January can seem like a LONG month, after the festive session, until your next pay check. Here are some tips to help reduce your food bill through both healthy and cost-effective choices…
Reducing the Food Bill
Protein rich foods:
- It is usually cheaper to buy from a butcher or fishmonger, compared with a supermarket.
- Serve meat less often (aim for not more than 3 times a week) – have chicken, fish or legumes instead.
- Having meatfree meals is a great way to save money. Meatfree meals are built around vegetables, beans and grains. These foods are good sources of fibre, vitamins and minerals. Cutting down on meat will reduce the total saturated (unhealthy) fat in your diet. This has the combined effect of helping you to lower your risk factors for lifestyle diseases.
- Add legumes (dry beans, peas, soy) to meat to make the meal go further.
- Make serving sizes smaller.
- Check the quality that you are buying. Buy the quality to suit the intended purpose e.g. neck, blade, brisket, chuck, shin or flank are cheaper and have less fat than sirloin. Use slow cooking methods to produce a tender dish e.g. stewing, braising, or casseroling.
- Often bigger portions or packages are cheaper. Buy in bulk and split into meal or serving sized portions to freeze until needed.
- Buy a whole carcass and share.
- Buy specials and freeze.
- Make use of eggs as they are versatile, economical and a good source of protein.
- Compare prices of the different types of milk available: powders, fresh or long life: skim, low fat or full cream: different forms of packages.
- Avoid use of non-dairy creamers as they are expensive. They are not rich in calcium, not rich in protein and have a high saturated (unhealthy) fat content.
- Tinned oily fish e.g. sardines, tuna, pilchards or salmon are usually cheaper than fresh fish. They are great sources of heart-healthy Omega 3 essential fatty acids. Choose options tinned in water, tomato or brine.
- Compare costs of different packages, read labels to get the correct weight.
- Buy grains in bulk and store in airtight containers e.g. rice, pasta oats etc.
- Multipack cereals, in general, are more expensive.
- Instant cereals are more expensive. Examples of instant cereals are cornflakes and instant oats. Non-instant cereals are oats, mealiemeal and maltabella.
- Sugar coated cereals are often more expensive and generally less nutritious.
- Look for bargains on day-old bread and bakery products.
Vegetables and fruit:
- Buy what is in season as it is cheaper, fresher and you will get maximum nutrition.
- Shop around to compare prices between markets and supermarkets.
- Buy in bulk and save.
- Compare cost and quality of fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables.
- Compare the cost of buying per piece or by the bag. Buying fruits and vegetables by the bag is often cheaper.
- Weight up time versus money – investing time to peel and chop vegetables instead of buying pre-cut options can save a lot of money.
- Understand fruit juice labels: unsweetened, nectar, blend, squashes or 100% fruit.
- Use less in cooking and to spread.
- Butter is generally more expensive than margarine.
- Hard full fat margarine can be used for cooking or baking, in place of butter.
- Tub margarine is soft and will spread more easily, so you tend to use less.
- Make a shopping list – do this in the kitchen, so that you know what you have on hand already, this prevents duplicate buying. Having a list also helps to avoid impulse purchases and unnecessary buys.
- Plan in advance – make a menu plan for the week and then buy only the items you need.
- Look out for advertisements – assess special offers, as you only save money if you need the product.
- Limit or cut out “junk” foods e.g. crisps, chocolates, biscuits, fizzy drinks etc. – this is not only a great way to save money but it will also improve your health.
- Buying in large quantities is not always economical – it depends on you available storage facilities.
- Compare the unit costs (price per kilogram, millilitre or litre).
- House brands may be cheaper.
- Processing increases the cost of foods e.g. cornflakes are more expense than mealie meal – buy at the most natural stage to get the best value.
- Convenience foods are very expensive e.g. TV dinners, canned foods, salad dressings, mayonnaise, pastry.
- Save money through substitution – compare prices and replace more expensive brands with cheaper options.
- Packaging costs will influence the total cost: attractive containers distract consumers (usually more expensive), large containers may be half full as they are sold by weight, this can be misleading.
- Import duty and transport costs influence the total price thus local foods are normally cheaper.
- Ensure foods haven’t expired, especially fresh foods the don’t buy dented, bloated or rusted cans.
Buying: When, Where, How
- Shop during the week when stores tend to be quieter – this means less unplanned stops.
- On your own – try to avoid bringing children with.
- When you are not hungry – when you shop while hungry you end up with lots of extras!
- Keep the frequency to a minimum – limits the opportunity to be tempted to buy extra items.
Where: You need to weigh up convenience versus price – it is not always cheaper to buy from a specialty store. Some of the advantages of supermarkets, include:
- They are convenient.
- They are central.
- Parking is available.
- You can once stop shop.
- They have a larger selection and often cheaper prices when you buy in bulk.
- From a shopping list.
- Using a budget.
- Evaluating sales – is it really a bargain?
- Comparing prices.
- Reading labels.