You can ask anyone: Since I moved into my own home, I've morphed into a full-blown auntie who gets excited about shit like spin mops and cheap toothpaste. And because of this, I recently discovered U Stars Supermarket - a budget heartland grocery store chain.
At first, I thought U Stars was just an indie mart - I'd only ever seen the one in my estate, which by the way, is the king of all ulu estates (Punggol). I Googled it to see if I was the only who knew of this cheap heaven, only to learn that they have 21 stores islandwide.
Okay, so I'm the one who's late to the party.
Like most people, I used to get all my heavy household necessities delivered via RedMart, and picked up fresh food from NTUC Fairprice. The former is known for their competitive prices, while the latter is a trusted household name.
But how about U Stars Supermarket? Let's count the dollars and cents to see how it compares to RedMart and NTUC Fairprice.
U Stars Supermarket vs NTUC vs RedMart
I can't possibly write a 200-page price list of everything in store, so for this price guide, we'll look at my shopping list for this week.
U Stars Supermarket was the cheapest for 7 out of 9 items on this list, only losing to NTUC for 2 items. Suprisingly, RedMart didn't make it for any.
Let's look at the exact breakdown of the prices at all 3 grocery stores.
Cheapest fresh foods: U Stars Supermarket
For the daily necessities, U Stars seems to be the cheapest.
Some stuff have fixed prices - like Yakult and Milo - and the only way to get them cheaper is during seasonal bundles and promos.
Worth mentioning is that for some reason, the Meiji fresh milk is dramatically cheaper at U Stars.
Fresh meat & produce at U Stars Supermarket
I also had some meat and veggies to pick up, but unlike these (which are bottled/pre-packed), those are fresh and so I don't really see a point in comparing the prices.
The prices are seasonal and they go by weight, so the final sum can vary quite a bit. Besides, it won't be an apple-to-apple comparison because you have to consider things like freshness and quality.
If you want to know how much I spent anyway, here's the breakdown:
Cheapest toiletries: U Stars Supermarket
In addition to affordable fresh produce, U Stars also has the cheapest toiletries (at least the ones I shopped for). The prices for NTUC and RedMart are similar for this category.
For my toothpaste, NTUC had a promotion where you buy 2 and get $5.15 off the total. That comes up to $5.90 per tube, which is still more expensive than the original price ($5.20) at U Stars.
I couldn't help but notice that a lot of stuff - like the Lifebuoy body wash - were on limited-time discount too. If you're not fussy about the brand (i.e. you just go there looking for say, an anti-bacterial body wash) then you can probably save a lot of money just picking whichever one's on sale at U Stars.
Cheapest household items: NTUC Fairprice
The last two items on my list were dishwashing liquid and laundry detergent (yawn, how exciting). Interestingly, NTUC had RedMart and U Stars beat with its rock bottom prices.
Both items were already discounted at U Stars, yet it was still cheaper at NTUC. I'm guessing it's because NTUC is a dramatically bigger chain and can hence afford to buy bigger bulks of these household supplies (which have relatively long shelf lives).
It may be a good thing too, because if U Stars was cheaper, I would have had to lug those heavy stuff home. Since NTUC is cheaper, I can just order it on NTUC On (the e-store) and have it delivered.
Conclusion: should you shop at U Stars Supermarket?
Considering their very competitive prices, why not? Even their budget supermarket rivals seem to be feeling the pressure.
In Dec 2016, U Stars beat Sheng Siong to a HDB site in Sengkang, and as 2018 comes to a close, Giant announced that they'll be shutting down their Vivocity hypermart early next year.
Not only are they strategically located within the heartland districts (near HDB clusters), U Stars also has an online presence through Honestbee. On Honestbee, it is one of the stores that guarantees "today's best price". This means that the Honestbee price will always be the best price of the day (i.e. you won't have to worry that you might miss out on an offline promo at the physical store).
This article was first published in MoneySmart.