A growing number of my readers are in Israel. After living there for more than a decade, I know what it’s like to read frugal bloggers from America and think, wistfully, “Sounds great, but if only I could use coupons here!” That’s why I asked my friend and prolific blogger, Hannah Katsman, from A Mother in Israel, to share her top ten tips for frugal grocery shopping in Israel. What a treasure trove of information she is sharing today!
Grocery shopping in Israel is fun because of the wonderful selection of kosher products and attractive, fresh produce. New olim who want to keep costs down will have to curb their enthusiasm while adjusting to a different style of shopping. Here are ten strategies for frugal grocery shopping in Eretz Hakodesh.
- We don’t have many coupons but we do have specials, advertised in newspapers or flyers. Pay attention to the fine print: You often have to buy a large amount in the rest of the store to be eligible. Once I foundcheap chicken, but I had to buy some fresh beef too. It actually turned out to be worth it, because I was able to store a large amount of chicken.
- Israeli stores, while not as sophisticated as American ones, use similar tricks to get you to buy more than you need. Examples include buy one and get one free (1+1), offering additional sale items at checkout, and placing staples out of the way.
- Check that meat has been soaked and salted, and that ground meat hasn’t been mixed with soy protein. Kosher meat and chicken are often cheaper here than in the US, depending on the certification. Produce is also cheaper and better quality, although prices are creeping up because of the water shortage and the hot weather. Dairy products are expensive.
- Avoid American products like breakfast cereals. Get your family used to oatmeal, solet (farina), or whole-grain bread, muffins or pancakes. Vegetables, eggs and cheese are part of a disappearing but healthy Israeli breakfast habit.
- While you’re at it, avoid Israeli convenience foods like Bamba, soup nuts, “koren-flecks,” frozen schnitzel (including soy), and soup powders. They are highly processed and laden with salt.
- Many frugal tips apply equally to both countries: Eat less meat and more legumes, grains and vegetables. Cook from scratch whenever you can. Buy in season, read labels (dictionary, anyone?), and look for store brands.
- Shop around. Keep a price book, with the prices of items you regularly buy for different stores. Instead of going to one store every week, go to a few different stores and stock up on their special for a few weeks.
- Avoid shopping at the end of the week, and the few days before any holiday. Shelves are stocked on Sunday, so aim for Monday or Tuesday.
- Foods like fresh flour and grains, baking supplies, and organic produce can be bought in bulk and divided. If you can’t find a co-op in your community, start one yourself.
- Become familiar with the local shuk. It is often cheapest not just for produce, but for many other surprising items. Don’t assume anything, though, because grocery specials can undercut shuk prices.
Plus a bonus tip:
Haredi chains tend to be cheap, especially if you like to buy in bulk, but the selection may be limited. And mehadrin (stringently kosher) versions of foods often contain more sugars and starches, to keep prices down.
If you have visited Israel, please share your frugal shopping tips in the comments.