There’s plenty of options in Dubai for grocery shopping – from the cheap ‘n cheerful to the blow-the-budget and everything in between. Local brands, international names, favorites from back home… You name it, you can get it. But where? And at what price? Here’s a look at your grocery shopping options around town, with a few tips from supermarket-savvy shoppers.
Tip #01 MEAT, CHICKEN AND FISH
There’s been lots of hype lately about eating organic, hormone-free, non-antibiotic treated meat, for health reasons as well as ethical reasons. Luckily, we now have several options for where to source such meat in Dubai. Organic Foods and Café has long been a popular choice, with niche boutique Milk and Honey also offering a selection. Major supermarkets including Spinneys and Waitrose now offer an organic range too.
Get it delivered
Can’t face the meat counter? We’d agree with you there! But it’s no problem; the past few years has seen the arrival of a host of delivery services who’ll rock up at your door armed with boxes of fresh or frozen meat, sometimes from the same supplier as your fave posh eateries. Here’s a few tried-and-tested suggestions.
01. Martin’s Meats
Owned and operated (and if it’s your first order, delivered) by the affable Irishman himself, Martin’s Meats stocks a wide range of fresh and frozen meat from the same suppliers that deliver to many five-star hotels around the UAE. Choose from the list, or pick a box to get even better prices.
02. Springbok Butchery
South African meat specialists Springbok deliver fresh meats they guarantee have no hormones, antibiotics, MSG or fillers. All orders are prepared fresh in the morning, so you can freeze as soon as you get them if you need to.
Fruit ‘n veg delivery peeps Kibsons now have a wide range of meat on the menu too. Choose from fresh or frozen, plain or marinated and also organic.
Major supermarkets mark down their dated fresh goods a few days before their expiry, so they still have a chance to sell them before they have to be thrown out. Briton Kelly Crane, 39, says she pops into her local Waitrose on her way home from work at around 5pm to scoop up the bargains. “I find they take a fair amount off the original selling price, and usually towards the end of the day,” she says. “If it’s fresh meat – sausages, for example – I’ll buy in bulk and chuck them straight in the freezer when I get home.”
It’s market time!
If you can face the crowds and don’t mind a bit of a whiff of fish, head for the fish markets. It’s definitely a unique experience but you’ll get great prices, fresh-from-the-waves fish and seafood and a whole lot of fun. You’ll find a market at the fishing harbour in Umm Suqeim and one in Deira on Khaleej Road (waterfrontmarket.ae).
Tip #02 PRODUCE
Most of us are keen to make sure our families are eating plenty of fresh fruit and veg, but – with so much of the UAE’s produce imported – prices aren’t always the most budget-friendly. What to do? “I tend to go to more local supermarkets, rather than those that stock the bigger international brands and imported goods,” says British expat Maria Harrop, 39. “I love Union Co-op for their fruit and veg, as they have a great range and their prices are similar to those at the fruit and veg market. There’s always plenty of locally grown stuff, as well as some organic options.”
If it’s organic produce you’re after, make the Ripe Market (www.ripeme.com) a weekly trip. Prices might not be the cheapest, but you’re guaranteed organic – and often local – and there’s also a lovely range of stalls perfect for a little browse while you pick up your fruit and veg essentials. And don’t forget Organic Foods and Café (www.organicfoodsandcafe.com), which offers decent discounts once or twice a month. Most supermarkets now stock a range of organic options.
Get it delivered
Plenty of local delivery services now offer both regular and ad hoc deliveries of boxes of crisp, fresh produce.
01. Greenheart delivers fresh picked-to-order produce from their farm in Sharjah. Delivery is free for orders over Dhs130 and there’s also a selection of dairy, meat, fish, eggs and bread.
02. If you know what you need on a regular basis, a subscription to Farmbox (www.farmbox.ae) might be a good idea. You can customise pretty much every aspect of your subscription from frequency to selection, and there’s no commitment; you can skip a delivery or cancel any time. Delivery is free.
03. Long-standing favourite Kibsons (www.kibsons.com) has a wide range of fruit and veg at great prices, with free delivery around town. There’s an organic section, and they’ve now expanded their range to include meat, baked goods, dairy and drinks.
04. Online delivery company The Honest Counter (www.thehonestcounter.com) offers a wide range of locally grown organic produce, with free delivery if your order contains at least Dhs120 of local produce. Now that’s what you call a green option! They also stock a great selection of healthy options including gluten-free products, organic cupboard staples and condiments and wholesome organic foods for little ones.
It’s market time
While nobody’s going to suggest that it’s not tedious to schlep out to the fruit and veg market at Al Awir for a few potatoes and a watermelon. Equally you’re unlikely to find anyone who’ll dispute the market’s great value. So why not set up your own produce collective and share the burden? Anna May, 35 from Norway, says, “Gang up with a few friends or neighbours, make a list – making a note of who wants what and how much of it – and take turns doing the fruit ‘n veg run. This way you can buy in greater quantities and benefit from cheaper prices, as well as saving yourself petrol money and time.”
You’ll find the market signposted from Al Awir Road; probably best to put it into your sat nav the first time it’s your turn to go.
Some of the small cold stores stock really decent fruit and veg options and good prices, so it is worth having a nosey around. One of the best is the little shop at the fish market in Umm Suqeim, next to Dubai Offshore Sailing Club. Lovely fresh avocados, salad leaves , juicy tomatoes, crisp apples and lots more.
Tip #03 DAIRY AND BAKERY
Prices tend to be the same for most local dairy products at any supermarket, so you won’t find much to be gained from store-hopping unless you find somewhere that stocks a particular favourite brand. Most supermarkets also now have a selection of organic and non-dairy alternatives, both fresh and long-life. And for bakery items, it’s much the same situation; locally produced products tend to be similar prices, so it’s simply a case of choosing your favorite if you prefer treats from home or a particular brand. “A good loaf of bread is one thing I do try to find from the UK, and I like Park & Shop as they use Hovis flour – a favorite from home – and stock a good selection of the treats my family is used to, such as scones and crumpets,” says Maria.
If you’re a bread aficionado, check out Ripe Market – there’s a German gent who has a baked goods stall there, and rumour has it his loaves are to die for!
Tip #04 CUPBOARD STAPLES
“Cupboard staples are the ideal products to buy using an online grocery shopping service,” says Australian Ian Robinson, 39. “They’re heavy so you don’t have to carry them, and you’ll only buy what you really need if you shop online rather than popping extra bits and pieces in your trolley as you’re browsing. Make yourself a list of go-to menu choices, then work out what you need for a month’s worth of those meals. Then order exactly what’s on your list. Hey presto – cheaper shopping.”
Tip #05 HOUSEHOLD NON-FOOD
Let’s face it, nobody enjoys the weekly shop when it includes washing powder, fabric softener, dog food, cat litter and a new mop. Wherever you shop, household non-food essentials bump up the bill no end. So what to do? Be supermarket savvy, say the budget experts.
“Pick a supermarket that’s a bit off the beaten track, further out of town or in a less accessible area,” says British expat Katie Britt, 38. “I find between my two local supermarkets – both the same chain – there’ll often be a price difference, even if only a couple of dirhams, in the one that’s the most convenient. If I make the trip to the bigger one slightly further away, the same products will be a bit cheaper.”
Choosing a supermarket that isn’t necessarily an expat favourite is also a good tip, Katie says. “Go for a supermarket that stocks non-premium brands. I know everyone recognises names from home and there’s a certain reassurance in that, but when you’re buying washing powder, do you really have to have that particular brand just because your local Waitrose at home stocks it? It’s washing powder! It washes clothes! Try some supermarket own brands, or less well-known brands that will do the job just as well without the hefty price tag.”
Buying in bulk can also be a good idea, if you can. “Try to work out how much of each product you use and how often, then you can work out how much you need to buy,” Katie says. “The bigger the package, the cheaper it’s likely to be. For things like washing powder, go for the great-value huge sacks that’ll last for ages. Supermarkets always discount products when they’re sold in bulk, so you’ll be paying something like Dhs50-60 for a 15kg bag, as opposed to Dhs35-40 for a 3kg box.”
Katie also keeps an eye out for promotions, and signs up for promotions so she knows what’s on where. “As long as you stay focused and buy only what you came for, you can benefit from the many multi-buy promotions stores always have going on,” she explains. “And if the promotion is something you don’t need right now, get it and store it – then you’ll feel like you’ve saved money when you don’t have to buy it next time!”
Great-value stores for household non-food items:
01. Lulu Hypermarket
02. Union Co-op
03. Larger Al Maya stores
04. Day To Day
05. West Zone
Union Co-op has a membership scheme called Tamayaz, which gets you discounts on certain items, often the list includes bulk buys of household cleaning items.
Tip #06 TOILETRIES AND SUPERMARKET BEAUTY PRODUCTS
Take a trip to the mall for your favourite beauty store and chances are, you’ll come out with a significantly lighter purse than the one you arrived with. Take a detour through the beauty section of your local supermarket, though, and you might just find a few bargains.
“I’m a mascara freak and I’ve tried every brand going, from the cheapest to the most budget-blowing,” says Maria. “The best I’ve ever found is a brand called Essence from Carrefour; around Dhs15 and simply a great product. There’s just no point spending any more if I can get everything I need from the mascara at that price.”
Katie relies on multi-buy or package promotions for essentials such as shampoo and conditioner. “Stores often combine products – shampoo and conditioner, for example, or shower gel and moisturiser – or offer two of the same products for the price of one,” she says. “Sure, you might feel like you’re spending more on that one occasion, but do consider how much you’d be paying for the products separately and remember you won’t need to buy again next time you do your household non-food shop so it’ll be cheaper. And be adventurous – try lesser known brands! I know I like a certain brand of shampoo for my hair, as it doesn’t fade my colour, but I’m happy to try new brands of conditioner. I’ve had some lovely ones at great prices simply because they’re not the big brands we see advertised all over the place.”
Supermarkets with great beauty sections:
● Union Co-op
● Lulu Hypermarket
Tip #07 APPY SHOPPING
Online grocery shopping is on the up in Dubai. Many of the larger supermarkets and hypermarkets now deliver – including Carrefour and Choithrams – but there are also now some handy apps that’ll let you place orders from a variety of different stores.
Pop your location into Instashop and it’ll display supermarkets delivering to you, with a list of what you can order. Minimum order is Dhs15 and there’s a Dhs2 delivery charge.
El Grocer plays middle-man; you place the order through the app, which tells you the supermarket you’re shopping with, and then the supermarket delivers your order. Simple!