Shop wisely and save money

Instead of wandering up and down the aisles and choosing goods at random, go to the shops armed with a list and a budget, writes Brendan Dale
Instead of wandering up and down the aisles and choosing goods at random, go to the shops armed with a list and a budget, writes Brendan Dale

Grocery shopping can be the pits – you go to buy bread and milk, but end up with a bag full of goods at a cost of R300 or more.

How does that happen, and how can we be more conscious of our habits and stop ourselves from automatically taking things off the shelves?

Saving money isn’t only about giving things up, buying less or tracking your every cent – sometimes, just being savvy and alert can save you money and allow you to get the most out of every rand.

Before you next go shopping, consider these three tips:


This may be tricky if you don’t usually budget, but you need to set a spending limit to ensure that you’ll make it through the month. Shopping without knowing your limit can hurt your finances in the long run.

If you don’t have a budget, look at how much money you can afford to spend on groceries for the month and see how much you have left. This won’t be exact, but will give you a starting point to sort out a spending plan for the month.

Once you’ve allocated an amount to your next shopping trip, try your best to stick to it.


Having a shopping list will not only clear your mind and take the “I’m forgetting something” feeling away, it can also speed up your shopping. You can keep a list on your fridge or on your phone and add to it whenever you realise you need something.

Read through your list before you head off to the shops and add any extra items you need.

Be like Santa and check your list twice; and stick to it.


Hangry is the emotional state of frustration and irritation when you’re hungry. Don’t go shopping in this state because you’ll most likely buy more than you need, especially junk food, and you’ll be prone to take anything off the shelf as quickly as possible. Your poor starving brain cannot deal with the sight of all the food and will be in a “feed me” frenzy.

Consider eating something before tackling the shopping chore.

Once at the shops, things should be quite straightforward as you simply need to buy what’s on your list. However, here are three more tips to consider:


It sounds obvious, but we often ignore this one. Not only should you compare prices of brands, you should also look at the cost per unit. Bigger is not always better as stores sometimes price the bigger packs at higher per-unit prices.

A 350g pack of something at R16 works out to 0.045c per gram (350 divided by 16). The 1kg (1 000g) pack for R55 may seem cheaper simply because we’ve been conditioned to believe that buying in bulk is better. At this price, though, you could buy three R16 packs for less than the 1kg pack.

Also, if you know the prices of your favourite items, you’ll quickly spot when stores hike prices at the end of the month, over religious holidays or ahead of other special occasions like Valentine’s Day. Sometimes waiting a week or two to buy that product could save you a fair bit of money.


If products that you use are on special and you can store them for a few weeks, it may well be worth buying a few extra. Fresh produce and items with a short shelf life may not be worth it, though. However, don’t buy items on special simply for the sake of saving money. “Buy two, get one free” specials can be tempting, but don’t forget about your budget or your shopping list.


Most stores have a loyalty card of some variety. The savings vary, but if you shop at the same store often, it is worth joining their programme and using whatever savings are offered to you.

Be aware of the marketing, though, because the store will try to entice you to spend more. You’ll also most likely receive personalised vouchers and specials that need to be redeemed quickly, but only use these when they make sense – not just because they are there.

Simply having a shopping list and sticking to it will make a huge difference to your shopping experience. You need to manage what you buy and not be drawn in by the marketing hype that stores create.

They know your weaknesses – so should you.

Brendan Dale is personal finance blogger at

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