Cooking in Shanghai
One of the things I know I will miss a lot about China is the food. At the apartments, it is convenient to step outside and, within steps, find several restaurants with delicious dishes. But, even though going out is very easy and cheap, I’ve found that cooking has created an opportunity for me to not only save even more money, but also immerse myself more into the culture.
On Alliance’s website it tells you to budget $10 for food per day and that is no exaggeration. Of course, you could go to a place like Tianzifang and pay a lot of money for a meal, but if you’re budgeting, $10 is more than enough. $10 amounts to 70块 and will get you plenty of food if you’re going out to the normal restaurants we are surrounded by. But, if you decide to cook food you can save a lot of money.
Back at home in the states, I cook all the time and wanted to see how feasible it was to do here. The apartments have no oven, but we have a stove top. After you buy the cooking essentials: a couple pans, some chopsticks, etc. you can easily approach this method too if you find yourself wanting to save money. I found a friend in the program who wanted to cook, too, which made the situation even better. First, because going to Walmart often is not that fun, we stocked up on noodles, rice, and spices from there. Now, almost every Sunday and Wednesday we go to the wet market to buy our meat and vegetables. It is located right outside the SUFE gate near Da Xue Lu. We usually buy very little meat (it is still cheap, though!) they have chicken breasts, pork, or beef and then we always buy a ton of veggies. A ton. To this day, we have not spent more than 40 块 each visit. After we split the cost, that 20块 amounts to less than $3 USD and will give us food for at least 5 meals. Overall, about $6 a week is individually spent at the wet market. And other than that, unless I am treating myself, I spend no more than 100块 on the necessary foods. For breakfast I eat rice and nori with green tea or Belvita and coffee and, for lunch, I almost always go to the cafeteria. All in all, having $20 a week will give you the allowance to eat like a king (or queen) in China.
Being cheap is not to the best part, though, the experience is even more fulfilling. Going to this wet market is nothing like a grocery store in the states. I love it! You walk into this building that has a small, open entrance that opens into this dimly lit, concrete area with many stands. The food is out in the open and, compared to our grocery stores, this place would be considered “dirty,” but I really just see it as different. I haven’t gotten sick and am not scared of the food, just make sure you wash it and cook it fully, just like you would in the U.S. Each individual stand is run by a family that is selling either meats, veggies, seafood, eggs, spices, etc. At first, it was kind of hard to determine which ones to go too because there were several in each category. But, after going twice a week, my friend and I now have our go-to people. We’ve forged relationships with these people and have been forced to completely use Chinese, but it is seriously so much fun. With the little Chinese we both know, I’ve never felt uncomfortable being there and negotiating and communicating with our friends. When I come back to the states, I will miss this constant immersion into Chinese culture, seeing how they live and shop each day in the wet market is just one of the different things that has been so exciting for me. Our last trip in a couple weeks is going to be a sad one, I’m definitely going to give our vegetable lady a hug and thank her.