Administration clerk Muhammad Faizal Taib said he struggled in the past two years to get by on his monthly budget of RM250 (S$78) for food.
But that changed recently, due to the generosity of some food operators, who are now offering “economy meals” for as little as RM3.50 a plate.
“It’s just a simple dish of rice, some vegetables and protein but it’s enough to make me full without burning a hole in my pocket,” he said.
Faizal is among those relying on budget meals offered by some restaurant and cafeteria operators, which have decided to help consumers alleviate the burden of food inflation.
In June, the country’s inflation, as measured by the consumer price index, increased 3.4 percent from a year earlier. This has been led by rising food prices.
The price of groceries for home-cooked meals rose 6.1 percent, while the cost of dining out has gone up by 6.6 percent, government data released last Friday showed.
Among the staples with the highest price spikes were roti canai (10.5 percent), rice with side dishes (9.7 percent), cooked beef (7.8 percent) and noodle dishes (7 percent), the report said.
Despite the rising cost of raw materials, a restaurant in Selangor decided to introduce “nasi inflasi” (inflation rice) to help patrons cushion the blow.
Priced at RM5, the meal consists of rice, vegetable, egg, sardine sambal and a glass of lemonade.
“Years ago, we offered ‘nasi bujang’ (economy rice) at our sister restaurant, which we closed just before Covid-19. It was a hit,” said Iskandar Azaman, owner of a Sköhns Canteen, a cafe selling western set meals and Malay rice meals.
“Now, with rising prices affecting a large section of the population, we thought it should make a comeback but better. So we came out with nasi inflasi,” he said.
The “normal nasi bujang”, typically rice, plain soup and a single egg omelette, is not good enough, said Iskandar.
“It shouldn’t look like you didn’t have enough ingredients to make a meal, so we came out with an upgraded version; rice, sambal sardine, a fried egg, some sliced cucumber and a glass of lemonade,” he said.
“It is a wholesome, complete meal. You’ve got carbs, protein, some vegetables and it’s something you are happy to order, not because it’s cheap and you don’t have money,” he said.
Cafeteria operators at public institutions of higher learning have also expressed their willingness to provide struggling students with economy meals priced at RM3.50, under a government initiative announced earlier this month that would give them a six-month rental waiver.
Norlina Johari, who operates a varsity cafeteria in Sungai Buloh, said it is offering students complete meals consisting of rice, chicken and vegetables at about RM3.50.
Some food operators said their suppliers willingly gave them discounts on raw ingredients upon learning about their plans to offer budget meals.
Iskandar said he adjusted portions on the economy set simply to break even. “But we’re also not losing money,” he added.
SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES