Once poor, Kota Damansara food seller now sells 'budget rice' at RM3.50, gives it free to those who can't afford it
Arfan helping out Shima while on semester break last year. — Picture courtesy of Nurul Shima

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 7 — Food seller Nurul Hashima Abu Aris knows how tough life can be.

Although life is good now, she grew up poor and her family once had to share packets of RM1 nasi lemak.


"We shared four packets of RM1 nasi lemak between myself, my three younger siblings and my parents,” she recalled.

"My dad didn’t have money to buy it, so he owed the nasi lemak seller.”

Fast forward to present times, Shima now has a food business where she sells packets of rice for RM3.50 each.

She also gives some of it away from free if they can’t afford to pay for it.

When some of her customers can’t pay or have RM5 left until payday, she gives it for free and tells them to pay when they can. — Picture courtesy of Nurul Shima

Some of her customers have even asked her if she makes any profit.

"I do,” said Nurul Hashima Abu Aris, who runs a budget rice stall in Kota Damansara. "But for me it’s more about making it affordable for people who don’t have much to spend on food.”

Her decision to sell cheaper food happened after she paid RM7 for a half portion of rice with a spoonful of vegetables and a piece of salted fish during the Covid-19 movement control order period.

She considered it overpriced for such a meagre meal and wondered how those affected by quarantine through loss of income could afford to feed themselves.

"I thought to myself, why don’t I sell my own affordable food so more people have the chance to eat,” said Shima who started helping her mother cook at the age of six.

She was running a successful home food delivery service, which she started in 2012, cooking up to 15 kinds of dishes a day and sending them to her customers via part-time riders who worked for her.

So she enlisted the help of her eldest son Arfan, 16, Shima’s budget rice stall set up. She did the cooking, Arfan did the packing.

They started with 80 rice parcels with four options to choose from. Ayam masak merah (red gravy chicken) and ayam minyak kicap (chicken soya sauce) are constants, being the bestsellers.

Two other options are available, usually including fish or prawns, and are changed on a daily basis.

Today, she sells 200 pre-packed parcels a day and they’re sold out an hour and a half after she opens for business at 5pm in the evening.

As of last year, she stopped her home delivery service (even though it made more money) to fully concentrate on her stall located in Kota Damansara.

Arfan is now a 19-year-old university student.

Shima’s budget rice stall is open on weekdays only. — Picture courtesy of Nurul Shima 

She has also used the profit she makes to help at least 50 people.

It’s an achievement she and husband Mohd Khairul Azam, who’s in IT, are extremely proud of.

"I helped them buy groceries, buy baby essentials,” said the 42-year-old mother of three.

"When I couldn’t buy the items for them, I gave cash. What I gave helped them get through the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021.”

Shima has never let a difficult childhood get in the way of getting what she needed.

When she couldn’t afford revision books, she would copy from her classmates’ books, writing out the parts that were important.

When she couldn’t afford to buy sanitary pads, her mum, a seamstress, taught her to sew together bits of leftover material and use that.

She even made money sewing sets of batu seremban or five stones and selling them for RM1 each to her classmates.

With her earnings, she would buy treats for her siblings or buy cheap fish and vegetables from the market and bring it home to cook for her family.

"No matter how bad it gets, always look for the silver lining and act like you’re fine because everything will be fine,” she added.

"My mum taught me that. And always remember God will never give you more than you can handle.”

Shima's stall is located in front of the Al-Falah surau, Section 6, Kota Damansara.

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