If you do your own grocery shopping, you would have noticed how prices have increased. According to the PASCA food basket, which tracks a nutritionally complete set of products, there has been a 16.5% increase in food prices from January 2016 to January 2017. The foods they track include basics like eggs, meat, fish, starches and basic vegetables.


Inspired by this article, we thought it would be fun, as a Budget Month experiment, to see how much we could stretch R150 at 4 of South Africa’s major Grocery Stores.


Armed with a budget of R150, I entered Woolworths, Pick ‘n Pay, Checkers and Spar to see how to make the most of a small grocery budget.


These are the guidelines I set before embarking on each shop;

1. Ingredients needed to be healthier options and mostly whole foods, no prepacked or convenience meals.


2. The ingredients needed to make sense together. Buying a bunch of random groceries isn’t going to help you create healthy budget meals. To do this I came up with basic recipe ideas and then went into each store with an idea of what I needed to make each recipe. Each recipe idea was created with the specific store in mind. I knew which stores sold what at decent prices and used this knowledge to create the recipes.


3. I was allowed to use a basic pantry to help make each recipe and meal (not included in overall budget). However, this was a very basic pantry – not the MasterChef basic pantry – which included spices, oils, and sweeteners.


4. The recipes and meals made from each grocery shop needed to make a minimum of 5 portions. This means with each R150 grocery shop you can feed a family of 5, or have 5 meals you can eat throughout the week. This meant each serving ended up costing under R30, which is often cheaper than one fast food meal, showing that eating healthier doesn’t necessarily come at a higher cost.


5. Each grocery shop resulted in a recipe I could share and post (you’ll recognize the ingredients below if you’ve been checking out the past 4 recipes we’ve shared!)


1. Woolworths

What Does R150 buy you in Groceries? Woolworths

First up was Woolworths. Knowing that Woolworths has great frozen fish that’s affordable and doesn’t have that fishy taste that older or frozen fishes tend to have, I wanted to create a meal based around Hake as the main protein. As the Hake took most of the budget (around R90), I kept the remaining ingredients simple, relying on spices and roasting for flavor.


Amount Spent



What it got me

1 box of 6 hake fillets

1 bag Roma Tomatoes

1 Onion

1 Bag of Jasmine Rice


What I made

What Does R150 buy you in Groceries? Woolworths

I made Sweet and Spicy Hake with roasted tomatoes over Jasmine Rice. It was enough for 6 servings. Cost per portion was under R26.


What I needed from My Basic Pantry

What Does R150 buy you in Groceries? Woolworths


Cayenne pepper

Dried mixed herbs

Olive oil


Salt and pepper


What I had leftover

¾ bag of basmati Rice

½ onion

1 tomato

1 hake fillet (I ended up just cooking this Hake fillet along with the others, rather than saving it).


Get the recipe for the Sweet and Spicy Hake here

2. Pick ‘n Pay

What Does R150 buy you in Groceries? Pick n Pay

Second on the list was Pick ‘n Pay. I decided that I would create a minestrone soup. This was largely based on the fact that I like adding Kale into Minestrone soup and I knew I could get really good curly kale for about R8 a bunch from Pick ‘n Pay. Bearing in mind, Minestrone soup uses a lot of vegetables, I knew Pick ‘n Pay would be one of the best grocery stores to get what I needed on a budget.


Amount Spent



What I got

2 soup packs (each had 1 leek, 1 turnip, 2 carrots, celery, and parsley)

1 packet baby marrows

1 bunch curly kale

2 small butternuts

2 cans chopped tomatoes

1 can butter beans

1 packet tomato paste

1 packet pasta


What I Made

What Does R150 buy you in Groceries? Pick n Pay

I made a huge batch of minestrone soup. It made 10 portions, with each serving costing under R14.


What I needed from my basic pantry

What Does R150 buy you in Groceries? Pick n Pay

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Vegetable stock powder


What I had left over

¾ bunch of kale

¾ packet pasta

1 butternut

1 carrot

1 leek

3 baby marrows

1 stalk celery

Some parsley


Get the recipe for the Minestrone soup here 



What Does R150 buy you in Groceries? Checkers

Next up was Checkers. I chose to create a lentil dish, as lentils are one of the best budget plant-based proteins and I wanted to try and create as many different types of recipes (ie. vegan, vegetarian, dairy, fish). After getting the basics to create lentil meatballs, I got as many different veggies as the budget would allow, along with a bag of avos to use as the sauce.


Amount Spent



What I got

1 bag brown lentils

2 packets parsley

1 packet avocado

2 small cabbages

1 packet carrots

1 lemon

1 packet sweet potato

1 packet tomato paste


What I made

What Does R150 buy you in Groceries? Checkers

I made Lentil meatball Buddha bowls that had roasted sweet potatoes, cabbage, carrot and baby marrow zoodles and an avocado parsley sauce. It made enough for 5 servings, so each serving was under R30.


What I needed from my basic pantry

What Does R150 buy you in Groceries? Checkers

Olive Oil



Garlic powder



What I had left over

½ bag lentils

4 avocados

½ bag carrots

½ punnet baby marrows

2 sweet potatoes


Get the recipe for the Lentil Meatball Buddha bows here


4. Spar

What Does R150 buy you in Groceries? Spar

The last stop was Spar. I wanted to create an easy recipe using a bread variation and settled on using Anat tortillas (which were about R30 for 8 whole grain tortillas). I chose to make a breakfast pizza which didn’t need a lot of veggies to make it good.


Amount Spent



What I got

8 tortilla wraps

1 tub cream cheese

2 avocados

1 punnet baby tomatoes

1 packet rocket

1 punnet mushrooms

12 eggs


What I made

What Does R150 buy you in Groceries? Spar

I made these breakfast pizzas. I made 5 pizzas, which meant each serving was under R29. You can use the exact ingredients and get 6 pizzas (each pizza uses 2 eggs), which would bring it down to R24 per serving.


What I needed from my basic pantry

What Does R150 buy you in Groceries? Spar






What I had left over

2 eggs

3 tortillas


Get the recipe for the Breakfast Pizza here


What I learned from my Budget Grocery Shopping List


I overspent at 2 stores by just under R3. I could have stuck within budget had I chosen brown rice over Jasmine rice at Woolworths or just gotten 1 onion instead of a bag at Checkers.


1. Know where you can find the best products at the best prices. Prices vary between grocery stores, so to stretch your money as far as possible; it may make sense to shop your groceries at a few different stores. Some stores are known for certain products at cheaper prices so shop around and figure out where the best deals are.

– Woolworths is the best place for buying frozen fish. Their coconut oil is also one of the cheapest anywhere. They often have really good deals on bulk veggies, so look out for those.

– Pick ‘n Pay has reasonable vegetable prices if you’re buying basic veggies. Their kale is also really good quality for about R8 a bunch! When buying cans, I found that depending on the brand a can of tomatoes can range from R8 all the way to R15, so don’t pick the first can you spot, actually look at the prices.

– Checkers had good bulk veggie prices; I also found orange sweet potatoes there which can be hard to come by. Rather buy unripe avos in a bag and wait a few days for them to repine, then buy singles (I got a 1kg bag for R26.99 as opposed to single ripe avos which were R12 each).

– Spar by far had the most expensive vegetable prices, so I’d avoid doing a fresh produce shop there. They do however have a really good range of wraps and tortillas that aren’t crazy expensive.


2. Bulk is cheaper and so is unripe. Where you can, rather buy bulk than in singles to save – especially with fresh produce. When it comes to things like avocado, buying a bag of unripe avos anywhere is going to be considerably less than 1 ripe avo. Unless it’s an emergency, rather buy the bag and wait for them to ripen.


3. Buy in season. It’s mid-winter, yet I saw plenty of summer fruits (peaches, grapes) in stores. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are cheaper than imported out of season versions, so wait for summer to get a peach which will probably taste a whole lot nicer.


4. If you’re shopping on a budget go in with a plan but be flexible. Having an idea of meals you can create gives you a better sense of what to buy and you walk out with ingredients you can actually transform into proper meals instead of random ingredients which require a not so basic pantry to do something with. However, be flexible in that you can switch out or change ingredients based on specials you see in the store.


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  • Simone Cameron
    August, 4, 2017

    This is such an awesome post! I love the recipes and seeing what you got at each store.

  • Lisa
    July, 28, 2017

    Awesome post Zissy. I keep a close eye on our food costs. I love PnP’s Fresh Living magazine which has great budget meal recipes to spur my creativity when I’m in a slump. I don’t often follow a full recipe, rather using it for ideas. We have Celliers’ children one week on and one week off and even though they’re 9 and 12, they eat as much as adults. So I’m cooking dinner for 4 every night during these weeks. Costs add up! I do soups with home baked bread, quiches (always a winner), pasta night (Mondays) and burger night (Fridays – they love my black bean burger patties) and I’m recently into my brown-and-wild rice dishes too (lots of veggies added). These are all tasty and good value meals so they work well and are easy to vary the overall flavour on the same base.

    We rarely eat out or get takeaways. Like you, I make my meals from scratch – except for things like cans of tuna, tomatoes, butter beans etc. I recently found black beans so I’ll switch to these instead of canned black beans to minimise waste of cans going into my recycling bin (this is if I plan ahead sufficiently!!!).

    Great post – thank you.

    • Zissy Lewin
      July, 30, 2017

      Thank you Lisa!!

      Also a fan of PnP’s Fresh Living Mag – really great recipes and ideas – they did an entire budget issue a while back I think. Woolies Taste website also has some nice recipes. We def have similar cooking styles, and I honestly much prefer homemade than takeway/bought! I also use recipes mostly as a guideline, unless they’re very technical which is why I like to add different substitutions in recipes shared here, to give people an idea of how to switch out based on your tastes and what you have. Big on soups especially now when it’s winter, and homemade bread is always a winner! Also, love grain veggies bowls which are almost a weekly dinner. Do them with sushi/jasmine rice or even noodles with differently prepared veggies and eggs, like a very rough bibimbap.

      Need to work on using more dried beans rather than cans – I’ve done this with chickpeas, but it does require thinking ahead!

      Thanks so much for sharing 🙂