Today we’re going to tell you a super special tip for getting the most out of your local supermarket here in Japan. It’s actually something pretty simple, but that you might not know about if you always go during the day.
You see, you should totally go to the supermarket just before closing time. Why? Because when it gets close to closing time they start to discount their food!
It’s not just supermarkets; the same goes for the food courts in the basement floors of department stores. However, while convenience stores also sell fresh snacks like onigiri and sandwiches, they’re thrown out when they reach their expiration date without being discounted. So if you’re looking for bargains, it’s the supermarket you want to head for.
But it’s not everything that goes on sale. It’s predominantly the ready-made and fresh produce such as bento boxes, side dishes, sashimi, and meat; in other words things with a limited shelf life. Yes, supermarkets outside Japan do this too, but the number of freshly made lunches and snacks on offer in supermarkets in Japan means that there’s a lot more choice, and you’re far more likely to find something really tasty for next to nothing at the end of the day – some discounts will be as little as a few percent, but you can also get things for half price.
A quick word of warning: “~円引” (“xx yen biki”) on these yellow stickers indicates the amount of yen discounted from the original price, not the new cost of the item. That kanji, 引, literally means “pull”, so in the case of the above sticker, you can “pull” 100 yen off the marked 457 yen price, making this bento a bargainous 357 yen.
It varies from store to store, but the staff usually start going around with the discount stickers between one and three hours before closing time. As closing time draws nearer, the discounts go up (and up!), so you’ll see some products with stickers stuck on top of each other as the discounts have increased. Don’t worry, it’s perfectly safe to eat – these goods simply contain fresh foods that must be consumed that day.
Discounts will sometimes be displayed in terms of percentage off, and sometimes in amount of yen off. The kanji characters 半額 (hangaku) mean half-price.
Some regular customers will figure out when their local store starts slapping on the stickers, and aim to go around that time. You can even sometimes see people hanging around and waiting for the staff to get the stickers out! As they well know, it’s a great way to get your hands on lots of yummy and filling food for a steal. I sometimes like to swing by and pick up dinner along with something for the next day’s lunch.
The one thing we’d warm you about it not to get carried away by the cheap prices, or you might end up spending just as much as you normally do. And while you might have twice the usual amount, it’s going to go off pretty soon.
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