Budgeting

2 Ways Singaporeans Can Save Money on Food Without Compromising Their Health

saving money at lunch singapore

Joanne Poh

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Unless the day comes when humans find a way to convert sunlight into nutrients through photosynthesis, we’re pretty much stuck paying for food in order to stay alive. With restaurant prices rising steadily in Singapore, let’s hope you have decent cooking skills

While the poor man’s go-to meal is instant noodles, try eating those every day and see if you have any hair left by the end of the first year. Instead, try these three ways to save money on food without destroying your health.

 

When you eat at hawker centres, go for the healthiest possible options

Okay, let’s not kid ourselves here—the overwhelming majority of food being sold at hawker centres is terribly unhealthy. And yes, that includes dishes like fish soup and yong tau foo, which people often regard as healthier options. The soup is loaded with oil, salt and the stall’s secret ingredient which you’re probably better off not knowing about.

Still, there are a few options that are actually fairly healthy, although these might not be available at all hawker centres.

One relatively nutritious dish is thunder tea rice, which while a relatively rare feature at hawker centres, has started appearing with more regularity. Not all hawker centres have an actual thunder tea rice stall—it’s sometimes offered as one of the vegetarian stall’s options. Other than Lau Pa Sat, you can also find thunder tea rice at Bukit Timah Food Centre, amongst others.

Stalls at some hawker centres frequented by well-heeled office workers, such as Amoy Street Food Centre, have also started selling salads, which are modelled after chains like Salad Stop, except that they’re cheaper. Go easy on the sauces if you’re trying to limit your calorie intake. Even with the sauce, though, you can’t argue against the nutritional value of lots of greens, tomatoes and broccoli.

There are also some stalls that serve herbal soups which have been brewed over many hours. These stalls tend to also offer lighter steamed dishes and, if they’ve branded themselves as a healthy option, are a better alternative to the usual cai png.

Finally, no matter what you’re eating, remember that you can always ask for less oil or salt.

 

When cooking, always opt to make from scratch rather than buy pre-made

Singaporeans studying overseas always get excited when their parents send them packets of instant laksa flavouring or chicken curry.

It is very tempting to just buy that packet of “pad thai” flavouring, because who doesn’t like pad thai, right? But being overly reliant on pre-made ingredients and meals can compromise your health as such “food” contains a whole host of preservatives and chemicals.

There’s almost always a way to make something from scratch. If you really wanted to, you could make green curry on your own by pounding the ingredients manually with a pestle. You can make your own sambal by putting all the components through a blender.

Finally, as convenient as they might be, avoid pre-made meals and TV dinners like the plague. It might be so easy to stick them in the microwave when you get back from work at 9pm and are too tired to cook, but avoid eating processed junk like that every day.

If the reason you never cook is that it’s too time-consuming, you should look to making simpler recipes that take less time. Even if the only thing you can cook is pasta, you can make a simple tomato pasta sauce very easily by cooking sliced cherry tomatoes in a pan with some olive oil and garlic. It’s not only healthier but also cheaper than buying one of those Prego sauces in a bottle.

What are your eating habits like? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.