Grocery shopping

With food costs rising nearly 10 percent between March 2015 and March 2016, South Africans are being forced to tighten their belts – or get smarter when it comes to spending on groceries.

According to the National Agricultural Marketing Council SA (NAMC), the cost of a basic food basket containing 23 commonly purchased items increased by an average of R85.61 in nominal terms between July 2015 and July 2016.

Stats SA has noted that fruit, bread, cereals, oils and fats and sweets and desserts have seen the highest monthly increases.

With grocery costs continuing to rise at such an alarming rate, it’s important to find ways to eat well for less. Here are some useful tips to help make your money go further.

Devise a budget

It’s hard to live within your means when you’re not sure how much money you actually have to spend. Sit down and calculate exactly how much you have to put towards groceries each month, and try to stick to this budget, no matter what. Take a calculator with you when you shop to calculate what you’re about to spend, and avoid overspending on unnecessary items by not shopping hungry.

Plan ahead

Planning your week’s meals in advance can help you cut costs significantly. Sit down on the weekend and plan a menu for the following week that’s in line with your food budget.

Once you’ve made a list of the ingredients that you’ll need for the week’s meals, you can buy everything in one shopping trip. The less exposure you have to the shops and the temptations they pose, the less you’ll spend.

If you’re struggling for ideas, there are plenty of websites and blogs where you can find simple, cost-effective recipes. An advantage is that you may even end up eating healthier, more varied meals – planning can be fun!

Limit your shopping trips

It’s easy to get into the habit of regularly popping into the shops to pick up “necessities” like milk and bread. This is fine if you stick to buying only the essentials…but it’s not always easy to pass up the baked goods, sweets, cooldrinks and other temptations you’ll be exposed to in the process.

Instead it’s best to limit your grocery shopping to one trip a week (or even less) so you don’t break your budget for unnecessary items.

Avoid specials, except on items you’d buy anyway

As a rule of thumb, avoid specials unless they’re on items you’d be buying anyway. Specials are designed to trick you into buying things you wouldn’t otherwise buy – but that doesn’t mean you can’t “outsmart” the advertisers and benefit just from discounts on items you actually do need to buy.

To track specials, you can pick up pamphlets in store or check the local papers, or visit store websites for current specials. For example, check online specials at Pick ‘n Pay, Checkers and Food Lovers Market.

Bulk is not always best

It’s always wise to compare prices and consider expiry dates before buying in bulk. Not all products are significantly cheaper in bulk, and it’s worth buying a large quantity of a particular food only if you can (and will) actually finish the product before it spoils.

Reduce meat consumption

Removing meat from your diet for even one or two days a week can significantly cut costs. Try replacing meat dishes with vegetable-based pastas, soups, stews and stir fries, or incorporate meat extenders such as soy mince, beans and lentils in meat dishes.

Consider these prices as an example. Half a kilogram of brown lentils costs about R19, and half a kilo of red speckled sugar beans costs about R18. By contrast, half a kilo of beef mince costs anything from R35 to R50 – and it won’t stretch nearly as far.

If you simply can’t live without meat, save money by choosing cheaper cuts of red meat, avoiding canned meat products and buying your chicken whole.

Buy whole, seasonal fruits and vegetables

Buying fruit and vegetables that are in season is a good way to get value for money. Fresh vegetables and fruit are generally cheaper than the frozen and canned varieties. Also avoid buying pre-cut vegetables. These cost more and tend to go bad faster than whole fruits and vegetables.

Grow your own herbs and veg

You can save some money by growing your own herbs and vegetables, such as rocket, lettuce, tomatoes, and potatoes, either in a small patch of garden or in pots.

Need a loan?

If times get tough and you need a short-term loan to see you through a difficult patch, consider an asset-based loan with lamna.

With this type of loan, you offer a tangible asset, like a vehicle in your name, jewellery, artwork, an antique or a luxury watch, as collateral for the loan. There’s no need for credit checks, interest rates are NCA-regulated and, once you’ve paid off the loan and the agreed interest, your asset will be returned to you.

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