Top: Discounted cheese at a branch of Tops Supermarket.
Finding affordable, delicious cheese in Thailand that you didn’t make yourself – is likely to end with you staring at the imported dairy section in expensive supermarkets.
The bad news is that those same markets toss tons of fresh food every day – according to the United Nations, a third of all produced food is chucked into the trash. The good news is that their attempts to unload it at reduced prices means the savvy, deal-snagging crowd can troll the aisles for sales.
Find some cheddar to slap into a grilled cheese or a good wheel of brie to impress company. Here are some tips to swipe cheap cheese and baked goods at the supermarkets.
Keep your eyes peeled for deep discounts of 50 percent or more at Tops. According to a Tops representative, cheese nearing the end of its shelf life, usually within a week or less, is slapped with a yellow sticker that can halve the price of a chunk of Caprice des Dieux. Do not be fooled by the red sale tags which only mean discounts of 10 percent to 20 percent.
So depending on what’s close to being expired, one week it could only be hard British cheddars on sale, while another only Roquefort are pimping themselves out.
Coupons provided to 1 Card members can still be used on top of the already discounted prices, as can points for a 100 baht discount. Yes, it’s possible to snag packages of blue cheese for nothing by if you use a family member’s pooled points.
Bakery items are discounted 25 percent after 8pm. Don’t forget to ask for large loaves to be sliced if you don’t have a bread knife at home!
At Tesco Lotus, cheese will be kept in stock until it’s nearly expired. Then, as deal-snaggers know well, they’ll be be marked by the chain’s famous yellow discount stickers. Usually, a small crowd of aunties and uncles wait to snag deals starting at 8pm every day for deeper discounts in the fresh food section, with sales items usually of slightly-wilted veggies, but one may be able to snag a pack of cheddar if it slips through.
We recommend just checking the dairy section for discounted cheese which start at the 30 percent off price range, depending on the branch.
Note that the busy Tesco Lotus at On Nut doesn’t discount expiring food. But don’t be mad – they donate it to a food waste foundation. At other branches, items are discounted and later destroyed.
Bakery items start getting discounts in the evening around 6pm, but the sale percentages vary according to supply. A bakery worker at Tesco Lotus Rama IV said that sales each evening are around 25 or 50 percent off, with very few items reaching 75 percent off – usually if there is a large surplus.
Cheeses at Big C get discounted around a week before a product’s expiration date, although the percentage of discounts vary.
Bakery items start getting discounted at 25 percent at 7pm and 50 percent at 8pm and on, answered a bakery worker at Big C Rama IV, although exact discounts may vary across branches.
According to Nattaporn Karnjanapradit, Big C public relations officer, the three branches with the largest variety of cheese and bread in Bangkok are the Big C Rama IV, Big C Extra Pattaya 3 and Big C Extra Phuket 3 branches.
Gourmet Market supermarkets, found at EmQuartier, Emporium, Siam Paragon, Terminal 21 and The Mall branches, have no scheduled discounts for either cheeses or bakery.
Like Gourmet Market, Villa Market also has no scheduled discounts for either cheese or bakery, but items close to being expired might be discounted. Some brands will not be listed for discounts, either.
Different branches of warehouse retailer Makro offer different discounts depending on product supply – but don’t despair, just scan shelves for the yellow stickers that offer discounts.
Makro’s Sathorn branch, for example, offers two waves of bakery sales: the first of various unsold items at 1 to 2pm, and a second wave at 5pm for savory items such as ham and cheese sandwiches. Sales percentages vary.
The cheeses are discounted a few baht, such as 180 baht out of 200, for promotions rotating every 15 days. But if you’re not in a hurry, cheeses are discounted around 30 percent a month before their expiration date for frozen cheeses, and 15 days for non-frozen products.
That’s just a partial list. Many bakeries, especially those in high-end hotels and the like, have bakery happy hours where they unload high-end pastries and other baked goods onto the hungry masses. Call on one near you to find out more.