Why One Economist Says You Should Shop at Asian Supermarkets


Economist says shopping at asian markets could save money.Check out this interesting post from Business Insider:

The product labels are foreign and the aisles are hard to navigate, but Asian markets beat American supermarkets in several ways.

Economist Tyler Cowen ditched American grocers for a month to find out whether shopping at Asian markets like Great Wall in Falls Church, Virginia would change his habits for the better. Turns out he was right:

“Once I started shopping at Great Wall, I began to eat more greens, and to enjoy them more,” he writes. “I never had to tell myself they would ward off cancer, make the earth a better place, help me lose weight or ease animal cruelty. I wanted to eat them, and the purchases felt virtually free of charge, given the low prices. I could try any new and unknown green without investing much money.”

Here are a few other ways Cowen says ethnic markets trump American grocers:

Greens are a staple.

American stores devote aisle after aisle to “loss leaders” (must-have buys) like milk and cheese, which tend to pack calories and cost much more. But Asian markets are all about the greens. From bok choy to yam tips, turnips and lettuce, Cowen found these items to be “tasty and easy to cook, if only by steaming,” and this encouraged him to eat healthier.

Seafood is everywhere.

A lot of the fish smell and must be prepared and de-scaled for cooking, so they’re hard to convert into easy-to-eat meals. But their presence in Asian markets does help shoppers make healthier choices.

They sell what cooks need.

“Spare animal parts are readily available and very cheap,” says Cowen, who got into cooking soups and found the quality of his family’s dinners improved as a result. “After a few weeks, I took the idea of a fresh stock for granted.”

Snacks, what snacks?

Another way ethnic markets help you to eat healthier is by keeping the junk food at bay. American grocers are notorious for doing the opposite, stocking aisles with pre-packaged cookies and crackers that are packed with preservatives and sugar.

Exotic spices and sauces.

Resisting the temptation to cook is hard when confronted with an ethnic markets’ dizzying array of spices and sauces. “The store has the area’s best supply of fresh lemongrass and plenty of cheap coconut milk,” Cowen observes, plus “it does have a sauce for marinating bulgogi and large jars of kimchee.”

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  • Amelia

    I’ve been telling people this for the longest time.  I regularly shop at a market that caters to a largely Armenian, Persian, and Mexican community.  My produce is cheap, the deli and meat departments have a wide range of inexpensive options and there are fascinating ingredients to try, such as huge jars of roasted red peppers for next to nothing.

  • Yoda

    I will give it a try. I live in NYC. I’ve heard from an  a friend that she shops in Chinatown for her groceries. I remember cringing at that idea. Filthy butchered animals hanging in windows came to mind. I’m sure there are great ethnic markets some where I can dig in to. 

  • SarahP

    Love Asian markets! They make eating fruits and veggies doable on a tight budget! Don’t be afraid to try something new!

  • Sum Dum Gai

    Welcome Whitey, soon the Oriental Horde will run America. Then who will read your “article”