Monday, July 4, 2011

Surviving on as little as possible in the city

ONE evening, while lamenting about rising food prices and how much a meal costs these days, my wife and I decided to see if we could get a dinner for two for under RM10.
The condition we agreed upon was that the meal must not only be cheap but reasonably balanced, and palatable.

We chose a banana leaf rice restaurant that was usually packed in the evenings. We thought the food must be either good, plentiful or simply cheap. We each ordered a garlic naan and a glass of limau kosong, and a small plate of fried cabbage to be shared.

The naan was about 15cm in diameter, dressed with chopped garlic, carrot and parsley. Only a small portion of dhall came on the serving tray but the waiter said we could help ourselves to more from the gravy container. The cabbage was yellowed. I did not know if it was overcooked, had turmeric added to it, or left over from the afternoon's lunch. As it was warm, it was good enough for us.

The bill came to RM6.80. The naan cost RM1.50 each, limau kosong was RM1.40 a glass, and the cabbage was RM1 a plate.

The meal was nothing to shout about but it was well within our budget.

We could have substituted limau kosong for plain water and ordered a boiled egg each for additional protein in our diet for the same price or less. Or we could even have ordered two plates of cabbage.

I am glad that there are places which still serve such cheap meals these days. If we had gone Dutch, it would only have cost us RM3.40 each. To have the same fare every day would have needed great resolve, but there are cheap meals elsewhere if we were cash strapped and not choosy.

Economy rice, depending on whether you are in Jinjang or Bangsar, probably cost between RM3.50 to RM5 - add RM2 for a drink. Noodles might be slightly cheaper, and you may not even need a drink.

If you know your way around the city, I think you can still stretch your shrinking ringgit a little. If you spend about RM5 for a meal, three times a day, you would need at least RM500 a month, excluding other expenses like transport, clothes and rent.

With these expenses thrown in, what is the least you need to earn monthly to live in a city like this?

A Myanmar I met said he only earned RM800 per month as a production worker at a factory. His employer provides accommodation, uniforms and basic amenities.

Since he has been living here for three years, I believe he was not joking. A Nepali said he did it on a monthly pay of RM600.

With overtime, he said, he takes home slightly under RM900. He has been here for six months and was happy about it.

Perhaps a TV producer should do a reality show on what is the lowest wage one can survive on in the city?

The show may not have the glamour of Malaysian Idol or Akademi Fantasia, but it could be a hit. After all, what could be more "real" than trying to survive in the city with what little we have?

No comments:

Post a Comment