Healthy & Ethical Eating on a Budget in Phuket with Monthly Costed Shopping Guide
In light of the current situation with Covid 19, many of us have been ushered into new ways of living and often on reduced finances. In this article, we will share ideas around how to feed your family a nutritious and delicious diet on a sensible budget. We are so fortunate to live on the island of Phuket where options to buy locally are almost limitless, a situation that benefits us and the local community as well as the wider environment – not to make use of this privilege and pleasure seems utterly crazy!
The key to buying locally with confidence is to really get to know your area, what is available, where it comes from and when new produce is for sale. If you don’t speak Thai it can be difficult to find out information so we suggest asking a native Thai speaker to come with you to local growers and markets to find out what is best.
BUYING LOCAL SEAFOOD
When visiting local seafood sellers, ask how often the fishermen go out and what is caught daily (‘’wa-ni’’ meaning today) which means you get the freshest fish, sustainably caught without the use of big trawler nets.
Once you know where to go and a few words in Thai, the sellers will come to recognize you and know what you are after. If you buy two fish, keep one whole to be cooked that day and ask for the other to be filleted in portions you can freeze for later in the week. Seek out oily fish such as mackerel and tuna as often as possible for extra Omega 3&6’s. Waste nothing: make stock with the bits you don’t eat. Experiment with different varieties: we have some incredible LOCAL seafood here in Phuket, when you get it straight from the source, you can taste the difference and take great pleasure in knowing that you are eating ethically.
BUYING LOCAL FRUIT & VEGGIES
Similar principles apply when sourcing local fruit and vegetable sellers. Try to avoid touristy markets and stick to mobile-markets (pictured) or very small-scale sellers, often found hidden down Soi’s and back streets. Not only will you get a better price but the produce is often home grown in neighborhood communities where minimal chemical intervention is required. Wash all fruit and vegetables in a big bowl and rinse, ready for refrigeration. If you are particularly concerned re hygiene, soaking the produce in baking soda is a sure-fire way to get rid of any bacteria.
There are so many advantages to eating local produce wherever possible: you will save money, reduce your intake of chemicals, hormones & pesticides, support your local community, reduce your carbon footprint and promote sustainable agriculture. Here in Phuket, we are so lucky that fresh local food is both accessible and abundant!
The economical and health benefits of buying locally are undeniable, however for certain items which make up a nutritionally balanced diet, it is hard to avoid the supermarket. The below image depicts a wholesome, balanced diet with your macronutrients (wholegrains, essential fats & protein) represented in healthy proportions.
We have shaped our plate and shopping guide to include animal protein & fats, from well-sourced poultry and local seafood as well as organic eggs, cheese & yogurt. You may wish to adjust according to your family’s dietary preferences and tastes. The below is meant as a guide only and to encourage buying local and knowing your sources all whilst saving money & protecting your health.
The prices of items in the table are based on our knowledge of what is available at Villa Market, Central and Makro as well as independent Health Food Shops in the Cherngtalay area. It may be that other supermarkets in Phuket offer better prices for certain items, however if a food item on the shelf of your local supermarket seems too cheap, check the ingredients list as it’s often easy to pinpoint why! Where tinned goods are concerned such as with beans and pulses, look for low sodium options and try to mix it up between tinned when you are time poor and dried when time allows for soaking. Making your own sauces and dressings is another great way to save money and increase your intake of fresh produce, you cannot beat a homemade tomato ragu! Making your own bread or yogurt is also surprisingly easy and well worth the effort.
GROWING YOUR OWN
At the time of writing this, we remain in lockdown in Phuket, the pandemic providing a timely opportunity to get gardening: most tools required for planting your own (soil, nutrients, seeds, pots….) are available online for home delivery. There has literally never been a better time to start sowing & growing. However, before delving fist-first into a pot of mulch, we recommend spending a few minutes researching the best foods to grow in a humid climate and the stages necessary for successful cultivation. With an increasing number of small-scale organic growers on the island, it only goes to show that with a bit of research and dedication, it’s more than possible to have your own fruit & vegetable garden, even if you are short of green space. The sense of satisfaction as you eat your own produce is one of pure & simple pleasure.
THE FUTURE IS PRESENT
For a world facing serious health, economic and environmental troubles, now is our time as individuals to decide how we are going to emerge from this and what changes we can make to ensure powerful and lasting transformation. This period of introspection has given way to new learnings and different ways of being. The individual choices we can make now are so much bigger than the sum of their parts: if saving money and supporting our local communities can lead to our own improved health as well as that of the wider planet, then surely we have arrived at a ‘fait accompli’?