I can't say that I was ever poor, because I was fortunate enough that my family did pretty okay. Even when my dad's business folded, and my mom got retrenched in her prime... I was lucky that I managed to score bursaries and scholarships to fund my own education, and eventually put myself through university.
So growing up, I never experienced poverty like a lot of less fortunate Singaporeans might have had. And I'm grateful for that.
However, I did live in Thailand for a while as a research assistant, back when I was still in poly. And I did it on my own dime. FYI: when I entered on a scholarship, I wasn't taking a single cent from my parents, and worked during the school holidays for pocket money.
Granted, the programme and my school paid for my accommodations in a hostel as well as for my air tickets. And the research institute did give me a living allowance.
But I certainly wasn't living like a king there and I wanted to make sure that whatever money I had lasted for as long as possible.
Even though things in Thailand were cheaper than in Singapore, the living allowance (about THB6,000 or ~S$264) wasn't that much either. For context, if you ate at the university canteen or on the street, you'll spend about THB100 to 150 per day — this was back in 2007 - 2008. And since accommodations are taken care of, technically can survive lah...
I did miss home-cooked food though (my grandma's cooking to be specific). But I can't fly her out there. So with my limited funds, I would always make sure that I have a bottle of this:
Source: Sinhua Hock Kee Trading (S) Pte Ltd
That's a bottle of Triple A Pickled Lettuce. Or if you live in a typical Chinese household, like me, then you would probably know this as cai xin. A bottle costs about S$1.50 to S$1.65 and you can easily find it in your local supermarket (or I'm guessing... any Asian supermarket worldwide).
And that's something which my grandma would pair with rice porridge for a very simple lunch.
So that's what I did too for a cheap meal or when I missed home (and my grandma). Plain rice porridge (or jok) was super easy to find in Thailand, and was really cheap (about THB30 or S$1.32).
If I'd like a little protein in my jok, I would get some pork meatballs or an egg cracked in it. And it'd only cost THB40 or S$1.77.
So... what's my favourite poverty meal that I'll eat regardless of my financial status?
Rice porridge with a side of cai xin
Because it reminds me of my times as a research assistant in a sleepy university town north of Bangkok... and of my grandma.
In Brunei, we have an almost nasi lemak equivalent called nasi katok. The origin came from olden times when peddlers would "katok" door to door and sell cheap $1 rice + chiken + sambal in brown paper.
We've got plenty of other abominations that costs higher but nothing beats the plain one. I do still eat it from time to time.
HC Tang, Financial Enthusiast, Budgeting at The Society
Chicken rice at $2.5/$3. Till today it's still my almost daily meals..
Rice and dishes at $2.70/$3.20 which is 2 vegetables 1 meat and provides the daily nutritious.
Ever survive also on just plain rice add light soya sauce or with sweet potato that I go dig up and cook, or fried rice only at $0.50. I'll still eat those regardless of time / age or financial status.
After all, we eat to live. We don't live to eat. If we get to live and eat , it's a blessings.
Oh Yi Ning, Financial Advisor at AIA Singapore
Top Contributor (Dec)
Imma caipng boy. All my caipng are in .png format too.
1 meat + 1 veg = meal for the next 5 hours
Jie Sheng, Seedly Student Ambassador 2020/21 at Seedly
Answered on 10 Aug 2020
Bread with kopi, milo or hot choco.
$0.05 Instant coffee every morning. I buy stocks in Starbucks instead of sipping on $5 lattes.
Some eat to live, some live to eat. I'm the former 95% of the time.
I do not see it as a poverty meal, it's simply being smart about your finances. I've dinned in expensive restaurants which honestly, are not worth their value in taste. There are nice ones, but truthfully, the curve is exponential and not something which I can appreciate fully. What they cannot do in taste, they make up for in ambience. This sounds like 92% of fund managers who never beat the index but come in nice suits and shiny brochures.
Being a true blue Singaporean, I would very much prefer char kway teow which has been perfected over a period of 30 years in the family from a humid, stuffy hawker than a posh restaurant who throws in their rendition from a discipline of fine dining. There are some dishes which should stay traditional.
1) White bread with butter/kaya/peanut butter spread
2) White bread with Ayam brand tuna
3) Mixed Veg Rice (From hawker/ market & small eateries) and don't order fish
4) $2-$3 Chicken Rice
5) BeeHoon/Mee with 1-2 side dish of your choice
For drinks wise, plain water to save money & stay hydrated :)
$2 McChicken a la carte and $1 junior coke without ice
ayam brand canned tuna (olive / sunflower oil)
tub of yoghurt to last several meals.
nowadays, I try to prep salad at home or simple boiled stuff. Can save some moolah now that I'm not working in any formal capacity.
I don't think choice of food has anything to do with financial status period lol.
While I enjoy the very frequent hawker meals, I rarely indulge and prefer to prepare my meals at home, which is also surprisingly easy and cheap.
My go to's are:
Air fry anything with minimal oil and no condiments
Boiled eggs (I love this)
Also, don't say poverty la. :')
One portion of chicken breast + rice + cabbage dinner
Understand this is probably not the cheapest option but it is my pretty reasonable poverty meal because at least I got the protein + carbs. Depending on how much you eat and portion, one meal should be about $1+, where the costs mainly come from chicken breast, so to reduce cost, reduce chicken breast
Cook and portion into tuppleware containers, then put into freezer weekly so you can quickly microwave it when you need to.
Can spoil yourself with some Teriyaki Marinade or Soya Sauce from time to time too :')