A vegetable seller told me that he bought half a tonne of cucumbers for $24 (you read that right). He sells it at 10 cucumbers for $2, a bargain for his customers.
Singapore is expensive only if you don’t know where to get stuff for free or for cheap. Or when you want to reduce the number of things you get.
In 2017, I spent just $8 on food for the whole year. I got most of my food for free, except for a meal in Jan 2017 when I was still working things out. I now have so much food that every week I’m rearranging stuff in my fridge so that I can fit everything inside. Very often, I invite friends over to my place and ask them to help me eat my food so that I can close my fridge door.
I used to have a room where I would store all the excess stuff I got for free. These include clothes such as shirts and pants; footwear such as sandals and shoes, branded bags such as Coach, Louis Vutton, Prada, Kate Spade; home appliances such as ovens, toasters, vacuum cleaners, air fryers, television sets, pots and pans, decorations, you name it.
Nowadays I’ve been clearing out that room to put food, because I like food better than I like merchandise. A friend collects so much merchandise that he gives away a roomful of it to 15–20 Filipino maids every Sunday. Each of them leaves his place with a taxi full of stuff that they get for free. They ship these things home for their families that live in the slums.
Two weeks ago, a couple of friends and I collected 2000 kg of cabbages and gave them away for free. This is me delivering 200kg of cabbages to a friend:
This is what the cabbages look like after the outer leaves have been peeled off:
People who think Singapore is expensive do so because they don’t know that hidden truth. That truth is that as a nation, we throw away tonnes of stuff, food included, that is perfectly use-able and edible. And the truth is that as consumers, we pay the price of that waste. We don’t see it, so we don’t know.
This is the bread that is thrown away by a single bakery on a single night:
Who pays for this waste? You, the customers, do. That’s why Singapore is expensive.
It is perfectly possible to live off the waste of the nation. I’ve done it for the whole of 2017, and I’m still doing it. By not buying anything at all (except for pet food and litter), I reduced my expenses by $13,000 last year, and never lived a more comfortable and worry-free life here.
Now some people will say, no, this is wrong. We must spend money for the good of the economy. But we already know that a thriving economy doesn’t necessarily mean that people are happy. Because money doesn’t buy happiness; it buys convenience.
Yes, it’s not very convenient to have to handle tonnes of food. I constantly need to find people to give my surplus to.
Every week, my community receives 1–2 tonnes of fresh produce that would otherwise be thrown away. We take about 10 percent of it for our own consumption, and give the rest away to charity. You might have heard of us in the news, where 25 of us collected, in a couple of hours, 1.5 tonnes of produce to feed 5,000 people.
This is our booth at the event, where we gave away 600kg of fruits and vegetables that were not used to feed the 5000 members of the public.
Just this weekend, my mum bought spring chickens for $2 a piece. If you buy this at the supermarket, it would cost about $6–7. She helped her neighbours to order 170 of them. These chickens were rejected by supermarkets because they were less than 1 kg, so the chicken supplier let them go for cheap.
Sure, it’s much more convenient to just go to the supermarket and pick up a spring chicken, than have to deal with 170 of them. But that’s what makes Singapore expensive for most people – the convenience.
If you’re willing to spend some time and inconvenience yourself a little, you’ll find loads of stuff available for free.