A few months ago, I had to sit down to calculate where all my money was going. A huge chunk of it went to food! I wasn’t surprised because I love food. I enjoy eating good food and I don’t want to compromise, but if I don’t want to eat my future, something has to be done right now! I will share some tips that have helped me spend less so far!
1. Go local: Patronize your local markets even though it is easier to pop into a supermarket to pick up “some items.” Calculate how many times a month you shop in a supermarket, and how much you spend on each visit. I assure you, you will be unpleasantly surprised. Going to the local market gives you options for bargaining and getting better deals, ultimately spending less!
2. Buy in bulk: Back in the day, I never understood why my mum would drag me to the big markets like; Igbudu market, Sand-sand market, Main market. We’d step into muddy spaces and shop for food in bulk under the scorching sun. It drove me crazy and I dreaded those trips. Now I understand why: it is cost effective! If you have to feed lots of mouths, buying in bulk is your best bet; it will earn you discounts, and you do not have to do it more than once a month or longer.
3. Shop on a full stomach: Before going on those long market trips with my mum, we would both settle down to some swallow very early in the morning. Not because we like eba too much, but because we need energy and a full tummy will help you avoid buying things you do not need.
4. Write a list: Never, ever, go to the market without a list because you may end up buying more than you budget to, then get home and realise you do not need anything you have bought! Buying on impulse is one of the fastest way to spend money that could have been put to better use. Writing a list will help with the next step, budgeting.
5. Have a budget: Go to the market with a budget and if possible, with only cash! That way, you don’t get to impulse buy and you know that every kobo is accounted for. I find that with cashless payments, money goes faster: swipe, swipe, swipe!
6. There is rice at home: Pack your own lunch to work. Spending between N800 – N1500 daily might not seem like much until you calculate your total lunch expenses for the week or month. I was shocked when I calculated how much I spent visiting “fast foods” – a fast way to spend money for sure!
7. Meal prep is key: Another thing my mum would make us do after bulk shopping is meal prepping. This way, we preserve some of what we bought and to make sure there’s always cooked food in the freezer. We would blend our stew base, made up of onions, tatashe and pepper and boil till the mixture till it dries. I’d go a step further to make stew without adding seasoning and place them in portions in the freezer, it always comes in handy. Try to meal prep during weekends and it will make your week less-stressful as you won’t be constantly thinking, “What will I cook for dinner?”
8. Check your brand loyalty: How many times have you picked up a pack of sugar at the supermarket that was higher in cost than another branded sugar? I’ve been guilty of that! I’m talking about generic products like sugar, salt, etc. These products taste similar and there’s really no point buying a more expensive brand because you like the brand, are used to the brand or because the packaging is alluring – that’s what brand managers/marketers are paid to do: make you feel the extra price is totally worth it!
9. Keep it simple: As a foodie I struggle with this the most: the Egusi soup must have kpomo, shaki, roundabout, smoked turkey, chicken, periwinkle, cow leg, large prawns… only ONE pot of Egusi soup! If you keep your meals simple, you can save more money.
10. Buy in season
Right now, the cost of tomatoes has gone through the roof, it is almost like buying gold. You can reduce the quantity of tomatoes in your meals or skip it altogether. I now substitute tatashe for tomatoes. Tatashe alone will make a delicious pot of stew or jollof, with tin tomatoes. Don’t worry, tatashe is not particularly peppery. Sometimes, plantain is not in season. Buy sweet potatoes instead, or yams. Buying in season is another way to experience a variety of food you otherwise wouldn’t eat.