Korea - The Cost of Groceries
Updated: Jan 29, 2019
Before I came to Korea, I read a lot about how it was cheaper to eat out than go to the grocery store. While it was awesome to hear that I would be able to afford to eat out, what did that really mean? I was curious, what are the prices at the grocery store like? I read over and over again that fruit was outrageously expensive, but did a watermelon really cost $18? Now that I’ve spent nearly two years here, I can answer these questions for the people like me!
Yes, a watermelon can cost about 16,000W, but that is a huge watermelon! It is certainly possible to find more affordable fruit! On average, we (a couple) spent about 60,000-100,000W on groceries per week, when we were planning on eating in most days. (Depending on how many wine bottles were in our basket!) Have a look at what you can get for 60,000 W!
Here is everything you we got, for a whopping total of 58,000W ($54.)
-6 cans of coffee - one can of black olives
- 2 bags of tortilla chips - pack of mushrooms -1kg of mandu (dumplings) -2 bags of lettuce - 500 grams of pork -1kg frozen fruit -2kg of frozen chicken breast - bunch of spring onion - 2 bottles of wine - 1 dozen eggs -3 sparkling waters -2 instant kalguska noodles
As you can see, it certainly isn’t everything we would need for the week if we were eating at home for every meal, but we had some leftover things from the week before, and often nip out to the local “mart” for veggies throughout the week. This time we shopped out “No Brand.” No Brand is similar to an Aldi’s, or Lidl back at home. It is low cost, no name groceries, where you can buy fruits, veggies, dried foods, household cleaners, drinks, wines, you name it! We were lucky enough to have a No Brand open two blocks down from us- but it was about two months before we left Korea. You can buy no-name brand items from E-marts as well.
If you want to get your staple items, I recommend heading to an E-mart or Homeplus. These are similar to a Walmart, Coles or Tesco Extra back at home. You can buy nearly anything you would want, including some Western brands, like poptarts, or certain cereals. (Bonus: Head there in the evenings for lots of free samples, and if you go on Friday or Saturday night, they often have beer/wine tasting, FOR FREE!) For all fresh foods (excluding meat) - fruits and veggies, I recommend heading to your local “mart.”
You will normally find these prices to be a bit lower than the chain stores- and if you head in daily, you can nearly always find something on sale to mix in with your dinner that day! We also liked to head to our marts for fruit- yes, fruit is often expensive. But, since it is so expensive, it means that lots of times, the stores don’t sell it, so they mark it down before it goes bad. Heading into your local mart in the morning, or right before closing can be a great strategy to get some fruit at cheap prices! On more than one occasion, we would get a bunch of bananas for 1,000W, chop them up and freeze them for smoothies. Same went with strawberries, grapes and mandarins!
5,800 KRW 6,800 KRW 4,554 KRW
Now for some costs of other weekly staples. All costs are approximate- I lived an hour south of Seoul, and I think that groceries may be slightly more expensive in the capital.
- Carrots: 1,000W/2 - 1 kg Frozen Chicken Breast: 5,800W - 1 head of lettuce: 1,200W - 1 head of broccoli: 1,400W - 1 bell pepper: 900w - Crisps: 500W-1,200W per bag - ½ litre of milk: 2,000W - Individual Rice Bowl: 1,000W - Individual Tuna Packets: 1,000W - Big Jar of Grated Parmesan Cheese: 7,000W - Bananas: 2,800W/bunch - Large box of tofu- 2,800W
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