Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Survival Tip: Where the bargains are

Living in Denmark means that after rent, your greatest expense is food. And with fast food staples like McDonalds and KFC costing upwards of 100kr per meal, eating out everyday is simply not an option. But even if you try to eat in to save some cash, the price of groceries can vary widely. 

When I lived in Ørestad, the nearest shops were Bilka and DøgnNetto. Both seem like descent places to shop when you have nothing to compare it to. But Bilka is like the Costco of Denmark, only offering deals when you buy in bulk. Those ten, 500 gram bags of frozen vegetables for only 10kr each sounded like a great bargain. That was, until you got home and realized that your freezer can only hold 5 and there's no way you're going to eat the rest before they go bad. And you pay for the convenience of DøgnNetto's later opening hours with significantly higher prices.

Only when I moved to a more populated area that had several stores to choose from, including (normal) Netto, Rema 1000, Fotex, Fakta, and Irma did I realize how much I was being overcharged by living in a food desert. So here are two things I learned that helped to significantly reduce my grocery bill:


Like I said, prices vary from store to store and even week to week. So make use of the circulars that get stuffed into your mailbox.

Tilbuds are like my women's magazines, difference being, they offer information that helps instead of hurts my self-worth. I actually get excited when I see the shiny paper sticking out from the black boxes in my hallway. 

Did you know that the price of broccoli can be anywhere from 5kr to 12kr per head? Or that Netto and Fotex sometimes sells delicious Lurpak butter for only 10kr instead of 20kr? If you only stick to one store out of brand loyalty, you'll miss the amazing bargains offered elsewhere. Not to mention, stores like Aldi and Rema 1000 often sell non-food items, like name brand smart phones, for rock bottom prices. And this leads to my second recommendation,

Know your stores

Last week, Aldi (I think, but I'm not sure since I threw out my circular) was a selling a gigantic portable speaker system that was mp3 player compatible for only 300kr. For those planning on attending Roskilde, such an item would have been perfect. But how many of you would have thought to get your Roskilde supplies from Aldi or even Rema 1000 instead of Silvan? 

When the phone my friend gave me started to die (thanks Tandi), the first place I looked was NOT Elgiganten or any of the similar electronic or phone stores. I went to Bilka and bought an unlocked Samsung Galaxy mini for 500kr. Experience taught me that Bilka, Aldi, and sometimes Rema 1000 would sell phones at prices that rivaled those of American online retailers, minus shipping & handling. 

Knowing your stores means familiarizing yourself with their inventories and pricing schedules. For example, I stayed away from Irma for a long time since I assumed they were out of my price range. And they are, for the most part. But I've found that they are often cheaper than Netto or Fakta when it comes to certain produce. Their running price on avocados is 24kr for a bag of six. And the avocados usually range in ripeness, giving a few to use now, and a few that will ripen over the next few days. Plus, if you're lucky, you can find a sale on rotisserie chicken. 

Items in this picture appear much larger on my table

Depending on the day of the week, Irma will sell quarter chickens, two for 30kr. Stay away from the legs and go for the breasts. Each piece is almost one full breast and a wing, yielding enough meat for two servings per piece. Sure, you'll pay more than if you were to buy frozen chicken, but do you want to wait 20-30 minutes for it to cook?

One final word of caution. Just like I wrongly assumed that everything in Irma was ridiculously expensive, do not make the mistake of assuming the little ethnic shops will always be cheaper. I noticed the Middle Eastern grocer nearest me will change their prices, depending on the season (normal) and day of the month (not normal). Their prices are the highest at the beginning of the month, when most Danes receive their salary or government benefits, and lowest when people have the least amount of money. This contrasts with the habit of most stores offering deals at the beginning of the month, to lure customers in. 

Hope these tips help, Happy Shopping!

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