Real Cheap Eats

November 1st, 2010  |  by  |  Published in Features

There comes a time in everyone’s life when you find yourself flat out broke and trying to live off a couple of hundred kwai until your next paycheque. During these hard times most turn to the countless fantastic Chinese restaurants cooking-up meals at rock bottom prices. But there is only so much rice and so many pot noodles you can eat before start craving a bowl of pasta, homemade soup or slice of pizza. Shanghai Squared looks at how you can accommodate a western food fix into a budget of ¥20 per meal.

Breakfast at McDonalds (¥6)

The problem with McDonalds is the food always turns out to be smaller and greasier than it looked on the picture. The current ¥6 breakfast meal deal is certainly no exception to this rule but you do get both an Egg McMuffin and a coffee (hot or iced) for your money. Unfortunately, the people at McDonalds Shanghai have decided to fill the Egg McMuffin with both ketchup and mayonnaise, something many might find unorthodox. We recommend you upgrade to the Sausage-Egg McMuffin for ¥10 to avoid this condiment catastrophe.

Pros: Both feeds and caffeinates you for very little money.

Cons: You have to get to McDonalds before they stop serving breakfast at 10am.

Sub of the day at Subway (¥15)

Opting for a Subways sub of the day is like playing Russian roulette with a sandwich full of bad fillings. Get it wrong and you’ll end up with spam sausage but go on the right day and you’ll be treated to a spicy Italian. The key here is persistence, you may hit a few bad combinations but eventually everyone finds the right bread, sauce and fillings to satisfy them.

Pros: Takes seconds to prepare and seconds to eat, the ultimate food for someone on the move.

Cons: Make sure you specify you want the six-inch sub or they will prepare something twice the price.

Meatballs at IKEA (¥15)

If you’ve exhausted the your western staples and looking for something different there is no better alternative than IKEA meatballs. These rotund meaty delights combined with the secret sauce are world-renowned. If the canteen food isn’t enough then pop downstairs to the checkout where you will find hot dogs for ¥3 and ice-cream for ¥1.

Pros: You really won’t find anything else like it in town

Cons: You have to trek all the way to IKEA to get them (Metro: Shanghai Indoor Stadium)

Soup of the day at Wagas (¥16)

Even on a super-tight budget there will be times when you are invited out on a work lunch, or maybe even a date, and end up in Wagas. Don’t panic, just order Wagas small soup of the day. The soup may be smaller but the side-salad and bread that comes with it is the same size as the large ordering. Most drinks in Wagas cost about twice as much as the soup so just ask for a glass of complementary water.

Pros: Wagas offers free Wi-Fi but it’s switched off during the lunchtime rush.

Cons: A small soup may not fully satisfy your hunger.

Pasta from Saizeriya (¥10)

This place is the ultimate in no frills Italian. The only hint that this food originated in Italy is a faded picture of Venice on the wall. Nevertheless when it comes to pasta you’re not going to find better than ¥10 for a bowl of reasonably good Spaghetti Carbonara. They also do unlimited soft drinks for ¥6 and have a large number of pizzas starting at ¥20. For those who are health conscious we recommend the tuna salad (¥6)

Pros: You can completely pig out here and still not break the bank

Cons: While the classic Italian items on the menu are reasonably good, steer clear of the adventurous – if it looks to good to be true, it probably is.

Pizza at Picolo Pizza (¥19)

Pizza in China is never going to be amazing unless you’re willing to part with a lot of cash. However if you’ve got a craving Piccolo Pizza can provide a decent tasting fix starting at ¥19 for a Hawaiian. Make sure you go in with a few friends to bring your order total over ¥40 to get free delivery.

Pros: You get a free drink with most orders.

Cons: You have to live within delivery range of an outlet.

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