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Buying groceries on a budget

  • Look out for specials: look for discounts, coupons, and sales, especially on store brands, which usually cost less.
  • Compare unit prices (rand per gram/kilogram) listed on price tags to find the cheapest brand.
  • Buy in bulk when you can (e.g., purchase a whole chicken instead of just chicken breasts)
  • Eggs are a good source of protein and nutrients.
  • Dried and canned beans, peas and lentils are great sources of vegetable protein and fibre and can be used in a variety of meals such as stews, soups and salads;
  • Canned vegetables, with no added salt or sugar are good alternatives to ensure a sufficient intake of vegetables.
  • Canned tuna, sardines and pilchards contain healthy fats which play an important role in the immune system, particularly in regulating inflammation.
  • Long-lasting fruit and vegetables such as citrus fruits and root vegetables are full of vitamins and minerals needed for a good immune system.
  • Read the label and look out for the following:
    • Look for the table with the nutritional information on the food label at the back of the container and find the words: ‘Saturated fats’, ‘Total sugar’ and ‘Sodium’ and see how much of it the food contains.
    • Product ingredients are listed by quantity, from the highest to lowest amount. That means that the first listed ingredient is what the manufacturer used the most.
    • Read the ‘ingredient list’ together with the ‘nutrition information table’ in order to interpret what the food was made of and how much saturated fat and/or added sugar and/or sodium (salt) it contains. Eating less saturated fat, added sugar and/or sodium (salt) is important because it helps reduce your risk to develop a non-communicable disease.
    • Do not fall for low-sugar, reduced-fat or other health claims. Sometimes the fat is replaced with sugar or vice versa (also not healthy). Also, check the sodium/salt content, often low or reduced fat or sugar options can be higher in salt.

Remember - Take precautions when leaving home:

  • Take a shopping list. Avoid browsing, spending too much time in the store, and touching things unnecessarily by making a list of the food you are going to buy. Find out how to compile a shopping list and menu plan
  • Keep a safe distance from shoppers and shop employees. Shopping at off-peak hours or shopping at a grocery store that limits the number of shoppers may make social distancing easier.
  • Follow official guidance to stay safe (See www.sacoronavirus.co.za for more information): Wear a mask when leaving your home, don’t touch your face, and wash or sanitise your hands often. Above all, stay home if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or if you’re a high-risk individual.


Planning and preparing healthy meals

  • Try to prepare only unprocessed or minimally processed plant-based food (vegetables and fruit, starchy food and legumes) for at least one full day every week.
  • Try to include a variety of vegetables and fruit in daily meal plans – not only on weekends. Frozen, dried and indigenous vegetables and fruit should be included where possible. Include both cooked and raw vegetables and salads in meals.
  • Portion sizes of vegetables can be more generous if a variety of fruits is not available. Add extra vegetables to recipes such as stews, curries, stir-fries, salads, soups, sandwiches, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta dishes or to egg dishes (scrambled eggs or omelettes). Baby spinach, tomatoes, carrots, beetroot and sundried tomatoes are some of the vegetables that are easy to add to dishes.
  • Using fresh vegetables to cook large batches of soups, stews or other dishes will make them last longer and provide meal options for a few days. These can also be frozen where possible and then quickly reheated.
  • ‘Vegify’ your favourite recipes by swapping some of the animal-based foods with whole plant-based alternatives. Meat can be replaced with vegetables like mushrooms, aubergine/brinjal or eggplant and baby marrow/courgette or with legumes like lentils, beans and chickpeas.
  • Dry beans, peas, lentils and soya can also be used in many dishes, such as salads, soups and stews.
  • A child’s Road-to-Health Book /The Caregiver Message Book: How to Raise a Healthy and Happy Child, gives some ideas on types of foods, quantities and textures for children from six months to five years.
  • Experiment with different food combinations, tastes, textures and methods of encouraging smaller children to eat if they refuse many foods.
  • Get children into the habit of eating raw vegetable sticks or fruit when they are hungry between meals.
  • When feeding a young child, foods that can cause choking should be avoided, for instance nuts and seeds, whole grapes and large pieces of raw vegetables. Ensure that cooked, soft porridge for small children is of a thicker consistency and is enriched with oil, margarine or peanut butter.
  • Children are more likely to enjoy eating vegetables when they have eaten a variety from an early age (i.e. from six months) and when they see their parents enjoying vegetables.


  • Enjoying a healthy eating plan also means preparing food in healthy ways, for instance using cooking methods such as boiling, steaming, grilling and baking instead of frying. Avoid overcooking vegetables!
  • Be mindful about the amount of fat/oil, sugar and/or salt that are added in food preparation and use these items sparingly as far as possible. Use herbs and spices to flavour dishes.
  • Make a conscious decision before eating - how you feel: are you rushed, stressed, sad, bored or hungry? Try to drink a glass of water and wait a few minutes to find out if you are really hungry.
  • Practice portion control to avoid overeating: Avoid cooking too much food, unless extra food is stored in the fridge for the next day or is frozen.
  • Serve out portions onto a plate instead of eating straight from the container. Use smaller plates.
  • Reserve time for eating:
    • Try to eat regularly, this means three meals per day, most days of the week. Try not to skip meals as this can lead to feelings of hunger and low blood sugar (like dizziness, shaking or loss of concentration). Breakfast especially is an important meal.
    • Don’t eat on the run – try to sit down and enjoy your food.
    • Involve family members with food preparation and make meal time a time of sharing and being together as a family. Try to eat at least one meal per day together.
  • Avoid distractions while eating - turn off the TV, phone, tablet or computer, books or magazines which can make one less aware of what and how much one is eating.
  • Take time to enjoy the flavours, smell, colour and textures of food before swallowing. This may also help prevent overeating by giving your gut time to send messages to the brain to say you’re full.
  • Put down your utensil after each bite until you have enjoyed and swallowed what you already have in your mouth.
  • Do not skip meals when you are hungry. Skipping meals can result in you overeating at the next meal or not eating enough for the day. It can also slow down your metabolism.


  • Many restaurants now provide nutrition information. Look for items that are lower in kilojoules, saturated fat, total sugar and sodium on their websites or on provided in-store on menus, information sheets or on display.
  • Keep portion sizes small, for instance choose the smallest food and drink options or children sized options.
  • Where possible, select an item from the menu and avoid the “all-you-can-eat” buffet.
  • Share a main dish. Ask for smaller plates and divide the meal.
  • Order a side dish or a starter instead of a main dish. These meals are served in smaller amounts and on smaller plates.
  • Steamed, grilled, or roasted dishes have fewer calories than foods that are fried in oil or cooked in hard fats. Remember that basting sauces can also be high in kilojoules and salt.
  • Fried and coated foods, such as crispy chicken sandwiches or burgers and breaded fish or chicken fillets, are high in fat and kilojoules.
  • Choose healthier side dishes, for instance instead of fries choose a salad with a low-fat dressing or a baked potato, steamed rice, or cooked vegetables or add a fruit and low-fat, unsweetened yoghurt option with the meal.
  • Choose a salad as main dish, for instance with grilled chicken, fish or cheese. If needed, use small amounts of low-fat salad dressing. Avoid fried toppings.
  • Choose whole-wheat or brown bread or rolls, and whole-wheat pasta dishes.
  • Select fresh fruit instead as dessert.
  • Pack fruit, sliced vegetables, low-fat cheese, trail packs or unsalted nuts to eat during long trips so that it is not necessary to stop for food, only for leg stretches.
  • Avoid ‘specials’ where the meal is served with a drink high in sugar or high in sugar and fat (for instance milkshakes)
  • Rethink your drink – choose water! Instead of choosing a sugary drink, rather choose water which is healthy and does not contain any kilojoules.
  • Do not just clean the plate, decide to save some for another meal. Take leftovers home in a container and refrigerate right away.