How to Save Money on Food in Hawaii

Waikiki and Honolulu, Hawaii
Waikiki and Honolulu, Hawaii (Image: honolulu, waikiki beach from diamond head image by Robert Young from <a href=''></a>)

Hawaii is known for its tropical climate and beautiful scenery as well the high prices that residents and tourists pay to enjoy this paradise. Because Hawaii imports much of its food supply from the mainland U.S. and other countries, prices are higher to offset costs associated with transportation. On top of this, merchants tend to pass the cost of business taxes on to customers, making food prices even higher, particularly in areas that are popular with tourists. To save money on food in Hawaii shoppers have to know where to look and how to shop.

Things You'll Need

  • Cash
  • Reusable shopping bag
  • Refrigerator/freezer

Find and purchase produce at local farmers' markets, small farms or gardens. There is no shortage of farmers' markets in the Hawaiian islands, as well as small roadside stands, family farms and gardens. These businesses carry locally grown produce and will often reduce the price of goods toward the end of the day or near the close of the market. Chinatown in downtown Honolulu is popular among both residents and tourists for the low cost produce, meat and fish found in the many indoor and outdoor markets.

Buy local produce in Hawaii to save money.
Buy local produce in Hawaii to save money. (Image: farmers market image by AGITA LEIMANE from <a href=''></a>)

Shop at discount stores such as locally owned Times, Don Qujiote, Foodland and Price Busters. Check the local newspaper and "Midweek" for sales advertisements and weekly specials.

Avoid shopping in areas that cater to tourists. Chain stores and even smaller family-owned businesses that are located in tourist locales generally pay higher rent and taxes, and pass the costs on to consumers.

Waikiki Is a popular tourist destination on Oahu.
Waikiki Is a popular tourist destination on Oahu. (Image: waikiki - ocean view room image by Michelle D. Parker from <a href=''></a>)

Shop at Sam’s Club or Costco on any of the main Hawaiian islands, including Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island of Hawaii. Not only will you find locally grown foods and cultural favorites at these stores, but shoppers can also save significantly on meat and dairy products.

Stay away from tourist destinations when food shopping.
Stay away from tourist destinations when food shopping. (Image: blue grocery image by robert mobley from <a href=''></a>)

Find and use coupons. If you are shopping for prepared food items or fast food, browse through an Entertainment book or a local visitor’s guide for money-saving coupons. Manufacturer coupons for items that are typically found in grocery stores are hard to come by, though they can be sent from mainland friends or family or found from online resources.

Find out when food items of your choice will arrive in the store you frequent. Because of Hawaii's isolated location it is not uncommon for stores to run out of popular items, particularly sale items. Some fresh meat, such as certain types of fish, are shipped in once a week and quickly sell out. By knowing when to shop, you can purchase and freeze items at their freshest, and at a reasonable price.

Grow your own food. Start a container garden or rent a spot at a community garden where you can grow and harvest food year-round. The weather in Hawaii is ideal for growing fruit such as bananas, papaya, mangoes, pineapple and guava. Vegetables such as kale can be grown in a container garden if space is an issue.

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