Rampant Phnom Penh Food Inflation

I went for my weekly supermarket sweep today and while standing in line behind four very fat and ugly American missionaries I imagined that I’d somehow blundered into a queue for the auditions of the Phnom Penh stage version of Babe. This in turn, caused me to glance into my basket and notice that the price of smoked bacon had gone up – again – by another 20 cents.

So how much are other expats paying for food per month these days?

I’m asking this because my food costs seems to be going stratospheric and are easily measurable because I usually cook and eat at home (both lunch and dinner) and so do one big weekly shop.

So, subtracting non food items from my supermarket shop (cases of Bollinger, snazzy exfoliating face wash, Sam Campbell dartboards, packets of extra large condoms, etc) I’m now spending about $35 a week on Western food for myself. Casting my mind back to the broad sunlit uplands of 2002, I was spending about half that AND being a bit more free and easy when it came to chucking boxes of Pringles and bars of Toberone into the basket .

To that $40 we can then add another $5 street market shop and contrary to popular opinion the shrill vendors don’t seem to wack a hefty barang surcharge on their produce so I buy all my vegetable there these days. This is hardly for the ambience or for the heat which can quickly turn one into something resembling a smokey bacon crisp – but potatoes, carrots and the like are about a third cheaper than in the supermarkets and fresher too. I stay away from the abattoir-style flybown meat stalls though.

Oddly, despite shopping at one particular Phnom Penh supermarket brimming with imported French produce (I’m especially fond of the Brittany cider), I very rarely see any French customers there. Is this because they spend all their time belching, farting and having sexual intercourse, (often at the same time)?

To this accumulated total of $40 we can also add another $5 spent at Lanzi’s Butchers on a Friday so I’ve got his excellent British Bangers and some decent sliced ham in the fridge over the weekend.

The total therefore is roughly $45 per week and apart from some rather nifty imported French yoghuts this is for basics – steaks, lamb chops, chicken thighs, cheese, milk, pasta, butter, eggs, blah di blah di blah. Callous pig that I am, I’ve never really considered the effect of all this rampant inflation on Khmers (of which a few million could quite fairly be described as poor, needy and dispossessed) but one thing’s for sure -if it continues in the same vein for a few more years then this expat will be on his way to the poorhouse with them.

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