It pays to cook your own meals (Poll Inside)

A penny saved: Loke trying her hand at cooking tiger moon snails at home.

GEORGE TOWN: After discovering tiger moon snails in the market recently, self-employed Aiel Loke has a list of recipes in mind to try them with.

“They are smaller than escargot, but they are only RM20 per kilo. A dozen frozen escargots sell for around RM200, while half a dozen of canned escargots cost about RM90, so I am never buying those,” she said.

Loke said she might be part of the minority in Malaysia who diligently cooks at home.

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“I only have some friends who cook regularly and back when I was employed, my colleagues were amazed I brought a lunch box daily and were always curious about what I cooked,” she said.

Loke, 32, said after starting her own small-scale Internet retail business, keeping her food costs down became even more important for her to conserve funds as rolling capital to buy stock to sell online.

“To me, food is the most critical daily expenditure since we eat a few times a day. A large drumstick with the upper thigh included costs RM3 to RM5 at the market.

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“Buy that cooked in a chicken rice shop or nasi kandar restaurant, and it will cost RM9 to RM12. I see no reason to pay that amount when it is easy to cook a chicken drumstick in so many ways,” she said.

She said a half kilo of yellow noodles was just RM2.50 in the market, and when she cooked fried noodles with her favourite condiments, there was enough for at least five servings.

“I keep the fried noodles in the fridge, then reheat and eat them so many times till I’m fed up with yellow noodles,” she said with a laugh.

Before going to bed, Loke said she would sometimes put two large drumsticks, carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic and ginger into her smart multi-cooker and let it cook while she slept.

“The cooker’s built-in programming will keep it warm all night long. In the morning, I just add salt and pepper, and my life partner and I have such a filling breakfast waiting that we won’t even need lunch,” she said.

Loke felt that if people spent more effort planning and buying modern kitchen appliances to ease the cooking process, they could save money on food.

“If you use a smart pressure cooker, you can make the cheapest beef cuts tender and delicious in less than an hour. You can make enough mushroom and beef stew to last for days in just an hour.

“But it will take at least three hours in a pot over a fire to make beef tender, so don’t do that,” she said, adding that she began cooking regularly eight years ago, shortly after graduating from university.

For F&B businessman Warren Tan, 35, cooking at home is “therapeutic”.

“My wife and I love to cook, but we only have time to do it once a week. We splurge and buy expensive fish and premium meat cuts. We invite friends and relatives to join in on our weekly home-cooked feast.

“For the rest of the week, we just don’t have time and will eat out,” he said.

Being in the F&B business, Tan admitted that hawker food was expensive when the cost of the ingredients was broken down.

“But I still eat hawker food regularly because it saves me a lot of time and I don’t have to wash up,” he said.

From the perspective of food costs, Tan said families could save a lot if they prepared their own meals.

“When you cook everyday meals for a few people in one go, there is no question that it is much cheaper and even of higher quality,” he said.

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