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grocery shopping in japan making the most of your budget
  • Date Published: May 14, 2024

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Grocery shopping in Japan can be a challenge, especially if you’re on a tight budget. However, with the right strategies and tips, you can make the most of your grocery budget and still enjoy delicious meals. In this article, we will provide you with valuable information and insights on how to save money while grocery shopping in Japan.

Key Takeaways:

  • Understand the layout and offerings of Japanese supermarkets to make cost-effective purchases.
  • Create a grocery list before heading to the store to avoid impulse purchases.
  • Explore discount supermarkets to save money on your grocery shopping.
  • Incorporate affordable ingredients like noodles, tofu, and onions into your meals.
  • Familiarize yourself with the prices of everyday items to make informed decisions.

Understanding Japanese Supermarkets

Japanese supermarkets offer a unique shopping experience, with a wide variety of products and brands that may be unfamiliar to those from other countries. Navigating these supermarkets efficiently and effectively can help you make the most of your grocery shopping experience and save money along the way.

When you enter a Japanese supermarket, you’ll notice that the layout may differ from what you’re accustomed to. The fresh produce section is typically located near the entrance, followed by aisles dedicated to packaged foods, drinks, and household items. It’s helpful to take a moment to familiarize yourself with the layout to avoid unnecessary wandering and save time.

In addition to the layout, Japanese supermarkets often have a greater variety of ingredients compared to those in other countries. This can be both exciting and overwhelming. But don’t worry, with a little planning and exploration, you can discover new and interesting ingredients to incorporate into your meals. Take advantage of the opportunity to try different types of noodles, tofu variations, and local produce.

Another important aspect of Japanese supermarkets is the presence of seasonal and regional products. Japan takes pride in its diverse culinary culture, and supermarkets often showcase seasonal items like fresh seafood, fruits, and vegetables. By purchasing these seasonal products, you can enjoy the best flavors and potentially find great deals.

Table: Comparison of Japanese Supermarkets

Supermarket Features Specialty
AEON Wide variety of products, including household items and clothing Reasonably priced imported goods
Life Focus on organic and natural products Organic and health foods
Ito-Yokado Budget-friendly options; offers its own brand products Affordable groceries and daily necessities
Seijo Ishii High-quality imported and gourmet foods International and specialty products

In addition to these supermarkets, there are also smaller local grocery stores and convenience stores like 7-Eleven and FamilyMart. These stores are convenient for quick purchases and often have a limited selection of groceries. However, they can be more expensive compared to larger supermarkets.

Understanding the layout, exploring the variety of ingredients, and taking advantage of seasonal offerings in Japanese supermarkets can help you make informed decisions and find the best deals. By familiarizing yourself with the supermarket landscape in Japan, you’ll be well-equipped to navigate the aisles and make cost-effective purchases.

Make a Grocery List

One of the key strategies for saving money on groceries in Japan is to make a grocery list before heading to the store. By planning your meals in advance and creating a list of the items you need, you can avoid impulse purchases and stick to your budget. A well-planned grocery list will help you stay organized and ensure that you only buy what you need.

Having a grocery list not only saves you time but also prevents you from buying unnecessary items. It keeps you focused on your budget-friendly shopping goals and reduces the chances of overspending. Take a few minutes to plan your meals for the week and list out the ingredients you’ll need. Refer to recipes or meal plans to create a comprehensive list that covers all your meals and snacks.

When making your grocery list, consider prioritizing budget-friendly items and ingredients. Look for staples that can be used in multiple recipes and provide good nutritional value. Additionally, be mindful of the quantities you need, as buying in bulk can save you money in the long run. Take note of any items that are on sale or have discounts available, and include them in your list to maximize your savings.

Remember to stay disciplined when shopping and resist the temptation to deviate from your grocery list. Stick to your budget-friendly shopping plan and enjoy the satisfaction of crossing off items from your list as you find them in the store. By making a grocery list and following it diligently, you can stay on track with your budget and make the most of your grocery shopping experience in Japan.

budget-friendly shopping list

Take Advantage of Discount Supermarkets

When it comes to grocery shopping in Japan on a budget, discount supermarkets are your best friend. These stores offer a wide range of budget-friendly products that can help you save money and stretch your grocery budget further. Popular discount supermarkets in Japan include Super Gyomu, OK Store, and Niku no Hanamasa.

At discount supermarkets, you’ll find lower prices compared to regular supermarkets, making it easier to stick to your budget. These stores often offer generic brand products that are just as good as their more expensive counterparts. By opting for these budget-friendly options, you can still enjoy delicious meals without breaking the bank.

It’s important to note that while discount supermarkets may have lower prices, the quality of the products is not compromised. These stores strive to provide their customers with affordable and high-quality items. So you can shop with confidence, knowing that you’re getting the best value for your money.

Comparison of Prices at Discount Supermarkets

Item Regular Supermarket Price Discount Supermarket Price
Rice (1kg) ¥500 ¥350
Eggs (pack of 10) ¥250 ¥180
Chicken (500g) ¥600 ¥400
Milk (1 liter) ¥250 ¥190

As you can see from the table above, shopping at discount supermarkets can result in significant savings. For example, you can save ¥150 on a pack of rice, ¥70 on a pack of eggs, ¥200 on chicken, and ¥60 on a liter of milk. These savings can add up over time and help you stay within your budget.

So next time you go grocery shopping in Japan, don’t forget to check out the discount supermarkets. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the selection of budget-friendly products and the amount of money you can save.

Embrace Cost-Effective Ingredients

When it comes to grocery shopping in Japan on a budget, embracing cost-effective ingredients is key. By incorporating cheap and easy-to-cook basics into your meals, you can create delicious and budget-friendly dishes. Some affordable ingredients worth considering include:

  • Noodles: Noodles like soba and udon are not only inexpensive but also versatile. They can be used in soups, stir-fries, and even salads.
  • Tofu: Tofu is a nutritious and affordable source of protein. It can be used in various recipes, including stir-fries, curries, and tofu scrambles.
  • Onions: Onions are a staple ingredient that adds flavor to a wide range of dishes. They are inexpensive and can be used in soups, stews, stir-fries, and more.
  • Hakusai (Napa Cabbage): Napa cabbage is a versatile and budget-friendly vegetable. It can be used in stir-fries, kimchi, soups, and even salads.
  • Bean Sprouts: Bean sprouts are an affordable and nutritious ingredient that can be added to stir-fries, salads, and Asian-inspired dishes.

By incorporating these cost-effective ingredients into your meals, you can not only save money but also enjoy a variety of delicious and nutritious dishes. Get creative and experiment with different recipes to make the most of these affordable ingredients.

cheap and easy-to-cook basics

Don’t underestimate the potential of these affordable ingredients. With a little creativity, you can turn simple, inexpensive items into flavorful and satisfying meals. Here’s a recipe idea to get you started:

“Tofu Stir-Fry with Noodles”


  • 200g firm tofu
  • 100g soba or udon noodles
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 cups hakusai (napa cabbage), shredded
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, minced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil


  1. Drain and press the tofu to remove excess moisture. Cut into cubes.
  2. Cook the noodles according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
  3. In a large pan or wok, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the onion, ginger, and garlic. Cook until the onion is translucent.
  4. Add the tofu and stir-fry until it starts to brown.
  5. Add the hakusai and bean sprouts. Stir-fry for another 2-3 minutes, until the vegetables are slightly wilted.
  6. Add the cooked noodles, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Stir-fry for another 2-3 minutes to combine all the flavors.
  7. Remove from heat and serve hot.

This tofu stir-fry with noodles is a simple and budget-friendly recipe that makes use of affordable ingredients like tofu, noodles, onions, hakusai, and bean sprouts. Feel free to customize it by adding your favorite vegetables or spices.

Know the Prices of Everyday Items

Understanding the prices of everyday items is essential for budget-conscious shoppers in Japan. By knowing the average costs of common grocery items, you can plan your shopping trips more effectively and make informed decisions. Here are some examples of grocery prices in Japan as of June 2020:

Item Price
500g pack of dried udon ¥294 (approximately $2.73)
350g pack of silken tofu ¥98 (approximately $0.91)

These prices can serve as a reference point when comparing prices across different stores and evaluating the value of certain products. It’s important to keep in mind that prices may vary depending on the location and store you visit. Checking prices regularly and keeping track of any changes will help you stay updated and make the most of your grocery budget.

Knowing the prices of everyday items can also help you identify potential deals and discounts. If you come across a product that is significantly lower than its average price, it could be a good opportunity to stock up or try something new. Being aware of typical grocery prices in Japan will empower you to make cost-effective choices and maximize the value of your shopping experience.

Keep in mind that these prices are just a snapshot of the average costs and may have changed since the time of publication. It’s always a good idea to do some research and compare prices before making your final purchase. By staying informed and knowledgeable about grocery prices in Japan, you can navigate the aisles with confidence and make the most of your budget.

Trying New Recipes: Expand Your Culinary Skills at Home in Japan

When it comes to grocery shopping in Japan, don’t just think about it as a chore. Consider it an opportunity to explore new recipes and expand your culinary skills at home. By trying new recipes, you can add excitement to your meals and immerse yourself in the rich flavors of Japanese cuisine.

Japanese food offers a wide range of delicious and diverse dishes, from sushi and ramen to tempura and yakitori. With the abundance of fresh ingredients available at Japanese supermarkets, you have the perfect resources to experiment in the kitchen. Whether you’re a seasoned cook or a beginner, there are plenty of recipes suited to all skill levels.

To get started, visit popular Japanese recipe websites like Cookpad and Kurashiru. These platforms offer a vast collection of traditional and modern Japanese recipes, complete with step-by-step instructions and ingredient lists. You can easily search for recipes based on the ingredients you have on hand or explore new dishes that pique your interest.

By trying new recipes, you can elevate your cooking skills, discover unique flavors, and create memorable meals that reflect the vibrant culinary landscape of Japan.

Benefits of Trying New Recipes

Exploring different recipes at home not only allows you to savor delicious meals but also offers several other benefits:

  • Cost-Effective: Cooking at home is generally more budget-friendly than dining out or ordering take-out.
  • Healthier Choices: By preparing your own meals, you have control over the ingredients, allowing you to make healthier choices.
  • Cultural Immersion: Trying new recipes allows you to immerse yourself in Japanese culture and learn about traditional cooking techniques and ingredients.
  • Creativity: Experimenting with different flavors and ingredients can unleash your creativity in the kitchen, allowing you to customize recipes to your liking.

So, the next time you go grocery shopping in Japan, don’t be afraid to pick up new ingredients and try new recipes. Step out of your comfort zone and embrace the culinary wonders that Japan has to offer. With each dish you create, you’ll be indulging in a flavorful journey and expanding your cooking skills.

Shop Smart and Save Money

When it comes to grocery shopping in Japan, being a smart shopper can make a big difference in your budget. By implementing a few money-saving strategies, you can stretch your yen further and get the most bang for your buck. Here are some smart shopping tips to help you save money on groceries:

1. Shop One Hour Before Closing Time

One of the best ways to score discounted items is to shop one hour before closing time. Many supermarkets mark down prices on perishable items towards the end of the day to sell them before closing. Take advantage of these discounts and stock up on items that have a shorter shelf life, such as fruits, vegetables, and baked goods.

2. Look Out for Discounted Stickers

Keep an eye out for discounted stickers on fruits and vegetables. These stickers indicate that the item is nearing its expiration date and is offered at a reduced price. While the item may not have the longest shelf life, it can still be perfectly good to eat. Just make sure to consume it soon or freeze it for later use.

3. Buy Less to Minimize Wastage

Buying in bulk may seem cost-effective, but it can lead to wastage if you’re unable to consume all the items before they expire. To minimize wastage and save money, only buy what you know you’ll use within a reasonable timeframe. This way, you’ll reduce the risk of food going to waste and have more control over your grocery expenses.

Smart Shopping Tips in Japan Saving Money on Groceries
Shop one hour before closing time Take advantage of discounted items
Look out for discounted stickers Save money on fruits and vegetables
Buy less to minimize wastage Avoid food going to waste

By shopping smart and following these tips, you can make the most of your grocery budget in Japan. Whether it’s taking advantage of discounted items, being mindful of wastage, or shopping during specific times, every little saving can add up over time. So, put these strategies into practice and watch your savings grow as you shop for your everyday essentials.

Avoiding Vending Machines: A Money-Saving Strategy

When it comes to saving money on drinks in Japan, one of the simplest yet often overlooked strategies is to avoid relying on vending machines. While these machines offer convenience, their prices can be significantly higher compared to buying drinks elsewhere. By making a small adjustment to your habits and opting for alternative options, you can keep your wallet happy and still quench your thirst.

Carrying a reusable water bottle is an easy way to stay hydrated while cutting costs. Japan’s tap water is safe to drink, so you can refill your bottle throughout the day without having to spend money on bottled water. Not only is this environmentally friendly, but it also helps you avoid the expense of buying drinks on the go.

Another cost-saving option is to prepare your own beverages at home. Whether it’s brewing a cup of tea, making a refreshing fruit-infused water, or mixing up a homemade smoothie, the possibilities are endless. By taking a few extra minutes to prepare your own drinks, you not only save money but also have the flexibility to customize them to your taste.

Benefits of Skipping Vending Machines

Avoiding vending machines not only saves you money in the long run but also contributes to a healthier lifestyle. Many beverages found in vending machines are high in sugar and artificial additives, which can have negative effects on your overall well-being. By opting for homemade drinks or tap water, you have better control over the ingredients, allowing you to make healthier choices.

So the next time you find yourself in need of a drink, consider skipping the vending machines and exploring alternative options. By embracing reusable water bottles, preparing your beverages at home, and making conscious choices, you can enjoy refreshing drinks while keeping your budget intact.

Advantages of Avoiding Vending Machines Disadvantages of Relying on Vending Machines
  • Saves money in the long run
  • Contributes to a healthier lifestyle
  • Allows customization of drinks
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Higher prices compared to other options
  • Beverages often contain high sugar and artificial additives
  • Less control over the ingredients

Opt for Fish and Chicken

When it comes to affordable meat options in Japan, choosing fish and chicken can help you save money while still enjoying delicious meals. Beef can be expensive due to limited farmland and high demand, making fish and chicken more budget-friendly alternatives. These protein sources offer a variety of culinary possibilities and can be incorporated into various dishes.

Fish is a staple in Japanese cuisine, with a wide variety of options available. From salmon and mackerel to sardines and tuna, there is something to suit every taste preference. Not only is fish generally more affordable than beef, but it also offers numerous health benefits, being rich in omega-3 fatty acids and other essential nutrients.

Chicken is another wallet-friendly option that can be used in a multitude of recipes. Whether you prefer boneless chicken breast for stir-fries, thighs for grilling, or whole chicken for roasting, the versatility of chicken makes it a great choice for budget-conscious shoppers. Look for sales and discounts at supermarkets to further stretch your grocery budget.

The Nutritional Benefits of Fish and Chicken

Fish and chicken not only offer affordability but also provide essential nutrients for a balanced diet. Fish is an excellent source of high-quality protein, vitamins, and minerals. It is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to various health benefits, including heart health and brain function.

Chicken is a lean protein source that is low in fat and calories. It is packed with essential amino acids, making it an ideal choice for muscle growth and repair. Chicken also contains vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B6, which supports a healthy immune system, and selenium, which plays a role in antioxidant function.

Meat Option Average Price per Pound
Fresh Salmon $7.99
Fresh Chicken Breast $2.99
Ground Beef $5.99
Fresh Tuna $9.99
Fresh Mackerel $4.99

As you can see from the table above, fish and chicken are more affordable compared to beef. This makes them ideal choices for those looking to save money on their grocery bills without compromising on taste or nutrition.

Quick and Easy Fish and Chicken Recipe Ideas

  • Grilled salmon with lemon and herbs
  • Teriyaki chicken stir-fry with vegetables
  • Baked chicken thighs with garlic and rosemary
  • Tuna salad with mixed greens

By incorporating fish and chicken into your meal planning and making them the star of your dishes, you can enjoy affordable and healthy meals while staying within your budget. Experiment with different recipes and cooking methods to discover new flavor combinations and make the most of these affordable meat options.

Buying Close to the Expiration Date: A Smart Strategy for Saving Money

When it comes to grocery shopping in Japan, one smart strategy to save money is buying items close to their expiration dates. Many Japanese supermarkets have dedicated sections where they offer discounted fruits, vegetables, and other grocery items that are near their sell-by dates or have minor imperfections. These items are often perfectly fine to consume and can be purchased at significantly lower prices than their original retail value.

By taking advantage of these discounted items, you not only save money but also contribute to reducing food waste. This approach allows supermarkets to sell products that might otherwise go unsold, while you can enjoy quality groceries at a fraction of the cost. It’s a win-win situation for both your wallet and the environment.

Table: Examples of Discounted Items Near Expiration Date

Item Original Price Discounted Price
Fresh Strawberries ¥500 ¥200
Organic Lettuce ¥300 ¥100
Yogurt ¥200 ¥50

“Buying close to the expiration date not only helps you save money but also adds excitement to your grocery shopping experience. You never know what hidden gems you might find at discounted prices. Just be sure to check the items carefully for any signs of spoilage before purchase.” – Akasaka Azabu Real Estate

It’s important to note that buying close to the expiration date doesn’t mean compromising on quality. Supermarkets have strict regulations on food safety, and items that are nearing their expiration dates are typically still safe to consume within a reasonable time frame. However, it’s always a good practice to inspect the items for any signs of spoilage, such as mold or an off smell, before purchasing.

So, the next time you go grocery shopping in Japan, don’t overlook the discounted section near the expiration date. It’s a fantastic opportunity to find great deals on fresh produce and other grocery items while being mindful of your budget.


Grocery shopping in Japan on a budget is entirely feasible if you employ the right strategies and approach. By creating a grocery list, exploring discount supermarkets, incorporating cost-effective ingredients into your meals, and cooking at home, you can optimize your grocery budget and enhance your overall shopping experience. It’s important to stay mindful of prices, experiment with new recipes, and take advantage of savings opportunities like discounted items and shopping near expiration dates. With these tips, you can navigate the world of grocery shopping in Japan while making the most of your budget.

Remember, finding luxury living in Tokyo is made easy with Akasaka Azabu Real Estate. Discover your dream home in the city’s prime locations through our elegant and comfortable properties. Make your dream home a reality and contact us now at Akasakaazabu.com.


How can I save money while grocery shopping in Japan?

You can save money by making a grocery list, shopping at discount supermarkets, embracing cost-effective ingredients, and cooking at home.

Are Japanese supermarkets different from those in other countries?

Yes, Japanese supermarkets may have unfamiliar brands and a larger variety of ingredients. Familiarize yourself with their layout and offerings to make efficient purchases.

What are some affordable and versatile ingredients in Japan?

Cheap and easy-to-cook basics like noodles, tofu, onions, hakusai (napa cabbage), and bean sprouts are affordable and nutritious options.

How can I know the prices of everyday items in Japan?

Familiarize yourself with the prices of common grocery items to make informed decisions and compare prices across different stores.

What are some money-saving tips for grocery shopping in Japan?

Tips include shopping before closing time for discounted items, looking out for discounted stickers on produce, buying less to minimize waste, and physically checking prices at different stores.

Are vending machines expensive in Japan?

Yes, vending machines can be expensive. To save money, consider carrying a reusable water bottle and making your own beverages at home.

What are some affordable meat options in Japan?

Fish and chicken are often more affordable than beef in Japan. Consider opting for these options to save money.

How can I find discounted items in Japanese supermarkets?

Check sections dedicated to discounted items near their expiration dates or with slight blemishes. Some supermarkets also start marking down prices in the evening to sell everything before closing time.

What are some strategies for maximizing my grocery budget in Japan?

Strategies include making a grocery list, shopping at discount supermarkets, embracing cost-effective ingredients, cooking at home, and being mindful of prices.

How can I avoid culinary boredom while grocery shopping on a budget?

Try new recipes using ingredients from your grocery shopping trips. There are plenty of Japanese recipe sites that offer a wide range of dishes to try.

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