How to Save More Amid Rising Food Prices
- Escalating food bills are placing additional strain on local households, but there are ways to optimise your budget and make the most of it.
Behind Malaysia’s bustling culinary tapestry, an economic challenge is stretching household budgets to their limits. Once celebrated for its affordability, our nation now grapples with the spectre of inflating food prices.
Although recent data from the Consumer Price Index suggests easing price tensions and a potential economic recovery, the sobering reality remains: Food costs reportedly skyrocketed by 60 percent in 2022. This has left many Malaysians — both the B40 community and the urban middle class in big cities — reeling from its impact. Chicken meat, a dietary staple for many, exemplifies this trend. Previously capped at RM8.90 per kg, its retail price saw a spike in July 2022, settling at a new ceiling of RM9.40 per kg and has not looked back since.
Thankfully, Malaysia’s Budget 2024, announced in October 2023, offers a glimmer of hope in the fight against this crisis.
The government has committed to fortifying national food security with a comprehensive strategy to support the agricultural sector. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has allocated RM2.6 billion for subsidies to farmers and fishermen, a significant increase of RM600 million from the previous year. To encourage innovation and competitiveness in agriculture, the budget includes a fund of RM430 million that offers loans to young agro-food entrepreneurs. These measures address challenges and pave the way for a sustainable food future, serving as an inspiration for other countries to take decisive action towards securing a better future for all.
After all, this is not just a ‘Malaysia thing’. It echoes a larger global narrative: external pressures, wavering supply chains, and unpredictable market forces have combined to cast a shadow over the international food industry, prompting concern and caution.
Countries previously teetering on the edge of food shortages now find themselves in deeper waters with the recent price hikes. Data from the World Food Programme sketches a stark picture: those battling severe food insecurity in 2023 have nearly doubled since 2020, to 345 million worldwide. Tragically, it is often the poorest — those who spend most of their meagre earnings on sustenance — who are most affected by this crisis.
When every ringgit counts, here are some pragmatic approaches to curb rising expenses and reshape our food consumption patterns to be smarter, more informed, and ultimately more sustainable for our pockets.
1. Pay attention to unit prices
We have all been there — drawn to the allure of “sale” and “discount” signs in stores. Their bright colours and bold fonts suggest a promise of unparalleled value, a tempting mirage of savings. Yet, they can be misleading, at times. To shop smart, we must peel back the shimmering sticker price to determine the unit cost. This handy little figure breaks down the cost per item, gram, or litre to reveal the actual value and help us sidestep sneaky price traps, such as shrinkflation.
Shrinkflation refers to the stealthy move adopted by certain manufacturers to give less product for the same price, dodging noticeable price hikes that could turn customers away. In Malaysia, where unit price display is not always transparent, this can often catch us out. Thankfully, the solution is on your phone. With a few taps on the mobile calculator, you can figure out the real cost and make sure every penny spent is, indeed, penny-wise.
2. Navigate smartly through grocery aisles
Do you often find yourself reaching out to the items that sit perfectly at eye level? It is by design. Brands invest heavily to get that prime spot, banking on our tendency to pick up what we see first. However, those in the know “look high and low” as real bargains might lie hidden on the higher or lower shelves, just a reach away.
Here is another unusual but effective nugget of wisdom: Never shop on an empty stomach. From the smell of freshly baked croissants to the tantalising bag of crisps and chocolate bars, the grocery store is a minefield of temptations. And when hungry, these products can be a siren song that leads even the most diligent shopper astray. Make sure to fuel up before hitting the store to keep both hunger and impulse buys at bay!
3. Sign up for Sunway Super App loyalty programme
Who does not love good deals? Check if your usual grocery stores and restaurants have a loyalty programme available. Participation in these programmes is free and provides access to exclusive member discounts or rewards, which may be the secret to stretching your money further.
Sunway Super App is one of Malaysia’s pioneering all-in-one app that offers a treasure trove of discounts and rewards across Sunway’s vast landscape of fun, food, and leisure, including Sunway Theme Parks, Sunway Malls, Sunway Property, Sunway Hotels & Resorts, and Sunway Healthcare. Members can enjoy additional perks through this premier loyalty programme, which enables members to earn and redeem points within the app or unlock exclusive rewards at participating merchants. With access to over 1,500 retail partners, including popular names such as Foodpanda, Jaya Grocer, Nando’s, Pizza Hut, Tea Garden and many more, the Sunway Super App ensures you are always in the savings lane.
4. Make your own food (and coffee!)
In our fast-paced world, convenience is king. The takeaway dinner after a tiring day and that aromatic morning coffee from the trendy cafe downtown offer instant gratification. Yet, over days, weeks, and months, these small indulgences add up to sizeable expenditures.
Spending RM10 daily on your favourite cuppa accumulates to a significant RM3,650 a year. Double your caffeine intake, and you are parting with RM7,000 annually — a sum that could be funnelled towards a dream holiday or a solid investment. It is, therefore, sensible to make your own meals and coffee at home. Not only does it offer the opportunity to craft the dish or beverage to your exact liking, every stir, chop, and simmer adds to your savings!
5. Take stock of your pantry
The act may seem mundane, but making an inventory of your food stock can be a linchpin in curbing superfluous spending. Before your next supermarket spree, dive into the depths of your kitchen storage. Amidst the overlooked spice jars and the forgotten cans of beans, there are dishes waiting to be made. Sometimes, what seems to be past its best still holds culinary promise. A quick cold-water bath may bring wilted vegetables back to life. Stand those delicate herbs in a glass of water in the fridge to keep them fresh longer.
Understanding what is in your pantry and planning meals from its reserves encourages creativity and thriftiness. It is a simple yet profound solution, particularly when weighed against the troubling fact that Malaysians toss away 16,688 tonnes of food daily. That is enough to feed 2.2 million people three full meals. While it is easy to dismiss this as someone else’s problem, the answer and responsibility might be closer to home than we think. The message is clear: being mindful of our kitchen is not just about penny-pinching. It is a clarion call towards a sustainable, zero-waste lifestyle.