It’s no secret that Dubai is expensive! Whether it’s paying the equivalent of £17 for your favourite brand of fish fingers, £60+ for internet or the £120 Friday brunch (which isn’t a patch on your mum’s Sunday roast dinner!) sometimes it’s hard to see where we can save on cash without cutting back on the luxuries and home comforts of expat life we have come to love.

‘You earn more!’, ‘It’s Tax free’, ‘But petrol is cheap’ – I’m sure we have all experienced the comments from family and friends back home. True, petrol is certainly cheaper. Then you realise you have racked up a huge Salik bill, 6 traffic fines and you travel 35km up Al Khail to take your kids to a sporting club 3 times a week. Not surprisingly, driving in Dubai doesn’t feel so cheap after all!  It is likely our household income is more than it would be in the UK, and with that, we spend more, it’s as simple as that.

So how can we make simple changes to save our Dirhams for the important things in life such as family holidays, paying off a mortgage or children’s university funds and still enjoy our mani-pedi’s and the odd brunch?

‘Look after the pennies and the pounds look after themselves!’

Follow Miss MoneypennyDXB’s favourite mantra and your bank balance will begin to flourish. Combine that with a few simple tips and you will soon be banking more cash without sacrificing that occasional glitzy night out. Be warned! Committing to cutting back does not need to mean less fun. However, there is no room for half hearted, when you sign up to start looking after your pennies’ you need to do it with full conviction.

This month Miss Moneypenny looks inside the grocery bag to offer top tips on saving on the weekly shop.


‘But I can’t stop my Spinneys addiction’, ‘Waitrose makes me feel at home!’ Don’t panic! If nothing will sway you away from the comforts of Spinneys just adapt your shop slightly to make it more economic. Firstly, Spinneys ‘The Best of What You Value’ products are the ‘must have’ ingredients in the weekly shop to ensure you are maximising your spending, in addition to buying local fresh produce rather than imported. Secondly, don’t be a food snob! Be prepared to try new brands with an open mind especially when those on special offers and step away from Heinz! A brands blind taste test is fun to do with the family and often enlightening, helping you to find cheaper brands you will be happy to swap for.

A note to keep in mind here however is shops’ own brands are not always the cheapest, imports from Tesco for example in Choitrams is likely to set you back more than a local brand. Lastly, think carefully about convenience foods. In the UK cook in sauces, ready-made frozen products and packaged foods are often cheaper than making dishes from scratch. Here in Dubai frozen foods and ready-made tend to feature less highly on the moneysaving scoreboard. Embrace this as you would cultural difference, by scouting out a handful of simple recipes for your favourites, purchase the ingredients and cook in bulk so you have plenty to freeze or pack up for lunches.

Get the kids involved too and make it a fun, family activity. Remember to repeat the recipe or one that uses the same store cupboard ingredients to ensure you use up any herbs and spices and don’t throw your Dirhams in the kitchen bin! Similarly make a note of any food you throw in the bin for a week and the reason why this was. Reflect on this and make a pledge to reduce your waste, protecting the planet and your wallet at the same time. Keep in mind these ideas to be a savvier shopper in any Dubai supermarket- yes including Spinneys!

If you can prize yourself away from the polished isles of your usual weekly shop spot, Miss Moneypenny’s gem of shopping tips must be the wonders of Viva! For sure you will most likely need to substitute a bi-weekly Viva haul with other supermarket sweeps but if you have kids who snack, you like a few basic staples and do not demand brand names, the relatively new Viva group is Dubai’s answer to the famous Aldi UK! The Landmark chain is headed up by Georg J. Fischer a former Tesco Chief executive. This relative newcomer steals the show when it comes to some decent quality, mostly European produced products. Perhaps not for organic loving meat eaters and don’t expect select deli counters but for kids’ snacks, cereals, tins, store cupboard good, cleaning products and even a few cheap toiletries Viva will save you enough dirhams to justify your Spinneys treats. Home delivery is promised very soon, and you can get a weekly deal update WhatsApp’d to you. With yummy flat peaches at less that 5dhs per kilo recently and kids’ cereals at 4.95dhs or less it’s worth a visit.

Coop Union scores highly for those who value some local, organic produce as well as delicious and well-priced Italian specialities to look out for! Look out for heavily discounted special offers using the Tamayaz card (available to sign up in store) and always buy weighed goods from the deli rather than packaged. Whilst a savvy British mum shopper in the UK might bypass the pricier deli counters, Dubai shopping contradicts this and offers better value, as well as freshness, on the counters than packaged goods on the shelves.

Currently trending in the grocery shopping world are fresh food recipe boxes delivered to your door. Miss Moneypenny admits being sceptical, however if you enjoy cooking but are someone who struggles to plan meals in advance, stick to a shopping list or can’t face the thought of sniffing out a bargain in the shops, then ordering meal boxes from companies such as Cook A Box or Hello Chef may well be a money saving save option for you. Look out for sign up offers, free trials and refer a friend deals and keep a note of what you spend on boxes and any extras you find yourself purchasing on a weekly basis to check you are not paying over the odds for a combination of delivered boxes and everyday shopping. If you find yourself ordering and still spending a fortune on top ups….be hard on yourself and scrap it! Remember your aim is to save wherever you can so you can stack up the cash for the most important things in life!

More shopping top tips….

  • If you have a large family take a family trip to the fruit and veg markets in Al Aweer and see what super fresh, juicy delights await you that you can pick up on bargain prices before they hit the supermarket shelves. If you enjoy fish the recently re-developed fish market on Al Khaleej Road should be a regular stop off to stock up the fridge and freezer. An added tip: if you have a nanny or a maid, they may well be able to negotiate an even better bargain for you that us Brits who may be a bit reserved in bartering skills!
  • With soft drink prices set to rise again, if you love a bit of flavour and fizz in your drinks, bring back super concentrate, miniature squeeze squash bottles from the UK and invest in a fizzy water maker like DrinkMate or Bubble-Bro.
  • Try, try, try…. do not be a snob when it comes to own brand products. Vow to try anything once.
  • Avoid ‘popping in’ to shops on the way back from work for the odd loaf of bread or carton of milk as this will often lead to unnecessary purchases. Plan ahead! Likewise, never shop when hungry and avoid taking the kids if you can!
  • If you like to bake, buy butter and margarine either by weight from the deli at coop or at viva to save a surprising amount.
  • Dubai properties often do not lend themselves to big freezers like in the UK however if you can, think about purchasing a fridge freezer with the maximum freezer size or an extra small freezer. Make use of it buy meal prepping in bulk and freezing individual portions. This will help reduce spending on shopping and lunches ‘on the go’.
  • Check the price label on the shelf AND the barcode on the product match up when purchasing new things to try. Shelf stackers here tend to stash what they can anywhere there is space often meaning a nasty shock at the till. For example, a packet of cereal above a price label of 20dhs gave one shopper a bit of a surprise when the actual price was 45 Dirhams.
  • Buy a second-hand bread maker on Facebook groups or Dubizzle! No need to splash out on specialist bread flours there are plenty of recipes to get creative with which will help you by-pass the posh bread isles. And the bonus bakery smells to wake up to will be priceless!
  • No visitor should enter your house without replenishing your Marmite, Oxo gravy, branded hot drinks and toiletries stocks! There are certain things in life we can’t be without from back in the UK so whenever you can give out lists of your favourites which set you back a small fortune here. Miss Moneypenny would never be without Options Hot Chocolate. £1.99 in UK, 38dhs in Dubai!
  • Sign up to supermarket special deals promotions to be sent to your phone and take advantage of opportunities to stock up on things you use regularly. But remember …only if you use it regularly!
  • Remember ‘Look after the Dirham coins and the big notes will look after themselves!’ Say it like you mean it and chant it when you shop!

For more money saving tips, follow Miss Moneypenny on Instagram @moneypennydxb and Facebook at

Read more:

The best of British shops that deliver to the UAE

The true cost of living in Dubai

How to save money living in Dubai

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