Is it really that hard to save up on food money?
Saving money on a daily or monthly basis may be easy for some, but for others it may seem like an uphill struggle. I, for one, suffer from the latter. While I could scrimp and save by restraining my impulses towards cosmetics, shoes, clothes or even games….food is my weakness.
Each time I visit a shopping mall I’ll be assaulted by a myriad of delicious smells coming from snack bars or restaurants, which makes me salivate and want to eat them all up. Not fun especially when one is trying to control some form of weight management *cough* yeah right *cough*
So how can one save some food money for the proverbial rainy days? I took this question on Twitter and got a series of interesting answers. Some more…extreme than the rest.
BYOF (Bring Your Own Food)
This is an oldie but always a goodie. Not only can you portion out your meals nicely, you are in control of the amount of spices and ingredients used for each meal set.
For this project, the popular ingredients you should invest on are carrots, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, cheap leafy greens like kangkung (water spinach) or long beans, chicken meat. If you wish to opt for the slightly unhealthy version, get a huge packet of frozen sausages too.
Root vegetables last pretty long, while leafy greens do not. So remember to plan your meals carefully to avoid wastage (I am still trying to work on this myself). Usually when I’m at the market (I go to Giant hypermarket because it’s the closest and the most convenient location for me, but I strongly suggest checking out NSK or EconSave if you can. Super good place to save money) I would purchase enough for about 2 weeks worth of lunch and dinner meals.
This is actually a reiteration from my previous point (BYOF). But yes, figuring out where would be the cheapest to shop would actually help save a fair amount of money. Just remember never to forgo quality for the sake of cost!
Start shopping at AEON, Tesco, AEON Big, Giant, EconSave, TF Value Mart, NSK more often instead of the ‘higher end’ places such as Mercato and Ben’s Independent Grocer (BIG).
Mind you, I’m not saying that the ‘higher end’ places are bad to shop at. I personally visit their stores from time to time for bargain hunting too! You just need to sort out which areas are more worth it to shop for what.
For example, I prefer buying my (organic) greens at Jaya Grocer or Village Grocer because they tend to last longer than the ones at Giant. But if I’m looking for imported goods, Jaya Grocer or Village Grocer would be my favorite go-to places. I also shop at Giant or Village Grocer more often than at other markets, purely out of convenience. However I would always make the attempt to go to NSK or EconSave when I can once a month (if I ever do at all!) to stock up on items that have a longer shelf life like canned foods, sauces, frozen food, etc.
Also, pre-plan your meals if possible! It helps if you make a shopping list on items you would like to store for the month, and perishables you need to stock up on a weekly basis. That way you won’t end up buying far too much in one shopping spree.
Budget “Focus” Groups
This was an idea triggered by me and my friends after we began tweeting to each other on where to get what at a cheaper cost. For example, tinned sardines are cheaper at Tesco right now if compared to Giant or NSK; but fresh spinach is cheaper by the bundle only at Giant. This, in a way, saves you loads of time trying to compare prices everywhere at the same time. Seriously.
I wish we have a real-time app for this where everyone can contribute the current prices from different markets. But for now, you can download the SmartShopper Malaysia app to start comparing prices at the convenience of your smart phone 🙂
El-Cheapo “Chap Fan” with (free) refillable drinks and soup
The easiest way to inflate your meal budget is by taking in loads of meat (expensive). I’m usually the cheapskate when it comes to budget rice meals, so I tend to load up with vegetables and tofu (or one slice of egg) instead. This would ensure that my meal cost below RM6 if I’m careful enough. If you really gotta have meat, opt for a small portion of chicken. Avoid fish and red meat, as those can really rack up the RM if you’re not careful!
Refillable drinks and soups are a plus here! Instead of forking out an additional 70 cents to RM1 for a glass of Chinese Tea (I call this coloured water lol) see if you can have your meal time at a shop that provides boiled water or Chinese Tea for free! You can save up to RM5 a week just by forgoing the drink at each meal.
My tip: Opt for Malay “nasi campur” food stalls instead of Chinese or Mamak if you’re really in dire need to budget. There, try to take only vegetables and perhaps a slice of egg for your meal. I find that it is usually cheaper than the Chinese and Mamak stalls ^_^
Office “Om Nom Nom” Pantry
Not enough food money? Ransack your office pantry (if any) for some biscuits; perhaps a cup of hot Milo or coffee to complete your lunch set? If you’re lucky enough, you may just unearth a stash of instant noodles too! But please don’t be a dumbass and steal other people’s food k? Only take the food that is meant for everyone in the office.
If your office has one of those ‘free food’ cafe, then good for you! Just remember not to be selfish or greedy and hoard the food all for yourself. Eat moderately; the food won’t run away another day!
Well if all else fails, why not have a go at fasting during the day and have your meal only at night? It’s not easy but well, think of the ka-chings saved!
Of course, do not attempt this if you really can’t do so due to health conditions. Also, no one’s stopping anyone from consuming drinks (office pantry yay!) from day to night anyway 🙂 so scrimp on food money but have fun with drinks like water and cheap coffee (no Starbucks for you!)
So now you’ve read a couple of what I’ve gleaned so far, what’s your money-saving tips? I’m curious to learn more! 🙂