stalks, which can all be used for stock.
Similarly, when you buy chicken, try to find better quality whole chicken rather than packaged parts and learn how to butcher yourself. This is great as you’ll generally get more, better quality meat and a higher number of meals for your money from one whole bird. You can use the bone-in meat for stews and curries, or roast the whole chicken on a Sunday for meals throughout the week. When you’re done use the chicken carcass for stocks too.
Bang For Your Buck Foods
Being savvy with your dollar doesn’t mean you lose out on nutritious foods. Knowing which foods give you the most bang for your buck is key to being a frugal foodie. Here are five great value foods that will keep both your wallet happy and your family healthy!
Dried Or Canned Pulses
Pulses are a great, low-fat source of protein, fibre and iron (one cup of cooked lentils provides over a third of our daily iron intake need). This is why they make a good alternative to meat. Be aware that canned pulses tend to have higher levels of sodium than dried pulses, but are a handy cupboard staple for a quick meal. If you want to better control sodium levels, follow our principles and batch cook, then freeze recipes with dried pulses.
- Chickpeas – hummus, curries, salads.
- Kidney beans – blend with cumin to make a tasty dip, add to stews and curries.
- Lentils – replace or halve the meat content for lasagna, curries or a stew.
Eggs are an inexpensive source of complete protein and packed with a whole host of vitamins. They are also extremely versatile and make an excellent kitchen staple to quickly whip up a meal.
- Omelettes with your favourite fillings.
- Boiled eggs for easy lunch box snacks.
- Use up leftover veggies and make a frittata for dinner.
Tomatoes are loaded with antioxidant vitamins, anti-cancer molecules and a significant source of vitamin K to builds strong bones.
- Blend with herbs and onions to make a basic pasta sauce or add to curries or stews for an extra zingy health kick.
Nut butters are a great source of protein, fibre, good fats and nutrients to boost heart health (like vitamin E and magnesium). Just be sure to check the ingredients label to avoid hydrogenated oils (e.g. palm oil, soybean oil) and sugar (sometimes listed as maltodextrin). A good nut butter should really contain just the nuts and a little salt.
- Use as a dip, create Asian sauces for noodles, salad dressings or simply spread it on toasted bread.
Veggies are a crucial baseline for your family’s healthy diet. The key to being frugal here is to keep your eye on what is in season and on sale.
Aim to eat a rainbow throughout the week. Cover these vegetable groups and ensure your family is getting all the essential nutrients, fibre, folate and vitamins A, E and C:
- Green (spinach, kale, gai-lan, sweet potato leaves)
- Cruciferous (broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, cabbage)
- Orange and red (carrots, tomatoes, peppers)
- Peas and pods (green beans, peas, mange tout)
- Smelly (onions, garlic, spring onions)
Always remember that frozen vegetables can sometimes be a cheaper and healthier option than buying them fresh. Often produce is snap frozen to store essential nutrients. Leafy greens like spinach are usually much better value frozen than bags of the fresh leaves (that come in less than half the volume).