‘Yikes!’ My husband stared at his (colour-coded) spreadsheet in horror, shocked at what we averaged last year in monthly grocery spend. For us, ‘groceries’ includes consumables like nappies, household products, meat, etc. It excludes eating out. Looking at the evil monthly amount, I didn’t think we were far off the curve, though, so I did what all modern women do to find out if they’re ‘normal’: I posted.
And the Twitter and Facebook responses I got were so interesting that I decided to inaugurate 2013 with some insights on spending, saving and what others are doing.
I stipulated in my post that we were a family of 3, so much of the info I got was from families of 3 or 4. I did get a couple of replies from singletons, who spend more than I’d expected, but still approximately half of what the families are spending.
The families I polled are spending anywhere from R4 000 per month to R10 000 on groceries, keeping in mind that some really work hard on keeping their costs down (shopping for different things at different places) and others explain that they’re foodies who seldom go out and spare no expense on ingredients and cooking items. The average seems to be around R6 000, which includes meat 3-4 times a week.
Some respondents included their maid’s or nanny’s food in the amount (in our case, we have both our nanny and her 7-year-old living with us and our spend includes their food). Some mentioned that they kept kosher (kosher food, especially meat, is astronomically pricy). Some added that they eat out often, which affects their spend.
Now this was the best part of my whole investigation. Yes, I wanted to know if we were on par and yes, I am a bit of a voyeur, but I love the advice from other moms:
1. SHOP AROUND.
Food Lovers’ Market seems to be the best value and (these days) the best range for fresh items. Woolies for meat, chicken, fish and special treats. Pick ‘n Pay for general shopping and Shoprite Checkers for that big monthly stock-up. In reality, few moms have time to visit more than one supermarket in a week. My advice? Find a shopping centre that has more than one (like Blairgowrie Plaza, Hyde Park, Sandton or Rosebank) and use little neighbourhood shops for the unexpecteds.
2. KEEP HUBBY AWAY.
This is an unexpected one. Several of my moms said that their husbands bought all of the wrong things, too many of this and not enough of that. My own husband, who does most of the shopping because he does most of the cooking, always buys whatever’s at eye level, while I scan the shelves for the local, low-cost version. So whenever possible I try to do the big shops myself, and he does the in-betweens.
3. LEAVE THE BILL UP.
This year I’m going to stick ours to the fridge so that whoever didn’t do the shop (and the nanny) can see what’s in the house. This is a great way to avoid double-buying and ensure that new stuff doesn’t get left in the pantry/the back of the fridge forever.
4. MAKE STUFF UP.
If, at the end of the week or the month, you have a kitchen full of bits and pieces that don’t seem like they could add up a meal, use the Epicurious app, type in what you’ve got, and get suggested recipes back. I love this one. We once had beans, oranges and rice and made a yummy black bean chilli with cumin and citrus.