With supermarkets selling overpriced groceries and local fast food joints endlessly competing with their HK$20 lunch boxes, Hong Kong is a classic example of a place where dining out is often cheaper than eating in. But for galloping and wannabe gourmets who value the comforts of home, where can they buy affordable food?
Ditch the supermarkets and forage at source - or as close as can be, through the city's multiple markets. Bulk buys from major wholesale food markets make for the best bargains, but arrive early: both Western and Cheung Sha Wan Food Markets really get going around 5am, while Yau Ma Tei Wholesale Fruit Market starts peddling fresh wares as early as 4am.
For smaller quantities of fresh fruit, vegetables and raw meat, sample the wet markets; the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department lists almost 80 on its website. Money Post's independent comparison between a major supermarket and a wet market revealed an average saving of 25 per cent. Better yet, establish a relationship with a local grocer and they'll often deliver for free.
ANother way to save is by buying frozen. Try Hing Lung Food Place in Sheung Wan, a wholesale meat market which vends high-quality steaks, chops and poultry. Its US Angus steaks cost HK$250 per kilogram, 50 per cent less than a major supermarket.
Protein and vitamins shopped, we all need daily bread: Luba's Bakery in North Point is a bargain hunter's favourite for local-, Japanese- and Western-style bread. A rye loaf costs just HK$17, compared to the self-raising HK$40-HK$50 of Central's upscale bakeries.
Nothing leavens the ambience of eating like the pleasure of the grape at a palatable price. Major wine stores on Hong Kong Island often inflate prices to cover their rent, so try smaller, better-value sellers in outlying areas. House of Fine Wines (houseoffinewines.com ) in Kwun Tong stocks bottles of Bordeaux from HK$100, Italian Super Tuscans for HK$150 and champagne from a sparkling HK$220.
Other benefits of ordering direct from the importer include "free next-day delivery to your home on orders of more than six bottles, and insightful staff to make recommendations and pairing suggestions," says Lauren McPhate, commercial manager of House of Fine Wines.
Finally, some friendly, end-of-the-day neighbourhood advice: if you live or work next to a major supermarket, go after 6pm.
Those with an in-store bakery sell the day's confections at discount, while others will reduce expiring meat and vegetables.