If you are traveling or planning to live in Korea, one of the smart ways to minimize your budget on food is to buy groceries from supermarkets. Then you can cook or prepare your own food at home instead of always eating outside which will make you save some money. So here are the top places to do grocery shopping in Korea:
If the Korean entertainment scene used to have the “Big 3” companies, in the retail, there’s also a “Big 3” which consists of Emart, Homeplus and Lotte Mart. First on this list is the Emart which is actually the first franchise hypermarket in Korea established in 1993. Emart, including Emart Traders, has over 160 branches around Korea.
Inside Emart, you can probably find most of the things that in your grocrey list from groceries, processed food, household goods, clothes and fashion accessories, electronics, toys, cosmetics, and many more. What I also like about Emart is that most of its stores has a food court where you can dine in after your grocery shopping.
Another place to do grocery shopping in Korea in Korea is Homeplus, which is also part of the Big 3. Homeplus opened its first store in Daegu in 1997 and has grown to over 140 branches all over Korea. Similar to Emart, Homeplus also offers a wide variety of goods from groceries, household items, fashion goods, electronics, toys, cosmetics, and many more. There are also a lot of promotions inside the store which include free tasting of some products.
In addition, you will definitely experience LSS or last song syndrome after hearing Homeplus’ theme song all throughout your grocery shopping. Homeplus also has special self-service counters where you can process your payment by yourself. I find this very efficient especially if you only have few items to buy or if you are an introvert who doesn’t want to talk to cashiers.
The Big 3 in retail store chains in Korea wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Lotte Mart. This chain first opened in 1998 and is part of the Lotte conglomerate. At Lotte Mart, you can buy your usual groceries as well as household goods, clothes, electronics items, toys, cosmetics, and more.
If you are a person who prefers to do grocery shopping in bulk or wholesale, then you should pay a visit to Costco. This is a warehouse club chain by Costco Wholesale Corporation, a multinational company from the USA. However, compare to the first three stores in this list, Cost is a membership-only shop. It means that you will have sign up for their membership before shopping. The good thing is that you can use your Costco membership card in any Costco stores.
You also need to take note of the accepted modes of payment in Costco as they only take designated credit/check cards. If you don’t have any of them, you can just pay in cash instead.
For some people, doing grocery shopping is a way to relieve stress. However, sometimes, when there is a wide selection of grocery items, you might find yourself having difficulty in choosing what to buy. If you prefer to buy from smaller store which has all the basic things that you need, then consider buying from No Brand. It is actually a brand started and owned by Emart which aims to bring quality private-labeled products to the consumers at a very much affordable price. As what No Brand slogan says, ” It’s not about the brand, it’s about the consumer!”
Personally, No Brand is my favorite place to do grocery shopping in Korea. Aside from variety of products that I can find there, the price of the items are very reasonable. For example, a 1kg frozen chicken (wings, tenders or breast) only costs 5,000 KRW compare to large supermarkets’ price of 10,000 to 20,000 KRW. The noodles, snacks, and other condiments are also cheaper.
Lastly, if you want a unique shopping experience in Korea, then you should visit Korean traditional markets. There you can find fresh meat and vegetables, delicious food, affordable clothes and variety of household items. For the price, there are some items that are cheaper in the traditional markets than supermarkets like the fruits and vegetables. Some of these traditional markets also have mini supermarkets which sell merchandise similar to the big supermarkets. But as an observation, the price of items from these mini supermarkets are a little bit more expensive than those from big supermarkets. Find more about Korean traditional markets here.
If you think that Daiso is just a store for novelty items, stationery, and other tempting goods that you will end up buying even if they are not on your list, then you should explore it some more. Daiso also sells limited grocery items such as snacks, noodles, canned goods, among others. You will be surprised that some of these item are even cheaper than those in supermarkets.
Here are additional readings that may help you in managing your finances while you are in Korea.
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