How to save money on your grocery shopping

I usually do our grocery shopping in my neighbourhood’s supermarket. PHOTO | FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Nanny Viv has mastered portion control with laundry, cooking and cleaning supplies.
  • She doesn’t waste just because they’re in large quantities.
  • This really adds to our efficiency.
  • Do you have questions for the writer? E-mail: [email protected]

I usually do our grocery shopping in my neighbourhood’s supermarket. I shop once every two months.

We’re a family of four living in Nairobi, by the way: GB and I, our three-year-old daughter, Muna, and our Nanny Viv.

I do the shopping once every two months because I seek efficiency – I figure that since I’m already in the supermarket, I may as well cut down the time and hassle of returning next month to do the same thing I’d have done. Slaying two dragons with two sharpened swords.

It also gives me peace of mind knowing the household is adequately stocked for the next two months.

Nanny Viv has mastered portion control with laundry, cooking and cleaning supplies. She doesn’t waste just because they’re in large quantities. This really adds to our efficiency.

Aside from this bimonthly grocery shopping, there are other items I must buy from the local minimart at least every other day.

Items such a milk, yoghurt and eggs. I don’t buy bread because we no longer eat bread in my house, we have ngwace instead.

I do our vegetable shopping Marikiti market every Saturday morning.

I budget to spend, for each bimonthly visit to the supermarket, between Sh17,000 and Sh20,000. That translates to between Sh8,000 and Sh10,000 a month. I’ve not included in here extra costs such as parking fees, car fuel, tip for the shop attendant and probably an Uber, on the days GB has the car and he can’t get it to me on time.


The last time I did the shopping – in late January – I was taken aback by how much I spent. There has been such a sharp increase in the cost of living, so much so that I exceeded my budget. I even remember, when we got to the counter, there were some items I removed from the trolley.

I figured there must be a place where I can get these items at a more reasonable price. I mean, such inflated expenditure is what took me to Marikiti in the first place – we needed the fruits and vegetables, I wanted to get them at a more pocket-friendly price.

Anyway, that was back in January.

On this Friday in early April, the household is due for another shopping.

I recall my pal, Vicky, had once mentioned in passing that she does her shopping at a wholesale outlet on Mombasa Road.

I call her. She says, “That one on Mombasa Road closed, I found another one in Nairobi West. Let me send you their number. You can WhatsApp them your list and they pack your items. You’ll do an M-Pesa. So when you get there, you just collect your shopping and go.”

I call them. I’m curious to experience their offerings so I take an Uber to Nairobi West.


It’s nothing fancy. It’s like a kiosk; you don’t go around pushing a trolley in the aisles and putting in items from the shelves. No. It’s literally like buying stuff from your local kiosk.

Boxes and boxes of supplies spill over from every conceivable corner of the tight space.

There are two customer attendants sitting a grilled-like counter. Separating the two of you is also a large computer screen.

You read to the attendant, item by item, what you want – from your list or your head, depends on how you operate. She patiently keys it into the computer.

There are some items they have, others they don’t have. Some items have a minimum order quantity, others don’t have. Ugali flour, for example, you have to buy a minimum of six.

When she’s keyed in all the items you’ve told her to, she tells you the total price.

If it’s above your budget, you tell her to reduce the quantities of some items or to remove others all together.

If it’s below your budget, then good for you.


The first round of keying in the items from my list totals to Sh19,000. I tell her my budget was Sh13,000.

We patiently work downwards together until we get to Sh13,867.

Once you’re happy with the price and quantities, you give her your go ahead and she’ll print the receipt, you go to the other end of the counter to pay.

This wholesale only takes cash or M-pesa, I couldn’t make payment using my Visa card as I usually used to. I had to run to the ATM not too far from behind and withdraw cash. (The account I run with my bank charges me for transactions only, so I was charged Sh45 to make this ATM withdrawal.  I hadn’t planned to withdraw. This slight inconvenience irked me.)

Once you’ve paid, you step outside and give your receipt to one of the store keepers. She reads out the items as a coated chap from the store temporarily puts your things into a large carton box near the door. She ticks the items off the receipt as he puts them in the box.

I like that, this storekeeping control ensures no item is forgotten or put in by mistake.

After the entire receipt is ticked, you check if all the items are as you want. For example, I want a particular brand of fabric softener, the pink one for babies, so he exchanges it for me. Bathing soap, I have six in there and they are all white, I ask him to replace three with green and pink soap.

If you still want to remove some items, you can. You simply go back to the attendant, she removes it from your receipt and a credit note is printed for you. The cashier will give you back the cash.

Once you’re happy with everything, the storekeeper and the packer recheck the items – yet again – from the ticked receipt and he packs them in carton boxes for you from the store. I didn’t have to buy bags or come with my own shopping bags.

He puts them aside as they attend to the next customer. You’re ready to go.

I call my Uber and go back home.

What I felt about the wholesale experience

I didn’t have to push my heavy trolley around a hectare of a supermarket. That saved me the usual sweat and fatigue of doing shopping.

There were some items they didn’t have. Either they were out of stock, or that particular brand I liked wasn’t available. I omitted these items completely from my list.

They don’t have a customer loyalty reward card where you can accumulate points for redeeming later.

As I mentioned, they don’t stock perishables. I needed milk, yoghurt and eggs. I still had to go to our local minimart to get some. These items came to Sh1,340.

This wholesale outlet is a tidy distance from where I live, and because I didn’t have the car that day, I took an Uber. I spent Sh1,000.

Taking all that into consideration (shopping itself, Uber and ATM withdrawal), I spent in total Sh16,252.


Ultimately, I went to the wholesalers to save money on my bimonthly grocery shopping.

Later, after my shopping, I go to a popular supermarket and collect prices. I compare them with what I’d spent.  

See the prices in the table down below – supermarket unit prices versus wholesale unit price, and savings/extra spend.


Supermarket unit price (Sh.)

Wholesaler’s unit price (Sh)

Saving/(Extra spend) (Sh)

Ugali maize meal flour




All purpose flour




Ten-litre cooking oil




Sugar 1kg




Yellow beans




Washing powder




Bathing soap








Bar soap




Tissues 10s




Taking all the above into consideration, I’m wondering if this wholesale shopping is worth my time, effort and savings.


Do you have questions for the writer? E-mail: [email protected]