by Tiffany Markmanmom to a one-year-old, tries to balance her workaholism with cuddling her daughter, reading books, consuming caffeine & reining in her intrinsic kugelry. Follow her on twitter.

‘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.

The parameters

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 ranges

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.

shopping article

Photo from Pinterest

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.

The tips

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:


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.


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.


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.


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.

I’d love to hear from you. What are you spending, if you don’t mind sharing? Where do you shop? And do you have any tips to add? Have a beautiful day.

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21 Responses to “We spent WHAT on groceries?!?”

  • My tip might be a surprising one, because people assume that organic food is MORE expensive, but I shop weekly or fortnightly using organicemporium.co.za, and I have saved on meat that is 100% grass-fed, organic Kalahari beef. It's super yummy, and they deliver (for me, my delivery charge is R75). I plan what I buy, I use the food, and it's fresh & good. Give it a try.

  • I also shop weekly. We do a rough schedule on Sunday evenings of what we would like and I pop in to Spar and Food Lovers Market (Edenvale) to get including meat, lunch buying, and snacks. And they remain fresh. We have meat almost on a daily basis but incorporate rice, veg, carbs, and lots of salad in them (no restrictions and cheaper). we are a family of 4 (kids aged 8 and 2). the only thing that runs out ahead of time is milk.

  • Natasha Mitchell says:

    I love number 3! It seems to be my biggest problem – I buy because I think we don't have when we have plenty! lol

  • Sine Thieme says:

    Love this article. I wrote about the cost of living in Joburg not too long ago, and after meticulous research involving a similar color-coded spreadsheet to your husband's, came up with R9000 per month for our family of 6, including two teenagers (but only a part-time maid). So I think it's probably in line with your average, considering we have so many kids. However, some people wrote me that they thought this was way too low, that there was no way you could live in South Africa and only spend that per month on groceries. But our numbers didn't lie. I used a similar strategy as yours (Woolies for most day to day, PicknPay for the stock-ups and cleaning supplies) and in hindsight I think I should have made my life even easier with pure Woolies around the corner, it was so convenient and shopping for groceries now back in the U.S., where I always thought things would be so much cheaper, was a bit of a rude awakening – food prices have gone up from 3 years ago when we last lived here and I would say that South Africa is probably actually cheaper, especially for the really fresh local produce that I sorely miss!

  • Mandisa Mbilini-Mbekwa says:

    This has been one part of our budget that is not improving, we are a family of 3 with a live in nanny so 4 people. We spend approximately 6K a month on groceries – incl. green groceries, cleaning staff and cupboard staff. When we came back from holidays I decided to clean my cupboards and I was shocked with the amount of food I had to throw out because it has expired! From this exercise I have decided to shop in smaller quantities, we eat what is available and I shop via the internet – saves me time and money – there is no wandering around and no "new / imported products to try". Let’s see how this works for me. If I keep my bill @ 6K in these markets I will be proud! I will try the organicemporium recommended by Shannon.

    • Nomncedisi Yekani Peni says:

      Its such a eye-opener indaba ye budget. I dare people to budget and monitor their monthly spend. Ukutya kuduru and the cost of living is becoming horrifically expensive. Let's share these savings tips. Thanks Mandi.

    • Olga Da Polga says:

      You are so right about the new/imported products. My bloody downfall every month! PnP Online Shopping, here I come.

    • Hope PnP online shopping works out for you. I found it diabolical – but then I am in the Eastern Cape, so a local PnP bags it and gets Mr Delivery to deliver it and, sadly, the customer is very rarely king here. For online delivery, clients are quite rightly expected to pick a time-window, with the strict instruction not to be out and a very abrupt (threatening?)SMS reminder on the day. Trouble is, it only works one way. I have had my delivery as much as two hours late and the closest they've been is 20 minutes late. When I have given the instruction that substitutes may be made, they very often have not been and vice versa. Also, they have allegedly run out of BUTTER (any brand) and skinless chicken breasts – I took pictures of both in the relevant store the very next day! It definitely cut down on the impulse buys but, honestly, the aggravation wasn't worth it AND I ended up having to go out and get what they failed to deliver, anyway. Let us know how it goes for you.

    • Olga Da Polga says:

      I tried PnP Online on the very same day as Mandisa's reply above. Our order came perfectly on time, but without a whole load of things they couldn't source, which meant I still don't have them. That bit is a little painful, but otherwise it was great.

  • Olga Da Polga says:

    Such great comments and advice, moms – thanks. I had fun writing this, but also realised how much we just chuck out. Another tip is: Plan meals for a week. Try to decide when you'll eat in, when you'll eat out, and what you'll make. That way, you don't end up getting too lazy to de-frost stuff once the kids are bathed and sorted and decide to just order takeout… (Guilty!)

  • Sara Zinman says:

    Point 3 is very clever. Thank you! Point 4 makes me want to get an iPhone :)

  • Sharvana Naidoo says:

    I've also been shocked at how much food costs and trying to find ways to reduce costs. I have a deep freeze, so I went to Food Lovers market on Sunday. I bought carrots, butternut and green beans in bulk. I peeled , chopped and bagged them in portion sizes, that I need for stews, curries, casseroles etc. Worked out so much cheaper and it will save time in the week when cooking. These will last me months! I want to buy spinach and tomatoes and also freeze in portion sizes.
    We are a family of 3 and we have a full time live out helper. Thank goodness my daughter is off nappies.

  • Debby Edelstein says:

    love this article thanks Tiffany! makes me feel more normal and yes I too like points 3 and 4 particularly:-)

  • Olga Da Polga says:

    Moms (and others), inspired by your amazing responses to this article, I wrote one on what we spend on our kids, with reference to a UK mommy who has (publicly) undertaken not to spend anything – within reason – on her toddler for a year. It'll be up soon :) Comments pls.

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