South Africans spend, on average, 12,8% of their income on food and beverages per month, making this one of the top 3 expenditures in South African households along with transport and housing. We used to spend roughly the same amount of our income on food, and sometimes even more than that, if truth be told. We now spend about 10% of our income on food and beverages each month, and in this amount I also include all the food and treats for our 4 doggies as well as all our household cleaning items and our toiletries. And we pretty much stick to our grocery budget each month.
Our 10% figure took quite a bit of tweaking before we got it right. We manage to stick to it month in and month out because a) I budget, not only for food, but for everything else, b) I plan our meals according to our budget and based on what’s available on special that month, c) I shop at 2-4 different supermarkets at a time to take advantage of the variety of items on special and d) when I do go shopping, I don’t go over our budget even if there are plenty of great deals around which makes it so easy to overstock, and overspend, on lots of items.
More and more supermarkets and just about every other store in South Africa is offering ‘specials’ and ‘3 for 2’ deals and ‘50% off’ and ‘massive savings’ just before month end i.e. payday. While this is good for consumers because we can save on our monthly grocery shopping and stock up on what we need for the month ahead, this can also work against us, and our budget, if we’re not careful.
While specials and deals will inevitably provide the opportunity for you to buy more at a lower price, you might just end up buying a whole lot more in order to ‘stock up more’, therefore generating higher profits for the retailer and either making a serious dent in your budget or going over your budget completely. And while you’re in the shop, you might also end up buying one or two or three or fifteen items that are not on special or on sale, increasing the amount you spend at the shop even more, and cancelling out the savings you made by going in to buy the items on special in the first place.
I often used to do the same, especially if I didn’t have time to shop around or I was too tired after a long week at work. I avoid this now, no matter how tired I may be and so not in the mood for grocery shopping. I look at the specials and deals available before I leave the house and I plan what to buy and where to buy it. Yes, I do generally end up shopping at 2-4 different supermarkets for the month but they’re all pretty much in the vicinity of each other so I don’t spend more on fuel and my budget benefits as much as possible from all the deals and specials available.
I also no longer overstock, or overspend, on specials and deals. I do sometimes stock up on items that we use on a regular basis but only if I can find those items at rock-bottom prices and even then, I only buy what my budget allows but no more (you can read more about how I stockpile in my post Are you a fan of Stockpiling?). This really helps us stick to our grocery budget each month. I know it’s great to have a stocked up pantry cupboard, it really is, but amid all the other things we have to think about each day, we do tend to forget what there is in our cupboards, how much there is and what the expiry dates are. Having to throw food away because it’s expired means that you’ve wasted, and not saved, the money you spent on it. Now I make sure that expiry dates are labelled and visible so that I know what needs to be used up and by when.
And also, if we’re not careful on how much we stock up we might just find ourselves with something like 20 tins of baked beans and 15 tins of tuna in our pantry at some stage. For us, there is a limit to how many tins of baked beans or tuna we can go through in a month or even two. Besides, certain foods do tend to go on special pretty much every month so I don’t really see the need to stock up on those items. The brands do change and while we have our favourites, I tend to buy whatever is cheapest. Either way, it’s all good and it can all be eaten and used. This is all the more reason for me to stock up only on items when they are at their lowest price.
I also have a pretty good idea of how much of each item we need for the month such as milk, sugar, coffee, tea, rice, pasta, to name just a few. If you’ve been budgeting, as I have, for a while now, you’ll get to know your budget and your expenses quite well. Buying just the right amount of groceries for the month really helps me stay on track with our budget.
Apart from this, I also plan our meals. Have a look at my Meal Planning archives for some ideas on how you can get started as well as some FREE printables to help you get organised! 🙂
Before you go, I’d love to hear from you! What tips and tricks help you stick to your grocery budget each month? Please leave me a comment below.
If you’ve enjoyed this blog post, please share it with others!
You can also find Frugal in SA