When you think about the cheapest food in Singapore, you may have the familiar few places in mind.
Hawker centre, an air-conditioned food court, or maybe even the local McDonald’s.
But in this article, we want to share how we’ve managed to build a 90-meal plan on less than $150 a month. Why 90 meals?
That’s 30 days, of 3 meals of breakfast, lunch and dinner.
And don’t worry, this doesn’t involve you eating grass. So relax.
Here are some principles that have helped us to get the cheapest food, and to go under $150 each month.
Cheap food doesn’t have to mean shit food
Cheap isn’t bad food. We have a fallacy of thinking that the cheapest food will give us bad nutrients. Or that they won’t be tasty.
I mean, honestly…who needs more fancy teabags? Or nice looking boxes?
The expensive food you’re paying for, more often than not, is a luxury tax on the fancy packaging you’re paying for. The smooth wrapper. Or the box with the nice design. Or even a paper bag from an upmarket supermarket.
You get the idea.
Instead, you can get many nutritious things that are probably the cheapest in the supermarket.
Here are our favourites.
- A box of 30 eggs
- A whole chicken
- Frozen fish/chicken/meats
With a bunch of spices, under a grill, you could probably do very good meals with them.
But you should probably stop eating shit food too
You’re consuming more, because your body craves the sugary, fatty hits you’re used to in chocolates, sweets, and everything nice.
Stopping them can probably reduce the amounts you’re consuming daily.
You can eat out, but just once a month
An average restaurant meal in Singapore is about $15. Eating it every week is bound to make you go over the budget.
I’ve seen people earning $2000 a month who eat at restaurants every day, and they are hardly the better for it.
You don’t have to always go to a restaurant to have fun with your friends.
I know I know, in Singapore there’s not much of a hosting culture, where you can bring your friend to your homes. But what you can do, is to find free public spaces where you can chill with your buddies.
What I’ve found to be great places are libraries, where there’s great aircon, and great inspiration. Hopefully none of the NLB people come here to catch us.
Cooking is still the cheapest
However you look at it, cooking is still the cheapest way to eat, even here in Singapore. You may think that your $4 chicken rice sounds reasonable, until you realise that the entire chicken of $9 at your local supermarket could probably make you 10 plates of chicken rice.
Whilst it can seem more troublesome initially to cook your own food, after doing it for a while, you will start to enjoy it. You will find yourself being more conscious of how much salt you actually put into your food, and how attuned your tastebuds have become to the high fat, high sugar, high salt of what you have in restaurants.
For a real look behind what chefs do with your food, I would highly recommend Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, a behind the scenes look at how your food is actually prepared.
When you cook, you also find yourself naturally eating less, as your food is no longer as tasty.
No offence to you, but your food doesn’t taste as good because it’s not loaded with the MSG that hawkers put into their food to make you want more of their food.
Free weight loss! Why not?
Be okay with eating the same thing
The reason you don’t get the cheapest food, is because you want variety. Whereas people in an era before supermarkets would have been okay with eating eggs everyday, you are spoiled for choice today.
Professor Steve Peters, the sport psychiatrist behind the successes of Liverpool Football Club and British Cycling, has often recommended people who want to lose weight to keep eating the same thing.
The cheapest food is the most filling food. And that tends to be the foundation that we miss – protein.
Where to go
Now that we’ve got the basic principles out of the way, here are some ways to get the cheapest food in Singapore. We also include places you probably shouldn’t go.
What if I work in Central?
If you work in the Central Business District (CBD), you’re probably not going to find cheap food around, that’s below $5.
What can you do?
Bring your own food
I can sense your squirm. How do you explain your Tupperware of food in front of your other rich colleagues splashing $19 on some fancy spinach bowl?
Forget about them.
If they’re there to judge you for being thrifty, that’s their problem. Not yours.
At the end of the day, you’re the one who’s going to be able to walk away from your job, and do whatever you want, rather than being tethered to a job that pays for things you don’t really want, to impress people you don’t really like.
You can also choose to make microwave ovens your new friends. Go into the pantry. Microwave your food.
You’ll probably find newer, and better friends there, those who like a quiet cup of coffee, deep conversations, rather than the loud, gregarious, and pretentious conversations you have, yelling over the din of Lau Pa Sat.
WHAT DRINK DO YOU WANT?!
You get the idea.
Supermarkets and their reduced to clear cooked foods
Well, if you’re lazy to cook, there’s always the option of going to supermarkets to get their cooked foods. At places like NTUC, they have roasted pork knuckles, roast chicken, and all sorts of other cooked foods. Getting these in bulk, when they are reduced to clear, can mean you save a ton.
For example, a roast chicken reduced to clear may be $5.90, and you get to eat it for 3 meals. That becomes cheaper.
Here we recommend NTUC and Cold Storage. Cold Storage has a great selection of cooked foods that they reduce to clear usually after 7pm. To be safe, go there at 730PM. But it depends on where you go. In the heartlands, the cooked food is taken away in about 5 minutes, whereas in more central districts, you would see the reduced to clear seated there… for a long time.
That means that if your office is in Central, you may want to head to your nearest Cold Storage to get the food before you go home.
Time is money
If you think that bringing your own food is a waste of time, think again. Think of the countless hours you’ve sat in restaurants, waiting for food, listening to gripes about the bosses, rants about the work, and honestly, not caring very much about what’s being said.
You wish you were someplace else.
Bringing your own food can save you all that hassle.
There’s no shame in finding cheaper food
For the many people I’ve seen, I can sense their discomfort when they see the menu prices. I know the salaries they earn don’t allow them to eat at such prices, regularly.
Yet I see them making nary a protest when our teams go there.
We pretend to be rich. But what’s the point? Why would you want to spend money you worked so hard to get, on things that bring you little joy?
There’s no shame in finding the cheapest food.