Myanmar Living

Cheap Eats and Why I Don’t Cook Much These Days

One of the things I enjoy the most about living here in Yangon is probably the fact that food is so inexpensive. For the most part, if you stick with buying produce that are local or in season, it is pretty cheap. The more westernized the food product, the more expensive it is. Here are some things that I regularly buy:

  • A 5-gallon bottle of water 55¢ 💧
  • A baguette 55¢🥖
  • Packet of cherry tomatoes 31¢ 🍅
  • A carton of eggs $1.09 🥚 (10 eggs to a carton, not 12)
  • Feta cheese and olives in oil $5.39 🧀
  • Pasta sauce $3.62 🍝
  • Western-brand cereal $6.35 🥣
  • Almond milk $3.07 🥛

As a person that spends most of their money on food, this isn’t too shabby. So in theory, it would make sense to spend more time cooking. Since returning to Yangon in August (2019) I’ve not purchased raw meat to cook at home. My miniature has tank that sits on the floor in my kitchen since I’ve arrived, is still cranking out breakfast and the weekly ramen noodles I eat.

In a past life I was quite literally a cook (well I trained to be one, close enough), so why am I not cooking!?

Well for one, I’m tired of cooking dinner meals for one. I’m very proficient at it since I have a lot of practice doing it over the years, but I’m tired. The closest I get to cooking more than a single portion is for my work lunch group. Once a week four of us take turns preparing lunch, which means I still put a great deal of thought into one meal a week.

Also, my fridge is small! Last year I lived in a different apartment with a larger refrigerator so I could meal prep and have space for everything: food for myself for a day or two, our lunches, plus other random items. Now, anything more than a handful of items makes the fridge look super full and I don’t like having my fridge overflowing with foods and condiments that are going bad. I absolutely hate food waste and that is more likely to happen with a refrigerator full of things. Additionally, we do have power cuts that sometimes stays off for hours (developing country, remember?!) which can speed up the rate at which things go bad.

Last week was a bad food week for me. Half a carton of milk, a yogurt and some veggies went bad. One day the power was off for about 4-5 hours. Yeah…

The time and effort that goes into preparing a proper meal doesn’t always feel worth it, especially if I had long or rough day at work. Did I mention that I have one burner and a baby toaster oven? Yeah. The time I’m talking about isn’t just time in the kitchen. Smaller fridge means more frequent trips to the store, so that time to and from followed by prep and cooking time. Shan noodles from the guesthouse on the way home from school takes 10-minute wait and costs $1.71. If I want veggies, tomato salad or snow peas salad also $1.71 each. Making a batch of spaghetti with meat sauce would cost closer to $8.26 plus time. Sure, I could get two or three meals out of it, but I could buy Shan noodles everyday for a week with that amount.

So yea, I had to come up with a list of reasons to justify my laziness and lack of effort but…whatever. Life happens in phases. This is my current phase. I said I would cook more in 2020 but who am I kidding? What I mostly mean is that I will buy more salad items, ready steamed or roasted veggies from my sweet potato lady and stick with my plan of only ordering delivery once a month, right after payday. Now that gets expensive.

Cooking is a passion that will never completely die. When I’m in the kitchen I’m in my zone, focused and mentally mapping out my strategy on what to cook first, what to prep and in what order. But for right now, it’s on pause and that is okay.

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