* Just a disclaimer when I say really tight budget I mean we only have this mucvh available and going over that amount would mean we are unable to pay our other bills, to some this budget allocation may seem a lot and to others it would seem impossible every family has their budget they need to stick to and what is great to one is not great to another =)
I think that most of us know all about this story especially of late; water prices have gone up, the new pipe levy and not to mention the ever rising petrol and electricity prices, it has become more and more difficult for the average South African family to survive and to ensure their families are not just fed but fed well and that we can give them all that they need.
I came across a post yesterday on a local moms site where the topic of budgeting was discussed and I was shocked to see the amount that some people are able to or end up allocating towards food/ cleaning products etc because they feel they cannot do it for less... and you can, it's not easy but it can be done and so today I am going to share my tips for how we keep the budget down in this department.
Before I start though I will tell you that we shop once a month for groceries and cleaning supplies and then we top up bread for the kids through out the month, I am on a gluten free and lactose restrictive diet and my kiddos are on the spectrum so we try to stay away from sugar laden foods and treats.
We do not have one shop that we stick to on a monthly basis in fact I do try and change it up to get a feel for the pricing at different places however we mainly stick to Food Lovers market, Checkers or Pick n' Pay. My gripe with Food Lovers is that I often have to go to other shops afterwards to get things like cat food because they don't have a pet section, and their fruit/veg also isn't always of the best quality which is a shame because their variety is great. Checkers is fairly on par with their prices and they always have everything that we need so that is one we do often and Pick n Pay is usually our last choice because I have found that they are more expensive although when they do have specials on it can work out cheaper.
So here we go:
1. Meal Planning
I stopped meal planning for a while and what I found was that we not only ended up over spending but we needed to stock up on certain items again throughout the month which lead to further over spending, my family also got bored with the same old choices and meals. Meal planning makes things interesting and means you can pre-plan your week or the next days meal if you want to. I don't plan it out weekly we usually decide the night before by choosing from the recipes I know I have brought the ingredients for, I number the meals so we can be sure that we make it through the month.
2. Google is your friend
Google budget family meals it's a great way to start saving also google and incorporate a veggie or vegan meal once a week this not only encourages your family to eat a well balanced diet but also saves quite a bit in the long run with meat prices being what they are.
2. Create a list
Once you have planned out your meals you can create a list of exactly what you need- I divide my list into isles/categories and this decreases shopping time and ensures that we have something to stick to and don't end up throwing items in the trolley that aren't on said list.
3. Leave the kids at home (if possible)
Now this one isn't always possible and we don't often go by this one but if you don't/cant do your shopping alone then take your partner along for the ride it not only ensures that you can concentrate and get done but it is also a great eye opener for your partner- they can see the prices and just how much time and effort you have put into saving costs and prepping for us this has meant that my hubby is not only aware but understands the budget and that I am not just going willy nilly in the store.
4. Buy in bulk and repack
We buy larger packets of meat, cheese etc and then portion it out at home not only does it work out cheaper but portioning out the packs means that you can ensure there are lunch leftovers or that each pack is made up to suit your families needs- it also saves so much space in your fridge and freezer, this is why we are able to shop once and are still able to fit everything into our fridge.
5. Always check your prices
Retailers love to lure you in with specials and oh buy 5 of these for so much and save- often if you look at the price per unit/grams or compare it to another brand you are not saving very much or anything at all so always double check.
6. Don't be a brand snob
Often unbranded or store versions of an item are a branded item that has been repackaged for the store or it can taste or work out just as great and be cheaper to boot, if there is one thing I have learned it's that whilst cheaper is not always better in regards to taste it is always worth a try if you try it and its really inferior you know for next time but if you try it and its great you can save yourself so much money.
7. Don't be fooled
Being OCD means that if I could buy every cleaning product on the shelf I would however I just cannot afford it and many cleaning products especially those that are marketed to serve only one purpose are a complete waste of money- JIK, bicarb, vinegar, dish soap and laundry detergent are all that I buy and in the case of laundry detergent you could even skip that and substitute with bicarb for wash and vinegar to soften the point is keep it basic you don't need.
8. Freeze what you can
If something is on special but you know it wont fare well for long and it can be frozen then do it, it may take a bit more chopping or bagging etc but if it saves you some money believe me it helps.
9. Discount stores
We have a wonderful store nearby called Foodies that sells mainly canned and dry goods that are past their sell by date- there is a difference between sell by and use by and many of these foods are still good for a long time past the date on the package, I have saved so much especially since the branch by us stocks gluten free products when I compare spending 12 rand on a packet of gluten free pasta to 60 odd bucks in the store there isn't even a pause to think moment and I have never had an issue with the goods I have bought.
10. Ditch the convenience isles
There is absolutely no need to even go down the convenience isles, anything that helps you save time costs more and in the long run grating a block of cheese takes a few minutes in comparison to spending extra money that you don't have to buy it grated. Convenience foods also contain so many preservatives and additives and many instances are poor tasting in comparison to cooking the meals or making the sauces etc from scratch- things like potato chips can be made buy hand, veggies can be cut fresh and meals that are homemade ensure that your family gets all of the nutrients taste and health that convenience meals/ items exclude.
11 Challenge yourself
Make it fun I always give a whoo hoo at the till if I come in under budget or sometimes even if I reach budget, shopping has always been an incredibly stressful experience for me and making it more light hearted certainly helps and makes me feel good about the fact that I have managed to do it despite the ever rising prices.
Our grocery bill for this past month came to R2973.50 at Checkers and this included Jesse's birthday dinner treat but excludes the top ups of bread throughout the month, ultimately I bank on a budget of R3200 total and for a family of 5 it works out to R640 per person or R21.30 per day over 30 days which I think is great although I have seen other moms do it on less.
At the end of the day all of these tips are what have helped us make it through on the budget that we currently have to work with and I hope it will help others out there do the same.