5 ways to save food expenses in Japan | Guidable

5 ways to save food expenses in Japan

By Guidable Writers Oct 2, 2017

This post is also available in: Chinese (Simplified) Spanish

Japan is known as one of the most expensive countries when it comes to living cost. Especially for the students in big cities like Tokyo, it may be tough to make ends meet every month. Here, we would like to introduce 5 tips that may help you to save food expenses in Japan. Be ready for taking note!



1.Go to whole sale stores when buying grocery

There’re 2 types of forms of selling foods, wholesale and retail sale. Most of the supermarkets in Japan can be classified to retail sales, such as Aeon, Daiei, or Ito Yokado. If you would like to save much more of your food expenses, however, it would be better to go to wholesale stores, like Niku no hanamasa and Gyomu super. The former, Niku no hanamasa (Meat shop, Hanamasa) is a wholesale supplier which focuses especially on fresh meat and its related products. Of course, not only meat but also fresh vegetables, fish, alcohol, deli or other daily goods are widely available. Delivery service is also available in some branches.

On 29th of every month, a monthly big sale is held considering that date as ”Niku no hi” (Ni = Two, Ku=Nine, Niku means meat in Japanese). Online shopping site, Animo !,  is also available, where its private brand seasonings or frozen foods primarily developed for restaurants, or import foods such as beer. Wine or olive oil can be purchased without going to the actual branch. Online shopping limited campaign like free shipping or reasonable wine set is often held.

The latter, Gyomu super is also one of the largest wholesale suppliers in Japan.

Its constituent body is an import-featured company, that’s why they can supply reasonable products by taking the advantage of direct import or their overseas food processing plants. To celebrate the opening of their 777th branch, which means that they have become the largest Cash and Carry in Japan, Gyomu super will have a 2 month-special sale from 1/Sep~31/Oct. Their specialty, frozen foods, and import foods are with a more discounted price. Here, halal foods are also available. You can check those products on English webpage as well. But please make sure to purchase only after checking the package if there’s Halal mark on it.

In both whole sale stores, it’s good that you can buy import products with reasonable price, like jam from Bulgaria or rye rusks from Greece. One point to be careful: most of the products there are generally big size since they are primarily developed for restaurants. You should well plan your monthly dietary life before purchasing 2kg frozen chicken breast.


2. Go to supermarket just before closing time

As mentioned above, generally speaking, whole sale stores sell cheaper than retail stores. But in retail stores as well, you can buy cheaper if you go there at the right time. For example, deli or bread are often sold with the sticker of 30% discount or even 50%, just before the closing time of Aeon, Daiei, or Ito Yokado. They can have such stickers just because of the expiry date. But not actually expired. Generally they are the products with a freshness date on the following day. You can have meat or fish fries, sushi, or bento (lunch box) with less price for breakfast on the following day.



3. Go to Gakushoku for lunch and supper

If you are a student, it’s recommendable to go to Gakushoku (university canteen) for lunch and supper. Even if you aren’t a student, university canteen is welcome to all the people. It’s not only cheap, but also offers well balanced nutritious meals than other franchise chain restaurants in cities. If considering the balance of the meal, it’s better to choose teishoku (set meals) than one rice bowl, since a few vegetable side dishes often come together with teishoku.

Cooks there are mostly house wife part timers, so, if getting along well with them, they might care about your everyday diet like your mother?

Not only for lunch and supper, but also for tea time, you can go to gakushoku. Some reasonable sweets are available there, and free tea server also can be used.



4. Part time job at restaurant

Part time job at restaurant during lunch time or dinner time usually offers Makanai (free staff meals), or the meals with remarkably discount price only for the workers.

I used to work at business hotel, Gakushoku, and bakery when I was a university student. All of them offered me some foods which didn’t sell out till the closing time. Our family’s 3 times meals sometimes used to be covered with those kinds of makanai. At first, my mother had been delighted with a bunch of croissants or potato salad full of plastic bag, but, little by little, they have become sick of the same foods brought almost every day…

If you would like to get a part time job with makanai, in order to get various kinds of foods, maybe it’s better not at specialty stores?



5. Online delivery service

We also recommend that you should purchase foods via online, not by visiting the physical stores if possible. In this way, we can buy less foods or products. In fact, we tend to purchase more products than expected, even if shopping along with the memo with you (only the necessary products are written on that list though), when seeing new attractive merchandises in the extraordinary atmosphere of supermarkets. Especially when hungry, you may put more sweets or snacks which are not on your purchasing list. It doesn’t seem a smart way to purchase foods. While via online, we can first decide the budget, then choose the foods to be put in a cart after a good consideration. Also, the foods themselves are directly delivered to your door step. Not only expense, but also time can be saved simultaneously.


Well, how about it? Have any tips influenced your current shopping style? Let’s try some and wait and see how much your food expenses would be reduced this month!


Sonia Insomnia/JAPAN