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How Much Food $5 Gets You In China

Food is cheap in China. I’ve said it before, now here’s the proof.

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.

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 88 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3426 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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  • aimee August 21, 2013, 12:29 pm

    One of my posts on http://www.NewtoMexicanlife.blogspot.com was about how much food I got in one trip to the local thursday market. I spent about $20, but I got food for a family of six for a week, excluding meat. I never got over the cheapness of certain foods which are very expensive at home: avocados for less than a quarter apiece, for example. Most weeks, I could buy these incredible, huge wild prawns from the Pacific, prawns that would cost $25 a pound at home, for $12 a kilo. I had to constantly remind myself that I was thinking in dollars, that for most of the people around me, those prawns were every bit a much of a luxury as they would be for me at home.

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