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These days, it feels like every trip to the grocery store costs us more. If you’re looking at ways to save on your grocery bill, 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. Increases are often blamed on increasing fuel prices, but they never seem to drop when the price of petrol comes down. Go figure. All in all, South Africans are having a rough time and most have had cut back drastically on their grocery spends.

There are many, simple ways that you can save money on groceries. Become an expert shopper at the grocery store with these tips.

Meal Planning

Plan meals so that you have leftovers for lunch the next day.  Or freeze leftovers for a quick meal another day.

Package your own treats, juices and snacks.

Buy less canned and packaged convenience foods and shred your own lettuce and cheese (cheeses often freeze well too!). Clean out your fridge and cupboards once a month. Use up what you bought before buying more.

Organize your food storage cupboards and drawers. If you don’t know what you have or can’t find what you bought, you’ll end up buying more of the same unnecessarily. If you stock up, watch expiry dates and package the food to preserve it as long as needed.

If you buy large packages or meat, pre–cook or marinate it and then freeze it to speed up meal times. If you know that you’ve got food ready at home, it’s less tempting to eat out.

 

Shopping listMake a List

If you go into the store without a shopping list, you’re more likely to impulse shop. Unnecessary items only add to your grocery bill, and usually not your meals. So make sure you have a complete shopping list, including the snacks and drinks you’ll be buying. Try to stay on track and avoid the displays at the end of aisles.

We have a mini white board on our fridge and write up any items we need on our next shopping trip. Before going off to the store, we take a picture with our cell phone. That way we don’t forget anything.

 

Crunch the numbers while you shop.

If you keep a running tally of how much money is adding up in your cart, you’ll save yourself from any surprises when you get up to the checkout line. Pull out the calculator on your phone and keep track of all those veggies, fruits and other staple items you’re putting in your cart. This might make you stop and ask yourself—wait, do I really need that fancy sparkling water that isn’t on sale?

Buy Generic

You can save a lot of money by switching to store brand goods or by buying the brand that is on sale. You may be surprised at the quality of the store brand goods. It is important to realize that many of the items are packaged in the same factories and plants as name brands.

But, you have to know when it’s worth choosing generic over name brand. Some products from the generic lines go head to head with name brands in terms of quality. While other products are sub par at best. If you buy poor quality products, you may end up tossing them out and wasting the money altogether. Here’s a rundown of what to buy, and what to avoid, when it comes to generic brand products:

  • Food Staples. Your basics like flour, sugar, cooking oil, and butter will always taste, and work, the same regardless of what the label says.
  • Canned Produce. Any basic canned fruit or vegetable will taste the same in a generic brand can.
  • Frozen Produce. Name brand frozen produce costs twice as much as the generic version, and the store brand often gives you more per bag.

Keep an eye out for specials

But don’t go overboard. It’s easy to get caught up in a buying frenzy. When you spot a ‘reduced’ sticker, 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 higher than you would normally pay.

Buying in bulk is amazing . . . when it actually saves you money. Don’t assume that the big bulk buys at the discount stores are automatically the cheaper option. When you’re grocery shopping on a budget, be sure to stop and compare the price per unit or ounce for the item you’re buying.

As tempting as it is to stock up, don’t buy more than you really need—especially when it comes to perishable items. Buying bulk cereal might be a great investment for a family of four, but if it’s just you and your spouse, that 40-count of Greek yogurt might not be the best buy.

 

Raid your pantry.

Challenge yourself to look through your pantry (or fridge). See what kind of meals you can put together with the ingredients you already have. Who says you have to stock up on more groceries when there are perfectly good chicken thighs in the back of your freezer.

Get creative with what you have. 

Buy In-Season Produce

One way to stay healthy is by eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, fresh produce can be expensive. To keep the costs down on your produce purchases, try to stick to fruits and vegetables that are in season.

How to keep 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.

If You Only Try One Tip

If you only want to try one tip, make it a really good one. In fact, the one tip that will likely save you the most money when you’re grocery shopping on a budget is to plan your meals. By planning ahead, you can make your shopping list based on what you already have. What you still need to buy and what’s on sale.

Making an easy, nutritious, budget-conscious menu plan doesn’t have to be hard. Start with two or three dinners, plan for leftovers so that you’ve got work lunches. Add in some snacks and keep quick and easy breakfast foods on hand. Like with anything new, give it a try before you decide that you don’t like it. Saving time and money might agree with you and your budget!

 

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