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How Much Money Does Malaysians Spend on Food?

BY Mia Fitri

Updated 11 Nov 2019

In 2016, Malaysian former second Finance Minister, Datuk Johari Abdul Ghani shared that Malaysians are spending 31.2% of their disposable income on food and food away from home. With that in mind, do we still spend more money on food with today’s rising cost of living and weakening Ringgit

To answer this question, we’ve talked to 86 Malaysians (70% of them residing in the Klang Valley), with income range from RM2000 to RM6000. Here’s our finding.

What's covered in this article?

Apparently, more than half of the respondents spend only 25% or less of their salary on food

Yup, based on our random survey, 64 of them actually spend lesser (25% or below of their monthly income) on food. When broken down into daily food expenditure, this group spend RM10 or less per day. This may look like these people are not eating enough or fasting every single day. But, that’s not the case. Their reason for spending less is because they live with their parents - so food at home is covered by someone else.

As for the rest of the respondents, they spend in the comfortable range of RM20 to RM35 per day (2 to 3 meals a day), which is about 30% or more of their income. One of the respondents, Sarah Amir, a PR manager shared that she spends around RM50 a day on outside food.

“I’ll get a simple on-the-go breakfast, and spend about RM15-20 per meal for lunch and dinner.” 

To add, we also found that there are a few people who spend a good amount of RM35 to RM100 per day on food. That means that they fork out around RM1,050 to RM3,000 on food in a month, even with the recent food inflation!

Walao… these people all have their own construction business ah. However, when we asked further, they shared that’s the amount of an entire family food expenditure, which makes absolute sense.

For Maizatul Faziha, an online business owner with 2 kids, she finds herself spending more on food now - a whooping of RM2,500 per month, which makes up to 30% of both her and her husband’s income. 

“My husband and I are food lovers so we are always food hunting. It’s not that we eat a lot, but good food is just more expensive. With the rising cost of living, most goods prices are increasing too and I have to spend more to get the same amount of food as we have always had.”


So... what’s the ACCEPTABLE AMOUNT on how much we need to spend on food?

This is very subjective. Based on what we’ve gathered, we can say that it can be determined by three factors: demography, lifestyle, and range of income.

1. You’ll spend more if you live in the city

The location we live in and our monthly income plays a big role in determining how much we can eat. Young, single people living in urban areas will spend more on food, especially eating out, while those living in the suburb can save by eating at home with their parents and have access to cheaper eateries.

One such person who experienced a major price change is Fa Abdul, a writer and mother who recently moved to Penang from KL to be with her parents. She found the food in Penang to be way cheaper - even if it is an urban city.

“Groceries here are 10-15% cheaper than KL. Old shops and pasar malams sell at good deals and can even nego for a lower price. I easily save up to RM200 a month from when I live in KL,” she said.

“I think the prices here are cheaper because rent is cheaper.”

2. Your lifestyle can make you eat more!

Whether it’s your job, social circle and food preferences - all these can affect your food expenditure. Single adults with a demanding working hour will have no time to cook and have to eat out more often. 

For Timmy Ong, a risk manager who works in KL City Centre, believes he would have spent more money should he chose to not skip any meals and put more thought into what food he eats. As for now, he skips lunch when he is not too hungry during work, and choose to eat when it is convenient. 

Some social careers like artists, writers, and business owners may need to spend more money on social meals - such as business lunches and late night drinks that can be costly. So if you are in these lines of work, prepare to fork out more money on food.

3. When you earn more, you tend to spend more too

Generally speaking, people who earn more usually can afford to spend more. Most of the people we talked to said that spending RM100 to RM200 on groceries can last them for a week of lunch and dinner. There are some who are willing to spend more than that.

Let’s take that PR girl, Sarah (who we mentioned about earlier), for an example. She spends at least RM15 to RM20 per meal for lunch and dinner. So in a day, she’d be spending around RM30 to RM40; that would sum to about  RM600 to RM800 in a month (weekdays only).

“I feel like I can afford it. And, I’d usually spend the weekends at my parents, and will eat what my mom cooks.”


Keep an eye on your spending

Based on what we found, people are either spending less because it’s not part of their priority or some just don’t mind spending more money on good food. There’s a good and bad to this. Perhaps we all should take a step back and look at our priority. Just because you can afford it, doesn’t mean you should be spending like there’s no tomorrow. 

Pay a little more attention to your spending and discipline yourself to stick to your budget and let it help you from overspending. If you find it hard to keep track of your expenses, use apps like Monny, Wally and Spendee. You also check out this article about apps that can help you save money on your daily spendings.
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About the Author

Mia Fitri


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