We all want to save, but how many of us are actively managing to do so? In a recent survey that was done with 20 000 Mums on Home Tester Club across South Africa it wasn’t surprising to see that only half of us Mums are managing to actively save some moola in a month. Life’s hard at the moment.  I don’t know about you, but feeding our family takes a massive bite out of our monthly income. It also seems to take a larger bite every year – not just because our family and kids have grown, but because the actual cost of food seems to keep getting higher.

After weeks of interrogating our frugal friends, here are some of the the best ways we have found to cut down our grocery bills. Why not add some more of your own on our new forum:

  1. Set a monthly budget. 

Use an app (I suggest the 22seven app) to calculate your current food expenses.

Plan meals to a budget. Decide how much money you will spend per week for food, then multiply that by 4,3 for the monthly expense. Now plan meals accordingly: breakfasts, lunches, dinners (and if you have kids: lunchbox snacks and afternoon snacks). Use your app to both set and stay within budget.

Give yourself a while. Setting a belt-tightening, but realistic budget will take 3 or 4 months of fine-tuning. The general rule is that if you haven’t been methodically budgeting until now, you should be able to cut down your costs by a whopping 20-25%! Lucky you.

  1. Reduce the temptation of impulse buying.

People who can avoid impulse spending save nearly 25% on their grocery bills by following a few rules:

Shop with a list. Don’t go into a shop hoping the food will choose you. Know what you will buy before you arrive, so you don’t add extra things to your trolley.

If you can, shop online – especially if all current specials are included on the website. Why not try Club Shop. It is exclusively for Home Tester Club members and offers great specials and deals.

Shop less. The less you shop, the more you save. Try once a month for non-perishable items and once a week for the rest.

Avoid shopping when you are stressed, tired or hungry. After a frantic day at work, you stop at the supermarket on the way home to buy a few essentials and end up with chips, sweets and a host of other items that you didn’t plan to buy. It’s an old tip, but never shop when you are hungry or tired. You eat with your eyes and if you feel tired, you will gravitate toward the sweet stuff. If you shop when you are hungry, everything looks appetizing and that trolley fills up quickly. Rather shop when you have had a good meal, and can do it in a calm and organised manner.

Shop alone. If you can, or else everyone will add their favourites to the trolley. Whatever you do try and leave the kids at home!! Retailers have figured out long ago that kids wield immense power when it comes to buying stuff. TV and other media bombard little ones with advertisements enticing them to consume products, from cereals, to sweets to drinks. You can end up with tantrums and World War Three if you don’t give in to tiny people’s demands. Much better to do the shopping alone, and spend some real quality time with them in an enjoyable activity.

Tap away at your mobile calculator. Check quantities. Do the sums. On your calculator, you can also add up your items to help you stay within budget. When I started doing this, I discovered two big things: that bulk items aren’t always cheaper, and that retailers don’t always take off the discounts they promise on the shelves. Only if you check your slips and know what it ought to have totaled will you catch this.

Use the smallest cart you can. Studies have proven that the quicker your container fills, the less you are inclined to buy. In fact try and walk past the trolleys at the entrance and take a basket if you intend to buy a few items only. Retailers place trolleys at the entrance of supermarkets on purpose, so that you are likely to grab one as you enter. So even if you intended to buy only a few items, the more space you have, the more likely you are to fill it up. And the more you will spend.

Shop with cash. Swiping that credit card makes whatever amount you’re paying feel inconsequential. But when you’re counting notes, you feel it. (McDonald’s did a study that showed that people will spend 50% more with a credit card than with hard cash.)

     3. Don’t buy what you don’t need.

Go straight for what you need and avoid what’s along the way. Another trick that retailers use is to place all the essential items at the back of the shop (such as milk, bread, etc) so you need to walk through aisles of other goods to reach these essentials. Be aware of this temptation.

Ignore the small item ‘treats’ while you queue. There is nothing more boring that standing in the queue waiting to check out, and that treat and sweetie aisle is strategically placed to entertain and entice you. With nothing better to do, you will pick up and look at items and a few of them will probably find their way into your basket or trolley. Be aware of this and avoid the temptation.

Give the tasters a skip. Smells and good looking food are incredibly powerful, and those little pop up stands where you are offered a taster of something delicious being cooked, are a great temptation to buy something you never intended to buy. How often have you tasted something, bought it because you felt obliged, and then never bought it ever again because it really wasn’t to your taste? Rather avoid the whole process and save some money.

Know what is in your freezer and pantry. That way you won’t buy what you already have. About once a month, just as you’re about to go shop, don’t. Instead ransack your shelves and freezer and unleash your inner Masterchef by whipping up something interesting from all the odds and ends.

Take your own re-usable carrier bags. This will save the planet as well as a few coins- every bit helps.

Don’t buy pre-packaged foods. Make your foods from scratch where you can. Better yet – get your kids to make it – slicing and dicing is a great chore for older kids.

Find cheaper substitutes. Review your last grocery receipt circle your most expensive purchases, and try replace these with cheaper items. It may be as simple as eating chicken more and red meat less.

Remember – no one has a bottomless pit of money, and we need to make each Rand work as hard as it can. Shop smartly, avoid waste and stick to your budget.  Simple changes can make a big difference at the end of the day!

How about you? What shopping wisdom can you add to our collective pot? Join the Mumversation and kindly let us all know what’s working for you?

Lastly, if you are in Durban, then please try and make sure you get over to our Mumspiration Live event where Sylvia Walker – a leading Money and Personal Finance Coach – will be sharing other tips on how to “put some mojo into your moola”.

Co-written by Julie Williams & Sylvia Walker

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