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Should South Africans buy food in bulk?

Living in South Africa is definitely not as cheap as it used to be. With the fluctuating rand combined with increased product imports and high fuel prices, South Africans find themselves pinching their pennies when it comes to buying groceries and household products.

Many South Africans have turned to buying in bulk; however, there is a lot of debate on whether buying in bulk is cost effective or not.

Buying bulk foods will only save you money if you shop wisely.

Best foods to buy in bulk:

  • White rice – white rice can last for about one year if stored in airtight containers.
  • Pepper – whole peppercorns last up to 3 years in storage.
  • Pasta – if sealed, pasta can last up to 3 years.
  • Dried beans – dried beans, such as black beans, navy beans and lentils, can last for about a year if stored in a cool, dry place.
  • Popcorn – buying popcorn kernels is a lot cheaper than buying microwave popcorn and the kernels last a very long time.
  • Honey – honey is a lot more affordable when bought in bulk and can go years without spoiling.
  • Oats – oats is a staple, healthy breakfast that can sustain its nutrients for years if stored correctly.
  • Coffee beans – whole coffee beans are a lot cheaper when bought in bulk and can last up to two years in airtight containers.
  • Sugar – sugar has an indefinite shelf life and is a lot cheaper when bought in bulk.
  • Nuts – some nuts, like almonds, are usually very expensive, but buying them in bulk cuts down the cost. Nuts stored in airtight containers in the fridge can last up to a year.
  • Flour – all-purpose flour has the bran and germ removed, preventing it from going rancid quickly.

Think twice before buying the following foods in bulk:

  • Cooking oil – oils, like olive oil and vegetable oil, have shelf lives of about 6 months, so rather don’t buy more than you’ll use within half a year.
  • Condiments – believe it or not, even though condiments, like dressings, mayonnaise and tomato sauce, contain a lot of preservatives, they’re only good for about 6 to 12 months.
  • Brown rice – unlike white rice, brown rice deteriorates fast. It only has a shelf life of about 6 months.
  • Soft drinks – soft drinks only last for about 9 months before they start losing taste and fizz.
  • Spices – spices don’t expire too quickly, but they do lose their proper flavour after about 6 months.

Buying food in bigger packages doesn’t necessarily save you money. Before buying in bulk, compare unit prices. Also, make sure that the food you buy has a long shelf life or will be finished before the expiry date.

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