Have you ever sat down and looked for ways to save money on your groceries?

After rent and school fees, groceries and shopping are the biggest expense in our budget. If you were to be completely honest with yourself, can you say that you stick to your grocery shopping budget 100%? I cringe at the cost of the food items.

Don’t let this overwhelm you but you will need to put aside some time to plan and prepare. If your budget is tight this month, consider if the item you are buying is a luxury or a necessity.

Food prices increase faster than our salaries, so continue reading to find out how you can cut back on your expenses and save money on your groceries with these super easy tips. Let’s get started!

1. Plan your meals for the week

I used to be the worst person when it came to planning meals, but if you set aside some time after the kids have gone to bed, this is one activity that is definitely worth it. Don’t only think of supper. You also need to include: * Breakfasts * Lunches * Dinners * School lunches * Afternoon snacks * Weekend socializing When you look at it like that, that is a lot of meals!

First, prepare your schedule for the week so you know who is wear and doing what so that you can work out what meals you need to prepare. Secondly, you need to know what your budget is and you need to stick to it. Thirdly, either collect pamphlets from your local shops or have a look online as to what specials are available. Then fill in schedule with your meal planning ideas. You can also subscribe to the $5 meal plans and receive recipes and shopping lists in your inbox every Friday morning so that you can have the following week already planned out for you.

2. Reward programmes 

U-Counts with Standard Bank you can spend these points at Makro, Fresh Stop and Clicks, (there are many other stores but these one pertain to groceries and toiletries).

E-Bucks with First National Bank is another. All you have to do is open an account with them so if you are looking to create a simple savings account, consider this option.

The Smart Shopper programme at Pick ‘n Pay allows you to collect points every time you shop and then you can use this money as payment (in addition to spending the cash in other places).

Discovery Vitality allows you to swipe your card on all healthy food purchases and then once a month they refund a percentage of the cash you have spent into your bank account.

Checkers has an Xtra Savings Reward Card where you can save up to 25%.

Snap ‘n Save is a free app that you can download to your phone and then you can select items on the app that you are going to shop for, and then after taking a snap (photo) of your receipt and sending it to them (simple process on your phone), you will also receive money back that you can use to pay for your groceries.

Instead of spreading out your options and buying into every programme, select one or two that you use often and build up more value and points this way.

3. Buy foods that are in season 

Buying food out of season is costly. Buy strawberries in summer and oranges in winter, not the other way round. So when you see a sale on seasonal foods, buy it and use it in your cooking and meals. You can also take this food and make jams, preserve it or freeze it for another time. This can save you a lot of money.

4. Make a grocery list and stick to it 

Do you get to the shops, grab a trolley and walk aisle-to-aisle loading in items that you feel like? Don’t do that. This is one sure-fire way that you are going to overspend.

If you really want to save money on your groceries, prepare ahead and make yourself a shopping list based on the meal planning that you have already done and stick to it. Don’t be sucked into buying other things that you don’t need. Work on a budget, and stick to it.

5. Pay with cash 

If you only take cash with you to the shop, you cannot be tempted to go over your budget. You have what you have on you, and that’s it. One good system to follow when paying with cash is the envelope cash system. The only thing with this is that you do earn points when you swipe your Standard Bank Card or your First National Bank card so if you do take your debit/ credit cards with you, then you need to use all of your willpower not to go on a spending splurge.

6. Try eating less meat

Meat is expensive. That doesn’t mean that you need to cut it out completely, but try to limit the amount of meals that you make requiring meat. Before you go shopping, know what average prices are for meat so you aren’t over-spending. Then, look at the unit price and compare it to the item price; a large package with a relatively low price doesn’t mean it’s the best option for you when it comes to price. Try to cook more meals with meat substitutes such as lentils, beans and chickpeas. We have a ‘Meatless Monday’ and so that is at least one day of the week where you can look at alternate dishes.

7. Eat before you shop

Before you head out shopping, make sure you have a fulfilling meal. Studies have shown that hunger leads your thoughts to revolve around seeking food, acquiring food, and eating it. But, this desire does spill over into non-food items which can lead you to shop for more of non-food items too. You end up spending more and buy things that are not on your list.

8. Look top and bottom

When you find the item you want, look at the shelves at the top and at the bottom. Often, the items placed here (on the top and bottom shelves) are the same as the ones in the middle but cheaper.

You can most certainly save money on your groceries by spending an extra few minutes looking and comparing prices and weights of the items on the shelves.

9. Homemade all the way

As far as possible, try and stick to homemade meals. Not only is homemade cheaper than buying ready-to-eat meals, but it is also good for the following reasons: 1. You know exactly what is going into the food 2. Cooking gives families a chance to get together and chat in the kitchen while preparing meals 3. You can get your children involved and start teaching them the basics of cooking

10. Look for generic brands

Many shops carry their own in-house brands of food items. When you check the ingredients and the nutritional value it’s usually the same as the name brands and for a lot cheaper. So when shopping for groceries, look up and down for the generic brand and do your comparisons.

11. Buy milk in bulk

I was never really much of a fan of long-life milk because I believed they all tasted the same.

But – they don’t! I found one that my family and I liked and then when I started to buy it in bulk, I realized that I was saving money in two ways:

  1. There is a special on the six-packs of milk at least once a month. If you buy it then, you are saving money.
  2. Milk is something that most households use daily so you might find yourself going to the shop to buy this every second or third day. Just being in a shop will often lead to impulse buys. So if you buy milk for the month ahead of time, it will save you from quickly popping in numerous times during the week, and also spending money that you hadn’t planned on spending.

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