Steals & Deals at your local Asian Market

                                                 Produce Bill (partial) for Household of 2

This post is all about the joys of shopping at your local Asian grocery store. Here in the metro DC region, where I live, there are tons of Asian markets around. Large ones, small ones, independent ones and chains. The ones near me also have sizable sections devoted to middle eastern and Latin/Hispanic foods (two communities with a large presence here). The two largest chains (at least in this area) are the Korean-owned "H-Mart"and "Grand Mart". Although I occasionally shop at Grand Mart, H-Mart is where I'm sure to find a large assortment of inexpensive "conventional" produce and other specialty goodies such as seaweeds galore, kimc
hee, burdock root, persimmons, gigantic aloe leaves, sugar cane, durians, jackfruit, lychee, young coconuts, tamarind, multiple types of dates, 3 or 4 varieties of bananas, dragon fruits; the list goes on and on. What's more, a lot of the produce consists of items I've never heard of or tasted - which is exciting to me. So if you're adventurous when it comes to food, an Asian mart is a great place to try lots of interesting new things.

Although I love eating organic (and sometimes do), as an occasionally employed, apartment-dwelling, grad student and housewife, this is not usually an option. So, for the past 5 years or so, most of our fresh food comes from the Asian mart. On average most fruits and vegetables there cost between .50 cents to $1.00 cheaper (per pound) than at say, Giant or Safeway. And when you eat a lot of fruit and veg, these things add up. Although there are a few items that compare within .10 or .20 cents, most items at the Asian mart are significantly cheaper. And cheaper doesn't mean lower quality, either. These aren't second-rate, fallen-off-the-back-of-a-truck vegetables. The majority of them are the same brands, companies and packaging as at a regular grocery store.

To illustrate just how much you can save, check out the graphic above of some of the items I purchased this past week. To compare, I took a little field trip to Giant to see what I would have paid for the same items. I was quite impressed with just how much I'm saving (More than $23 dollars!). Although I bought -and saved - lots more, I chose only to include items that were at least .50 cents cheaper. There was even one item, a young white coconut that was $4 more expensive at Whole Foods than it was at my beloved Asian mart (Giant and Safeway never have young, white coconuts so I couldn't compare this on my chart.). Every week, their deals change, but it's not uncommon to find seasonal specials like .11 cents/lb bananas, or 9 bunches of scallions for $1, or .49 cents/lb apples; the difference is quite staggering when you have a lot of mouths to feed.

The bottom line: Asian marts have a few organic items like sprouts, mushrooms and a few odd grocery items; but if you're looking for organic fruits and vegetables, this is probably not the store for you. I also don't suggest shopping at an Asian mart for things like toiletries or packaged goods, because the regular grocery stores usually have better sales on these items. However, when it comes to fresh produce and specialty items, you can be sure to find a plethora of steals and deals at your local Asian mart. And, even if some of the prices are comparable, I think doing a little price-checking is always worth the field trip.

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Peace and Greens, from the Diary of a Smart Black Woman


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