Ten Tips for Frugal Grocery Shopping in Israel

shuk Ten Tips for Frugal Grocery Shopping in Israel

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Hannah Katsman is a mom of 6 who has lived in Israel for 20 years. She blogs on parenting at A Mother in Israel, and helps home cooks save time and money at Cooking Manager.

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Comments

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Comments

  1. Thanks so much for hosting me, Mara.

  2. Even in the shuk, prices vary. If you can’t keep the prices in your head, write them down.

  3. I shop in a Haredi chain – BarKol – and they actually sell a couple reasonable priced organic breadfast cereals and other “natural” items I can’t find any where else. The sell everything from Tzitzit to cheap appliances and electronics.

    Also – In general, avoid minimarkets, but pay attention to their prices. Sometimes I will find a something in a minimarket that I can’t find anywhere else. The one across the street from our home has almost anything you might need and their prices are very good. It’s well worth shopping their for very heavy or large items I don’t want to cary home.

    This last tip probably sounds stupid, but, make sure you get home with everything you bought. Last week 100 shkalim worth of chicken managed to fall out of my stroller, probably when I was struggling to get it onto the bus. The week before I got one of those “bonus” items at check-out, a 20 shekel tea sampler. At home, when I went to see what surprise new teas I had aquired, it was gone. So look around the checkout before you leave and make sure your bags are secure.

    • Yosefa – I don’t live in Israel anymore and that last tip still applies to me! I had to send my husband back to Walmart the other day for my eggs!

  4. Batya and Yosefa: Good points, thank you. And speaking of losing items I can’t find those black lentils. . .

  5. Actually, some chains lower produce prices towards the end of the week so it’s a good time to shop.

  6. 3 more bonus tips:

    If your kids (or you) “need” their morning cereal, try for cornflakes (local brand, whichever is on sale) or branflakes and add your own raisins (for fake raisin bran). Compared to other cereals, they come with about twice as much in the box and the boxes are cheaper too.

    If you’re stuck buying in Supersol Sheli (because you don’t have a car), go up to the counter and ask for tavim. You have to buy a minimum of 700 shekels worth, but you automatically get 10% off. It’s worth picking up these tavim anyway, b/c they’re good at Ace, Home Center, hamashbir, and a number of other shops. Instant 10% discount at all of these places. If your work sells tavim (many big companies do), the discount may be higher (as high as 18%), making the expensive stores an overall cheaper option if you’re a one-stop-shopper since bread, eggs, and most dairy is price-fixed across all supermarkets.

    If the shuk is too far, your local “yarkan” (greengrocer) is likely to be cheaper than your supermarket, though again keep an eye on prices, Sometimes Mega will have a 10 kilo for 10 shekel deal on veggies, for example…

  7. hannah, this is a great list and a great idea for an article, THANKS!

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