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Save Money and Buy Local Wholesale Produce in Penang

If you decide to eat more healthily that usually means taking off processed foods from your weekly groceries list. Things such as instant noodles, microwave dinners, canned curries and rendangs. Other than notorious for having high sodium content and other preservatives, they are also considerably more affordable. That is unfortunate for your new year’s resolution.

Cost is one of the major hurdles of eating healthy after you have normalized your lifestyle based on the cost savings of processed and instant foods. You don’t always need organic produce - which commands premium prices - to be eating healthy. But, even stocking up with regular off the shelf supermarket produce can increase your monthly budget quite noticeably.

A handful of spring onions, a cauliflower, some broccoli, a few aubergines, and two to three varieties of lettuce weekly would not leave you in the red. Especially today with some produce items fluctuating prices you may notice your weekly spending increase immediately. Though still affordable weekly, in the course of a few weeks you may be spending an extra hundreds of Ringgit  compared to before.

While you may think it is an acceptable sacrifice and a small price to pay for a healthier you, there is still something you can do to reduce your monthly spending on produce. The answer is wholesale.

What is wholesale?

Wholesale is when you buy directly from suppliers, either through a middleman known as wholesalers, or directly from the manufacturer or producer. Produce such as fruits and vegetables may be directly sold by the farms and orchards that grow them. However, most of the time they go through a wholesaler.

Food wholesalers may also be food producers themselves, selling their own products as well as supplementing their warehouse with supplies from other producers. This is especially common with fruits and vegetables wholesalers that operate their own small farm or orchard. Quite often the local demand in terms of quantity and variety can never be fulfilled by them alone. Therefore the farm would then look for other suppliers, farms, or orchards that have the products that their customer demands.

Wholesalers then are also responsible to narrow the distance between the producers and consumers. Wholesalers centralize the distribution from the various food suppliers to their own warehouse, making it more convenient for the consumers. They also relieve the food producers from the labour of selling the products themselves or delivering them to customers.

All is well and good, but there is a catch. You can only buy wholesale products in large quantities. Wholesale purchases have a minimum order amount for each product. The purchase cost for wholesale would be greater, but the price for each unit of the product would be cheaper. So while the upfront cost is more expensive in the long run you can gain considerable savings.

So how can a regular household handle larger wholesale purchases and take advantage of the savings? Read on to learn how.

Taking advantage of wholesale

Even though you don’t run a cafeteria kitchen or a restaurant you can still take advantage of the savings from wholesale purchases. But first, you need to plan carefully to avoid wastage.

Start with your favorites

Note that not everything on your weekly shopping list should be purchased wholesale. You can start by looking into the fruits and vegetables you often buy and run out of weekly. For instance spinach, potatoes, carrots, kale, bok choy, these are all very popular among Malaysians and are almost staple in side dishes as the main ingredient, added in soups, or cooked in meat dishes.

Many food wholesalers do sell in smaller bulk purchases. A month’s supply of one or two types of produce or vegetables should still be manageable. Now you may know that most vegetables are best consumed within three to five days when refrigerated. Next we will be talking about storage.

You might want to consider freezing your vegetables

You read that correctly. Although not a very common practice some vegetables can actually be frozen quite well while retaining much of the qualities when you first purchased them. They can be stored anywhere between three to six months, and sometimes more depending on the vegetable.

Vegetables with low moisture contents such as broccoli, cauliflower, spring onions take up freezing the best with minimal to no preparation required. Others like whole onions and some potatoes require some preparation, such as blanching or semi-cooking to avoid their moisture from turning them to mush when cooked or thawed. High moisture vegetables such as mushrooms, cabbage, and cucumbers are best not to be frozen. You should learn and experiment freezing the vegetables of your choice before committing yourself to buying them in bulk. You can find many guides on the internet.

Of course when freezing your vegetables it is best to isolate them away from meat products to avoid cross-contamination. Seal them away in sterilized containers, and put them in their own section in the freezer. You may even purchase a small chest freezer for vegetables if your house has room for it. They consume much less electricity than your conventional upright freezer/refrigerator combo units. If you are purchasing in bulk then a dedicated freezer unit may be necessary anyway, but that is a personal choice. Chest freezers, especially smaller 80 to 100 liter ones are affordable to buy and cheap to run. Typical small refrigerator/freezer (~150 litre with 30 litre freezer compartment) with an inverter will consume at least 100 W, while a small 100 litre dedicated chest freezer may consume as little as 85 W. You may be able to break-even sooner than you think. If you already have a chest freezer then more power to you.

Some fruits and vegetables can also be cooked or processed after they’ve been frozen. Many fruits don’t retain their texture after being frozen, but they can be used for smoothies. Fruits such as tomatoes and eggplants (yes, they are technically fruit) can also be frozen and used to make soups, stews, and sauces since these recipes will turn these fruits mushy anyway. If prepared correctly before frozen, a thawed eggplant can retain most of its qualities and can be cooked as usual.

As you can see, while you are at it with your healthy resolution you can take advantage of bulk purchasing by also learning new recipes that makes good use of the produce you store in bulk.

Learn new recipes

Expand your cooking knowledge and cook more healthily. Reduce your meat and poultry intake and replace them with more fruits and vegetables. While we are not suggesting for you to go vegetarian or vegan, eating less poultry and meat can be beneficial not just for health but also for your wallet.

It is a well known fact that vegetables are easier to cook and prepare. Vegetables require much less heat and can still cook faster than proteins such as fish, poultry, and beef. You can save time and reduce your energy bills when you switch to primarily a vegetable diet. Reducing your weekly purchase of beef and chicken is also another approach where you can save even more.

In conclusion

If you are committed to a healthy lifestyle that doesn’t mean you also have to commit to the extra expenses. With a little planning, self-learning, and smart initial investments in time and money, you can enjoy long-term financial savings and be healthy at the same time.