Not Same Same in Thailand…
Whenever I head back home and come across friends I have not seen in a long while they ask me, “Is it cheaper living in Thailand?”. It’s hard to answer that question without giving an example. So my example is the sandwich. Simple and easy to make.
But in a nutshell my answer is it really depends. If you can eat like the locals the answer is a resounding yes. If you eat like the way you eat back in the US then the answer is no. Let’s take the good ol’ sandwich for example and look at the prices.
When I was a kid one of the first things I ever made to eat on my own is a sandwich. There’s not a huge learning curve so it’s right up my alley. Ham, cheese, a heavy slather of mayo between two slices of Wonder Bread. And there’s a 98% chance that whoever reads this and is from the USA made the same too.
According to the Smithsonian every day 50% of Americans consume some form of a sandwich. And that sounds about right. Putting together a sandwich in the US is economical. Packing a sandwich for lunch to work is just one of the best ways to save money. And finding a grocery store with all sorts of cold cuts and cheese is easy peasy too back home in US.
It’s kinda like that too in Thailand. Though there are a few surprises or shall we call it sticker price shock…
Sandwich Ingredients and Costs
I always buy bread from Yamazki bakery. You can find them just about everywhere there is a Tops Supermarket. A bag of 8 slices cost 55THB, nearly $2USD. I like this style of bread because it taste good. But most importantly, it is not loaded with preservatives. You’ll find a expiration date right on the bag which is 3 days from date of purchase. But I find that if you stick it in the fridge it’ll last an extra 2 to 3 days.
There is a certain brand of cheaper whole wheat bread you can buy in most major supermarkets and convenience stores such as 7-Eleven. I don’t buy the cheap stuff because it lasts about two to three weeks. There’s just something sinister about bread that takes that long to go moldy.
Every supermarket in Thailand has some sort of deli/cold cuts department today. The better ones are mainly located inside supermarkets with many expats or foreigners nearby. The best cold cut department I’ve ever seen is at the Emporium Supermarket in the basement level of Siam Paragon Mall.
But I don’t live anywhere near there so I purchase packaged Oscar Meyer ham near the deli section of a local Tops Supermarket at Central Ladprao.
Normally a 6oz. (170 grams) package of Oscar Meyer ham cost 164THB ($4.86USD). 170 grams is about 10 slices of ham. Yes, that is expensive right? And it doesn’t get any cheaper if you buy local produced ham.
Swiss Chalet is a Thai brand of ham that is of good quality and sometimes I buy it when it goes on sale. Normally, it costs 98THB ($2.90USD) for 6 slices of ham, 200 grams.
Back in NYC near my local Key Food Supermarket I pay $4.99USD for 453 grams of quality ham. Right about now you must be thinking this can’t get any worse right?? Wait for it…
Allowrie is a Thai dairy company and their cheese is comparable to packaged Kraft Cheese back in the states. A pack of 12 slices cost 139THB ($4.13USD). In the US I stay away from the packaged sliced cheese and buy right from the deli counter.
Back in the US I know I can buy a whole pound of good quality American cheese for $4USD.
Even though you’ll find a wide variety of block cheeses mostly from Europe and USA it’s expensive. Even the lower quality package cheeses have crazy prices. 10 slices of cheddar cheese from the Netherlands cost about $8USD.
In general dairy products are expensive in Thailand. Butter and in this case cheese are not common items found in the fridge as it is in most countries.
Mayo, the glue that holds the sandwich together, is expensive as well. A 443ml Kraft Mayonnaise jar cost $3USD. That’s a small bottle and the way I use it would last me 8 sandwiches. I rather just make my own these days using Alton Brown’s mayo recipe. Eggs and oil which are essential in a mayo recipe is very affordable in Thailand.
Sometimes I like to switch out mayo for mustard. But mustard is also a bit pricey. Luckily for my taste a little bit of mustard goes a long way. 340g of French’s Mustard cost $3USD.
Tomato and lettuce are affordable but not exactly cheap either. And it doesn’t help that I’m a bit picky about the raw vegetables I buy. You can save a bit of money purchasing vegetables for sandwiches at local Thai wet markets instead of supermarkets. But if you don’t live near one it could be a bit inconvenient. Also I find that vegetables in supermarkets are cleaner and better quality.
In general, it’s cheaper to eat Thai food outside then it is to cook Thai food at home. And also consider you don’t need to prep the ingredients and wash dishes afterwards. So you save time too.
However, for the sandwich, it’s actually cheaper to make at home than it is to buy it outside. There are many shops that sell pre-made sandwiches. You can buy a ham and cheese between two pieces of white bread for $1.75USD. But if you make your own sandwich at home it could cost you about $1USD but with lettuce and tomato.
I do miss the days I could make myself a hero sandwich, with a few inches of stacked ham and turkey with cheddar cheese and the works. Sadly here in Thailand, you don’t really have that choice. Hell, I can’t even find turkey cold cuts.
Granted a lot of the ingredients I buy for my sandwiches are all imported I can still tell you locally produced ham and cheese are not cheap and nearly the same price as imported.
But there’s plenty of cheap Thai food all around where I live and travel often. I can get a small entree with rice for about $1.30USD to $1.60USD. Though I usually double my order because I can eat a lot. Even noodles I would order 2 bowls.
It is still possible to live off of $10USD a day on food, assuming you’re only eating Thai.
So there it is. Familiar foods that we can readily and easily prepare back home can be expensive to make here in Thailand. Don’t get me started on cereal. A box of shredded wheats cost $8USD here but I remember back in NYC it cost about $5USD.
And there are no Costcos or BJ Wholesale Clubs here. Man, I miss those places.