Shop for Groceries Like an Economist

03 November 2017

Your grocery bill is influenced by more than just your chocolate cravings. Droughts, the strength of the rand and other factors have an impact on the number at the end of your grocery bill. However, some planning and smart decisions will not only help you save on food but engage with our local agricultural industry. We spoke to Senior Agricultural Economist, Wessel Lemmer at Absa AgriBusiness, on how to save when buying groceries.

Buy your vegetables in bulk from the fresh produce market

Did you know that there are over 13 fresh produce markets all over the country that are open six days a week? These warehouses, heaving with the freshest fruit and vegetables from local farmers, are a best-kept secret. Anyone can go, so bring your family and friends and make an outing of it. Another pro tip: buy kitchen staples like carrots, onions and potatoes in bulk and store them.

Wessel adds, “The traders at fresh produce markets say they do their best business during years of drought. This is because as soon as food costs rise, we see an increase in the sales of primary, unprocessed foods. People stop buying processed products because they are too expensive.”

Try yellow maize instead of white maize

In South Africa, we’re used to eating pure white maize. However, milled yellow flour should cost less, and there is no difference in taste or quality. This small change to a grocery staple can translate into big savings.

Buy locally produced meat from the butchers themselves

You won’t find better quality meat than our locally produced meat and poultry. If you love your meat and want to save, get some friends together and drive into the countryside. Just a few kilometers out of the city, you’ll find high-quality butchers that will cut and process the meat for you. The petrol will cost too much if you go on your own, but if you go with a group, this can result in a 25% saving. Your business helps the local producer as well.

Wessel adds, “The price of meat is often affected by the price of animal feed, and the amount of feed needed for each animal. For example, for every 1kg of beef produced, you need 10-13kgs of feed.”

Buy fish from wholesalers

Follow your local restaurant and buy fish from wholesalers that sell it in volume. Even bulk discount stores like Macro will sell fish that you can buy in bulk and freeze until you need it.

Grow your food

You don’t need a huge field to grow your own food. A small wooden box or even an old tyre is enough to grow vegetables to feed your family. Leafy vegetables such as marog and spinach grow particularly well and don’t need any fussing around their conditions.

“Spinach is a vegetable I grow in my vegetable garden. You don’t need too much space to cultivate a few rows of spinach. As it is a longer term vegetable, it will stay growing for the whole season. If the soil is prepared correctly, you will get more than you would expect!” says Wessel.

Buy in season and store it

South Africa produces a wealth of fresh produce, more than we could ever eat. When a fruit or vegetable is in season, it is much cheaper. However, that doesn’t mean you have to pay for your favourite staples later on. For example, if you buy pumpkins in season, you can store them for up to three months. Simply put it on a shelf out of the sun, or even under your bed! Potatoes keep for months in a cool, dark room and onions can be hung up and used for months after they have been bought. Just be sure to weed out any rotten vegetables, as they will spoil the whole bunch.

Stop the shortcuts

While things like bread and sugar are the cheapest foods, they have a long-term impact on your health. Obesity levels in South Africa currently stand at 60%, which goes hand in hand with a rise in expensive disorders such as adult-onset diabetes. With a proposed tax of 2c per gram of sugar, we may be eating less sugar soon, but for now try to fill up on fruits and vegetables.

Wessel concludes, “If shoppers can stick it out for six months, they will see the food prices go down from May or June next year. The rains are coming, which may see a reduction of prices of up to 26%. Total inflation will level out at 5.1%. As South Africans, we have access to high-quality food at some of the lowest prices in the world. With some planning and smart decisions, you can eat well and stay within your budget.”

Disclaimer: The advice contained on this blog is for general purposes only and does not take into account individual circumstances, objectives or financial needs. Accordingly, readers are advised to seek appropriate advice from licensed professionals prior to making any investment, or taking up a financial product or service.