The average cost of a meal in my household is RM4.47 per meal. I don’t know about you, but I consider that a successful and CHEAP meal prep in Malaysia, considering I (mostly) use healthy ingredients.
Here’s how I got the RM4.47 figure:
- In 2021, my Groceries cost totaled RM10,724.53 for 2 people in my household
- Assuming 200 meals a month (2 people x 100 meals per person (4 meals a day including 1 snack x 30 days in a month, minus 20 meals dined out or skipped)
- That means RM10,724.53 divided by 12 months divided by 200 meals = RM4.47 per meal
- *all data taken from my expense tracking app
Again, that is the average cost. Some meals are more expensive (when we buy meat), others are damn cheap (when I score vegetables on sale). Regardless, I think RM4.47 is a pretty good amount, considering we eat well.
Here are the 3 steps I use to prepare my cheap meal prep in Malaysia:
Step 1: Find value for money groceries
Value for money groceries could be items on sale, and it could also be locally-produced items (instead of groceries flown in from other countries), which tend to be cheaper.
Here’s a short, but handy list of cheap and local ingredients you can look out for:
Price estimate: RM0.50-RM1 per serving
*Fried, Boiled, Soup, Steamed, Raw, etc
- Long Beans
- Bitter gourd
Price estimate: RM1-RM2 per serving
- Egg (Boiled! Mata kerbau! Dadar! Bistik-style!)
- Hard tofu
- Soft tofu
- Egg tofu
- Braised peanut
- Catfish aka ikan keli (small)
- Ikan kembung (small)
- Ikan cencaru (small)
- Ikan tongkol (small)
- A single portion of chicken
Category: Pure flavour
Price estimate: RM0.10-RM0.50 per serving; add to vegetables and/or protein
- Sambal (Belacan, Ikan bilis, Petai, Tempoyak, Mangga, etc)
- Kuah (Kari, Gulai, Asam Pedas, Dhal, etc)
A short note on appreciating local ingredients as healthy ingredients
We should contribute to the growing movement of re-appreciating local food. Is it possible that the only reason why we think salmon, blueberries and the like is healthIER is because of Western influence, when in fact our local ingredients are not only cheaper but BETTER, nutritionally speaking?
As an example, see the below Ikan Kembung vs Ikan Salmon comparison
Going to leave you with that FOOD for thought (geddit? geddit? hehe)
Step 2: I avoid wasting food.
Wasting food = wasting money, so I made a system to eliminate food waste. This system helps me to keep track of what ingredients I have left.
Whenever I have a particular produce just sitting there in my fridge, in danger of rotting, I also use Supercook to suggest what I should make.
The idea is that you can search for recipes based on ingredients you already have. I absolutely LOVE that I can find new things to cook based on what I already have, or need to finish using up.
The recipes are taken from legit, established websites for foodies. Think allrecipes.com, and food.com.
For example, you can see here that I can make 7,756 recipes with the 58 ingredients I have on hand!
I really do love Supercook to do cheap meal prep in Malaysia. From it, I get to try random cuisines, based on what I already have. They can be a hit or miss, but no one can blame the adventurous cook.
I also love that I get to try new recipes this way. This was how I learned how to make lentil soup, and banana cake baked with yogurt, and eggplant lasagna.
Step #3: I find recipes that saves time
If time = money, then priotising recipes that saves me time have saved me a shit load of money. These recipes usually involve:
- batch-cooking, and/or
- one-pot dishes, and/or
- cook-and-forget system
For example, when I buy a whole chicken, I will do the marinade + soup combo because its so easy. Just prep and leave them to cook in the over and rice cooker, and it’ll come out delicious. Just cook rice and prepare veges and that’s meals for the next 1 week, sorted.
How do you do your cheap meal prep in Malaysia?
My meals cost RM4.47 on average, but as mentioned, yours will be different. Your schedule are different from mine. We live in different areas. We frequent different shops. We get different produces and sales.
Also, food preference is a very personalised thing, so your grocery costs could be much cheaper or much more expensive than mine. Also, you might follow a special doctor-prescribed diet. So I won’t impose a ‘do this, not that’ on you.
Regardless, the three things I shared above could help you start somewhere. Let me know in the comments what other tips you use in your own life to make your own cheap meal prep in Malaysia