(DISCLAIMER: This tips are not for those who use all organics ingredients, there is several organic market that sells organic produce for a better price than the ones in the supermarket, it will cost you more than 3 million per month. Also, I am not a vegetarian, I eat meat or fish every now and then, so conclusions may vary if you are a vegan or a vegetarian).
There are background stories in that salad bowl. Let’s take a deeper look into what we eat and find alternatives behind that green juice and purple smoothies.
I live in a healthy food Mecca, the destination for people to get raw food and yoga teacher certification. Yet, eating a plate of bland and disgraced gado-gado in a restaurant or salad with sesame-soya dressing will cost me around USD5 a bowl including 10% government tax.
Shall I call it expensive?
Like everywhere else in the world, ingredients’ cost for a restaurant should not be more than 30% of its price per portion. The same rule is applied in most of the restaurants in Ubud. Knowing this, you will also have to include salary cost, rental cost and general cost (which also includes, tools cost and external cost) and profit to the price. So next time you pay for that salad bowl, remember what you are paying for.
For the local Balinese, it is a waste of money to pay for all those costs on the price tag. Why? As most of us know, almost 70% of Balinese earnings belongs to the social structure that makes Bali, Bali. They paid for those beautiful offerings that we used to step on it on the road. They paid for those incense we smell every morning and evening, as well as for those beautiful ceremonies that lure many people from around the globe to come to this island. In short, they pay for the biggest chunk of effort that makes Bali, Bali. That beautiful kebaya and charming udeng also cost them money, you know.
So how can they survive with that 30% of their earnings?
Before we know how much exactly that 30% is, first, we need to know the wage for local Balinese. The minimum wage for the locals in this area (Ubud, Gianyar) is IDR 1,700,000 a month (USD123). With bonuses and other additional earnings, the average local Balinese earns IDR2,500,000 per month. 6 out of 10 Balinese live with this amount. Mostly, those are the waitress who serves you kombucha and quinoa salad.
30% from that minimum wage means IDR 750,000 every month solely for food. Based on past time history before Bali becomes touristy area, this was how much they used to earn in the past, even better. And most of Balinese I know don’t savor the food as much as any avid foodie. Even if they love to eat good food, they would rather spend their money for offerings and ceremonies than on food (that will become human waste in the end).
The locals are happy enough with their IDR 7,000 Nasi Campur from Made Latri in Tebesaya for breakfast. Or IDR 10,000 Nasi Ayam from Mek Susi in Lungsiakan for lunch, and IDR 8,000 Sate Ikan in front of Gallery Tangkas for dinner. Don’t get me wrong, they are all good, and probably the best (deal) in the area.
From all those facts I mentioned above, we can learn that except for housing, living expense in Ubud is not that expensive. That is if we adopt the locals’ way to live.
So how can we manage to spend IDR 3 million on food while maintaining a good amount of nutrition for our body?
1. Buy fruits and vegetables like the locals.
Don’t go to Bintang and Delta Dewata to buy fruits and vegetables. I go to this no-name shop near Bale Banjar Penestanan Kelod. It’s on the left side of the road after you turn right if you go from Cupit BBQ.
From this shop, I buy carrot, broccoli, cauliflower, mango, purple dragon fruit, strawberry, tomato, local lemon, pisang hijau (a variety of banana that doesn’t ripen too fast), pineapple, papaya, watermelon, young coconut and its water, melon, zucchini, cucumber, green apple, eggs, garlic, shallot, onion and leafy greens.
I spend in average IDR 150,000 per visit, and IDR1,200,000 per month (IDR 150,000 x 2 visits (a week) x 4 (weeks)). Vegetables and fruits worth of IDR150,000 makes 10 bowls of fruit salad and 4 portions of vegetable meals. That is the amount of meal for 3-4 days.
For the fruits, I cut them and serve it in a bowl. Along with a dash (2tbs) of Muesli that costs IDR100,000 per 1kg in Bintang Supermarket. Enough for the whole month.
For the vegetables, I make dip sauce for it, or you can call it dressing. I replace pasta with these vegetables: carrot sticks, cucumber sticks, zucchini sticks, spinach bowl or corn soup. I spend IDR450,000 for these dressings: creamy tuna dressing, bolognese dressing, cream mushrooms dressing, spicy esca li vada dip, and tzatziki dip. I make it in medium size batch that is enough for 4 to 5 portions.
2. Eat out where the locals go
We need to socialize once in a while to be a part of this small community. And eating all fruits and vegetables 30 days in a row is a bland life for me. So I make time and spare a budget to eat outside. Twice or three times a week won’t make your wallet bleeds. The budget for this category is around IDR750,000 per month.
These are my first option warungs:
Dapurku in Jalan Raya Ubud (spending per visit: IDR25,000 – IDR50,000)
Everything is good in there. My all time favorite is the buffet menu. From the menu list, the best ones are Bubur Ayam, Nasi Goreng Vegetarian, and Sop Buntut. Dapurku serves the best watermelon juice in Ubud for IDR10K!
Warung Widuri in Jalan Sukma (spending per visit: IDR35,000 – IDR50,000)
They serve the best Opor Ayam and Sambal Goreng Ati in town. Their Gepuk Sapi is also to die for. If you like chicken feet, they serve the spicy one and the one that resembles chicken feet at dim sum restaurant. They also serve durian pancake and irresistible desserts. Don’t drop your saliva just yet!
Restoran Padang Bagindo Rasa in Peliatan (spending per visit: IDR17,000 – IDR35,000)
This one is the best Padang food in town! Very authentic and honest price. They also open 24 hours. It makes Padang galore at midnight becomes so delightful. The best options in here are of course, rendang sapi, paru goreng, ayam balado, jengkol balado, and kari cincang. If licking a plate after eating is polite, I would do that in there!
Sate Ayam Madura in Pengosekan across the petrol station (spending per visit: IDR12,000)
This one is the best sate ayam in town. Owned by a guy from Madura who seems to know how to make a good sate Madura. He needs to provide spoon, though. I bring my own to scoop the peanut sauce.
Warung Mak Yayah in Jalan Sukma (spending per visit: IDR15,000 to IDR45,000)
Mak Yayah is that short-haired chatty woman in her late 40s that came from Jakarta to provide the most authentic gado-gado in Ubud. She also serves Ketoprak and nasi uduk with peanut sauce. Her soto ayam also pretty good.
Warung Bali Ibu Ade in Jalan Sukma (spending per visit IDR15,000 – 30,000)
This is the place where you can get a satisfying Nasi Campur Bali. Ibu Ade serves the best sate Babi and sate lilit ayam which tastes like nowhere else in Ubud. She uses the right amount of seasoning and spices on everything she cooks.
Warung Mek Susi in Lungsiakan (spending per visit: IDR10,000 – IDR15,000)
Cheap and pretty good. Enough for a break between fruit salads.
Ayam Goreng Prambanan near Arjuna Statue (spending per visit: IDR20,000 to IDR40,000)
Their ayam kremes tastes like a normal ayam goreng but quire run-of-the-mill.
The second options would be:
Mangga Madu in the back of Ayam Goreng Prambanan for their ayam keju and es cincau, Warung Igelanca for their Mie Jawa, Kwetiau Ayam, perkedel jagung and chocolate mousse; Warung Taman for their Ayam Koloke, nasi goreng special and just to chat with the owner, Bang Joni.
3. Once in a month, give yourself a treat or two
Usually, I go to Taco Casa, Man Maru, Tartufo or Warung Siam to give myself a reward after brain-squeezing work, or a challenging meeting with a client. I spend no more than IDR150,000 per visit. Once in a blue moon, I would enjoy fine dining restaurants.
I don’t normally drink alcohol except for free. For me, it doesn’t make sense to pay for something that intoxicates my only liver. This thought saves a lot of money as great cocktails cost me a fortune. And I don’t enjoy pilsener.
If you could spend less, save your money to invest on the fridge, rice cooker, blender + chopper, food processor and good sauce pan. These tools are essential to produce healthy food.
In the end, healthy lifestyle is not one without exercise involved. Download Skimble app on your phone and do minimum 3 exercises every week.
The annoying part from this app is they constantly “persuade” you to subscribe and pay minimum IDR82,000 per month. If you feel like spending that amount, you could subscribe. But if you think it’s out of your budget, ignore that, and don’t worry, the free exercises are great too. My favorites are the ones that focus on using body weight: Thank-full Body, The Survivor, and Candy Crusher.
With all these tips, I hope you could enjoy life in Ubud and be happy every time you eat. Because life is short, eat good food, and be a smart spender.