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How Much Food $5 Gets You In China

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My wife returned amazed from a trip to the market in Taizhou, a city in China’s Jiangsu province. She dumped two armfuls worth of food on our kitchen table and exclaimed that she got it all for 31 RMB, which is roughly five US dollars. The amount of food compared the the low price was almost staggering: it was at least five days’ worth of vegetables and eggs.

For 31 RMB my wife brought home:

4 potatoes
4 heads of garlic
4 large cucumbers
A big bunch of parsley
A few ginger roots
3+ lbs of carrots
20 eggs

As I’ve previously written, China is still a cheap country to eat in:

I look into my refrigerator and I see chicken breasts that cost 50 cents a piece, pork for scarcely a dollar a pound, a bag of carrots for 25 cents, a head of broccoli for 30 cents, frozen dumplings for $1.50 a serving, a couple of onions for 50 cents, a bunch of bananas for 60 cents, a big bag of apples for $2, a huge bag of oranges for $3, a liter of milk for a dollar, and, as a splurge, a $5 brick of cheese. In my shelves I see a three pound bag of rice that I paid $1.50 for, a jar of peanut butter for $2, imported noodles for $1 a family size serving . . .

I recently bought an entire chicken, watched as it was slaughtered, defeathered, cut up, and put in a bag for the almost ridiculously low price of $3.50.

As I’ve said many times before, outside of extreme climates the basic foods that people eat everyday in pretty much any country — vegetables, fruit, the local meat and starch preference, UHT milk — are cheap. Dirt cheap.

Buy food where the working class buys food and you will eat cheap everywhere. Basic, staple foods are priced in accordance with local minimum wages. If a country has over 300 million people living on $2 per day, you are going to be able to get two armfuls of food for $5 at the market.

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Filed under: Cheap Food, China, Food

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3053 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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