Buying cheaper options, shopping online; how UAE residents are cutting costs as food prices rise

Many are revising family budgets and cutting corners amidst rising inflation

By Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Mon 18 Apr 2022, 11:22 AM

Residents in the UAE are feeling the impact of a surge in global inflation, which doesn't appear to be easing up anytime soon.

For many, that means it's time to revise the family budget and cut corners.

Shopping online, swapping cost-efficient ingredients, reducing takeaways or eating out, and hunting for deals and discounts are just some ways UAE residents are looking to pinch their pennies in the face of rising food prices.

For food blogger Shabina Afzal, cooking is a mainstay of her content creation, and the rising prices have directly impacted it.

"We are a joint family of 8," she said. "What I make for the family is what I shoot as recipes. We used to buy hormone-free, no antibiotics added chicken. However, this Ramadan, my mother has decided to switch to frozen chicken with the rocketing food prices. We use a lot of chicken for our snacks, and it is no longer feasible to buy the special ones."

"We also make steamed fish cakes," she said. "Usually, we would use kingfish for this. But again, with the prices rising, it gets too expensive to use kingfish. We now use half of the kingfish and supplement the other half with canned tuna.

"Even the price of long-life milk has increased. We have now reduced the number of times we have tea in our household. As Keralites, we use a lot of coconuts (in recipes). We used to buy the grated coconut packs from the supermarkets. Now, we opt to buy the whole coconut, which we sometimes get on offer, and then grate it at home."

Sharjah-based Hasiib Cureyshi has resorted to several methods to cut costs. "I try to avoid eating out at fast-food restaurants and high-end eateries," he said. "Instead of drinking coffee at one of the branded cafes, I now make my coffee at home. We used to take long drives to the northern Emirates regularly, but I have stopped unnecessary trips now. The best way to avoid impulse buying is to stay home."

Bushra Qamar, a mother to a 3-year-old, has shifted all her shopping to bigger hypermarkets. "I have noticed that the smaller neighbourhood groceries always mark up the prices of items by Dh2 or 3," she said.

"So I always buy in bulk at the bigger hypermarkets. I also buy store-branded items like ketchup, pulses and tissues. These are usually cheaper, and the quality is at par with the branded ones.

"In terms of shopping online, I have learnt not to fall for sales and marketing gimmicks that make you buy more than you need. For example, if there is a 'buy 3, get 3 free' or a pack of 10 items for a low price, I know that I don't need that many items for my small family. So, I steer clear of it."

For Dubai resident Rahul TM, a prior health issue has helped him make purchases easy. "A bout with gout had made me very aware of the dangers of sodium-rich processed foods, and I spent hours researching and reading labels before picking up groceries," he said. "Now that I know which brands I want, things have become much easier. All I have to do is go online, find the website/app with sales going on, sort everything by price and press buy."

Rahul added, "I always use cards with cashback, and I have started to make sure that the cashback is reflected before the next purchase. I have also begun to use the metro more. It helps save on fuel and keeps me healthy."


For a homemaker and a mother of 12- and 8-year-old boys, Maheen Husainy finds shopping online has been key to saving. "I realised during the pandemic that online shopping is more budget-friendly, simply because I don't pick up stuff randomly," she said.

"Not stocking too much helped as well (to save). I would finish everything before replenishing. This meant less wastage. For oil and cleaning products, I hunt for deals. I also buy fewer junk snacks for the kids."

"Apart from this, I also like to stock up on kids' clothes and shoes whenever I travel home in Germany. Things are a lot cheaper there, and it lasts longer."

High freight rates, oil prices and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine military conflict are some of the contributing factors to rising food costs worldwide. Meanwhile, the UAE's Ministry of Economy has approved a new policy to keep a check on the prices of basic consumer goods.

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