• Cheap Eating In Thailand - How to Slash Your Food Budget As Much As 70% Or More by Chuck "Charlie" Wilson

    A Westerner in Thailand can spend a lot on eating out and grocery shopping in Thailand. I save 70% or more depending on where I shop and where I eat out at in Thailand.I keep hearing uninformed Western expats living in Thailand talk about spending 20,000 to 30,000 baht or more per month on food. Once I get to talk with them, I figure out where they are going wrong. You farangs do not have eat Mama Noodles from 7-11 every night to keep your food budget budget in the "Cheap Charlie" category range! You can enjoy a plethora of Western food and still keep your budget mice and lean.

    The key to eating well for cheap is where you chose to shop. You can head over to the high end Western grocery stores such as Villa Mart, Foodland and Tops to shop for your groceries, but be prepared to have your wallet smashed at the checkout lane. If you buy your food at these places, you can easily dole out 1000 Baht a day for 2 or 3 meals worth of food. Some people do not mind spending big money and even brag that they do because they say they have to have their food from home. I can tell you who else is bragging about farangs spending that kind of money for food - it is the owners of those stores that are bragging about how they are making a 100% to 500% mark up on food that they sell to foreigners in Thailand. They are laughing (at all of you) all the way to the Thai bank!!

    Newsflash!!! I have to have my Western food too, but I save as much as 70% or more every month by avoiding the ripoff joints I mentioned above. I eat steaks, chicken breasts, salmon, tacos, hamburgers, baked beans, and cheese and I am spending around 3000 baht a month doing so. I know some farangs eating the exact same food that I eat that are spending 8,000 to 10,000 baht a month.

    So where should you shop to get these deals?

    The first place you need to visit is Makro. Makro is like the Costco or Sam's Club of Thailand. The first time you go there, you have to spend around 3000 baht to get a member card, but it is well worth it. They have everything you need there from fresh meats, to fresh fruits and vegetables to imported foods. Some of the imported foods and other products have to be bought in bulk. but Thai bulk is no where near farang size bulk.

    Here are some price comparisons for Makro versus the farang ripoff shops I mentioned above:

    • Makro Thai rib eye steaks - 30 baht vs. 60 baht
    • Makro Fresh ground hamburger meat - 48 baht vs. 100 baht
    • 8 Makro Chicken Breasts - 45 baht vs. 2 Chicken Breasts for 90 baht
    • Makro 5 liters of Olive Oil - 1100 baht vs. a small 400 ml bottle for 400 baht
    • Makro Norwegian Salmon - 110 baht vs 300 baht
    • Makro Thai baked beans - 18 baht per can (3 cans in bulk) vs. 51 baht for 1 can of imported beans
    • Makro Fruit 30 to 100 baht vs. 95 baht to 300 baht
    • Makro Cheese 700 baht vs 1500 baht
    • Makro Soft Shell Tacos - 80 baht vs. 200 baht

    The above list is just a sampling of what Makro has to offer that beats the other stores when it comes to price. You can also get eggs, milk, breakfast cereal, dish washing liquid, laundry detergent, coffee, ice cream, bottled water, and all sorts of other groceries for cheap. They also have huge selection of herbs, spices, seasonings and baking ingredients.

    The other cheap place you should be shopping at is your local market for meat, fruits, vegetables , meals and deserts. Just today, I had 6 sticks of grilled pork, one sausage link and a bag of sticky rice for 45 baht at the local market. It was so much food, that I could barely finish the meal. If I spend that 3 times a day, my monthly expenditure for food (31 days) would be 4,185 baht. Of course I do not eat Thai food at every meal, so it would be more.

    If you are looking for a cheap quick snack, I suggest you skip KFC, McDonald's, and Burger King and drop buy one of the thousands of 7-11's found in Thailand. You can get a huge spicy Mexican Chicken sandwich for around 30 baht. You can also get a huge hotdog topped with mustard, ketchup, and onions for around 20 baht. They also have a lovely selection of toasted sandwiches (tuna, ham and cheese, sausage and cheese, pork etc) for about 20 baht.

    Thai meals from street stalls and restaurants on the sidewalk can run 20 to 30 baht a meal. You can eat at their location or you can take your food home. The same meals at an indoor restaurant can cost 2 to 3 times the cost that you will pay at a roadside food stall. What is the difference in the food? Not a thing! In fact, I find that the outside restaurants have better tasting and fresher food than I get at place in the mall. The portions are often bigger as well.

    We are all in Thailand to enjoy ourselves. I am not advocating that you skimp on what you like to eat. What I am suggesting, is that you pick and choose where you shop and where you dine, so your money is spent wisely!

    Chuck "Charlie" Wilson has been living the "Cheap Charlie" life in Thailand for nearly two decades.
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