When I lived in Phuket we would go to the large Tesco-Lotus once in a while in addition to the Makro when we did large grocery runs. The rest of the time we could get basic items like pork, chicken, beef, and veggies from the local open markets near the house. But for sausages, cheese, etc, Tesco and Makro were great.
The first thing I noticed in any large grocery store is the Westerners head right for the meat items that are packaged and on display and the Thais head right for the large open bins with heaps of various cuts of pork, chicken, and fish and other seafood.
Later in dawned on me, westerners like the packaged items, it is what we are used to. So here is why I like to buy from the large bins and not the packaged items. This applies to pork and chicken and for beef I get locally.
Larger pieces – From what I have seen on a regular basis is for instance chicken drumsticks. A package, they are quite small, in the bins, the drumsticks, thighs, and the best value is quarters are larger. This comes down to eye appeal and packaging. Thighs and drumsticks are trimmed to look nice in a package. This is why some stores have “chicken scraps” for sale as well, these are the trimmings from items to make them look nice. The scraps however are cheap and great for dog food if you make your own. Another factor is pricing, the more someone has to handle and cut a piece of chicken the more it is going to cost.
Now for pork, I like to get large pieces of butt which is rare to find packaged. Pork bellies, excellent in the bins, large, not trimmed to fit a package. Pork fat however will always be packaged, excellent for making lard.
Normally lower costs – not always, but many times, again, the less people have to handle the item, the less they can sell it for. From a bin you have a plastic bag and a sticker with the price, at a open fresh market, you get just the bag. In a packaged item, you have the styrofoam tray, the blood pad under the meat, and the whole thing is wrapped in plastic, and sometimes 2-3 stickers on it for type, price, and other info or just one larger sticker.
Less waste produced – this goes right back to less handling, less packaging, less waste produced, better for everyone.
Ground pork and beef – Mince pork in a grocery store or in a fresh market, from the large bins, will have a lot of fat in it. So invest in either a hand grinder or an electric grinder and buy the leaner, larger cuts, again, the bulk meat items will be cheaper than a already mixed item. Most grinders come with several sizes of disks so you can make a large mince or a very fine grind.