How Much Can You Save By Eating Healthy In Malaysia?

eat healthy

“Good health is not something we can buy. However, it can be an extremely valuable savings account.”

– Anne Wilson Schaef, Psychotherapist

There are mainly two reasons why Malaysians are giving a pass to healthy choices when it comes to food.

Rising cost of living and lack of time.

Rising costs includes costlier food especially in KL where food tend to be notoriously overpriced. This is more so if you are opting for healthy food. To illustrate:

Healthy options
Fast food/ Unhealthy options
Avocado Toast RM20
McChicken RM8.10
Smoothie Bowl RM24
Curry Mee RM7
Caeser salad RM18
Nasi Lemak RM6
Natural, unsweetened peanut butter

Margerine RM5
Muesli Bar (6 Piece) RM15
Chicken Satay (6 stick) RM6

Evidently, the budget-conscious will reach for the cheaper and often, unhealthy food. While Malaysian delicacies are undoubtedly delicious, they can wreak havoc to your health if eaten daily. An average plate of Nasi Lemak has 400 calories and 58g of carbs while a serving of avocado on toast has 186 calories and 24g of carbs.

Work-life imbalance, where more Malaysians are spending more hours at work (often in an office chair) results in a sedentary lifestyle.

According to the Malaysia’s Healthiest Workplace by AIA Vitality 2018 survey, 91.7% do not eat a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables and whole grains and 16.6% of the employees surveyed are obese. Work stress and binge eating are said to have contributed to the poor health of Malaysians.

It’s time to make a change!

Eating healthy does not have to be expensive.

We have done the research, put most of the tips and tricks below into practise, gained from them and now, we would like to share it with you. LET’S GO!

Start planning your meals

For working adults, weekly planning saves time and money since work days often eat into the evening and cooking an elaborate meal 5am in the morning is not an alluring option. Planning includes the steps below:

  • Plan and write down your breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for the week.
  • List down the wet and dry groceries you need to buy for the week. Buying dry groceries in bulks and wet groceries in the local market will make your wallet happy. This list is crucial to make sure you don’t end up buying more than you need and overspend.
  • Pre-cook your meals whenever possible. You can sort your snacks into food containers, freeze your fruits, cook and refrigerate your stew, soup or curry.

These will also greatly reduce the daily frustration you face in the kitchen to make dinner. With organisation, you will be well-equipped for the week ahead and won’t give in to a double cheeseburger.

Make your own version

I will let the numbers do the talking to show you much money you can save by making your own breakfast (which take about 5 mins of your morning if you cut and freeze the fruits during meal prep), lunch, tea-time snack and dinner.

Breakfast: Smoothie drink 

1 banana
Few leaves of spinach
1 kiwi
Few splashes of soymilk
Average price at cafes: RM15

 Lunch: Rice, stir-fried chicken, and blanched broccoli

1 serving rice
1 chicken thigh
1 serving broccoli
1 chilli
1 onion
Average at restaurants: RM9

Tea-time snack: Green tea & apple slices

1 green teabag
1 Fuji apple
Average price of common Malaysian tea time snack of The Tarik and chicken curry puff: RM3.50

Dinner: Tomato soup

5 tomatoes
1 onion
4 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Average price at cafes: RM12

So, in a day comprising 3 main meals and 1 snack, this is how much you will spend if you:

Eat Out
Tea-time snack

If you prepare your meals and opt for healthy options, you will be saving:

RM24.40 per day,

RM170.80 per week,

RM683.20 per month,

RM8,198.40 per year!

*calculations were done for one portion using average price in several restaurants, cafes and online grocery stores in Klang Valley.

10 Tips to eat healthy while on a budget

You do not have to give up healthy food to save money or spend a hefty amount every day to eat better. It all comes down to planning and watching the pennies. Here are simple tips that you can try:

1. If you crave for a steaming cup of Teh Tarik and Roti Canai, ask for a sugar-free drink and less oily roti canai. Many shops in KL reduce RM0.20 if you refuse the sugar.
2. Opt for locally grown seasonal vegetables and fruits instead of imported ones. They are fresher and cheaper yet just as nutritious. For instance, swap kale for spinach, avocado for banana, and raspberries for strawberries.
3. Opt for water instead of sugar-laden carbonated drink when you eat out. You will easily save around RM1.30 and your body will thank you too!
4. Opt for locally- sourced meat and fish from the wet market instead of supermarket as these will stay fresh longer and cost less.
5. Make your own drink such as tea, coffee and chocolate drink. A tall Starbucks Americano will set you back by RM10. Instead, you could make your own cup of coffee every morning and opt for Starbucks only for a splurge.
6. Utilise the leftovers of your meal. Whether you are eating out or eating in, leftovers can help you cut down spending. All you need is proper refrigeration and containers.
7. Optimise the number of trips you make to the supermarket. If you are living in KL, you are probably aware of the parking ticket fee that can eat up your budget. Stopping by at the supermarket every day after work to buy groceries will sabotage your efforts to cook dinner and save money. Instead, make it a weekly routine.
8. Make a hobby of cooking during weekends. This way you will be able to experiment and cook healthy food. With practise, whipping out a healthy meal will be effortless!
9. To make eating healthy a lifelong habit and prevent boredom, spice it up by trying a variety of recipes from other parts of the world. You could also invite your friends over for a cookout session. That way, you can spend time with friends and save money as weekend outings can lead to a significantly lighter wallet.
10. Make use of cashbacks and reward points from credit cards when you shop for groceries. There are many options out there and with some research, you would be able to find what suits you best.


“When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless, and intelligence cannot be applied.”

– Herophilus, Greek physician

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