You can save on food and utility bills during lockdown

Wednesday July 21 2021

Mr Edmund Bashasha (R) and Prof Alex Ariho explain some of the farming practices you can employ in your backyard/PHOTO/Rajab Mukombozi

By Rajab Mukombozi

It is advisable amid financial challenges, to cut expenditure. With the effects of the Covid-19 lockdown biting hard, here is how you can spend less at home:

On food

Tracking food prices

Food prices often fluctuate wildly.  Prices will be high today and the following week will decrease but if you can’t track the prices you will pay the same even after commodity prices have reduced. For example in Greater Ankole a bunch of matooke these days goes for Shs5,000 on average because it is a peak season but it is not surprising to find some people buying the same bunch at Shs 10,000 because they never bother to check, and traders will not tell you this unless you track the prices yourself.  

Establish your own garden

Even if you are renting or have your own home you can save on your food bills by establishing your own garden. Here you can plant quick maturing crops such as vegetables in your backyard, around your fence or on the rooftop. Ms Lucky Natukunda, a resident of  Kakiika in Mbarara, is partly surviving the hurdles of the lockdown because of the past experience of the first lockdown, she started backyard gardening. “From the last Covid-19 experience, I learnt that food security remains critical in every period of uncertainty, and since the first lockdown I started backyard gardening. I now have vegetables, some fruits, which we can eat and sell to buy Kawunga (posho).


Try cooking instead of buying

It may be challenging or tempting to many not to cook at home but in desperate times, you have to improvise. Ms Rita Abaine explains that she would spend at least Shs 15,000 on meals everyday but now spends not more than Shs 8,000 after opting to cook at home.

Reduce food waste at home

Even when the period of the lockdown remains uncertain in some families the spending patterns haven’t changed, a reason you find families and individuals don’t realise how much food they waste everyday as leftovers or going bad during storage. Buying food in bulk may be a way of saving money but this happens only if it is consumed before getting spoilt.

To avoid food waste it is advisable to always make a list of the food/meals and their ingredients you or your family will consume at home but which you also enjoy.

On utility bills

Another challenge families are likely to face during this lockdown is increased expenditure on utility bills lisuch as water and electricity. But even here you can intervene and reduce the bills.

You can re-use water at home for example the water you use for washing utensils and clothes can mop and clean your house. Also you can save on water bills by checking your water connections to ensure leakages are fixed and water taps are always turned off.

“In a situation when almost everyone is at home you have to be careful especially with children, you have to make sure all the taps are always turned off,” says Alex Bigira of National Water and Sewerage Corporation, Mbarara area.

Also, water bills can be reduced by washing clothes in one round,.”You will use half of the water than if you wash clothes in several rounds,” adds Mr Bigira.   

Mr Moses Kihembo, a parent in Mbarara City, saw his electricity bills rise by almost half when the lockdown started

“I am struggling to cut the cost of utility bills that seem to be excessive even with just a few weeks in the lockdown. In the first one week of the lockdown with children at home, I spent Shs 30,000 on electricity. Fortunately, I am now staying at home and I try to ensure there is reduced use of utilities for example reducing time on TV, I have also devised cooking using charcoal stove instead of electricity,” says Mr Kitimbo

According to Mr Kihembo, limiting TV time and use of alternative sources of energy lessened the bills that had begun skyrocketing.

Other interventions to save energy include unplugging appliances not in use from power connections.

Mr Jamil Byekwaso, an electrician in Mbarara City, says appliances such as TVs, washing machines, cookers have standby mode that keeps consuming power even when they are turned off but remain connected to power.

He also advises homes to use energy saving appliances such as energy saving bulbs, and not to over dry clothes.

“Clothes that are over dried will consume more power when ironing than those that are a little moist,” he explains.

Conduct food inventory

Knowing how the food you buy at home is being used is another way to save on food bills. It helps to know how the food you are buying is being used at home. Do you know that the food at home can be resold to your neighbours or other people? Do food inventory to know how much is needed and the cost.

Laundry tip

Clothes that are over dried will consume more power when ironing than those that are a little moist,” Mr Jamil Byekwaso explains.