Beat the budget: easy ways to save cash when you're eating in or out

Clever battle plans to help you save money while you're grocery shopping, cooking a meal or dining at your favourite restaurant

21 February 2018 - 16:07 By Jessica Brodie
Keep your grocery bills in check by sticking to your shopping list.
Keep your grocery bills in check by sticking to your shopping list.
Image: 123RF/stokkete

South Africans are due to be in for a bit of a shock at supermarket tills in April. This is when the increase in value-added tax (VAT) from 14% to 15%, as announced by Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba in the 2018 budget, kicks in.

That said, there are some smart ways you can keep your grocery bills in check, plus save cash when eating out too. Try these ideas:


There is a huge amount of research aimed at getting you to increase your spending in supermarkets. Your best defense is to go in with a game plan, armed with a shopping list for the week.

Have a game plan

You'll save money - and cut your cooking time down - by being a little more prepared and planning to get the most out of every meal. So draft a weekly dinner plan and use this to compile your shopping list.

For instance, if you'll be serving spaghetti bolognaise for dinner one night, plan to make a large pot of mince and use it as the base of some of your other weekly meals too. A classic bolognaise can be used as everything from a baked potato topping to the filling for a moussaka.

Opt for local, seasonal produce

Eating local, seasonal produce isn't only better for your wallet, but for the environment too. The cheaper fruits and vegetables they are in the supermarket, the more in season they are, and the higher the likelihood they are grown locally.

Stock up on pulses 

Pocket-friendly dried pulses can be used as a protein-rich filler for everything from salads to soup. Use them to make expensive ingredients, like red meat, go further by padding out your stews and casseroles with chickpeas, lentils or beans.


It's likely that a lot of the food you're throwing out can be repurposed in some way. Reducing food waste is not only morally appealing, but reflects one of the major food trends of 2018 too.

Sprout some savings

Grow your own lettuce by putting the 'stub' (the bottom of the core with a few centimetres attached) in a glass of water near a sunny window. You can do the same thing with celery, spring onions, cabbage, bok choy and similar vegetables. For best results, cut a thin layer off the stub first.

Edible 'trash' is often treasure

Cauliflower cores and leaves are edible, carrot tops make a delicious pesto, spinach stems are great pickled in a leftover jar of gherkin juice. Rule of thumb, a lot of vegetable off cuts are edible, so don't simply toss them in the trash.

Bones and ends

Each time you cook a meal, save the chicken bones and vegetable tops by popping them in a plastic bag and stashing it in the freezer. Fill the bag over time, and when it's full boil up these leftovers to make a tasty broth.


Book for lunch

If you are going to go out for a meal, lunch is the time to go. You are less inclined to eat more than one course and more likely to drink less at lunch than at dinner.

Buy a bottle

The cost of a glass of wine at a restaurant is often what the restaurant pays for the bottle. Restaurants charge that in case they open a bottle for one glass. You're much better off buying a bottle and taking what you don’t drink home with you.

Lay off the bubbly

When choosing your wine, remember that the sin tax hits bubbles twice as hard as its non-sparkling counterpart, so save your money by choosing a local, non-sparkling wine instead.