How to spend less on food

27 November 2012

The recession taught us a thing or two: firstly, not to over-extend on credit and succumb to the lure of high-interest loans and, secondly, how to live more frugally without compromising on your quality of life.

In fact, frugal living is a fast-spreading trend that is gaining popularity across the globe, most notably in the United States and the UK — both countries that were hard-hit by the financial crisis — and more recently in South Africa.

Yet, despite this, our saving’s rate continues to disappoint while our debt dependency rises.

To help you tackle your own budget and live a more frugal lifestyle, Capitec Bank, South Africa’s youngest retail bank, encourages South Africans to be creative with how they spend their cash – and save. Here, in the second in a series on “How to live frugally”, Charl Nel, Capitec Bank’s head of strategic communications, takes a look at how you can save money on your meals.

“Eating is one of those things that is non-negotiable. Yet many of us opt for convenience food that is packaged like a Christmas present and requires just a few minutes in the microwave. Not only is this fast-food culture leading to widespread health issues, it is also packing on the financial pounds,” says Nel.

Together with frugal blogger Ray-Anne Cahill, Nel shares 10 quick ways to cut down on your food bills — and increase your health at the time:

1. Make it instead of buying it

While it’s one of the oldest tips in the book, this one is still relevant. Buying lunch from a city cafe or convenience store today can cost you up to R40 (think a sarmi and a cooldrink). It’s quite ridiculous when you could make the same thing for under R10.

Consider a jacket potato and salad; quick cheese and tomato sandwich with a spread of pesto or a wrap filled with Cajun chicken.

And make it the night before when you’re cooking dinner. This way you’re less likely to run out of time to make it before heading off to work.

2. Grow your own

Spring time is the ideal time to plant new veggies. So, whether you have a garden or a balcony, plant a range of fresh herbs (which cost up to R10 at the shops versus the same for a seedling) — such as rocket and lettuce; carrots or potatoes.

Not only will you have fresh veg on hand throughout the year; you will save on all that plastic that they get wrapped in at the shops.

3. Work out a meal plan for your family

Just like a budget helps you control your spending; a weekly meal-plan can help you buy less. So instead of hitting the shops on a hungry stomach with no game plan; instead have a list of ingredients at the ready. This will limit the temptation to throw whatever tickles your fancy into your trolley.

For more creative tips on how to plan your family’s meals in advance and how to plan portion sizes for each individual member of your family, visit Ray-Anne’s blog at

4. Go “meat-free Mondays”

Other than the obvious environmental benefits, going meat-free one day a week will help you save some cash. And while vegetarian meals may be your idea of side-dishes, by reading up on these great sites — — you can whip up a meal that beats meat and two veg any day.

5. Turn leftovers into delicious fresh dishes

Be smart and use whatever is left over in your fridge or cupboards before you head out to restock again. This will reduce your waste and cut back on doubling-up on the shopping.

6. Take advantage of the winter restaurant specials

Now is the perfect time to visit your favourite eatery, without the price tag! Check out your local papers or run a quick Google for discount dinners and you could be enjoying a three-course with a glass of Sauvignon for the price of a starter. Smart indeed.

7. Shop for local, seasonal foods

Importing veggies from Brazil or Kathmandu is so last year. Instead, buy veggies and other food stuffs from your local producers. This not only costs less, but also supports South Africa’s farmers so it’s a win-win for all.

8. Hold a pot-luck dinner party

Next time you invite friends around for dinner; why not ask each one of your guests to bring something for the table? Called pot-luck dinners in the US; here in SA we’re more used to a bring-‘n-braai.

Extend this idea to your dinner parties and you’ve saved plenty. What’s more, your guests will more than likely reciprocate so your social calendar gets a boost too.

9. Use less expensive cuts of meat

Instead of buying premium meats for stews and casseroles, consider buying the less pricey cuts. They’re just as delicious, but a fraction of the cost.

If you’re unsure of what to look for ask your local butcher to help you.

10. Try a “No Shopping Day” every week

Lastly, if you are one of those people who stop off at the garage for bread and milk every day, but return home with a trolley full, try a “No Shopping Day”. Sure, you’ll need to use what’s in your cupboards, but you’ll save yourself a few extra rands by being vigilant.

“There are many ways to save money, without having to make too many drastic changes to your lifestyle. It just takes a bit of planning and the breaking of a lifelong habit like buying your lunch from the deli everyday to see real rands and cents saved. Given the pressure we’re all under due to rising electricity and food prices, being frugal in small ways can go a long way to help buffer against debt,” concludes Nel.

Source: IAfrica

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