What you can buy with a R350 grant

Street vendor Chipo Gatawa awaits customers along a road in Diepsloot.
Street vendor Chipo Gatawa awaits customers along a road in Diepsloot.
Image: Freddy Mavunda

Debate is on how the jobless will survive on R350 for the duration of the six-month grant.

Government announced the unemployment grant last week, as one of the measures to respond to the outcry over hunger brought by the Covid-19 induced lockdown.

The Black Sash, an organisation that advocates for social justice in the country, has since asked President Cyril Ramaphosa to raise the unemployment grant to R1,000.

"The Black Sash urges the government to increase the amount of the grant from R350 to at least R1,000. The current amount of R350 is significantly less than the value of the food parcel distributed by the SA Social Security Agency, which ranges from R1,000 to R1,200," it said.

This week we tried to see how one could use R350 to have enough to eat. I took my virtual R350 and searched for establishments I could spend it on, despite the restrictions brought about by the lockdown.

I put aside R100 for electricity, leaving me with R250 to spend. I started off by trying to buy vegetables.

My initial thought was getting a vegetable box, a box filled with various vegetables that can be delivered. I found a few businesses online, and immediately knew that I had failed in my task.

Firstly, I had the privilege of looking for the businesses online, which means I would have to have money to spare to buy data. I forged ahead still and found a young lady, on a buy black group, by the name of Nomsa, who was selling her vegetable boxes from R120.

They were a healthy mix of spinach, onions, ginger, green peppers, tomatoes, potatoes and half a pumpkin. The delivery was free for those who lived in Orange Farm and Johannesburg.

Another service was by Imbewu Group, where you could get the vegetable box for R150, which included a head of cabbage, 1kg of onions, 1kg of tomatoes, one butternut, 1kg of carrots, one lettuce, one cucumber, one bunch of spinach and 1kg of green beans. This is a reasonable deal but not for me who has only R250 to spend on my grocery.

The best option would be to buy from a street vendor. The fresh produce trader on my street sells four potatoes for R8, four tomatoes for R5, chopped kale for R5 and green beans in a bag for R5. I can also get a quarter or half a pumpkin or butternut for R10 or less. With R50, I can have a variety of vegetables.

With that I then thought about how vegetables are perishables and started to think what sishebo I could buy that would last. The most feasible answer is of course tinned/ canned food, such as pilchards, corned beef or some chakalaka which can be had with rice.

You can get canned products that are not expensive if you shop around.
You can get canned products that are not expensive if you shop around.
Image: 123rf

Now at most stores a 400g tin of pilchards goes for about R20. I could buy four tins just to interchange between the fish and the vegetable sishebo.

This then leaves me with a little over R100 which I can either buy a 5kg packet of rice which ranges from R50 upwards for the in-house brand of rice to about R76 upwards for the branded rice. Alternatively, I could buy maize meal instead, which is much cheaper and starts from R43 to about R54 upwards for any brands.

That frees up some of my money to allow me to purchase 750ml of cooking oil and a small packet of flour, small packet of sugar and salt and some yeast for amagwinya.

So with the money I have I am able to buy vegetables from a street vendor. From the grocer I am able to buy 5kg of maize meal, cooking oil, four tins of pilchards and a small packet of flour and some yeast.

It is doable, but with some very clever juggling and pinching of the money.