I have always been a ‘Planner’. When I was younger, I would look at food pamphlets and add a random number and see how much I would need to spend on food when I was older. There was no maths to it, but even at a young age I knew prices go up. You see, I realised early on that food though essential is expensive. I figured later that it doesn’t always have to be expensive.

Budget: First and foremost, how much are you willing to spend on your groceries? I have had months where I don’t put a price and have been shocked that I had overspent. Though we need food and toiletries, you don’t always have to overspend on them.

List: A list is very important. There are certain items that you cannot do without. Some are nice to haves but you do not need them and some really add no value whatsoever to your life. Make a list of what you are going to buy. Split it into two columns, what you need and what you want. Things like chocolate, chips and drinks are wants but will go into most people’s need list. Some people actually make a menu of what they are going to be cooking that month and buy according to the menu. I like surprising myself so I make a list and plan my menus according to what I have. Occasionally I have let food go bad before I cook it so now I buy fresh food I cannot freeze on a weekly basis.

Remember to stick to the list. If you know you have a tendency of buying things that are not on the list, have an impromptu budget and stick to it. When you feel the urge to buy something that is not on the list, always ask yourself, ‘Do I really need this? Am I really going to use this?’ ‘Do I have money for it?’

Where: Now that you have a list, where are you going to buy your groceries? Ideally you can walk into any shop and pick out what you need, but there is nothing as painful as buying something you need from a random shop only to find it way cheaper in another shop. Now, you need to be careful on this one. Driving 30km to buy one product that is only R5 more expensive at the shop that is 2km away does not make sense. Unless if you are going to buy more items of course. Whenever you go shopping, consider fuel and time spent as well. If you can, ask if the shop that is father away has I used to collect shop pamphlets and browse through them and compare and take notes while making my food list. Now that I know the power of the internet, I don’t have to wait for papers
anymore, I simply go online to the shops websites to see what they have on special. And that helps me compare the prices better.

One site that I use on a regular if not daily basis is www.guzzle.co.za and for big ticket items I simply go to www.pricecheck.co.za.

Be vigilant when you are shopping, there are certain shops which do not reduce their prices, they simply print the original price of the product and tell you that you are saving while you are not. Some shops will even tell you that a certain product is cheaper in their shop, do not take their word for it, find out for yourself. Remember that all those little amounts eventually add up. Also be on the lookout for shop loyalty cards. They help. Get as many as possible and do not just buy because they give you points, find out how many points you get and if the points justify you paying more for a product.

When: I had left this one out but I think it is important. The best time to do your shopping is in the morning. Preferably just as the shop opens. Everything has been put out on the shelves, the shop is cleaner and the staff friendly and eager to assist. And yes, there are fewer people in the shop at that time as well so you don’t feel hurried and you can get it over and done with early and get on with other things. If you cannot go during the week, early Sunday morning is a good time as well.

Brand: Is the brand important? It depends and unfortunately for this one, it is all about individual tastes. With some products, it tastes and feels and is exactly the same regardless of the brand whereas with some products, you may prefer a certain brand.

Children: If you are going to go shopping with children, make sure they are well fed, have used the bathroom or are diapered and they are not tired. If you can afford it, buy them a treat if they behave and if you cannot afford, bring something from home and give them in the car when you are done shopping. Make the shopping list with them so that they know what you are going to get and don’t start asking for other things, if they do ask, just say no. If they scream, do not pacify them with what they want for fear of other shoppers, do not feed the habit. Most shoppers have children and they really understand.

All in all, enjoy your shopping and remember to plan ahead and compare, compare, compare.

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