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Tired of eating noodle soup for breakfast, lunch and dinner? Unwilling to shell out THB 490 for a spinach pizza at the food cart du jour? Keen to impress a date with home-cooked food? Then you’re in for a pleasant surprise.
By the way, that home-cooked food thing actually works. Or so I’ve been told. I can’t boil water without burning the bubbles. But back to the matter at hand: stocking your fridge.
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Taking a taxi to a supermarket on a Saturday morning is an adventure worth experiencing. Witness cashiers pack your bags in slow motion while stocking up on three different kinds of things you don’t need on the checkout isle. See how many donut shops you can pass before the delicious crumblies make short work of your self-discipline. Experience the thrill of negotiating with a taxi driver who insists that carrying change for anything more than a twenty Baht bill is preposterous idea.
I’m serious. Supermarket trips probably offer more insight into what’s going on in a country than any commission-incentivized tour guide. If you keep your eyes open, it’s an adventure (here are some more ideas). At least, the first time.
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- 1 Why Order Online
- 2 About Your Mystery Shopper
- 3 Online Grocery Shops
- 3.1 Supermarkets
- 3.2 International and Ethnic
- 3.3 Local, Organic and Artisan Shops
- 3.4 Diets
- 3.5 Supplements
- 4 Cashback
- 5 My Personal (Sorta) Healthy Online Shopping List
- 6 Tricks and Deals
- 7 Offline Alternatives
- 8 Other Options
Why Order Online
If the above isn’t an ordeal you’d like to go through every time you run out of cucumbers, then you are not alone. In recent years, online grocery deliveries have really taken off in Bangkok. It’s not too surprising. Ordering online has a lot of advantages over the usual Saturday morning resupply excursion.
- It saves time. It’s a lot faster to go through an online list of groceries than to drive to a supermarket, find what you’re looking for and queue up at checkout. On average, it takes me about ten minutes to place an order online, whereas an extensive visit to a supermarket on a busy day can take up to two hours door to door.
- It’s cheaper. Most people forget the cost of commuting and additional expenses while out shopping. It’s not only the cost for a taxi or your own car – it’s also the snacks, coffees and other little pleasures you buy while out shopping that makes it hard to compete with the average THB 60 delivery charge.
- It’s healthier. Few people manage to walk out of a supermarket only with what they planned to buy, and I’m no exception. Impulse buys catch us all at some point, and the checkout isles aren’t stocked with vegetables and fat-free dairy products. If there’s chocolate in the house, I’ll eat it. The only way that works is not to buy it in the first place. Shopping for groceries online has been the best strategy when I worked on losing weight.
However, there are some downsides to online orders: inventory is usually a lot smaller than what you find in-store. Items might not be in stock. Online orders can be even more inconvenient than buying groceries in person if you have to plan your schedule around being at home for the delivery. My solution to that is to set delivery times to the same times as the cleaning of my apartment. My maid accepts the deliveries and fills up my fridge.
About Your Mystery Shopper
Before I go over how I make use of Bangkok’s myriad of online shops, I want to give you a bit of an idea of my own lifestyle and consumption habits.
I’m a Bangkok-based entrepreneur (and blogger, it seems) who mostly eats vegetarian and is somewhat nutrition-focused. When ordering groceries, I try to streamline the process while keeping things healthy. I’m not too big on organic foods and am probably not the city’s biggest foodie (that honor probably goes to Dwight, in case you were wondering).
When I say ‘not the city’s biggest foodie’, that’s a euphemism for ‘if it blends, I can drink it’. (accomplishments in that category include Nattō and egg tofu). Of more relevance for the average reader is that I like to make smoothies with frozen fruit and vegetables, so sourcing these is a major challenge for me when ordering online.
If you’re still not sure what my food choices entail, here’s an example of what I consider an acceptable ‘home-cooked’ dinner.
However, in order to make this article useful for a large number of people, I’ve set out to gather input from a number of friends who contributed their own favorites for specific diets, family-friendly options, organic choices and gourmet selections.
Online Grocery Shops
Having established that I don’t attempt to cook Martha Stewart recipes, let’s get to the gist of it. Here’s a guide to online grocery outlets and my experience with them.
Not all supermarkets in Bangkok offer online deliveries, some only sell non-refrigerated products online, others don’t have their inventory online on their own website but do make it available through third party websites like Happy Fresh.
The biggest difference between individual supermarkets is usually not the price or the products (which tend be rather uniform for most items), but usability and delivery times (which vary a lot).
Big C was one of the first supermarkets to support online orders. Big C does not offer refrigerated items in their own online shop. Those you’ll have to order from them via HappyFresh. For non-refrigerated items though, the offering on their own website seems to cover pretty much everything you find in store (in fact a lot more than what seems to be available on HappyFresh).
For some reason, no one at Big C has noticed the search for their online shop being based on alternation. In other words, any product search on their website returns a list of all products that contain any one of the words you entered. If you search for ‘non fat milk’, you’ll get a list of all products that contain either the word ‘non’, ‘fat’ or ‘milk’. The result is this:
The only alternative to searching is browsing the shop by categories. The milk category unfortunately has 316 products listed, making that method marginally more efficient than the online search.
Checkout requires some patience: you have to provide them with your passport or national ID card number, as well as a landline number. If you order for less than THB 1,500, it appears you get an error message (‘free delivery requires at least THB 1,500’), essentially making that the minimum amount you can order. I signed up for a test purchase and ended up having to request a new password before I was able to check out.
For delivery times, you can pick one of four different time slots between 10am and 8pm. In practice though, they’ll call you up and discuss the actual delivery time with you directly. Consider the time slot you selected online a ‘rough estimate’.
The good news is that free delivery combined with a no-markup policy makes Big C the cheapest online supermarket for non-refrigerated goods.
What I really like about HappyFresh is that their product pictures include nutrition labels. Since I pay a lot of attention to things like percentage of calories that come from protein, that’s a lot more useful than a just a pretty picture of the front of the packaging: My rule of thumb is to look for products that contain at least 1g of protein for every 10 calories.
Another upside is that there’s an extensive offer of ready-cut fruit: perfect to freeze and use in smoothies.
HappyFresh seems to be mostly search based. While they show some categories, it doesn’t seem to be possible to filter by brand for example.
A nice-to-have feature of HappyFresh is the ability to tell them how to proceed if a product is unavailable: you can tell them to decide on a replacement product for you, to call you or tell them not to make any replacements. At the time of writing, it’s the only shop offering this feature.
One downside is that products seem to be marked up over retail prices. For some products it’s only about 3-5%, but fresh vegetables and fruit can be a lot more expensive. A lesser problem in my eyes is that they don’t deliver any alcoholic beverages.
By far biggest argument in favor of HappyFresh is their fast delivery times. If you place an order at 5.30pm, you can select 6pm to 7pm of the same day as a delivery slot. In addition, they allow deliveries to be scheduled as late as 10pm to 11pm. In short, HappyFresh offers the smoothest order process of the supermarkets I tried.
One trick to save a bit of money with HappyFresh is to make use of a cashback offer: Right now, you can get a THB 150 credit and a 4% cashback on all your future HappyFresh orders (which is a lot better than the usual ‘free delivery’ coupons that HappyFresh tends to hand out).
In order to receive the THB 150 credit, you’ll have to visit the DeeDee Cashback site before March 8, 2017 and sign up for a free account with the code THAISTARTKIT. Once you’re signed up, you can go to the HappyFresh page on DeeDee Cashback and click on the “Go to Store and Earn Cashback ››” link before shopping as usual on HappyFresh.
Every time you’ll go through the DeeDee site before buying on HappyFresh, you’ll end up getting a part of your purchase refunded. It works out to be roughly the same amount that HappyFresh adds as a surcharge to product prices, so you basically get the convenience of HappyFresh at nearly the same prices you pay in-store.
Keep in mind that your refunds and cashbacks will come from DeeDee directly and not HappyFresh. DeeDee also covers a number of other sites – including Lazada – so it makes sense to go through their links before placing an order with any retailer in Thailand.
With a total of 48 orders placed since June 2014, Tesco Lotus is by far the shop I’ve been using the most.
While the product offers on the website are not as extensive as in their actual stores, the range is quite broad. You won’t find all products, but you’ll find something in every category (including low-fat options, which can be hard to come by at other shops).
One of the biggest strengths of Tesco Lotus is their user interface and search. It has one of the best searches and browsing functions of all grocery stores, making it very easy to find the products you’re looking for. Their entire listing catalog is bilingual.
Of the tested shops, Tesco Lotus seems to stock the largest inventory online based on my own shopping experience. Their prices for vegetables and fruit are pretty competitive when compared to other supermarkets. Frequent promotions (check the website and the sales slip you get with your order) mean you often get about 10% off your order.
Tesco Lotus does automatic replacements. If a product you ordered is not in stock, they’ll replace it with a similar one and give you a heads-up by phone. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to ‘disable’ this feature. I’d rather have them never replace anything as I’m usually not at home when they deliver.
Delivery fee is THB 60, regardless of order amount. What I absolutely adore about them though is the ability to select any two hour window between 10am and 10pm weeks in advance. This is what makes it possible for me to schedule deliveries for the times my maid is at home. The downside? Delivery slots for the next 24 hours are usually booked out.
I’m really not sure why supermarkets need my passport number, but TOPS belongs to the few that think it’s necessary.
Even though not all promotions that are featured in the homepage are available in the online shop, the actual offer pages (e.g. buy-1-get-1-free) are easy to find and buy.
Delivery times are somewhat limited, giving you the choice between three time slots: 12pm to 3.30pm, 3.30pm to 7.30pm, and 7.30pm to 9.30pm. Based on my experience though, those are just rough guidelines, and similar to Big C, they’ll call you with an actual delivery date and time that you can confirm or change.
With free deliveries from THB 888 and no product price markups, TOPS is one of the cheaper online grocery shops, especially for smaller orders.
International and Ethnic
There are a few delivery services that stand out for their very extensive product ranges for specific countries. While some of them store a variety of local products, these shops mostly stand out for the products you will be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.
Big Food Bazar
Big Food Bazar stocks a large selection of Indian groceries with some more generic essentials mixed in. From 39 different types of dal to paneer by the kilo, Big Food Bazar appears to be the best choice to order South Asian groceries online.
Minimum order amount is THB 750 with free delivery from THB 1,500.
Delishop is an online supermarket that offers a very impressive selection of French specialties, giving you the choice between 40 different wines from France alone.
I wish their dairy selection were similarly extensive, but their focus definitely seems to be imported specialties.
Deliveries are free of charge for orders of THB 1,200 or more and can be scheduled for times between 10am and 9pm.
Western Foods Thailand
Western Foods Thailand offers a range of British specialties, including pies, quiches and burgers. Technically, it’s not really a grocery shop, but if you don’t mind ordering by email it’s a good place to find ready-made British specialties.
Local, Organic and Artisan Shops
If you are keen on organic food or specialty items, you’ll need to bring some patience to the order form. In some cases, online payments are not supported; in others, you have to place your order by e-mail. Nevertheless, it is possible to get hold of a lot of specialty products online, even if you sometimes have to jump through a few hoops.
Adams Organic delivers organic produce. With a loyal following among the international school community, it appears that most customers find it by word of mouth.
Aside from offering home deliveries, they also offer pick up locations at a number of international schools. You can order your vegetables one by one or pick one of the pre-selected bundles each week.
Baked in Bangkok
Even though Baked in Bangkok lists brownies for sale, this somewhat ambiguously named shop specializes in baked products of the literal kind: cakes, bread and other bakery products. Deliveries throughout Bangkok are available at a flat fee of THB 100.
Food Glorious Food
Food Glorious Food is the online retail outlet of a wholesale meat importer that offers a variety of gourmet choices. Not really the first stop for vegetarians.
HHDelivery is a website that I helped set up for a local charity organization a few years back. HH Delivery offers deliveries of fresh produce from the Khlong Toei market. Prices are actual market rates, and they make money through delivery fees which start at THB 200. Especially for larger orders, this can work out to be cheaper than regular supermarkets.
If you’re looking for Wagyu beef or French cheese online, Passion Delivery is a one-stop solution for premium groceries at a price. The company delivers selected items from shops like The Accidental Butcher and Conkey’s, as well as several other Bangkok artisan stores.
They don’t always list all products (or sizes) for sale by individual suppliers (some of which operate their own online store as well). If you can’t find something specific or want to serve on a bulk order, it can be worth contacting the supplier directly (they’re all listed).
Reflecting the high end product selection, their customer support speaks perfect English, making the delivery process a bit more hassle-free.
Delivery is free for orders of THB 10,000 or more, otherwise it starts from THB 90. PayPal is an option, but there’s a 5% surcharge. Bank transfers save you a few baht. You can choose between two delivery time windows: 10am to 2pm or 2pm and 6pm.
Radiance Wholefoods offers a range of organic and non-organic products from vegetables to baby care products. It’s especially popular for healthier snacks like nuts and dried fruits, which come cheaper than the salted and sweetened versions you find in supermarkets.
Aside from cash on delivery, Radiance Wholefoods accepts payments sent from a Thai bank or Thai PayPal account without surcharge.
Delivery fees depend on your neighborhood and range from THB 50 to THB 200. Radiance Wholefoods requires orders to be placed 24 to 48 hours in advance and delivers only on selected days. In other words, in a worst case scenario, you’ll have to wait up to 5 days for your order to arrive. You can find more details about their delivery process on their FAQ page.
Branded as local health shop, Sunshine Market offers a lot of speciality food items for people looking for organic food, following specific diets or struggling with food allergies.
Given Bangkok’s popularity as a tourist destination, it’s easy to find restaurants catering to practically every kind of diet restriction. The online landscape is not as bountiful, but there are a few options available.
At the time of writing, there is no dedicated Halal online grocery store in Bangkok. However, a number of general online supermarkets stock Halal products. Lynn created a list of available Halal groceries and which shops stock them. I can also recommend HappyFresh, which displays nutrition labels (where you can also see if it has a Halal label) in their product pictures.
While I’m not aware of any delivery services providing exclusively gluten-free options, there are some that have gluten-free categories. PassionDelivery has a range of gluten free products. RadianceWholefoods has a small a category of gluten free flour, bread and pancake mixes. Sunshine Market has a large selection as well, including gluten free vegan products like chocolate and no-egg.
Kin J is a specialty delivery service for vegetarians and vegans that stocks a very large range of Asian mock meats. The majority of their products are produced in Thailand, Malaysia and China.
Started as a paleo-compliant meal delivery service, Paleo Robbie has expanded to offer a grocery delivery service that specializes in pastured animals and wild caught fish. Minimum order amount is THB 1,500.
The owners of the Chabad restaurants also offer a delivery service for Kosher groceries called ‘The Kosher Place‘.
For some reason, supplements are usually sold at a tremendous markup in Bangkok. Prices are in fact so ludicrously high that you could order from the US, and in spite of shipping charges, it would still be cheaper. However, there are some local budget options that allow you to stock up within a reasonable amount of time and more tolerable prices.
At the time of writing, Fitwhey is my go-to choice for protein powder – simply because it not only has the cheapest prices of all online and offline stores that I know of, but also ships for free. The fact that they accept credit cards is a welcome convenience.
iHerb is a US-based online store for supplements that stocks pretty much everything you need at US prices (read: dirt cheap).
The reason I’m including a website based outside of Thailand in this listing can be summed up in one sentence: iHerb ships to Thailand for four dollars. There are local online shops that ship barely 30 minutes away from my place that charge me more than that.
In order to avoid issues with customs, a lot of people recommend to keep orders to less than USD 50 (including shipping charges).
Phuket Health Shop
A long-time favorite among gym-goers in Thailand, Phuket Health Shop offers free delivery offered from THB 2,500. That would be a lot more useful to me if they hadn’t priced my product of choice at THB 2,449. I assume that’s not entirely unintentional. On the plus side, it seems to offer the fastest shipping for supplement products within Thailand – I usually receive my orders within 48 hours.
One way to save some money while ordering groceries online is to go through a cashback website like HappyFresh. It saves you anywhere from 1% (Big C) to 4% (HappyFresh) and while that’s not a life-changing percentage, it does help not to leave money on the table.
All you need to do is to create an account (use invitation code THAISTARTKIT to get a THB 150 sign-up bonus if you join before March 8th, 2017) and go to online stores though links listed on the cashback site. The cashback amount will be automatically calculated and you can later withdraw it through PayPal or Bank Transfer.
DeeDee actually has a number of other large online shops, including Lazada, Zalora, and Central as well as travel website like Agoda, Booking.com, and Expedia. Across all your online shopping the discounts can add up to several times than what you’d get through the traditional loyalty programs of those websites.
My Personal (Sorta) Healthy Online Shopping List
Since online grocery shops don’t carry the same inventory as their offline counterparts, some products can be a bit difficult to come by. Below I’ve listed the ones that are a bit harder to find (as well as with information which shops stock them).
Where possible, I linked directly to the product page at each shop. For HappyFresh, you have to use their online search to find them (be sure not to include ‘%’ in searches – currently that doesn’t seem to work). Products on sale at multiple stores, I linked to whichever store offered it at the cheapest price.
It’s a rather subjective list, but if you share my smoothie-incorporating, nutrition-focused diet, there might be some useful gems.
- Almonds, Raw, 500g: Nuts are good. Almonds are tasty. Sums it up. Available online at Radiance Wholefoods.
- Ayam Light Reduced Sugar and Light Sodium Baked Beans in Tomato Sauce 425g: I’m not terribly worried about sodium, but oh well. Here are some baked beans that have a bit less than the usual amount. Available online at Tesco Lotus.
- Betagen Fermented Milk Fat 0% Sugar 2%: The lowest calorie fermented milk drink on the market. Available online at HappyFresh.
- Chabaa 100% Pomegranate & Grape Juice 1000ml: Superfood or not, I can’t stand eating actual pomegranate. Juice is fine though and I don’t mind the grapes. Available online at Tesco Lotus.
- Dotter Henn Tammachad Eggs Add DHA 10 pcs: Eggs with added DHA. Not really necessary if you take a supplement for that. Available online at Tesco Lotus.
- Fiamma Lentils In Brine: Lentils offer a lot of nutrition buck for calorie bang, especially if you’re vegetarian or looking to lose weight. Available online at HappyFresh (Gourmet Market).
- Foremost Omega Plain Flavoured UHT Milk 180ml x 4pcs: I read nutrition labels for 30 minutes to pick the fortified milk suitable most suitable for vegetarians. Available online at Tesco Lotus.
- Hershey’s Natural Unsweetened Cocoa Powder 226g: Comes in a box. You’ll appreciate that once you tried to pry cocoa powder out of an aluminum bag. Good for smoothies. Available online at Tesco Lotus.
- Lindt Excellence Dark 85% Cocoa Dark Chocolate 35g: Once chocolate is in the house, it’s gone. That’s why I order it in 35g packs. Available at Tesco Lotus.
- Meji Bulgaria Original Flavour Set Yoghurts 110g x 4pcs: Due to low sugar and fat contents, this is my favorite yogurt sold online. Available online at Tesco Lotus.
- Meiji Non Fat Pasteurized Milk 2,000ml: My favorite low fat milk, though Dutchmill is a close second. Available online at Tesco Lotus.
- PA by Panasia Frozen Mandarin Orange: These are great for smoothies: blend them with ice, yogurt and vanilla protein powder. Available online at HappyFresh.
- Président Light Processed Cheese Slices 10 slices: Low-fat cheese is a decent source of vegetarian protein, though ‘gourmet’ it certainly is not. Available at Tesco Lotus.
- Quaker Instant Oatmeal 800g: Mixed in yogurt and with fresh fruit (apples preferred), this is my breakfast of champions. Available online at HappyFresh and Tesco Lotus.
- Silk Organic Soy Milk Unsweetened 946ml: Absolutely the most delicious thing you can put in your coffee. Available online at Big C.
- Sunny Day Frozen Raspberry: I’m a bit on the fence about these as the seeds make them a tad unpleasant for smoothies but still doable. Available online at HappyFresh (Big C).
- Tchibo Exclusive Decaf Coffee 100g: Not a Pacamara (so good, go try), but a decaf coffee option that’s moderately priced. Available online at Tesco Lotus.
- Twinings Earl Grey Decaf Tea 50g: Not cheap, but a game changer if you love tea and want to avoid caffeine. Available online at TOPS.
I’ve left out fresh fruits and vegetables from the above list as the availability of them is very seasonal. For organic options, you can check artisan and organic stores like Adams Organic. Otherwise Tesco Lotus would be my shop of choice for fruits and vegetables.
For lazy muesli and smoothies, I recommend going with pre-cut fruits and veggies. HappyFresh has the most extensive selection for those.
As you can see, most of the items I buy are stocked by Tesco Lotus, making it my preferred choice for orders, with HappyFresh coming in a close second.
Tricks and Deals
There’s a few things to keep in mind when ordering online to make sure you get the best service quality and the lowest price possible:
- Delivery times can be set to when your maid is at home. I always have orders delivered on the same time and day. She accepts the orders and fills up my fridge.
- Order before you run out (duh!). If items weren’t in stock on the day of the delivery (happens with at least one product in two out of three orders), you still have time to buy it elsewhere.
- If there is a coupon requiring a minimum purchase, add things like water, toiletries, bathroom supplies to reach the required minimum spend. Anything that can be stored for a long time works out well for this purpose.
- Keep a list of favorites. Some shops create it automatically (e.g. Tesco Lotus), in which case you have delete stuff from it that you don’t plan on ordering again. Others (e.g. HappyFresh) require you to manually add items. It’s usually much faster to go through a list of favorites than to select products one by one from the shop. I found that I mostly order the same ~100 products. Saves me also the work of making a shopping list. The favorite list is easier to ‘work through’ and reorder whatever I’m out of.
- Some shops make it very easy to find heavily discounted items. If you’re a bargain hunter, buy-1-get-1-free (Big C) and buy-1-Get-1-free (TOPS) are two pages worth checking out on a weekly basis.
A lot of people still prefer shopping for groceries old style – some because they find it a relaxing day out where they get to meet neighbors, others prefer picking their own vegetables, and for some the price difference between a delivery service and a local market makes all the difference.
If you’re looking for some more information on buying food the old-fashioned way in Bangkok, you can check out the Renegade Travels guide to grocery shopping in Bangkok, if you’re living in lower Sukhumvit this overview by ThaiWebsites on local supermarkets might come in handy. In case you’re a bit curious about ownership structures and the specific demographic targeting of the different supermarket chains, then check out Pete’s overview of grocery options in the capital.
I remember when Silk soy milk was sold out across most stores in Bangkok (they solved that problem by increasing the price by 50%). I ended up calling the importer directly and had it delivered to my place (at retail price).
The above is a list of shops officially offering online order services. In reality, a lot of specialty stores, restaurants and importers deliver products to your door if you just call them up. If you’re not sure who stocks it, check the manufacturer or import labels on the products.
There are constantly new shops and delivery services launching. LINE recently announced that they will offer a grocery delivery service soon. If there’s one you know of that you’d like to recommend, please let me know in the comments and I’ll make sure to give it a spin and add it to the list above.