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How to save on food and get cash in your pocket

5 July 2023
3 minute read
Mother and daughter grocery shopping

One month your food trolley is full and the costs within your budget. The next month it costs a little more, and the next month even more. By the next month, your trolley of goods can fit into a basket and your food budget is blown! Food has become one of the most expensive items around. South Africans are feeling the pinch, but with some smart food-saving tips, you can cope!

Food prices up by 12%

Over the last 12 months (May 2022 to May 2023) the price of food has risen by 11.8%. That’s nearly double the overall inflation rate of 6.3%. And some individual food prices have risen by more! For example, milk, eggs and cheese prices have increased by 14% and 30kg of maize has gone up 26%. The cost of a basic (very basic) nutritious diet for a family of four has risen from R3 150 to R3 536, a 12.25% increase.* Feeding you and your family is a lot more expensive than it was a year ago!  It’s no surprise South Africans are looking for ways to cut down their food budgets!

Best food budget tips

We asked smart South Africans for their best food budget tips! Here are 10 of your best ideas.

1. Buy cheap

Shop at street vendors, wholesalers, low cost retailers, small food stores and local markets to get good deals. And, buy cheap cuts of meat from chicken feet to frozen chicken pieces. Buying in season and local is another way to stretch your budget (just monitor avocado prices).

2. Stretch food

Sounds counterintuitive but it can work! Meat prices are high, so stretch your meat by bulking up meat meals with legumes and veg (lentils in mince dishes for example) and go meat free on a few days a week.

3. Avoid food waste

Repurpose leftovers and turn them into other meals (leftover lunch). You can also multipurpose meals, for example use soup as a base for a stew! And use everything before it wastes, such as roasting older veg or using it in a stir-fry, or buy foods with a long expiry date (one that is far in the future).

4. Freeze please

For perishables on special and to cut down on cooking time (saving electricity as well!) freeze meals, for example cook double portions and freeze one portion for another meal. Also, freeze perishables when you buy bulk or specials, and items such as bread.

5. Shop the specials

Promotions, combo deals, two-for-one deals, special daily deals and mid-month specials are saving South Africans money at the food stores.  Search online, in newsletters, in newspapers and in stores for specials. Coupons and food stamps are other good ways to cut down your grocery bill.

6. Shop smart

Do some prep work before and after you shop, and follow a few basic rules when you shop and you can save!

Before you shop:

  • Budget
  • Plan meals and make lists (and stick to them)
  • Do a quick grocery inventory so you don’t buy items you already have at the back of the fridge, freezer or cupboard
  • Compare prices and look for specials

When you shop:

  • Leave the kids (or anyone who can sabotage your bill at the till) at home
  • Ditch or limit the snacks, treats and alcohol
  • Buy inhouse or no name brands
  • Check all the shelves (top to bottom) for the cheapest options
  • Shop for perishables late in the day when those that are expiring go on special
  • Buy bulk

After you shop:

  • Check your till slips
  • Monitor your budget

7. Grow your own

Vegetable gardens can give you herbs, veggies such as beans and spinach, and salad items such as tomatoes! R10 saved is R10 saved!

8. Share and save

Share specials, bulk buys, even transport costs!

And join stokvels to get good deals, stock up at the end of the year and a bit more for special occasions. Or why not consider an emergency food saving fund for special occasion shops or tough months.

9. Save more with rewards

Loyalty cards, cash backs and reward programmes all save money, and more! Use them, always. You can read more on how to get the most out of your loyalty programme in this blog.

10. 3 final tips to help you save

Join grocery hamper clubs, offer to become a tester, and enter competitions!

You’re not alone!

High food prices are affecting everyone. With some good ideas and budget tips, you can shop smart to save and enjoy healthy meals with your family!

*We used information and data from Statistics South Africa, the Affordability Index and Bankserv, at May 2023.

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