budget meal malaysia
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Budget Meal Hack: How I Cook (for RM2.86 a Meal)

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It seems that a lot of people really liked my post on my grocery budget, specifically how I calculated that my average meal costs only RM2.86.

Grocery shopping is a very personalised thing, so forgive me if I’m hesitant to ‘advice’ you on how to shop. I can’t, I won’t. You know your own tastes, preferences, habits, allergies, better than I do. I won’t impose a ‘do this, not that’ on you.

Having said that I will share what I usually put in my grocery basket.

  • Carbs: brown rice, noodles, pasta, cous cous, oatmeal, wholemeal  bread and wraps
  • Fats: Butter, olive oil, vegetable oil
  • Protein: Tofu, eggs, tempeh, seafood, antibiotic-free chicken
  • Snacks: Popcorn, chocolate, nuts, cranberries
  • Vegetable and Fruits: a lot – whatever is seasonal or on sale
  • Frozen stuff: Corn, spinach, berries
  • Tinned: Tomatoes, tuna
  • Seasonings: Onion, garlic, ginger, Chinese & Malay herbal soup packs, Italian herbs, turmeric, chili powder
  • Stuff on clearance: really varies
  • Stuff I felt like trying: really varies but kept minimal

I stopped buying:

  • Red meat
  • Processed meats like hot dogs and nuggets
  • Treats, unless its on sale or clearance
  • Soda and juices (although I do buy Nutrimalt and Coconut Water when I have craving for them)

It’s fairly healthy, isn’t it? #humblebrag

Step 1: Find value for money groceries

Every time I grocery shop, I look at price (or value for money) first, and then I think of what I feel like eating. If something is selling at a good price, I will usually buy it in bulk. And for better or for worse, I hate throwing away food. That’s like throwing money away. So usually I will force myself to finish the bulk purchase, especially if its perishable.

(Months ago I bought a 2-kilo watermelon because it was RM0.99 a kilo. I ate it in two days. I ate a 2-kilo watermelon in two days. Delicious, but I’ll be happy not to have it again for some time. )

Whenever I have an excess in a particular produce  just sitting there in my fridge, in danger of rotting, I will use this hack to use it up.

Step 2: Use up the ingredients you already have via Supercook.com

screenshot-www supercook com 2015-12-20 14-14-59
Click logo to go to the website

Supercook is awesome, I’ve used it for years.

The idea is that you can search for recipes based on ingredients you already have. Most cooking websites list recipes – you might have the ingredient, you might not. I absolutely LOVE that I can find new things to cook based on what I already have.

screenshot-www supercook com 2015-12-20 14-17-122

The recipes are taken from legit, established websites for foodies. Think allrecipes.com, and food.com.

For example, this is my front page:

screenshot-www supercook com 2015-12-20 14-17-12

As you can see, based on what I already have, I can make 761 recipes. I haven’t put all my ingredients in yet, so the number is probably higher.

There are many features in Supercook that I love.

1) I can blacklist some ingredients

Being (brainwashed) Muslim and all, I don’t take porcine products. So I add it to my restricted list, and all recipes containing those ingredients don’t get displayed.

screenshot-www supercook com 2015-12-20 14-17-122

If you have allergies to nuts, dairy, shellfish, or follow a vegetarian or restrictive diet, you can add those in as well.

2) I can search recipes by specific ingredients

Right now, I have a lot of lemon. If I select on ‘lemon’, Supercook can emphasise which recipes require it, so I can use it up quicker.

Look, I have 351 recipes to choose from.

screenshot-www supercook com 2015-12-20 14-34-18

And all of them look so delicious, yum.

3) I can further filter by cuisine and meal type

Related to above, I can further zoom in according to cuisine,

screenshot-www supercook com 2015-12-20 14-41-59

Or meal type (breakfast, lunch, dinner, desserts, etc)

(for some reason the ‘meal type’ button doesn’t work right now, so no pic)

If you have more than 1 ingredient to finish up, you can even put both, or more, in.

Say if I need to use up my lemons and tomatoes, I’ll click on both of them.

screenshot-www supercook com 2015-12-20 14-54-38

I can make 19 recipes to use up my lemons and tomatoes.

4) I get to try different cuisines and cooking methods on a budget

I enjoy cooking. I splurge on ingredients, occasionally. But I don’t really want to splurge on it that often because tasty food doesn’t mean expensive food.

Through Supercook.com, 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 never imagined I would love lentil soup, or banana cake baked with yogurt (apparently I am known for this cake among my friends).

Or eggplant lasagna or cheese-baked rice.

I have friends who request my butter cookies and my mango preserves from recipes taken from here.

Okay, enough blowing my own horn :p

How do you turn your regular meals into budget meals?

The point is, my meals are inexpensive and healthy because of a combination of lifestyle habits. Your habits and mine might not be the same. We live in different areas. We frequent different shops. We get different produces and sales.

But what can help in improving your grocery budget is to minimise, as much as possible, the amount we throw away.

Apparently, wasting money through throwing away spoiled groceries is very, very common. In US, between 40-50% of all food bought is thrown away. There’s no stats about Malaysia that I can find, but if my family is an indication, they throw away a lot of food too. It makes me sad.

If you/your family throw out a conservative 20% of food away, that’s 20% of your grocery bill that you can slash by planning your meals better.

Supercook.com is not the magic solution to everything. But it may help you, like it helped me.

Try it out, yeah?

Link to Supercook.com.

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