Whether you just moved to Singapore, are a student/intern or are just willing so save up some bucks, finding healthy food that fits a tight budget can be a challenge. Of course, there are plenty of cheap food options around – one of the best things about the Lion City! – but we have to admit that, nutrition-wise, the cheaper might not always be the better.
However, if you know the tricks, you can still get excellent & nutritious food that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Here are a few ways to eat clean on a budget:
Use your best judgement (and some tips) at the Hawker Centre
Let’s be clear: hawker food is NOT the best place to find healthy food. However, if you have solid bases of nutrition – or if you’ve read this article about the healthiest options you can pick in hawker centres (coming soon!) – you can find relatively clean food at a very low price.
The rules are quite simple: go for as much protein & vegetables as you can, ask for half the portion of carbs (and make it “wholemeal” if possible), and always go for stir-fried or boiled instead of deep-fried. Ask the sauce on the side whenever it’s possible, or ask for “less sauce”. Of course, no sugary drink to go with it, it’d be a shame to save up on the food calories to get liquid calories in instead.
Be mindful with fruit smoothies too: they are delicious, but contain up to 300kcal each, most of which is pure sugar. Still better than a soda because of the vitamins, but if you are trying to cut off some calories, you might need to watch out!)
Visit healthy food chains for better macro tracking
If they are, in most cases, slightly more pricy than food courts, some food chains worked hard to provide healthy options.
Salad Stop! for example, made available all of the nutritional info of their website. Pro-tip: Always get the sauce on the side, you’ll end up putting way less of it in your bowl than what they’d pour.
Stuff’d also has quite healthy options and a calorie calculator available – make sure you don’t go crazy on the add-ons, though. Simply Wrapps has quite similar offers – the nutrition facts they indicate seems to be a bit underestimated, but you can’t really go wrong with a salad with the sauce on the side.
What about cooking it yourself?
There are a lot of places in Singapore where you can buy cheap ingredients and cook delicious and healthy food. It takes, of course, more time than buying it, but it has TONS of advantages:
you can control what goes into your food – the amount of fat, added sugar, the quantity of protein. If you want to keep an eye on your weight, your shape or are willing to improve your performance, then that’s the best option for you.
It comes often cheaper in the long run – you can batch buy and cook, and drastically lower the budget you’re spending on food each week.
Having already ready food is the best way to avoid binging on junk food when cravings appear.
Where to buy cheap ingredients:
- Wet markets: they are not always the cheapest option, but you can definitely get good deals and the freshest products there. You can go there late in the evening – most of the stalls discount items.
- Fruit stores & street vendors: check out the MRT stations for cheap fruits, especially in the evening, as they often get discounted. (off the top of my head, Bugis MRT, Boon Keng MRT… please comment if the MRT station next to your office/home has one too!)
- Giant: you can find an extensive selection of vegetables there (check the “reduce to clear” shelves for really good deals), along with cheap roasted chickens that can last you for a few days. I wouldn’t recommend buying uncooked red meat there – but tofu, chicken & eggs from Singapore are quite cheap and of good quality.
Another very good point: Giant doesn’t pack their vegetables individually in plastic – shopping there is definitely more eco-friendly than visiting other big supermarkets, which tend to abuse it.
- Fair Price: for everything you can’t find at Giant, including wholemeal carbs (wholemeal pasta, rice, flour…) as well as a few organic products (that are much cheaper than in dedicated organic stores). You can trust their red meat selection, and they discount their sushi range after 6 or 7 pm (just like Cold Storage & DonDonDonki do)
- I-tec: for dry ingredients (beans, rice..), sauces and spices, you might want to visit one of the numerous outlets of the 24/24 supermart chain. You might have to dig in a little to find what you are looking for, but you can find really interesting stuff and get creative when you’re back in the kitchen.
Eating healthy and cheap in Singapore is possible, but it takes a bit of time and effort to figure it out. Just list down what you need and spend some time going around your place and finding the best places to get ingredients – then buy then in bulk whenever possible, so you don’t run out!
If you’re in for a treat, check out the list of the best Healthy Lunch Places in the CBD (a bit more pricy but worth every dollar!) – of course, all of them serve dinner too.