Naureen Khan, a communications and events manager in Dubai, prefers to devote her time during Ramadan to spirituality and reduce her everyday domestic chores.
To do this, she buys produce in bulk and then prepares and freezes a variety of items for iftar, saving her money and time.
“Processing food at home such as tomato puree, pre-cut veggies and shredded chicken is one of the best hacks to save money,” says Ms Khan.
“Rather than buying pre-packaged items, home-made items can save hundreds of dirhams. Fasting while working can deflate your energy, so planning ahead during Ramadan can save energy, time and money.”
Grocery expenses typically account for the largest part of Ramadan shopping for households.
Families tend to go overboard when buying goods for iftars, suhoors and Eid Al Fitr, often affecting their monthly budgets.
About 64 per cent of Muslims in the UAE say they will spend more during the holy month this year, according to the TGM Ramadan Global Survey 2023, which polled 9,600 consumers globally in February.
Eighty-eight per cent of Muslims in the Emirates also say that Ramadan is the time to find the best deals, with 42 per cent planning to take advantage of sales and discounts during the holy month, the survey found.
With inflation persisting globally, people in the UAE can save on costs incurred during the holy month through a few financial tricks.
Online shopping, especially during Ramadan, offers more discounts compared with in-person shopping, according to Ms Khan.
Online coupon codes that offer discounts are also helpful, she recommends.
“Many stores in the UAE, like Carrefour, also provide coupons with their bills for food and beverage purchases,” she says.
“Lifestyle rewards programmes like Share offer points on bills for grocery purchases. Cash these points for your next purchase.”
She also suggests Ramadan shoppers check out local produce in supermarkets, as they are cheaper than branded ones. They are usually stored on the lower shelves, Ms Khan says.
With most Ramadan offers dedicated to bulk rather than single items, she plans to make a variety of meat and vegetable patties, mixes and sauces and freeze them. These can then be popped into the air fryer for iftar.
Carrefour started a six-week Ramadan campaign on February 21. As part of this, the supermarket chain will offer discounts of up to 50 per cent on more than 6,000 products, says Bernardo Perloiro, chief operating officer for the GCC, Majid Al Futtaim Retail.
Majid Al Futtaim operates more than 375 Carrefour stores in 17 countries, including the UAE.
“Customers have the option to engage in bulk buys that allows them to save up to 30 per cent on the overall purchase. Bulk buys work well for long-shelf items, allowing customers to benefit from multiple shopping trips and good deals,” Mr Perloiro says.
“Additionally, they can opt for Carrefour’s private label products, which will offer customers substantial savings. Choosing local produce can also help customers be more cost-effective.”
As with every Ramadan, the most popular items among shoppers are food staples and ingredients. These include rice, pasta, packaged soup, dairy products, juices and confectionery, according to Carrefour estimates.
Carrefour has also introduced an initiative called Price Lock, in which it pledges not to raise the prices of more than 200 essential products.
“This will give our customers added peace of mind that the price of the products they love are not subject to change until the end of Ramadan,” Mr Perloiro says.
“Customers can easily identify the price locked products as it will have the padlock symbol on it.”
Ramadan 2023 first prayers - in pictures
The retailer is also organising an Emirati Fresh Festival — with price reductions of up to 30 per cent on fresh fruit and vegetables from UAE farms.
Customers can also try four new iftar meals developed by chefs at Carrefour’s central production unit — with the choice of koshari, chicken kabsa, fish and rice and mutton and rice, starting from Dh15 ($4), Mr Perloiro says.
Meanwhile, Shafna Shamsuddin, general manager at an outdoor advertising solutions provider in Dubai, advises shoppers to go to the supermarket after breaking their fast to avoid the temptation of buying unnecessary items.
Purchase your essentials in deals from hypermarkets. Redeem your points earned while spending earlier in the year during Ramadan, she recommends.
“You can move your cryptocurrency earnings from Binance to Carrefour or Lulu vouchers and buy products using it,” says Ms Shamsuddin.
“This will reduce the cash spend on purchases.”
But she admits there are challenges in doing this.
“However, taking money out of crypto platforms is challenging, with huge transfer fees,” says Ms Shamsuddin.
Following a different strategy, Renjith Remanan, a technician with Abu Dhabi Ports, plans to shop in local souqs and markets instead of big supermarkets for Ramadan this year.
“I find that prices are generally cheaper and I can negotiate with vendors to get a better deal,” he says.
“I will also be buying more locally sourced and seasonal produce, which tends to be more affordable and fresher than imported goods.”
Besides using an online grocery delivery service as it offers discounts and promotions during Ramadan, Mr Remanan also plans to buy non-perishable items in bulk from wholesale stores to save money.
Shoppers in the UAE can also use price comparison platform Chum to scout for the best deals.
They can add grocery items to their cart on the Chum app and then compare which supermarket is offering the lowest prices for those products in real time, explains Amjad Ashraf, co-founder and chief executive.
“Chum also allows the user to select products and place orders from multiple supermarkets at one time,” he says.
“Say a user has added 10 products to their cart, from those 10 products, Carrefour might offer better deals on five products and [supermarket] Union Coop may be cheaper for the other five products.
“The shopper can then select products that are cheaper in both Carrefour and Union Coop and place the orders with both retailers. By doing this, the user is able to save much more than they would if they were to place an order with the cheapest supermarket for all 10 products.”
Chum, which has been live in the UAE since last year, is encouraging first-time users to shop from the app, offering a Dh50 gift voucher on transactions of Dh200.
Shoppers could also use FinTech start-up Xare’s new feature, the XareClub, which allows users to invite friends to join and share their cards on the platform to shop and enjoy discounts collectively.
Over the years, online grocery shopping in the UAE has become more popular, especially during Ramadan, says Padmini Gupta, chief executive and co-founder of Xare.
E-commerce platforms recognise this trend and run offers to attract shoppers, including lucrative deals on bank cards.
“Amazon, for example, is running a Ramadan sale that gives up to 50 per cent off plus 15 per cent extra off if you shop with an ADCB card. But not everyone has every card,” she says.
“What if you spot a great offer but don’t have the right card, what do you do?”
With XareClub, Ramadan shoppers in the UAE can save more on groceries, says Ms Gupta.
In addition to the popular brands, Xare also features small, local businesses on the platform to give users more shopping options.
Create a realistic Ramadan budget before the holy month starts and make plans to stick to it, such as only shopping once a week, says Alison Soltani, founder of savings website Leap Savvy Savers.
It’s also important to plan your weeks during Ramadan. There may be times when you go out for iftar, and you don’t need to buy food for those days. Planning ahead goes a long way to reducing food and money wastage during Ramadan, she points out.
“Plan to indulge and work it into your budget — Ramadan is a time for people to gather and eat together,” Ms Soltani says.
“If you’re too restrictive, you’ll be more likely to break your budget and have a miserable Ramadan.”
Buy in bulk when you know it’s something you’ll use, like cleaning products. Resist overbuying perishable goods, Ms Soltani warns.
Don’t be tempted to overbuy and waste food during Ramadan. There are lots of deals, which may not always be a positive thing if you buy things you don’t need, she says.
Ms Soltani recommends using similar ingredients to make different meals in a week.
“For example, if you buy lentils, use them in soup and curry on different days. This reduces your supermarket bills and prevents ingredients expiring before you use them.”