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Food prices - It can only go higher

RISING food prices can leave you with sticker shock when you're out shopping for groceries. Even the government is finding it challenging to stick to its budget as increasing fuel and food prices would translate into bigger spending on subsidies.

Malaysians may have been spared the brunt of the food inflation as prices for many essential items are fixed by the government or subsidised. Unfortunately for us, there is no escaping the inevitable.

Aggressive global demand for rice, a Malaysian staple, has roiled commodity markets around the world. In the U.S., which is one of the major exporters of rice, prices of the commodity for delivery in May have reached record highs, gaining a hefty 127 per cent from a year ago.

Supply of rice has also failed to keep up with demand, raising concerns over food shortages globally and prompting some major rice producing countries to curb exports. Rice has become a political issue in the Philippines, amid fears that a shortage may spark public protests.

Prices of other staples such as corn, wheat and soybean have similarly risen around the world.

So what can you do to fight back against rising food prices? Quite a lot actually. Below, we have compiled several tried and tested ways to help cut your grocery bill.

Plan ahead

Never shop for groceries without doing a list first. This way, you can avoid impulse buying of food that you don't need, especially those with short useby lives. By planning ahead, you are also more likely to deliberately look for better deals and comparison-shop.

Buy in bulk

Bulk buying can offer real savings, and is one way of shopping efficiently as you would have to make less trips to the supermarket. Compiling a list is key, but here's another idea: get together with some friends or relatives to share your bulk purchases, which means being able to buy more items and enjoying more discounts!

Consider generic brands

Some hypermarkets offer cheaper generic brands which many shoppers seem to give a miss. Don't make the mistake of assuming "value" as meaning "bad quality". If you do decide to give any of the generic items a try, make a list of those you like.

Take advantage of special offers

Keep an eye out for offers such as buy-one-get-one-free, or discount coupons that come with your newspaper or in your mailbox. However, make sure you don't over-buy and end up throwing away food you weren't able to eat before their expiry dates.

Pack lunch from home

You can save at least RM100 a month if you eat a RM1 packed lunch at the office rather than an RM6 meal. This can be a real incentive for you to look for the best deals when shopping for the ingredients.

Cut out the middlemen

When shopping for fresh produce, the best deals can be had at your local pasar borong, or wholesale market. Farmer's markets also offer produce at good value for money. You get to enjoy wholesale prices which can mean significant savings in your monthly grocery bill.

Cut wastage

A recent study in the U.K. estimated that the average British home throws out nearly RM33 worth of out-of-date groceries every week. While similar statistics are unavailable here, food wastage is a becoming a major concern of the government's. Agriculture and Agro-Based Minister Datuk Mustapa Mohamed was reported as saying recently that the public can play a decisive role by reducing wastage as part of efforts to cope with rising food prices.
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