Tag Archives: budget

R3000 Grocery Challenge – (HOW) WE DID IT!

So last month, we spent under R3000 on groceries – all food. All food. How did we do it?

Let me keep this simple. In essence, you spend on food what you want to spend, or what you allow yourself to spend. It really is that simple. If I had R1000 budget, then it would have been pap, for 30 days, for each meal. Perspective.

I’d love to share my biggest takeaways:

My preface: It is GOOD to love, enjoy, find healthy value in, be filled by, be inspired by, create, and bring community together with FOOD.

So bearing that in mind – here’s how we did it:

1. Quality vs Price. Don’t get me wrong guys – I’m all about quality. Our Good Food Club allows me to get good quality (hormone-free, antibiotic-free, free-range, grass-fed, natural etc.) at a reasonable price – so I’m not sacrificing quality. This is not always possible though. You have to pick your battles. I chose to downgrade on coffee beans (from Organic to Italian Dark Roast and saved R40) and brown bread (from Superior to, well, regular – and saved around R3 a loaf).

2. Don’t buy more than you need: The more you have the more you eat. If you have 2L of milk, you’ll go through it faster than if you had only one. I’m such an automatic ‘stock-upper’ when it comes to basics that we end up consuming (and buying) way more than we need. Do you need 5 cans of tomatoes? Probably not.

3. Shop the sales: Food Lovers on a Wednesday, PnP discounted goods/bulk packs, Woolies sales even. Buy from the factory shops, such as Elgin. You can save tens, if not hundreds of Rands, by keeping your eyes on the numbers.

4. Meal plan: I know, I know, who has time for this? But really! Meal planning not only takes away that frustrating ‘Gah, what are we eating tonight’ thought around 4pm each day, but it removes the spontaneous buying… and it doesn’t need to be complicated or in-depth – just jot down some meal ideas and shuffle it as you go through the week…

5. Convenience shopping: Engen One Stop at 9pm is SO convenient, but will always (okay, 99% of the time) be more expensive. You PAY for convenience, don’t forget that. Ready-made meals are always more expensive, unless it is a $1 mac and cheese box my best friend and I lived on in the states in our early 20’s, which resembled very little of real mac and cheese. I shudder to think what was in there…

6. Buying take away lunches: Hubby and I felt this one, but I’m proud to say we did not buy ANY take away lunches, and the greasy take away joint in our business park makes GOOD ‘slap chips’. It was a rule – NO bought lunches. And when it’s a legit rule – it simply isn’t an option to break it.

7. Eat when you’re hungry – not bored: A good old Michael Pollan Food Rule.

8. Grow ‘extras’ in your garden: coriander, cherry toms, basil, spinach/rocket, spring onion. Those items cost money and OFTEN go off in your fridge. Garden herbs and greens are fresh, organic and ‘free’ in essence.

9. DONT WASTE FOOD: If my kids didn’t finish their school lunches, the lunch boxes were opened and the food was finished before any more was on offer. Darling child, eat your crusts/remaining apple/orange segment you left in there because it still had ‘the pip in’. You’ll honestly save an extra sarmie or piece of fruit you could use in the next days’ lunch box. Also, give your pantry a good clear out – spices, pasta, cans, almost-finished-packets of random stuff – it is all most likely (ermmm…) usable – so get your spring cleaning on and eat what has been neglected for too long (like 2 year old fondant, for example).

10. Simplify: Eat simply and drink simply. Water. Kombucha. Coffee. Easy meals, few ingredients – you can make something taste delish with less than you think. This way of eating is less stressful to prepare and lighter on the wallet. Save your gourmet meals for a special occasion.

11. Cook in bulk, stretch and freeze: I did this with mince and soup. I streeetched the meals (added lentils to mince and doubled the soup) and froze many portions. Not only does it make for quick dinners, but filling lunches at work.

12. Don’t get sucked into consumer culture: This is something a friend noticed she was doing, and honestly, I hadn’t even made the comparison. We walk around with our shiny, smooth (tired) credit cards and nonchalantly swipe swipe swipe. Put R3000 in an envelope labelled GROCERIES and you will avoid the shops like the plague. We are SO accustomed to buying WHAT WE WANT, WHEN WE WANT IT. For eg: we only use a salt grinder at home. But ours finished, so hubby suggested I use the table salt instead (WHAT? NO WAYS). But we did, and we survived.

We are a culture that doesn’t like to sacrifice. We don’t enjoy not having what we want. And we do this with food too.

Does that help? Can you relate? What did you learn? Do you know how much you spend every month?

As far as how this has transpired for us? I’m implementing what we’ve learnt, but I’m also going easy on myself. But no doubt, there will be times coming, when we need to tighten up again (I’m desperate to redo our floors, so R3k might be our ‘new normal’ for a while :)), and I’m happy to do that, aware that for MANY PEOPLE R3k is their average monthly income; they don’t have the luxury of having that much for food alone. That has been eye opening for me.

So give it a go – and let me know how you do. Good luck. xxx

R3000 Challenge: I’m in trouble… 

YOI! I’m in trouble. I did a quick shop yesterday. (I’m surprised at how often I need to go to the shops, as it turns out – 5ppl can eat quite a lot).

I spent another R300, which, in my vague calculation (still unsure of total GFC order) leaves me around R600 for the rest of the month. 😳 I have meat, and staples. But today my confidence may have superseded the reality of my situation because I might have made some rash decisions.

I bought 2 x 3kg bags of butternut. Why 2? Did I need 2? I’m not so sure. I also needed tea. So I bought a box, of 107 teabags. Do I need all 107 teabags? Can I even drink that much in 15 more days? Not a chance. But the bulk buyer in me came to the party.

The saver came to the party too and I couldn’t refuse the Jungle Oats on sale, nor the Bubbly chocolate. If Bubbly is ever on sale, it’s almost sinful to say no. Surely? So I caved, and as I grabbed two slabs off the shelf I thought twice about my budget. And naively took the hit. 


I seeeeeeriously need to tighten the purse strings. Because I have a birthday boy coming up, and cake (and school party treats) will be a necessity shortly.

RIGHT! Two points that have been raised by numerous readers: FREEZING GLASS JARS.

Yes, I too believed one could never freeze glass, but, it turns out you can. A friend showed me or else I would’ve been way too scared to try. They must be decent glass jars and you must be sensible. Don’t freeze HOT food, straight from the oven into the freezer, and take care when defrosting. Don’t take it from the freezer and pop it straight in the microwave/oven. Go easy on your glass.

I buy my glass jars from Bonpak in Prime Park, Diep River. They’re the same size and shape as the Oh Mega Nut Butter jars.

RETHINKING FOOD:

A friend messaged me today, and she was reading my mind. Her message was as follows:

I love the challenge blah blah because… you “buy what you need, no need to overdo elaborate meals EVERY night, good for the hips, good for the world / enviro (cause not over consuming in this consumer crazy society etc etc). Every time I have made my “normal” purchases I think of you and how you’re exercising such restraint and it makes me see the “normal” purchase as a super spoil.”

Someone else (talking about something similar but different) spoke of our consumer culture like this: shopping (unnecessarily, in our case maybe for food/eating) is a way of “filling voids, eradicating boredom, fostering laziness, thwarting creativity, not to mention draining our bottom line“.

I sometimes imagine asking someone from the early 1900’s to watch our western culture. And I wonder how sensible popping into the same shop every 2nd day would seem? Especially in today’s unbelievably demanding lifestyle, when we don’t actually have the time to spare? Does buying a takeaway coffee look cool, indulgent or irresponsible? Is it a prerequisite to your morning? (Coffee is ABSOLUTELY a prerequisite to mine, and I thank the Good Lord for the creamy sweet nectar every morning as I sip it). Pre-cooked meals? Are they convenient, or necessary, or have we barely stopped to consider the joy and creativity involved in cooking we’re blindly robbing ourselves of? Nooooooo judgement here guys – I’m asking myself these exact questions… (and I could’ve fueled a small country on the amount of take away coffee I had last month…)

What is food? What have we made it? Where have we been sold a lemon by society? I’m ALL about good food. I’ve said this already. I love what it represents; different textures and colours, what humans are able to create with micro greens and edible flowers, the complexity of flavours and beauty and satisfaction in a delicately prepared meal. But when did we put it on autopilot?

R3000 Challenge: What we’ve been eating…

All you faithful readers – you’re keeping me going this month. There is so much accountability and interest in this 3k challenge, I’m so inspired. And whether we make it or not – lessons have already been learnt which have been so good for me.

For eg: Yesterday I popped into Checkers (a spare minute away from my kids) and I did a quick price check on some regular items. Some were more expensive, some were less. Saffas reading this, Checkers confuses me. Either way – I left with milk sachets, ginger, lemon (my winter drink of choice/necessity) and Bovril (for R39.90 the cheapest I’ve seen it). Total spent at Checkers R93.77.

Here are some tips and trick and what I’ve been eating:

I’ve fed my sweet tooth with the (massive) block of fondant that has been sitting in the freezer for over 2 years. I kid you not. It was taking up room, and with no spare budget for chocolate, ice cream, cookie dough etc. this was it. I’m glad to not have to relocate it after each new frozen food shop.


The boys have not had cracker bread this month. A quick simple snack – but at R21+ a box. Not this month. Also the juice boxes we spoke of? None of that either.

I’m limiting us to 1 big bulk bag of coffee beans and 1 tub of hot chocolate per month. That way we need to ration it all. Self control.

All in all, I’m much less impulsive in my shopping. Much less. We are not living on bread and butter (quite yet), but because I really don’t know what the end of the month will look like, I question my needs vs. wants.

This past Friday was Market Day at my Good Food Club. As I arrived to fetch my goodies, I saw this: a special. It is hard for me to refuse a special.

Yes friends, this is TOP quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil at such a good price. And I refused. Because it would’ve been too much for the budget. See my self control?

Saturday we scored huge. After a crazy busy morning with play dates and builders, we dropped everything (in my brother-in-law’s hands) to attended my cousins funeral. Hubby and I had barely eaten all day, so grabbed a handful of post-memorial snacks. Hungry again and on our way home, our brother and sister-in-law invited us to the Spur. We don’t frequent the Spur, but they had promised their kids a Spur treat and (super generously) offered money towards our bill. (How amazing!) My first thought was “for suuuure!” and my second was “oh wait, this is going to eat in the budget hard“. Pondering the situation we found ourselves in, hubby kept telling me to – quote – “tell your readers, we’ll take it from the Building Budget”. Pah, as if there is a building budget. 

So, because I feel so committed to you all and this challenge my conclusion, “right, it has to come out the 3k budget”. I was prepared to take the hit. Hospitality, remember? Long story short, our super generous family covered the whole bill, so Saturday was covered. Mahala.

Tips and tricks: find old sugary treats to keep you going and hint at family members to take you out.

WHAT WE’VE BEEN EATING:

Breakfast: Good ol’ fashion Jungle Oats, with a splash of milk and drizzle of honey. I have 3.5 kg’s of honey from my Good Food Club (paid for by this months budget). Brea has fancy yoghurt with some fruit and I usually have 7 cups of coffee. Or 1 cup, heated 7 times.

Lunch: My girlfriend and I joke about deconstructed meals.”I had a deconstructed fruit salad” she’ll say – when she means she had an apple, pear and orange, for eg. Ha. So I usually take a handful of paleo friendly goodies to work. First prize is always leftover dinner, otherwise I’ll grab some boiled eggs, butternut and avo, apple, carrot and cucumber sticks, cherry toms, banana etc.

Boys lunches: Always, a sandwich, cut up apple and cheery tomatoes. Their snacks are either raisins, dried mango (when on sale at my GFC), dates, sometimes nuts, boiled eggs, cut up cucumber, fruit etc. And water. All fresh. No prepackaged snacks.

Afternoon snack: Anything I can find in the fridge, tea (and fondant). Often fruit.

Dinner:

  • We’ve made 2 massive batches of soup and frozen them in jars (I buy glass jars from Bonpak).
  • We’ve had cheese, tomato and basil (home grown) toasted sarmies.
  • We’ve had chicken and cheese quesadillas with homemade salsa.
  • I cooked 500g of mince and added almost anything I could think of to beef if up (carrots, mushrooms, peppers, 2 cans tomatoes, and lots of lentils). I also divided the mince into jars and have frozen them for quick meals.
  • We’ve had cous cous with chicken (1 chicken breast), butternut, mint, feta and toasted almonds.
  • We’ve had chicken sausage (Elgin) on roasted sweet potato and rosemary chips.
  • Last night we had the pre-cooked frozen mince over sweet pot mash. Yum.

Soup recipes here: Sweet Pot & Bacon Soup and Roasted Butternut and Rosemary. 

Here was my initial meal plan idea – before this challenge was official. Friday night is movie night in our house so, hence the popcorn.

And as we stand, I’ve spent R1171.93 (EXCLUDING my Good Food Club food which should come in at around R1000ish). So I’m sitting on just under R2200.

How you doing? 🙂

R3000 Challenge: Where we shop, and how… kinda

You’re back! Nice to have you here… if you missed the intro, you can read it here.

Let’s start off with a few general thoughts. Follow me will you? These will come through again and again as we tiptoe through this month on our teeny tiny budget.

Firstly: I LOVE food! I LOOOOOOVE goood food; the flavours, textures and how communal it is. How creative it is, how delicate and bold, how it can inspire, fuel, satisfy and be enjoyed in so many ways. So this is exceptional and intentional and not long term. It’s intended to open our eyes and have us think a little more about our usual grocery-buying habits. Here we go…

I think, in general, we can eat less. Eat when hungry, and not spontaneously. I shop the sales, ALWAYS, esp at Woolies. I try not buy more than we need (something I put into practice intentionally today as I’m so often loading my trolley with 5 cans of tomatoes when I could easily do with only 2 or 3, or say 6 slabs of chocolate when I only need, well… less than that). The less you have the less you consume. Choose your purchases well, and buy different goods at different shops. It’s a pain I know, but if I can do it with 3 small kids, so can you. Food is very often a ‘you get what you pay for’ situation – so keep that in mind. Sometimes paying more for something is necessary and important, sometimes not.

Let me share how we usually do things around here. I generally shop at my local Good Food Club, Pick n Pay, Woolies, and our Elgin Free Range Chicken store.

I start the month at my Good Food Club: (Sorry, I know you don’t all have a Good Food Club – it’s buying direct from the farmer. Often cheaper-ish, sometimes not, but the quality of the food is way up there.)

Here I get 2 large trays of free range eggs, and hormone free cheese, butter and yoghurt. I usually buy dates and raisins (kid snacks), meat, olive oil, wine (but not this month!), honey, natural nut butters, bio wheat flour and some household goodies such as eco washing power/dishwashing liquid etc.

Next I shop at PnP for things such as:

Bread (for kids lunchboxes; hubby makes our own bread with the bio flour from our GFC), milk (usually in sachets unless the bottles are on special). Things such as some fruit and veg (see Woolies list below), wraps, cans of tomatoes and tomatoes paste, sauces, sandwich spreads, balsamic vinegar, spices, oats (our designated winter breakfast), and usually chocolates and treats (but not this month!) etc.

Then I hit up Woolies:

I’ve actually found that many Woolworths items (BARRING their pre-made, deli or specialty foods) are cheaper than PnP (and Checkers). At Woolies I buy almost all their specials – ALWAYS cherry tomatoes (my kids eat them like sweets) and apples (I can’t handle bruised floury ones I usually end up with from PnP). I get the lettuce packs (unless my garden is thriving) and COFFEE BEANS. I always buy the silver Organic bag – but alas, the budget is calling me toward the dark roast Italian beans at R40 less. The yoghurt tubs are often buy 3 for price of 2 and I prefer their yoghurt to PnP. At Woolies I buy the 4 huge bags of vegetables for R125 deal. I know PnP is cheaper but I can’t find large bags of sweet potatoes at PnP for the same deal. So I usually buy 2 x huge bags of sweet pot and 2 x huge bags of butternut – those are my BASE STARCHY VEGETABLES for most meals.

Elgin Free Range Chicken: I buy chicken breasts, whole chickens and their chicken sausage. It’s cheap.

A couple guidelines to our month of cheap. There are certain things I CAN NOT live without/will not compromise on:

Decent coffee beans, hormone free meats (for the most part), free range eggs, real butter, apples from Woolworths and avocados.


Restrictions: This month I have HAD to cut out chocolate/snacks (hubby and I LOOOVE chocolate), and… wine. I know. Sigh. Wine and chocolate will only appear should I have leftover cash (I’m not holding my breath).

We are also NOT eating out, or getting take out (unless it’s genuinely cheaper than cooking something). If you track spontaneous buying, you’ll be amazed at how much food is bought spontaneously. No coffees or nibbles on the go. Thanks to Discovery, I’ll still be able to grab a weekly Vida or Kauai – mahala.

Baking this month will be considered a luxury. Baking uses a ton of butter which is expensive, and all sorts of deliciousness which adds up FAST. But let’s remember, we’re not on diet, we’re saving money. And by not baking, my body will thank me later.


Hospitality Clause: There is always a hospitality clause. Hospitality always trumps a diet/budget/restrictions. People matter more.

Drinks: We don’t ever drink carbonated bevvies, unless it’s tonic for gin or Appletizer on special occasions. We are water, coffee (GOOD COFFEE) and wine people. Sometimes tea. The only time I buy juice is when I buy box juices for picnics or outings with the kids. Sorry kids – it’s water this month.

With no wine this month, cheaper coffee beans and water from the Newlands Brewery Spring means I’ve already saved around R550. Boom.

Next post: what we’re ACTUALLY eating…