After I updated the "worst things to buy at Daiso" article last week, we've been receiving tons of fiery comments from die-hard fans, all ready to smite me for daring to compare Daiso rubber bands with that of chicken rice packets.
What might have gotten lost in the article is that I'm actually just as crazy about Daiso as everyone is - perhaps even more so.
My relationship with Daiso goes back to when there was just one outlet at IMM. That's where I hung out during six-hour breaks between lectures in university, which is why I had no friends or money. After buying my first home last year, my first stop was not to inform my family but to go straight to Daiso to procure cheap Japanese ceramics. Also, I have heard the words "I really regret coming with you to Daiso" more than once.
OK, enough pathetic stories from my life - let's talk about what's definitely worth your $2 at Daiso instead!
1. EVERY ORGANISER UNDER THE SUN
Let's start with the obvious. For me, Daiso has completely killed the competition for all kinds of boxes and organisers. If it's more than $2, I won't consider it.
Just look at this wonderland! The Tampines 1 Daiso has an entire section filled with organiser boxes of every shape and size. It's so much easier to get the exact item you're looking for here than at usual Daiso stores where the plastic boxes are displayed along a long wall.
When I say "exact item", I really do mean it. Daiso has boxes tailor-made for specific items, ranging from manga to beer cans.
That said, you can always ignore the prescribed purpose as long as the dimensions (which are printed on the label!!! <3) are correct. For example, I use Daiso's "size 2" shoebox as organiser bins for the fridge.
It's really hard to find any retailer than will beat their prices, but Daiso does have one weakness… They don't have big boxes. For those, you'll have to go to IKEA or Toyogo.
2. REALLY LEGIT CABLE TIES
I am usually pretty diligent about price research and try not to buy Daiso's overpriced items, but I bought a packet of their cable ties once to tide me over during a cable tie shortage (i.e., an emergency).
At $2 for 30 pieces (I got the extra long ones) they seemed very pricey, considering you can buy bigger packs for a similar price at hardware shops and online retailers like Houze.
But OMG, I'm never going back. These are so good. They're actually really thick and sturdy and I have successfully used them to leash pieces of furniture together.
For comparison, I got a bag of $2 for 50 no-brand cable ties from Lazada and they broke the moment I tried to tie a basket to my bike. Failure. So if you want cable ties that can actually take some weight, give these babies a shot.
3. ART & CRAFT SUPPLIES
Every time I go to Daiso, I notice that the most crowded aisle is invariably the Art & Craft one. This section seems to have its own loyal following of aunties and OLs (office ladies) so I decided to check it out too.
I didn't exactly do in-depth price research on the small items, such as beads and scrapbooking materials, but at $2 per small packet, they did seem quite pricey and would probably add up to a significant sum. I'm almost certain you can find these small items for cheaper at the craft stores at People's Park Centre.
But I was pretty impressed that Daiso sells wool yarn at just $2 a skein. Wool is quite pricey compared to acrylic, and would set you back at least $5 at a craft supply store like Spotlight.
Meanwhile, Daiso's colouring supplies - sets of markers, crayons, colour pencils etc. - are insanely cheap compared to buying from Popular Bookstore or the like. Popular doesn't have an online store but I checked out the more famous colour pencil brands on Shopee and most sets cost at least $5.
Sure, the quality is probably not amazing, but if you're buying these for the kids, or just a random one-off workshop, I doubt you can beat $2 for a pack of 18 colour pencils.
4. COFFEE & TEA MAKING THINGS
I come from a household of drip coffee drinkers, and I honestly think our caffeine habit would not have been possible if not for the inflation-beating $2 coffee filter papers from Daiso. (We've been buying these for a decade.)
At $2 for a pack of 90 pieces, these filter papers are not exactly environmentally friendly, but holy crap, they make brewed coffee with kopi hoon from the wet market so deliciously convenient.
In contrast, the generic Boncafe coffee filter papers you can buy from NTUC costs $2.30 for a mere 40 pieces, so it's more than twice the price.
I should also mention that the $2 coffee dripper is pretty worth buying as well. These low-tech coffee drippers aren't that expensive - a Hario V60 costs just $7.90 at Tokyu Hands - but I personally think Daiso's Melitta-style dripper makes better coffee. Just don't drop it on the floor; these things aren't that hardy.
Another caffeine-related item that is totally worthwhile are the empty tea bags, which come in packs of 100 pieces. I use them to steep loose leaf tea and my mom uses them for Chinese herbal soup.
5. COTTON BALLS, BUDS & PADS
Okay, I'm not the type of person who uses cotton balls or buds, but since you're probably more hygienic than I am, you might like to know that Daiso sells really cheap bulk packs of these items!
Sold in a pack of 350 sticks, this $2 pack of cotton buds is good for almost an entire year of daily ear-digging. The cheapest one I could find at Watsons is the house brand, which costs $2.20 for 300.
The cotton pads are even better value: $2 for 180 pieces, compared to Watsons's house brand which costs $3 for 100 pieces.
This jumbo bag of 400 cotton balls costs just $2. I tried looking for these on the Watsons website and found only Pigeon brand ($3.50 for 100 cotton balls). You'll never have to skip cleaning your baby's belly button to save money again!
6. JAPANESE CONVENIENCE FOOD
I may have slammed Daiso for overcharging for flour, but I really enjoy shopping for $2 groceries nonetheless. These are some of the cheapest Japanese groceries you can find in town - cheaper than Don Don Donki, even.
I usually get the miso paste, which comes in a 500g pack. That's crazy when you consider that the usual 375g tub of miso paste costs more than $5 at a conventional supermarket.
Another item I always restock is the soba, which comes in a pack of 4 bundles (400g total). Dried soba usually costs double that at supermarkets. Call me low class, but I can't taste the difference.
Other cheap groceries that are worth trying are the Japanese curries (usually $3 to $6 a box at supermarkets), pasta sauces (typically at least $3 to $5 a jar! Source: I eat a lot of pasta), and the elusive Daiso pancake mix (not pictured because I couldn't find it *cries*).
7. DAISO METAL GRID SYSTEM
You know you are a confirmed HDB auntie/uncle when you stop dreaming about clubbing and start mulling over the infinite possibilities of wire mesh instead.
Making pet barriers, hanging kitchen utensils, decorating your work desk, carving out your personal gardening spot - is there anything that these pre-cut metal grid panels can't do!? I even used them to fill up the gaps in my headboard:
Sure, you can buy these from wire mesh suppliers, but if you don't have time to go down to Jalan Besar, the Daiso ones are convenient. They're already cut to size (several dimensions available) and come with a slew of hook- or clip-on accessories, including connectors so you can make cubes or join several into a longer length.
I also found this under-shelf basket in the same section. At just $2, it's a super affordable dupe of the (slightly bigger) $5 IKEA version and it looks good, too.
8. WACKY JAPANESE KITCHEN TOOLS
But my absolute favourite items from Daiso are in a league of their own. The Japanese have invented all kinds of crazy and oddly-specific cooking tools, and you won't be able to find Daiso's selection in any other homeware store.
Exhibit A: A microwave pasta cooker for one. This simple invention deserves a design award for solving one of the most horrible things about cooking for one - boiling a whole pot of water just to cook one serving of spaghetti is simply not worth the trouble. If you find yourself eating cup noodles for dinner a lot, consider this a $2 investment in your health.
Exhibit B: A sponge that magically peels vegetables. Apparently, you rub this all over your carrots or potatoes under running water, and the amazing powers of exfoliation do the rest. I'm not sure how you can use this without actually peeling your hands, though.
Exhibit C: Stainless steel "soap". Supposedly, this gets rid of the smell of onions or fish that clings to your skin after cooking, which is certainly annoying if you're whipping up a romantic dinner for your significant other. Again, I don't know how exactly it works (something something electrons) but at $2, it's worth a gamble, no?
DAISO SINGAPORE OUTLETS & EXCHANGE POLICY
All photos and products are from the Daiso Tampines 1 outlet. While I was there, I also took some pics of Daiso's Singapore outlet listing and their return/exchange policy.
This article was first published in MoneySmart.