Cheap as Chips

The general impression everyone has of India is that it is really cheap. Food for the most part is. However we have been caught out on a few occasions already.

Real cheese is difficult to come by. When I saw Manchego for sale in the supermarket I jumped at the chance to buy some. The clue that it wasn’t fresh was given when the server couldn’t actually cut the cheese and ended up getting something resembling a machete to cut it. The smallest piece he could hack off was 195g and it cost £6.95. It didn’t taste great either. Lesson learned.

Toilet rolls and packets of tissues are also expensive. People here wash (jug and bucket) after visiting the toilet and paper is hardly used.As a consequence loo roll is really expensive. It is rationed in serviced apartments too – you actually have to completely run out before they will replace it. A 4 pack cost over £3. I bought some pocket tissues yesterday too – £2.07 for a small multipack.

I also managed to find a jar (the only one in the whole shop) of pasta sauce (tomato, garlic and basil). Not a brand but it still cost me £4.50. I put back the tin of Heinz Beans – at £1.30 for a dusty can, I couldn’t do it!

I can’t find soya margarine or soya cream anywhere. Dairy free baking is going to be difficult here.

By contrast, eating out or ordering in is really cheap. The menu in the serviced apartment has chicken fried rice for £1.50, Butter chicken £1.70, Alu Pakoda 50p, Chicken samosa £1 and Zahra has had chicken nuggets and chips for £1 and a cheese toastie for 65p. The food is good and plentiful.

We ate out at a Persian restaurant last week and it cost c. £16 for the three of us.

Yesterday we went to Domino’s Pizza for tea. The choice is basically veg or chicken. We ordered 3 medium pizzas, garlic bread and 2 bottles of drink for £15.90. At first I thought that was expensive (and it is when you compare it to the room service menu) but then I realised it was expensive for India and not expensive for the UK.

Fruit is also a mixed bag. You can buy a large bunch of bananas for about 40p yet kiwi fruit costs 40p each. So far we have stuck with fruit that has to be peeled to be on the safe side.

Cooked meats are very difficult to come by, as is any meat generally. It is not usually found in supermarkets. Chicken is easier to find. There are roadside hut style shops selling mutton – hung outside in the heat and at the side of a dusty road – and also live chickens. I’ve not been that brave. A French ex pat who has been here a while gave me the address of a butchers in the city. An hour each way to get 250g of ham (£6.50) and 250g of bacon (£5.50).It was clean and the meat was kept in huge steel fridges – so you couldn’t see what you were buying but it was good quality and delicious.

Basically, imported or western style food is expensive. Local Indian cuisine is super cheap (but generally loaded with spice and chillis (or “chillys” here)).

I am missing my Sunday roast dinner already.


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