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20 Hacks to shrink your food bill

We have all been feeling the pinch every time we get to the supermarket checkout.

Although, we can’t do much about inflation we can adapt and look at our spending habits. I have asked my IG followers, friends, and family for their top hacks to save money and have done my own research on how to save our precious rands and not spend all of it on food.

Eating healthy does not always equal expensive but then you should not be buying all the latest potions, supplements, protein bars, etc, or stocking up on everything vegan gluten, or sugar-free. Often these foods are very much processed with long lists of artificial ingredients.

20 Hacks to shrink your food bill


1. Shop around

We have beautiful and lovely supermarkets in South Africa but making Woolworths your place to go shopping is not going to save you money. Not that you can’t get specials and good offers at Woolies. But I can’t get myself to pay R45 for a tub of blueberries when I know I can get it for R13 at the greengrocer. A friend of mine who is on a very tight budget actually gets all the supermarkets in her area’s weekly discount flyers and compares prices. She has to drive around for all the different deals but this is saving them a lot of money. And some weeks her main shopping is even from Woolworths because she bought all the deals. I shop at a few shops every week, it is a pain but if I had to shop just at the supermarket we would not be able to eat so well and be able to create recipes using more expensive ingredients. Here is my list of places where I shop mostly.

Carreira centre , Farm Table,, Faithfull to nature, Checkers, Woolworths

2. Make a weekly meal plan and shopping list

According to my IG followers planning is most important to plan your weekly meals. This way you reduce your wastage and you buy according to a plan. This stops impulse buying. I have written another blog post 15 Ways to meal plan better on the blog. I use my Meal planner pad weekly, to help keep me organised. First take stock of what is still in the fridge and pantry and then plan accordingly. Make a list and stick to it!

3. Cook most of your meals

For a lot of people, this is a challenge. Especially for full-time working parents. Try not to overcomplicate this. Batch cook a large batch of bolognese sauce, eat it with rice, in a wrap toasted with cheese, in a nacho bowl with avocado and beans, with jacket potatoes, or make a quick Baby marrow lasagne. Add salads, fruit, or vegetables with every meal. This will also work for making shredded chicken and using it the same way. For breakfast make overnight oats or chia puddings. In the summer eat a lot of salads, in the winter batch cook soups and stews and freeze them.

4. Money savings apps

Download the Snapnsave app and your phone. Get cash back whenever you snap you’re till slip.  Another app that can save you money for weekend dining out meals is The Entertainer app. You can also get the app through your E-Bucks account. It works really well and there are a lot of buy one get one free offers.

5. Buy seasonally

We may think avocados are in season all year but they are not. And when they are not in season they are very expensive. So start to eat according to the seasons. Here is a great downloadable South African seasonal calender from Eat out.

6. Buy in bulk

Buying in bulk will save you money. If you have space to store extras this is great. I don’t always have space, so don’t do this as often as I want to. You could also buy in bulk with friends and family and then split the bill under each other.

Buy meat in bulk from a local farmer or butcher and freeze it in smaller portions. Buying a whole lamb will cost R90 p/kg depending on the market. But buying individual packets from the supermarket will sometime set you back to even R180 p/kg

7. Avoid fancy ingredients and learn to swap ingredients

If a recipe calls for a special ingredient – perhaps saffron, a spice mix or produce that isn’t in season, or something that would require a trip to a specialty shop – try and think of a substitute (or Google it)!

If fresh herbs or spice blends are expensive (or you only need a small amount for one dish), consider buying individual dried herbs instead. If a recipe calls for cream or coconut milk just use a few tablespoons of full cream yogurt instead. Don’t buy ready-made spice mixes. Make sure you have a basic set of spices and blend your own.

Buying salmon fillets is very expensive but you could buy salmon trimmings or off cuts for a fraction of the price and make delicious salmon rice bowls, egg and salmon frittatas or salmon pasta.

8. Shop online

Doing your weekly shopping online allows you to track your total spend as you go and remove any items from your cart before you get to the checkout if you’re trying to stick to a budget.

Checking your supermarket app or website each week can also be a great way to keep an eye on the top new specials, rather than having to look through every aisle

Woolies Dash, Checkers sixty60, and Pick a pay online shopping are great options but are unfortunately not available in small towns.

9. Compare the unit prices of different products

When comparing products from different brands, compare the price per unit rather than the overall price. This is often in a smaller print and shows the price per 100g. The total price of a product from brand A might be more expensive than brand B, but the value per 100g might be lower – meaning better value for money

10. Grow and make your own

If you have a garden and can grow some of your own vegetables, amazing! If you only have a small balcony, you could still try growing fresh herbs or sprouts.

Look at your shopping list and see if there’s anything you could save money on by making yourself. This could be hummus and dips, stock, jam, bread, and baking. Of course, not everyone has the time to do this (and it’s not always cheaper), but it’s something to consider, especially if you enjoy spending time in the kitchen

11. Include more vegan or plant-based meals

Meat and animal products are very expensive. Try to reduce your meat intake by eating a few vegan or plant-based meals in a week. It can be just as delicious and protein sources like lentils and beans are cheap very healthy and full of fibre. We created this Vegan Meal plan guide with 20 recipes to inspire you to eat more plant-based meals.

Vegan Meal plan guide

12. Stop buying individual items for lunchboxes!!

I think this one is a big expense for alot of people because we are sucked into buying individual and character-branded yogurts, snack bars, cheese, crackers, etc. Rather invest in a Crunch lunchbox. It is a once-off expense that will save you alot of money in the long run. This lunchbox lasts and lasts. It just does not break or crack. We have had ours for four years and even the stickers still look brand new. Because of the compartments, it is so easy to pack lunches without buying individual items. This is how I use it:

  1. Buy 1 l full-fat plain yogurt, and add honey or berry chia jam. Add a spoon. I promise it does not leek. Hummus, nut butter, and guacamole could also be added as dips
  2. Add carrots, cherry tomatoes, peppers, olives, cucumber slices, oranges, tangerines, apples, kiwi’s, grapes etc.
  3. Bake just once a week, and add homemade muffins or nutbars
  4. Buy large rice cakes and dip them in melted chocolate-put in the fridge to set
  5. Make your own sandwiches with tuna mayo, egg, and mayo, or ham and cheese
  6. Gluten-free: rice crackers or Triggz chips are great options
  7. Add ham, cheese, biltong, and roasted chickpeas as protein options
  8. Add dried fruit, nuts, and seeds
  9. When my pantry is empty I quickly make some popcorn in the morning
  10. Add a boiled egg as a protein option instead of protein bars
  11. Buy a good quality water bottle that keeps water cold and don’t buy juice, milk, or energy drinks for lunch boxes.

13. Save on breakfast

Buying 5 different sugary processed boxes of cereals every month will add up. Rather make porridge, overnight oats, chia puddings, egg on toast, or homemade smoothies.

14. Make use of reward cards

They don’t always feel like a great saving but using supermarket reward cards does save you money. So get them and use them.

15. Stock up on frozen fruit and vegetables

Fruit and vegetables are snap frozen and retain their nutrients. They are a great option to keep in your freezer. Compared to fresh fruit and vegetables they can be a lot cheaper.

16. Store food correctly

Knowing how to store your food properly can make it last longer and also reduce the amount you throw away.  Here are some storage tips to help you get more out of your weekly shop:

  • Keep open packets in airtight containers
  • Store fruit and veg in bags in the produce section of your fridge
  • Store carrots in containers of water
  • Put spring onions in the fridge in a jar or vase of water like flowers
  • Keep ripe avocados in water in the fridge. It stops them from getting overripe.
  • Freeze meat, produce, and leftovers that you won’t eat for a while
  • If buying in bulk, put any food you’re wanting to put aside for later in the freezer on the date of purchase. Just remember to write the date on it so you remember when to use it by
  • Put a paper towel inside bags of opened salad to absorb moisture and prevent wilting
  • Keep half onions, half tomatoes, and avocados in one container in the fridge and use them as soon as possible.
  • Store potatoes in a dark, cool place
  • Store dry ingredients in jars or containers.
  • Flour can be kept in containers or jars, keep out of the light. It could also be kept in the fridge or freezer if you have space to kill off any mites or pests.

17. Pick the best time to shop

Not shopping when you’re hungry can make a huge difference and another clever trick is to ask the supermarket staff what days or times they restock the shelves so you can plan your trips for the times when you’ll have the most choice.

When the shelves are bare and the discounted items are already sold out, you either leave empty-handed or are forced to buy at whatever price is left.

Some supermarkets also mark down items on certain days and times to make sure they sell before they pass their sell-by date. Ask or try to figure out when they have marked down prices.

18. Stop buying all the cleaning products

First of all alot of cleaning products have a very heavy toxic load that you don’t really want to use in your home.

Start making your own cleaning products or rely more on lemons, vinegar, and bicarbonate of soda for your cleaning needs. I wrote a blog post about our zero-waste journey and some great, cheaper, and healthier options we have been using. One of my favorite switches we have made is making my own dishwasher tablets. It saves us a lot of money!

Dishwasher tablets.


19. Include more  nutritious wholegrains and the humble potato in your meal planning and shopping

Potatoes, brown rice, oats, barley, polenta, etc are a cheap way to bulk up meals and can be included in many recipes. Try this Lentil  curry and baked polenta

Lentil curry with baked polenta

20. Family traditions

For alot of people, Fridays or the weekends are a time for take-out meals or eating out. This can set you back alot. Rather come up with family traditions of trying to make something new or special over the weekend or cooking food from different cultures and spend a bit more money on the ingredients. By doing this you are spending time together as a family, learning new skills and also saving money.


This is alot to digest, but I hope it helps you in some way to eat well but spend less. Please leave a comment and let me know if you have any other savings hacks you want to add.

If you want some more help in the kitchen you can sign up for my Master Kitchen Edit consult or I also do online consults.

Ankie Niesing

Hi, I'm Ankie! Welcome to Wooden Spoon Kitchen, my pantry of life, love and health where we constantly stir laughter, learning, eating and cooking together!

This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. Great ideas, thank you! The seasonal food chart is so helpful. And love that for a lot of these you are not only saving money, but also supporting small businesses and being kinder to the environment

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