Vegetables

This seems like a silly topic, but I have seen all of the examples listed when grocery shopping in Phuket at Tesco or even Villa Market. Many Westerners, just like buying packaged meats, will flock to any vegetable that says “imported”, regardless of price. If people want to pay those prices, I have no problem, but what people should be doing is stretching that Baht as far as they can on food items so they can enjoy other things Thailand has to offer.

First is a list of what is locally grown in Thailand, then a list of what I have seen imported. I will mark what we are growing in our garden with green bold text.

Locally grown in Thailand: If buying from a fresh market, 99% of the time, this will be available, all grown in Thailand.

  • Carrots.
  • Radish, these are the large white ones.
  • Red Radish, these are the small round ones, half red and half white.
  • Onions, yellow, white, and red.
  • Butternut Squash.
  • Winter Squash – what Thais call pumpkins, these are normally greenish colored.
  • Bell Peppers.
  • Potatoes.
  • Beets.
  • Sweet Potatoes.
  • Chinese Eggplant.
  • Purple Eggplant.
  • Cucumbers.
  • Yellow Summer Squash.
  • Tomatoes, Plum and Cherry tomatoes common, I have never seen a large tomato.
  • Sweet Corn.
  • Long Beans.
  • Peas.
  • Celery, this is naturally much thinner stalks.

Imports: I have not seen all the imports, this is what I have observed from time to time in the grocery stores.

  • Carrots, imported carrots.
  • Red Radish, the small round ones, I noticed the price on these, package of 6, 250 Baht, local about 25 Baht.
  • Onions, I have seen yellow and white, 30 Baht each, local is about 35 Baht per kilo.
  • Beets, I have seen imported for 100 Baht each, local is about 35 Baht each.
  • Purple Eggplant, I have seen these go for 100 Baht each as well, and local is about 35 Baht each.
  • Celery, import can run 50 to 60 Baht for one bundle, but it is very thick stalks, local thin celery is only about 10 inches long and 12 Baht per several bundles. I do buy this from time to time.

So you can see the advantage of buying locally grown veggys has a financial advantage over imports.

Buying fresh Meats

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.

Internet Shopping, think Lazada

Lazada (lazada.co.th) is probably the largest mail order internet site in Thailand. Excellent selection of items, all lower priced than HomePro, etc. The great thing is cash on delivery, no need to make a bank payment, scan a receipt and email that in. BUT, the most important thing when you register on the site is to give a Thai persons phone number, customer service does speak English but you may have to wait to get one. When you register they will call the number you provide to verify it is a legitimate registration. When they make a delivery, the shipping company will call as well for the exact location. So use a Thais phone number, not yours.

I use Lazada for my kitchen supplies, like the counter top oven, microwave, meat grinder, pots and pans sets, knife sets, and even Pyrex baking pans. Plus our TV, some small furniture, washing machine, and even a large refrigerator.

And I recently discovered a new use for Lazada. One day when I was browsing items, it will show what others have recently viewed, related to what you are searching for. I was looking for a pasta machine, and one of the items recently viewed by others, was dry imported pasta! I discovered Dry Goods in Lazada so I started browsing that section, pastas, jarred anchovies, seasoning packets. I like the Lobo brand and browsed just those items, gold mine! So if you live in an area where a lot of the Lobo brand seasoning packs are limited, give Lazada a try, I think they carry them all.

Makro

Makro is a bulk package store with excellent prices compared to other stores. And they have nearly everything. This is a membership store, no fee to be a member but one needs to register to get the card which makes checkout must easier. There is no bagging of your goods, they are simply placed from one cart to another during checkout. You can buy bags there, but just as easy, wheel the car out to your car.

When I say bulk package, it is not like buying a case of canned goods or 50 pounds of chicken. For canned goods I seen them in 4 packs and 2 packs, for chicken, just like Tesco, bag what you want, get it weighed, done. For pasta, one can get the 500 gram bags, and they have a very good selection, or you can get 20 kilo bags if you want.

Items good to stock up on at Makro would be canned goods, frozen sausage, fresh sausage selection is also good, chicken, pasta, cleaning supplies, paper supplies, buy those in larger containers and the price drops considerably.

Another great feature of Makro, at least in Nakhon Si Thammarat is the baking section, for anyone that bakes, they have various types of flour, large bars of baking chocolate, cocoa powder, right down to sprinkles for cake decorating. Great selection so worth a look.

Canned and Dry vice Fresh Goods

Always good sense to keep a stock of products on hand at all times in the event one cannot get to a market for fresh items, think monsoon season.

Long term items to keep on hand can include rice, flour, beans, pasta, and coffee for dry goods, and for canned goods, stock up on condensed milk, vegetables, tuna, and mayo.

With this in mind, go for products produced in Thailand. Some stores have dry beans that are imported, some are local grown, go for local grown. A bean is a bean.

Rotate your stock as well at times. Recipes here that call for say mushrooms, you can use fresh or canned. The rule with canned goods and the expiration date or BBF (best before date) is that the product is still good even after that date if the can is not swelled or rusting. Simply the quality of the product goes down after that date, which is normally 2 years after production. Rotate your stock on a regular basis and you can keep a good supply of ingredients to make a hearty meal in the even you cannot get to a fresh market or grocery store.

We normally keep 30 days supply of goods on hand.

Food Shopping

Food shopping.

I am the type of guy that walks into a grocery store, buys what I need and walks out. But in Thailand, sometimes it pays to take your time and see what is stocked.

There is 3 main types of stores. Western goods (think Villa Market), average Thai grocery stores (Tesco, Tops, Big C), and Fresh Markets.

  1. Western goods, place like Villa Market. These places also charge top dollar for items, so items are not cheap! This is not the place to go to for a loaf of bread, a quart of milk and some other items. These places generally have the spices needed other places will not have, stock up. The places may have a deli section with cheeses and meats, again, prices may be higher than other places.
  2. Average Thai grocery stores, places, like Tesco, decent prices and a good range of products. I use Tesco for fresh chicken, pork, and canned goods.
  3. Fresh Markets. These are open air markets, think fresh vegetables and fruit, even meats. These are the places for fresh veggys! Lower cost, normally, and fresh. Fresh markets are a great place for potatoes, carrots, radish, tomatoes, etc. Some open markets will have fresh pork, chicken, and even beef. Prices are very good.

Quality of the foods at the various places. First, meats here are free range, the chicken is large, the pork and beef is delicious. The veggys are mostly grown in the central area of Thailand.

I have told people that I buy 4 chicken quarters (leg and thigh attached) and when I cut them I can fit 4 thighs in a 12 inch pan. That is a large healthy chicken.