How to save money on your food shops

October 19, 2022

At the Fields you have all the kitchen space you need to prepare great, healthy, meals for yourself.

The trick is that eating healthy can, on the surface, appear to be expensive and cooking for yourself might look like a chore if you can simply buy cheap, unhealthy food from a store around the corner. This is a trap. We have discussed before how important it is to eat well and stay healthy if you want to succeed as a student, so now we are going to show you how. These six tips will help you make the most of your trips to the groceries and will therefore also assist you in staying healthy and at the peak of your performance.

Buy in bulk

One of the big benefits of living at The Fields is that you will always have other people around you, who are also looking to save a little. Chat to them, get together and take advantage of bulk specials which you can then split. Sure, you don’t need the four one litre juices that are necessary to activate the special, but perhaps four of you need one litre each? This goes extra for bulk meat deals, which can be easily split up between numerous friends. Alternatively, if you have the freezer space, buy the bulk deals, then divide the package and freeze for later separate unfreezing and use.

Don’t be a brand snob

Perhaps you always buy the same toothpaste because this is what your mom used to always buy when you were young, or a particular brand of coffee has the label you like? Abandon that brand adherence now. Shops are very cunning when it comes to pricing and will often change up prices to make once cheap brands more expensive this month and other more expensive brands cheaper. If you are willing to switch brands you will be able to take advantage of these specials. Also, always take a look at the price of the No Name brand. Usually these will be on the cheaper end of the scale and are normally made for the company by one of the biggest producers in that sector. Don’t assume they will be the cheapest though. Like with any other brand, always check.

Clearance products

Increasingly, South African stores are adopting the ways of their European and American cousins and offering knock down prices on food products that are about to reach their best before date. You may need to visit your local store and ask around to see when the prices on these products come down, but they are generally worth it as the discounts can be large, and the best before date is generally a guide more than a rule.

When it comes to things like meat, it’s generally advised you only buy these products if you aim to use them that night or the next day at the latest, but for everything else you will definitely have the time to use it before it goes off and the savings add up.

Independent sellers

Don’t be afraid to buy your vegetables from informal traders and small greengrocer stores. These vegetables may not be as well-lit at first glance, but they are still just as good health wise, and the savings can be immense. While we don’t recommend haggling with informal traders who work long hours for very low margins, grocers can sometimes be convinced to part with veggies and fruits at closing time for less than the normal price, and many of them mark these things down themselves. Establishing a relationship with these sellers will also help as they will be able to advise you what’s in season and thus cheaper, what’s good value at the moment and what they are willing to price down for you, where a large chain has no say.

Know the price of things

Knowing what things cost is going to be vital for you to notice when you are getting a good deal and when you are being conned. Large supermarkets will often mark an item as being on Special when in fact the price is only special because it has been marked up. Learning what a litre of milk goes for, or a packet of mince, will allow you to buy when these things truly are being discounted and then you can really stock up. Look particularly for specials on things like pasta, long life milk, cereals and teas and coffees, which you can take advantage of now to keep for time in the distant future.

Use a grocery rewards card

Grocery rewards cards offer you about 10c in rewards for every R100 spent, which makes them seem like they are basically useless, but they do have other benefits. While the 10c pieces do add up over time, the real benefit of a grocery rewards card is that it unlocks specials that are available only to card carriers. These tend to be legitimate specials that can actually knock money off the weekly bill.

Be prepared to shop around

Different stores offer different products on special at different times of the month. These cheaper than usual “loss leaders” are designed to get you into the store where you can then more than make up for it by buying all their other stuff as well. If you shop around and take advantage of everyone’s “loss leaders” though, you can save a hefty sum on your groceries. Going to the stores with an open mind as to what you want for dinner also helps, as between the stores you can almost certainly put together something on the fly based purely on specials if you are alert.

Talking with your friends and fellow students at The Fields will help you maximise the benefits that can be attained from shopping together, but can also allow you to share tips and advice on where to get the best groceries cheapest. At the end of the day, it’s going to be your community of likeminded people that makes The Fields fun, vibrant and valuable to your life as a student.

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