Families in Ipoh finding more ways to economise


Shoppers at a hypermarket in Klebang looking at cooking oil brands. Many families are opting to cook more at home instead of going out to eat. — Photos: RONNIE CHIN/The Star

AS prices of daily essentials and the cost of living remain high, residents in Ipoh, like others across the country, are cutting back on their expenditure.

From basic necessities to meals, those from the middle-income group interviewed by StarMetro said they were trying their best to stay within budget while looking forward to policies and plans to stabilise prices from the new Federal Government.

Tutor Rajesh Singh, 45, said his wife was shocked when their monthly grocery bill last week came up to RM600.

He said they usually spent about RM400, and the RM200 increase caught them by surprise.

“We only bought items like dishwashing liquid, toilet cleaner, rubbish bags, dry food items, kitchen and floor cleaners, tea, coffee, milk and eggs.

“The prices of items just keep on skyrocketing but our salaries remain stagnant,” he complained when contacted.

Rajesh, a father of two school- going children, said the family, who lives in Bandar Baru Seri Klebang, is trying to reduce their spending.

“We have three bathrooms in the house, and we have decided to use only one, so that we can save on water and cleaning supplies.

“Also, the prices of vegetables and fruits have gone up, and sometimes I feel it is cheaper to buy dishes from outside and just cook rice at home,” he said.

“We are also trying to minimise our outings, and only travel outstation only when the need arises,” he added.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had, on Nov 25, stressed that his unity government would focus on dealing with the rising cost of living to alleviate the people’s burden.

On Nov 27, Anwar, who is also Tambun MP, chaired a special meeting of the 2022 National Action Council on Cost of Living which was attended by government departments and agencies to discuss how best to address this issue in both the short and long-term.

Among the high-ranking government officials present were Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Mohd Zuki Ali, Bank Negara Malaysia Governor Tan Sri Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus, and officials from various ministries and the Statistics Department.

On Friday, during the unveiling of the new Cabinet, Anwar demonstrated the government’s commitment to bringing down prices when the Domestic Trade and Industry portfolio was renamed Domestic Trade and Cost of Living, with Datuk Seri Salahuddin Ayub as the minister.

Two-fold increase

Personal assistant Ashley Loh, in her 30s, said she felt that the prices of many items, especially food at eateries, have gradually increased since the reopening of the economy last year following the Covid-19 pandemic.

“A lot of the items have increased by about two-fold.

“Like most people who are working, it is unavoidable that some of us have to eat outside as well,” said the mother of two who lives in Bercham.

“The food prices in Ipoh are now almost comparable to those in Kuala Lumpur.

“A bowl of curry noodles used to cost about RM5 but now, in some places, the prices can go up to between RM7 and RM14,” she said, adding that she tries to dine out less.

“There may be cheaper options but these are located far away or are on the fringes of the city. It does make sense to drive to these locations for a meal when we are on the clock,” she added.

Loh said it was ridiculous for eateries to increase their prices by 10 to 20sen every time ingredients like sugar go up by the same amount.

“It’s not like they are using an entire bag of sugar to make a cup of beverage,” she said.

“The government needs to look into this matter and not allow some businesses to simply raise their prices just because they will be making less profit.

“Food is a necessity and I hope the government will look into finding a solution to ensure that these can be affordable for everyone, including the middle-income and lower-income groups,” she added.

Airline company instructor Mupinderjeet Kaur, 56, from Kampung Kepayang, said she tried to minimise her outings due to petrol and transportation costs.

She said her mother and her niece were staying with her, and that she did her marketing once every two weeks.

“I usually buy items in bulk, as it is cheaper that way.

“I have also started to grow some vegetables in pots like chillies, brinjal, ladies fingers and chives,” she said.

“Also no food goes to waste, and leftovers are always repurposed for the next day,” she added.

Earning extra income

Clerk S. Kasturi, 45, from Taman Jelapang, said the prices of food, petrol, transportation and school necessities have all gone up.

The mother of two children said she was also running an online business selling traditional clothing to earn extra income.

“My husband is also working but everything is so expensive that I decided to start a part-time business that helps pay for my children’s school fees and other necessities.

“Most of the time I cook at home, and we usually go to the wholesale market to buy vegetables, chicken and fruits, as it is much cheaper,” she added.

Kasturi said she had to plan her budget carefully because there were other expenses such as car loan instalment as well as electricity, water, and insurance bills to pay too.

“Then I have my two dogs and their food, medication, vaccinations and supplements are not cheap.

“But to save cost, I cook one meal for my dogs and give them kibbles for the other meal,” she said.

Another person who has taken on extra work to make ends meet is teacher Muhammad Khabib Zulbakri, 32.

The father of two said the increase in food prices meant his family of four has had to reduce eating out, or going for holidays.

Muhammad, who stays in Taman Meru, said before his two children were born, both he and his wife used to eat out a lot, but now they cook at home most times.

“We have reduced going for holidays as well.

“After the children were born, I started a small food business as well, which helps with the household finances,” he said.

Ambiga Pillay, 60, who lives with her husband and two daughters in Sunway City, said they make sure to buy only essential items.

“We try to buy from wholesalers, or find grocery shops that sell items at lower price compared to supermarkets and hypermarkets.

“Dining outside has become a rare event.

“And with fuel prices on the rise, when I go outstation, I usually take a train,” added Ambiga, who is a teacher.

Communications manager G. Santhakumar, 35, who lives in Jalan Sultan Nazrin Shah, said he and his wife had tried to cut down on ordering food from delivery services after all economic sectors were allowed to reopen last year.

“We had gotten quite used to food delivery services during the pandemic and the price hikes have been outrageous.

“There was one month when we cut it out completely and saved nearly RM900 but I then got Covid-19 and had to use it again for a week,” he said, adding that his household income was about RM8,000.

“Since we are able to move freely now, my wife and I have been eating meals cooked by her mother regularly.

“Considering all things, we are quite lucky because there’s only two of us and we often find ourselves routinely wondering how others, especially those with lower income cope,” he added.

Santhakumar hopes to see the government give priority to helping the food production sector, which could stabilise the cost of food items.

“I’m not much of an economic expert but I feel it might help if we aid farmers, fishermen and all those in food-related sectors,” he said.

“If things stabilise or prices of food go down, it will then allow people to have more spending power, so they can boost the economy.

“And obviously, a stable and moderate government will attract more foreign investors.

“Money is everything, and our country needs to focus on that now,” he added.

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