It’s no secret that I happen to live in a high cost of living area. The real estate prices are quite high, but not as bad as mega-cities like NYC. Along with the high cost of real estate comes jacked-up prices for almost everything else. Groceries in particular are very expensive.
While many bloggers have already extolled the virtues of Costco groceries (even myself), one institution of grocery savings hasn’t gotten the love I think it deserves: Local Asian Grocery Stores
One of the keys to building my wealth over the years was shopping at a local asian grocery store. Yes, really!
We shop at Costco (they mostly have good prices), but the bulk of our produce still comes from our local asian grocery store.
Why should you shop at your local asian grocery store?
There’s real value to be found! Don’t just gawk at the unusual food! I know, I know…the freezer section may smell a little funny. Just ignore it – that’s the smell of savings.
First and foremost, the best reason to shop there is low prices. They really do have lower prices than comparable food at a typical supermarket. Notice I said “comparable food”. This is a key distinction.
A typical consumer makes comparisons points on things they can compare. Items like produce, milk, eggs, and meat will be typical comparison points. That’s where the deals are going to be! Branded goods are far harder to compare.
Are you wondering how much cheaper it is? Here’s a list of items I compiled from a recent shopping trip, and comparable prices from a local supermarket.
“Non-comparable” specialty products (imported from far away lands) will typically have a higher markup than comparable items. This is one of the reasons why my local asian grocer appears to have very low prices.
“Non-comparable” Goods = Fairly High Prices
Comparable Goods = Low Prices!
They pull you in with the loss leaders, but hope you’ll also buy some imported goodies!
Our family enjoys a good fish now and then. When we pick one up, it’s usually “on sale” at our a local asian grocery store. Yes, the smell in the seafood section may be a little more pungent than you’re used to at a local supermarket. Just ignore it. The smell isn’t why we shop here!
Seafood prices can be pretty cheap, but they can also be pretty outrageous. It all depends upon the day. It helps if you know what’s a good price to pay.
When we cooked up dungeness crab for Mrs. Tako’s birthday I bought it at our local asian grocery store. For $5.99/lb it felt like a steal compared to the $7.99/lb or $8.99/lb we’d pay at other places.
A Word About Quality
The second, and more visible reason for lower prices is the lower quality of the produce. In many cases, I’ve noticed the quality usually isn’t top grade. Produce has bumps and the occasional bruise. Fruit might be under (or over) ripe. Meat may be of a lower grade than you’re used to. It’s not the perfect unblemished product you’d find at a supermarket…and that’s a good thing!
If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you already know about the high cost of perfection. Think about it: Does all produce from a farm come in that perfect unblemished state? Nope, only a small percentage of farm produce is actually that perfect!
The lowest quality produce is sometimes sold as animal feed. Other times it’s ground back into the dirt to re-fertilize for next season. You’ll never see the lowest grades.
Slightly higher grades might be used in canning or processed food applications. What’s that? You think that 99 cent microwave burrito your eating uses the highest quality beans and veggies on the planet? Nope, sorry! Whether you know it or not, you’ve probably eaten tons of lower grade produce.
Imperfection is a beautiful thing, and my local asian grocery store has lots of it. Sure, it probably scares off a few potential customers, but I don’t mind. Along with this imperfection comes lower prices, and lower prices give me the power to build wealth.
If you’ve ever been in a real asian grocery store, you’ll know they aren’t necessarily the cleanest. Yes, the stores do clean, but probably not as frequently as you’re used to. The place isn’t spotless.
Ever wonder where some of those savings come from? The lack of cleaning labor may have something to do with it…and it’s nothing to worry about. The outside of produce can be washed, and many goods are already pre-packaged.
One of the best things about my local asian grocery store has absolutely nothing to do with prices. It’s the great variety of goods they stock!
As you probably know, we’re big fans of eating-in to save money. We also love most asian food. Unfortunately, a normal supermarket isn’t going to stock the things I need to make proper Pad Thai, Agedashi Tofu, Bibimbap, or countless other asian dishes.
Local asian grocery stores to the rescue!
Walking through the aisles, I see goods from Korea, Japan, China, Thailand, Vietnam, and so on. This is authentic imported stuff, not bad American knockoffs. It’s the stuff I need to make the authentic asian dishes usually found in restaurants.
Grocer not “Gift Market”
Notice that throughout this article I’ve been saying “grocery store”, and not “gift market”. There’s a difference between the two.
The difference between a “gift market” and a “grocery store” is the intended customer. Asian grocers of the sort we’re talking about, target the local asian population. “Gift markets” target tourists, and along with that target customer come high prices.
I’ve ranted about tourist markets before. “Gift markets” are just another name for tourist markets. Avoid the “gift markets” to save yourself money. They’re not going to get any love from me!
Find a real asian grocer for the real savings. When you find him, give him a hug. Tell him Mr. Tako sent you. He’s saved me some serious money over the years, and he’ll help you too.