16 ways to save money on your grocery bill

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

These days, it feels like every trip to the supermarket costs us more. If you’re looking at ways to save on ever increasing grocery bills, these tips will help.

Believe it or not, some thirty years ago it was possible to do a monthly grocery shop for less than R100. These days you can just about buy a jar of good coffee for the same amount. Food prices have been steadily climbing for years and although increases are often blamed on increasing fuel prices, they never seem to drop when the price of petrol comes down. All in all, South Africans are having a rough time and most have had cut back drastically on their grocery spends.

Choosing to eat at home instead of going out and cutting out (or at least cutting back on) so-called luxuries and processed foods has become the order of the day, but there are other ways to save on your food bills:

  1. Have a clear idea what everything costs and as basic as it sounds, check the price on every item before it goes into your trolley.
  2. Avoid convenience shops as much as possible. They are not only generally more expensive than regular supermarkets, shoppers seldom if ever buy only the items they really need. Break the habit of buying milk or bread on a daily basis. Include these in your weekly or monthly shop and freeze.
  3. Keep your eyes peeled for specials, but don't go overboard. It's easy to get caught up in a buying frenzy when you spot a ‘reduced’ sticker, but before you load the trolley with a year's supply of toothpaste, check two things: is there another, cheaper product on the shelf, and is the price of the reduced item not still higher than you would normally pay.
  4. Don't go shopping when you're hungry or thirsty. You’ll be less tempted to buy impulsively if you have a full stomach.
  5. Make a list and stick to it.
  6. Buy as many VAT-zero items as possible. Fresh and frozen fruit and veg, rice, maize meal, brown bread, eggs, cooking oil, milk and dried beans and lentils are all VAT free.
  7. Only buy fruit and veg which are in season. Imported produce is expensive and given the wide variety of local, seasonal fruit and veg available, is a totally unnecessary spend. Compare the price per kilo between loose and pre-packaged items and go with the cheaper option.
  8. Check out local flea/food markets and compare the prices of things like fresh fruit and veg, cheese, jam and other perishables with similar items at your supermarket.
  9. Avoid buying processed food as much as possible. Make your own ‘ready meals’ and freeze for convenience.
  10. Avoid so-called snack packs – these are notoriously expensive. Buy things like dried fruit and nuts in bulk and package them into individual portions yourself.
  11. Check out the deli at your local supermarket to see if items such as cold meats are cheaper than their pre-packaged cousins.
  12. Grow your own fruit, vegetables and herbs if possible.
  13. Make your own. The internet is full of recipes for things like mayonnaise and tomato sauce. The product won't only be fresher, it won't contain hidden preservatives.
  14. Cut out meat at least one day a week.
  15. Shop online whenever possible. It's not only convenient, it could end up saving you a fortune by removing the temptation to buy unnecessary goods.
  16. Shop as infrequently as possible. Plan ahead and create a meal plan for a month. This may sound difficult, but in actual fact it's easier than it looks. If a month's worth of planning seems too daunting, plan your meals for a week and only buy the produce you know you’ll use.

How to keep your food fresh for longer

Be sure to store the food correctly. Invest in a deep freeze and ensure your fridge is set at the correct temperature. We live in a warm climate and food will spoil faster if the fridge isn't kept at the right temperature. Fridges should be set to 3°C in order to preserve food for as long as possible, regardless of the season. Dried foodstuffs should be stored in airtight containers once opened.

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