Realistic Monthly Grocery Budget for a Single Malaysian Millennial in 2020

There are a lot of grocery budgets in Malaysia written out there. Expatriates with fat paychecks write about their unrealistic grocery budget for the average Malaysian. On the other hand, minimalists are showing their budgets that are suspiciously too low.

In this article, I’ll share with you a realistic monthly grocery budget for a typical Malaysian millennial like myself.

I like to eat at home more often than I want to eat out. To me, eating out should only be reserved for social occasions. Or else, the expense is not worth it.

Because of this, my grocery budget is higher compared to my eating out budget.

To me, eating at home needs to balance out between being healthy, tasting good and obviously, cheap:

I like to eat at home at least 60% of the time. My grocery budget is hovering at around RM 750 a month for a single person in his 30’s. It sounds like a lot, but take a look at the ingredients that I buy to cook at home. It’ll be equivalent to a RM 20+ per meal if dined at a restaurant.

I spend around RM 350 a month on eating out. My total food bill each month is RM 1,100.

Let’s break down my grocery spending:

My Typical Grocery Budget Breakdown

Let me explain my Qty/Month or quantity per month:

Example 1: For chips categorized as junk food (second from the bottom), my qty/month is 2. What this means is that I buy this item twice in a month.

Example 2: For Olive oil at the bottom of the table, my qty/mth is 0.33. What this means is, a bottle of olive oil for me would last three months. So I’d only buy one bottle of olive oil once every three months. Hence the 1/3 or 0.33 number for qty/mth.

Now let’s analyze this grocery list:

What am I Spending the Most

Here’s my grocery breakdown based on the food category & total amount:

My most significant spending is for proteins. It’s due to all the meat that I consume.

Luckily, fruits and vegetables are the second and third biggest spending, so I don’t feel too bad.

Cheap Vs Quality Grocery

You will notice that I categorize items by where to buy them. That’s because there’s no one place that is perfect to buy all of your grocery items (if you care about not overpaying).

Some stores like Village Grocer are expensive but the best place to buy quality fresh ingredients. It’ll be smart to buy quality meat here, but not so much getting generic items like milk that tend to be pricier.

On the other hand, some stores like Tesco sells the cheapest generic items. It’ll be smart to get rice, but not fresh produce or meat here.

It’ll be a good idea to separate your grocery shopping according to where to buy the cheapest generic items vs. quality ingredients. Here’s what I discovered:

StoreStatusGo Here For
Tesco, Giant & AeonNormalGeneric brands
Village & Ben’s GrocerUpscaleFresh quality meat
& foreign ingredients
CS Market & Pasar malam
(night market)
Cheapest Fruits

I’d buy non-perishable items like canned food, soap, eggs, rice, cheese, oil, and coffee at Tesco or Giant because their prices tend to be one of the cheapest and they’re closest to where I live. I do this once a week.

Upscale supermarkets like Village & Ben’s Grocer is where I buy fresh and quality meat like beef, chicken, and salmon. I do this once every two weeks minimum.

The cheapest place to buy quality vegetables and fruits is at my local pasar malam or CS Market. I do this once a week.

I’ve made a pivot table that categorizes my grocery list by ‘where to buy’ so I don’t miss anything during my grocery run:

Pretty neat, right? My grocery list is categorized by where to buy them, which brings me to my next benefit:

Grocery Trip Frequency Planning

By knowing what items to get at which grocery store, you can plan out and minimize your grocery haul trips.

Because for me, going to the grocery costs time, money, and frustration.

If I can only do groceries once a month, that’d be ideal.

But in reality, perishable items like veggies, fruits, and bread don’t last the whole month. So a minimum once a week grocery run is inevitable.

I typically do my groceries in the middle of the week during office hours to avoid the crowds.

How to Reduce Your Grocery Bills

If you’re spending too much on groceries, chances are, you’re spending most of your budget on junk food and stuff you don’t even need.

Re-evaluate your purchases, cut down on sugar products, and channel the reduced junk food budget into your fruit budget. After a while, chances are, you’ll:

  • train yourself to eat less in general
  • put less sugar into your body
  • feel healthier (this is priceless)
  • overall spend less on groceries

Here are the junk foods that I managed to cut down (to some extent):

  1. Sugary carbonated water from many bottles to 2 bottles a month
  2. Chocolate bars, M&M’s from many bags a month to just 2
  3. Chips from 5 bags a month to only two bags

Once you control and reduce your junk food and sugary water purchases, you’ll see a drop in your typical grocery bill. Not to mention that you’ll be healthier.

Wrapping it All Up

Learning how to cook simple good food at home will increase your happiness and health.

Home cooked beef ragu

Together with scheduling what to cook and eat in a week, often called ‘food batching’ or ‘meal prep,’ you’ll be able to prepare meals in batches and freeze them. This will save you even more money and time.

Meal prep requires planning and practical testing to see which recipes that are not only easy and cheap to make, but also freezes and reheats well. Check out my recipe section (more articles to be added in the future).

I hope this has helped to provide a realistic budget, especially for a single millennial living in Kuala Lumpur.

Check out my other related article: Cost of Living in Kuala Lumpur for a Millennial

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  1. Thanks for sharing! I already track my expenses (though not as detailed as yours), but I like the idea of having a detailed grocery breakdown to look at later.

    How did you itemize all your purchases in a sheet? Did you automate it or record them individually?

    1. Thanks for reading Lim 🙂

      I just used Google Spreadsheet. I typically buy the same thing over and over again each month so I remember what I buy. I’ll be covering how to record daily transactions using apps later.

    1. You’re welcome. That budget is on the higher side of the spectrum. So you can actually spend a lot less if you’re careful 🙂

  2. You made some good points there. I checked on the internet to learn more about the issue and found most people will go along with your views on this web site.

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