We all know the cost of groceries has risen dramatically in the past few years. Even some expatriate friends in Hong Kong recently complained about it.
I said I agreed, then expounded on the various factors that led to such sharp increases, from ingredient shortages to supply chain bottlenecks, climate change and the state of geopolitics.
However, as the chat continued it became obvious that we were talking about very different things.
I suppose Comté and Italian tomatoes can be everyday necessities too. But in Hong Kong, clearly, they are not items the masses buy regularly. These imported, speciality goods fall under the category of luxuries for a small demographic. That’s why they rarely get marked down – unless on the verge of expiry.
Many people do consider Hong Kong an expensive city, but I don’t think it necessarily has to be one.
Just like the wealth gap, there’s also a wide disparity in prices. You can easily spend a ton of money on food and dining, but with a little restraint and some smart shopping, it’s possible to get by on a thrifty budget – and still enjoy very good food.
Of course, not all expats live extravagantly, but it does seem like many of them spend a lot more on groceries than they probably need to.
I’m not even referring to splurging at gourmet shops for pricey treats. Occasionally, we all do that. But what I don’t get is folks picking up ordinary items at premium stores. I guess people don’t mind paying a convenience tariff.
I know these friends feel more comfortable at English-friendly supermarkets in Central and Admiralty. However, just know most items have a much higher mark-up.
They also trust Marks & Spencer for ground beef rather than the sweaty street-side butcher.
The lack of price signage in English and most vendors’ inability to speak it fluently can be an intimidating factor, but if such rudimentary communication is too hard, then maybe you shouldn’t be in Asia.
Besides, language is really an excuse. In Central, if you go to any fruit or food stall on Graham Street or Gage Street, everybody can converse at least in broken English.
I, for one, get most of my salad greens from here. They are always inexpensive and fresh.
Grocery shopping in the city has also greatly benefited with the proliferation of direct import chains like PrizeMart, Best Mart 360, DS Groceries and 759 Store.
Anyone who does a price comparison will know they are often much cheaper than the big supermarkets for everything from shampoo to sardines to chilli sauce.
It might surprise some of my expat friends to see how many imported goods are available there too.
You might still complain about the price of food in Hong Kong, but don’t ever say you haven’t been given any money-saving local shopping tips.