15 ways to save on groceries

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation food price index hit an all-time high in February 2011. Food prices continue to rise worldwide. We urgently need to find ways to keep our grocery costs low. Here’s how.

1. Down shift a brand tier
This will guarantee you save. Go to our Downshifting guide for more information on how to down shift a brand on most products without having to drastically change the way you live and eat.

2. Shop at cheaper shops
And not just because they look cheaper! Make sure the prices are, in fact, lower. And that the food lasts as long as you need it to.

3. Plan ahead
Plan your meals for the week ahead before writing your shopping list. Include when you will be eating out or may need to grab something on the run. Never go to the shops without your shopping list.
It may seem obvious, but remember that most of our impulse buys are done when we’re ‘popping to the shops’ to grab an essential like milk or bread.
If you shop only once a week for everything you need, you are substantially decreasing the risk of impulse buys and possibly saving yourself a fortune.

4. Don’t waste
If you plan your meals, you’ll automatically minimise waste.
When shopping, remember that supermarkets stock their shelves from the back. This means that if you reach towards the back of the shelf, you are likely to find food with a longer Best Before date than the items in front.
Also remember that Best Before is not the same as Use By. If your food reaches its Use By date, you need to throw it away. However, you can still eat most foods a couple of days after the Best Before date.
If you do need to throw old fruit and vegetables away, make sure they go into a worm farm. Not only is it an environmentally friendly way to get rid of waste, but it will also save you the cost of compost and can be used to grow your own vegetables and herbs.
For a list of suppliers in your area, go to Homemakers Online. Global Worming also offers a free batch of worms with the purchase of your first worm bin.

5. Freeze your food
Most foods can be frozen for up to a month. Regularly take stock of the food in your freezer to avoid buying more of the same items and to plan your frozen foods into your weekly menu.

6. Be wary of promotional items in the central aisle
Often, the brand on promotion is paying to be promoted in that particular space. This does not mean that the advertised special is the cheapest option in the store. Make sure you compare prices before buying into promotions.

7. Grow your own herbs
A pack of Italian basil will cost you R18 from Living Seeds. Basil grows well in the South African climate. A pack of fresh basil from the supermarket will cost you around R 12 and will only last for 2 – 3 days.
If you use fresh herbs in your cooking, it’s a no-brainer to grow them yourself.

8. Beat the maze
Supermarkets are designed to make you spend more. If you’re aware of the tricks, you’re less likely to buy stuff you don’t need. Take a look at our Layout Guide and avoid the supermarket’s spending traps.

9. Cook
We all know that restaurants and take-aways are more expensive than eating at home. What we sometimes forget is that convenience foods such as microwave meals are more expensive, too. Fresh, home-cooked meals are not only cheaper but also higher in nutritional value.
If you’re too busy to cook every day, then cook 2 big dishes a week. From there, you can work out how to get creative with your leftovers.

10. Beware of BOGOF (Buy one get one free)
Contrary to popular belief, BOGOF has not been designed to make us save. It exists to make us spend more.
When it comes to specials or BOGOF deals, there’s a simple formula: If you weren’t going to buy it in the first place (check that list!), then don’t buy it now.

11. Check the size of specials
That cheaper pack of mince on special is often 100g less than the slightly more expensive one. Take a careful look at the contents before falling into the trap of thinking you’ve saved.

12. Buy unpackaged fruit and veg
Packaged food is more expensive. Someone has to cover the cost of all that plastic and wrapping – why should it be you? Whenever you can, buy unpackaged goods.

13. Buy yesterday’s goods at half the price
Yesterday’s rolls and muffins are often perfectly fine, and you’ll save 50% at most grocery stores and bakeries.

14. Look up, down and all around
The most expensive items are usually placed at eye level, with their cheaper alternatives above, below or stashed behind them. Make sure you look carefully for the most reasonable deal on each product.

15. Keep up with deals and sales
Check out our Sales and Deals section to stay up to date with local specials, and subscribe to our weekly newsletter to avoid missing out.

*All prices and information correct at time of publication and subject to change thereafter.