Tag Archive | food prices

Waste not, want not

I hate to make this a habit: quoting again from the Sunday Times, I mean but I guess there’s no running away that it does provide some fodder for food chat.

So, here I go again. On Sunday, (Aug 24), I found something really worthwhile in the papers, a link from its usually rubbishy Hot Clicks section: the Love Food Hate Waste link, which the paper described as providing “food-saving tips and even recipes to recycle the remnants of last night’s big dinner into yummy snacks or even a complete lunch”.

Love food,hate waste link
Love food,hate waste link

Without more ado, I clicked on the link and found myself at a website that’s right after my own heart. So, I promptly provided a permanent link in my foodblog for easy reference (see above pix), for myself and visitors to this blog.

If there’s one thing I hate wasting, it is food. Yet food is so plentiful for some many people in Singapore and because it is also so perishable (as compared to a piece of wood or a bar of steel, I mean), there are many who junk food at the slightest excuse.

Someone I used to work with (whose family owns a large piece of land in River Valley Road and whose home is in a cavernouse house with a massive garden off Farrer Road) told me she never eats overnight bread.

Reason is that the yeast in the bread gives out a poisonous toxin, harmful to those who consume it. She was unconvinced that bread stored properly in the fridge can be eaten, even if it’s a couple of days after it’s use-by date.

Of course, cold bread isn’t fun but there’s where the toaster comes in handy. For my ex-colleague however, she won’t eat overnight bread and she won’t buy just enough for herself. Instead, she buys a whole loaf, eat a couple of slices and let the rest go into the dust-bin or kept to feed the swans at the Botanics.

I’m the other extreme, I guess. I try to extend all food, so long as I don’t suspect it of likely to give me food poisoning. So, if milk or a curry has gone sour, I avoid. Or if a fish, which should be firm after cooking, becomes mushy and smells more fishy than is normal, I too will pass.

Otherwise, I wld happily recycle. At restaurants, unless it’s a buffet or if I’m a guest and the host isn’t someone I know well, I always ask for any left-overs from my plate (or my immediate family’s) to be packed.

I still remember when as a new and gauche member of the Tanglin Club many years ago, I committed the then faux pas of asking for some food I couldn’t finish to be packed. And I was eating at the Wheelhouse, mind you, not the Churchill Room.   

The waiter was mortified and said he needed to check. Returned to say “we don’t have anything to pack the food in”. Since it was just some sandwiches, I suggested letting me have some paper napkins. He went away and after much consultation passed me some paper napkins, leaving me to do the ignominous job of wrapping the leftovers.

But how times have changed and me many years older. Today, while lunching at the Wheelhouse, the two very pukka couples sitting next to me (I know them to be pukka because no less than retired banker and OCBC director Wong Nang Jang went up to their table bowing and smiling in his friendliest best) asked for leftovers from their lunch to be doggy-bagged.

And the waiter was happy to do their bidding, as he was happy to do mine a few weeks ago, when I even asked for two baked potatoes I couldn’t finished from my Ikan Kurau choice to be packed (and which incidentally went very well with other leftovers I had in my fridge).

However, not everyone is an old-hand like me where doggy-bagging is concerned. The two pukka couples were perhaps a bit uncomfortable with their own request as one of the men declared that the food wasn’t for him but for the security guard at his condo.

To which the man from the other couple replied that there were many, many people who would only be too happy to have such food.

I wanted to interject (altho I didn’t of cos): Relax fellas, in these days of high inflation and runaway food prices, it’s the new cool to practise waste not, want not. Even if you are applying that to help those in so much want that they don’t have anything to waste.

Two pictures say it all

 

3 veggies fm TTSH Kopitiam
3 veggies fm TTSH Kopitiam

 On Weds, Aug 21, I found myself back at Tan Sock Seng Hospital again, as the geriatrician named Dr Angel, wanted to check on mum after her op.

Since it was a 2pm appointment, we wanted to avoid the stress of eating at home and cleaning up thereafter and being late as a result; a restaurant was also out too, as we have no real control over how fast or slow we would be served and that could lead to heart burn, besides wallet burn.

And so it was we headed back to what had become our eating haunt for more times that I would have liked in recent months: the Kopitiam foodcourt at TTSH.

It was an uneventful meal and we were right on time for the geriatrician. But two facts stuck out: prices at the foodcourt seemed to have risen and the quantity shrank or the quality was poorer.

Look at the above picture: three scoops of vegetables (long beans, sayur lodeh and bittergourd) from the vegetarian stall cost $3. I had paid the same price not too many days ago also for three vegetables but the plate was a lot fuller.

Not in the pix was a box of five ondeh ondeh. Again, not many days ago, they cost $2. I was charged $2.20 on Thursday. And the texture of the ondeh was hard rather than chewy, suggesting that they aren’t that fresh.

I know TTSH staff get a discount at the foodcourt (and so their pockets aren’t as affected as non-staff). Still, should spare a thought for the visitors and the out-patients who have little choice but to eat there. The prices don’t break my bank but I feel for the bottom 20/30% in Singapore’s income hierarchy who have no choice but eat something there.

Full meal @ Koufu SMU

Full meal @ Koufu SMU

By co-incidence, the day after the visit to TTSH, I found myself on a tour of Singapore Management University as a tag-along when an overseas friend sought and got an appointment for herself, her husband and her forward planning daughter to check out the university’s facilities.

We stopped for a short lunch break at one of SMU’s eateries called Pick & Bite, run by by Koufu. This cafe’s ambience is no superior than a foodcourt’s but being small, it’s cosier and the staff actually do deliver the drinks and make pleasant conversation.

But what impressed me most was the prices. One dish meals are priced at $3 (!!) and there was plenty to choose from. Drinks are at max $1.50. The mui-choi with streaky soy sauce pork and soft fragrant white rice (picture above) was a lip-smacking steal-meal at $3.

I would have eaten every last grain of rice (left abt a dozen grains) if not for the fact that we had to go see the rest of the university.

My burning question: if SMU can serve decent meals at $3 that are open to the public besides students, why can’t TTSH?

Both have government funding and I daresay person-for-person those who find themselves having food at TTSH are unlikely to tap subsidies in the food prices (if any) for as long as students at SMU.

After all, no patient wld last three or four years in a hospital, unlike students who at minimum remain for three years at university.

I remember reading a letter to the newspapers (not sure whether it was the Straits Times or Today) in which the writer alerted to the fact that one of the shops at TTSH was closing down because of a sharp hike in rent.

I don’t know what shop that is but the principle remains the same: tax-payers funded facilities shouldn’t be priced to the extent that those (who have no choice but to use them, like when one or one’s loved ones fall sick) feel the pinch, especially when their or their loved ones’ illness is compounded by poverty and the strain of galloping inflation.

Hopefully, one of our good Members of Parliament or their grassroots cheer-leaders in reading this will think of bringing it to the Minister of Health’s attention.

Best buys at good prices?

With prices of oil nearly five-times what they were a few years ago when anyone talking of oil above USD30 a barrel was thought to be sleep talking, it is obvious that most ordinary folks have to be careful abut how they spend their money.

This is especially where food is concerned. Everyone can do without entertainment, holidays, new clothes or gadgets but not food as all of us have to replenish our stomachs every day.

Hence it’s not surprising that led by the media, everyone and his grandfather are talking about where to get good and cheap food/meals.

The Consumers’ Association of Singapore (Case) as well as our august Straits Times have listed where meals under this or that sum can be had. The public have, in blogs and letters to Forum, given tips on how to stretch the food dollar.

Big deal, I think, every time I come across such listings and tips. Come on people, get real.

Yah, so I can get wonton mee at $1.50 in Chai Chee, chicken rice at $1.20 in Woodlands and mixed vegetable rice also at $1.50 in the depths of one-room depression land. 

But how much time, petrol or other travelling $ I have to invest to get from where I am to where these splendidly low priced meals could be had? For the really poor who can’t afford to get out of their neighbourhood, it’s just like hearing Marie Antoinette asked why the peasants didn’t eat cake, when she was told they had no bread!

For the mobile me, what other inconvenience must I subject myself to, to save perhaps as much as 50% of what I would normally pay should I go slumming and eat meals of under $5!

Even worse are those pundits who give food-money saving tips by suggesting bulk purchase. That’s really penny wise, pound foolish, simply impractial.

Take this online letter to the Straits Times, purportedly directed at retirees (tho how many retirees actually go online is another matter): “Buy in bulk. Do the maths before you buy, especially at the supermarket. It makes more sense to buy a 10kg bag of rice at $27.60 than a 5kg bag at $14.60. “

Immediately be4 that, the writer advocated, “opt for public transport. Just avoid peak hours”.

‘allo sister! U think all of us live on top of a supermarket or have one as a neighbour..izzit? The fact is, if I travel by bus or MRT, I won’t be able to hump a 10kg bag of rice home, since bus and MRT stops don’t have a habit of popping up outside a supermarket, even if it’s NTUC Fairprice. 

Besides the total savings of $1.60 for the trouble will not cover my two-way bus or MRT journey and certainly not the medical fees or money for oinment, should I pull a muscle or two carrying the rice.

Of course I can take a taxi but considering that one-flag down already wipes out all the savings, where are the purported savings?

That’s not taking into account that I have to fork upfront an extra $13 for the additional 5kg of rice long be4 I am ready to eat it. Even in highly inflationary times, 13 bucks in my pocket are probably more useful than 5kg of rice in waiting in the bin, when by the time I get to eating it, it could be full of weavals. Besides taking up space in my store-room.

So, while I am a glutton for bargains, I don’t just bite because someone says “cheap, cheap” especially when that someone is just another bird-brain.

Supermart shopping

It never amazes me the grand people I’ve run into in our supermarkets. Years ago, at the Chancery Court supermarket, I saw no less than Yong Pung How, then OCBC chairman, later elevated to be Singapore’s chief justice, wandering around the aisles, on a Saturday afternoon.

Another time, I ran into Michael Wong Pakshong, who has recently retired chairman of Great Eastern Life Holdings, and still OCBC’s vice chairman, at the King Albert Park supermarket. He was pushing a trolley loaded with goodies. It was a week day after work. At that time he hadn’t yet been elevated to those grand positions at OCBC.

More recently, two weeks ago on Sunday, I was going down the travelator at Tanglin Mall when lo and behold I spied Mr and Mrs Lee Seng Wee, loading their week’s groceries into their car. Mr Lee and his family control OCBC which his father helped found. A billionaire no less and his elderly wife lugging heavy stuff from trolley to car boot.

What’s the common thread in this? I know all three as I had worked for a while at OCBC. Another common thread is that all three very very rich men do their own grocery shopping. And one more: all shopped at Cold Storage, not NTUC Fairprice.

A message here, anybody?

Cool prices at Hotpot

There’s a general fallacious impression among Singaporeans that hwaker food is cheaper than food court food and food court food out in the boondocks such as Clementi, AMK, Toa Payoh or Jurong will be cheaper than that in food courts in Ngee Ann City or Wisma Atria, right in the Orchard Road belt. Ditto for those in the business district, such as Marina Square or Raffles City.

Let me bust this belief by stating that food court food is really expensive, esp in Tan Tock Seng Hospital, which despite being a government financed hospital doesn’t believe in reigning in the prices its tenants charge. Perhaps because TTSH is located in the swankish Novena district. 

Another myth buster, in the good sense is this place called Hotpot Culture in Marina Sq. I discovered quite by chance when meeting a friend for lunch, I expressed a desire to eat porridge. By luck, my friend had been handed a flyer just minutes be4 meeting me — beckoning the lunch crowd to a $6.90+++ eat all you can porridge buffet (also got rice) at Hotpot. There are more than 30 items, including fresh fruits and grean bean soup for dessert.

The only grouse is that Hotpot doesn’t serve water, and diners are encouraged to order a drink which comes at $1 extra. Still, with plenty of water in the porridge and green bean soup, there isn’t a chance of dying of thirst, even if one didn’t want to pay that extra buck.

The food was so good, the spread of chicken, pork, fish, Chinese sausage, a medley of vegetables, steamed egg, kong bak pau etc etc so varied that I went back a second time on Good Friday– and found there was no change in prices, not even on a public holiday or week-end, or so I was told.

Hotspot can be found at the cluster of eateries at the corner called Centrestage (2nd floor) below the food court which is on the 4th floor. And it certainly provides better value than the food court where a main course, dessert and drink can add up to more, plus the hassle of having to be on the constant lookout against someone unpleasant plomping himself/herself in the seat next to you.