3 meals a day at shopping malls, food courts and kopitams cost about S$17: IPS study – Mothership.SG

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A study by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) found that the average cost of three meals is S$16.89 if one visits shopping malls, food courts and kopitiams.

IPS surveyed 829 food establishments — 92 malls, 101 food courts and 636 kopitiams — in 26 residential areas in Singapore.

Compare and contrast

This was done in two different periods, from September 2022 to November 2022 and from January 2023 to February 2023.

The second round of data collection “served both as a data check and to examine the effects of scaling up, if any.

From January 1, 2023, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on food prices will increase by 1 percentage point to 8 percent, the study said.

A total of 18 food items including drinks and main dishes were included.

These include staples such as Kopi O, Frozen Milo, Breakfast Set (kaya toast, two soft-boiled eggs and coffee or tea), Chicken, Fish Noodles and Economy Rice (two vegetables and one meat).

Neighborhoods included areas in the Central, Eastern, North Eastern and Western regions such as Bishan, Bedok, Sembawang, Ang Mo Kio and Clementi.

Important findings

Changes in food and beverage prices

The cheapest drink was Kopi O ($1.09) on average, while the most expensive drink was frozen Milo (S$1.81) on average.

One regular and one egg prata was the cheapest food item at S$2.97, while chicken was more expensive on average at S$7.58.

When comparing the difference between food establishments, malls were the cheapest, followed by kopitiams (coffee shops), and food courts were the most expensive.

Changes in the cost of food

Dinner was generally the most expensive meal at an average of S$6.20, lunch was a close second at S$6.01, and breakfast was the cheapest at S$4.81.

With an average cost of three meals at S$16.89, the total monthly expenditure (30 days) averages S$506.70.

The cheapest breakfast combo is a breakfast set, at an average of $3.25, while the most expensive breakfast item is Kopi with Noodles at an average price of S$5.32.

The cheapest lunch combos are Kopi O and economy rice at S$4.41, while the most expensive is S$9.58 with frozen Milo and chicken.

Dinner offers similar average prices, with the cheapest combo of Kopi O and economy rice at S$4.43 and the most expensive combo of frozen Milo and chicken at S$9.58.

Food prices varied by location

When comparing all areas, the cheapest breakfast at S$2 is the breakfast set found in Bukit Panjang, Jurong West and Toa Payoh, as well as Kopi O and nasi lemak in Toa Payoh.

Toa Payoh (Kopi O and nasi lemak) has the cheapest lunch combos with Sembawang (frozen canned drink with vegetarian bee hoon).

The cheapest lunch can be found at Jurong East (with Kopi O fishball noodles) at S$2.80.

The most expensive breakfast goes to Bishan, where Kopi and sweet noodles cost $9.50, while the most expensive lunches and dinners can be found in Queenstown (frozen Milo with chicken briyani) and Tampines (frozen Milo with chicken briyani or chicken). $14.90.


IPS acknowledged areas where their research fell short.

It cited limitations of the data, such as excluding stalls that were closed during their visits due to lack of manpower and resources, even if the stalls sold some of the food items used during the testing.

Food prices were mainly based on menu prices, which IPS can sometimes lead to price differences, especially if the menu is not updated regularly.

In addition, food prices were taken at face value, that is, differences in quantity and quality were not taken into account.

During the first two months of data collection, certain stalls and even entire food establishments underwent significant renovations, ownership changes, and closures, leading to a lack of general action on the data collected.

Costs are expected to increase

When IPS returned to compare prices in 2023, many traders said they would not raise prices yet but were not opposed to the idea.

IPS concluded that the cost of eating out in Singapore “is likely to increase in the future in relation to individual and household incomes”.

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