There have been times when I have not needed to look at the price of something before buying it, and then there have been times when I have had to adhere to a strict budget and look for alternatives or not buy certain things at all. Being savvy when buying groceries (or any item for that matter) is something that is always good to be regardless of your financial situation. Here are a few tips I have learnt along the way.
- Never, ever go to the shop on an empty stomach. Make sure you get something to eat before you shop because I have been shopping numerous times on an empty stomach and ended up not only overspending but buying food that is convenient to make or buying takeout which can often end up being expensive. Eating at home is a lot safer (especially during COVID-19) and ends up being a lot cheaper in the long run.
- Make a list and STICK TO IT! This is so important. Whenever we make a list and we are on a budget, we always stick to our list. If we plan to buy chocolate, cold drinks, it will go on the list. What is not on the list does not get purchased. This is where planning becomes important. If you have a weekly meal plan, you would know roughly how much of each product you need and where you are able to add some variety. Your list can be made using the items on sale in point 3 below.
- Always look at what is on sale. When I was working, there were three different supermarket chains on my way home from work and when I planned my shopping lists well, I ended up saving a lot more money just by splitting my shopping trips into three separate trips. Another tip from using leaflets and knowing when they had bulk items on sale and using this and sacrificing some other non-essential items and sometimes spending a little more on groceries one month than I usually would, I ended up saving over the long term because I didn’t need to purchase those items for a few months and sometimes for almost a year. This is especially helpful with household cleaning products or food items that tend to have a longer shelf life. Recently we have opted to get snacks and some other longer lasting items from Makro. They have amazing R100 deals which works out for us.
- Frozen is not bad. A lot of people prefer to buy fresh fruits and vegetables and in the case of berries, frozen is often cheaper and I have found that the quality (depending on where you purchase it from) is not bad at all. I use a lot of fruits and vegetables for smoothies during the summer and tend to lean more towards veggies as a side to my meals and frozen has by far worked out cheaper than fresh. Also, if it is frozen it lasts a lot longer than fresh especially if you don’t always have time to meal prep when you purchase the fresh fruit and veggies. The nice thing with frozen is that the fruits and veggies are usually clean and precut which saves time in the long run.
- Keep your fridge and cupboards organised. It is so easy to dump everything in the cupboard or pantry when you are tired from a trip to the shop but when your pantry or grocery cupboard is nice and organised, you are able to see what you already have so that you don’t buy things that you don’t need. I cannot tell you how many times I have gone shopping to purchase things that I already had in my cupboards because of a lack of organisation only to find the items I repurchased when I planned to use them.
- Shop once a week. It is so easy to overspend when you just ‘pop’ into the shop every other day. Shopping once a week allows your spending to be budgeted and planned properly to only buy things you actually need. There is a reason why certain items are placed at the tills, this is a way to get consumers to purchase things impulsively. The less you go, the less you will spend. If you are buying fresh fruit and vegetables, take time out close to when you purchase then to either cook them and freeze them or to store them in a way that would extend the freshness.
- Don’t buy pre-cut products. Oftentimes fruits and vegetables and cheese in some areas are already cut or shredded and they are usually a lot more expensive than the whole fruit. You can dedicate an hour or so each week to cutting and cleaning all your fruits and vegetables. It is a small price to pay for when you are on a tight budget. As mentioned above, frozen is definitely an option as well.
- No-Name or store brands are often just as good as the name brands. I cannot tell you enough about the times I have tried no name or store brands and discovered that they were exactly the same quality as the more expensive name brands. Although there are some that have questionable quality, you will have to check which no name brands work for your taste buds. When you are on a budget, brand loyalty is definitely not worth it.
- Not all ‘sales’ will save you money. We have all been a victim of this scam where an item goes on sale in bulk, as a buy three for a set amount or something similar which sounds very cheap, but what actually happens is that the product price per unit stays the same but because of the marketing technique, you think you are getting a bargain. While this is not always the case, you should always be cautious and plan accordingly. I like to keep an updated price list of items that I purchase regularly and use that as a starting point for pricing while shops have bulk sales. I have definitely found that some of these sales aren’t really worth it and will tend to only buy these products if needed. With that said, there are definitely bulk sales that are worth it, you just need to do a bit of research to see if they are worth it.
These are the top tips I use when I am shopping on a budget. What tips do you use at the moment and what tips do you plan on using in the future?