In Mzansi there are currently 22 VAT-free items available, including many of our staples like dried beans, samp and maize meal.

Trying to stay afloat with your monthly budget while juggling life and managing a household, all whilst making sure your family eats nutritious and healthy meals, can seem almost impossible.

But you can make delicious, healthy meals even if your food budget is small and you are challenged to survive on a SASSA budget.

Did you know that the South African VAT act exempts us from paying tax on certain basic foods, making it cheaper for everyone? It particularly benefits lower income households. In Mzansi there are currently 21 VAT-free items available, including many of our staples and must-haves. They can help fill up the shopping cart even while saving for a special treat.

RECIPE: See Cook Koketso Khule featuring VAT-exempt ingredients to cook Umngqusho (Samp and Beans) a popular South African dish.

We asked Food For Mzansi’s resident nutritionist Andrea Du Plessis for some ideas of how we can use the VAT-exempt staples to make tasty dishes that are both cheap and nutritious. Du Plessis is very excited about these food staples and would like to inspire all of Mzansi to eat more lentils, beans, eggs, fish cakes and especially vegetables.

How to use VAT-exempt items to cook up nutritious meals

Dried beans

Dried beans are a rich source of protein, fibre and minerals such as zinc. Add them into stews and soups for added protein, flavour and texture. Beans are super versatile and can even be added into minced meat dishes such as curries and pasta sauces. This is a bonus, because it helps to stretch the meat, save money and add valuable nutrition.

Samp is a good staple which is rich in energy for active people. Ideal to combine with beans as base for vegetable stews, curries or meat stews.

Maize meal is an excellent staple and is full of energy. Maize meal is found in most Mzansi homes and can easily be served as a warm breakfast for cold mornings. Perfect as a starch along with stews.

Brown bread is one of Mzansi's favourite staples which is packed with energy.
Brown bread is one of Mzansi’s favourite staples which is packed with energy.

Rice is an everyday favourite and rich in energy. This versatile starch can even be added into salads. Combine cooked and chilled rice with chopped tomato, onions, peppers, add a tin of baked beans, season with salt and pepper and add some chopped garlic and parsley for extra flavour.

Brown bread is packed with energy and is one of Mzansi’s favourite staples. Who said bread isn’t healthy? A peanut butter sandwich is very nutritious. Jazz it up by making a cheese and tomato sandwich, ideal for a light lunch or in between snack meal.

Vegetables provide high concentrations of vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidant nutrients. They are extremely adaptable. The best nutritional value for money is butternut, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and onions. These versatile veggies can be souped, steamed, baked or stewed with meat, fish or chicken.

Fruits are packed with fibre, vitamins, minerals and health-boosting antioxidants. Fruit can be enjoyed with breakfast, they make a convenient, healthy snack and can even be added into cooking and baking.

Fruits and Vegtables are packed with fibre, vitamins, minerals and health-boosting antioxidants.
Fruits and Vegtables are packed with fibre, vitamins, minerals and health-boosting antioxidants.

Vegetable Oil is ideal to use in cooking, salad dressings and baking.

Mealie Rice is an excellent staple and rich in energy. It can easily be combined with beans as base for vegetable stews, curries or meat stews.

Pilchards in tins are packed with important nutrients: protein, Omega 3 oils, calcium, iron and vitamin D. Pilchards make the best fish cakes, ideal for the dinner menu, leaving some extras to pack in for lunch the next day.

Edible legumes and pulses of leguminous plants (all in the bean families) are packed with protein, fibre and minerals. Perfect nutrition for the whole family. These are ideal to add into your favourite stews and soups, curries, pasta sauces and meat dishes.

Eggs are rich in protein, vitamin A, zinc, and vitamin D.
Eggs are rich in protein, vitamin A, zinc, and vitamin D.

Eggs are filled with nutrients for the entire family: protein, vitamin A, zinc, and vitamin D. A boiled egg makes for a convenient high protein snack meal, at breakfast or at lunch. Eggs are nifty and can be used in cooking or baking, adding extra texture and flavour.

Milk also has nutrients for the whole family: protein, calcium, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin B Complex and Vitamin D. Milk can be enjoyed by the glass, it can be added into your coffee or tea, it works great at breakfast with porridge or cereals and can be used in cooking and baking.

Dried mealies are high in fibre and energy. No wonder it’s a Mzansi favourite. This is a versatile staple that can be added into vegetable dishes, stews or used as a starch on which you can serve your favourite stew.

Dairy powder blends are a valuable source of protein and minerals such as calcium and magnesium. Milk powder can be used to make reconstituted milk, or the powder can be added into cooking and baking, adding extra flavour and nutrition.

Lentils are delicious and nutritious and can be added to your favourite stews and soups.

Lentils are delicious, nutritious and cost effective. These are ideal to add into your favourite stews and soups, curries, pasta sauces, meat dishes and in summer, they make the most spectacular salads.

Cultured milk is a valuable source of protein and minerals such as calcium and magnesium. Make your own shake by blending equal parts of fruit juice and cultured milk – works very well with pineapple or orange juice!

Milk powder is a valuable source of protein and minerals such as calcium and magnesium, for the whole family.

Dawn Noemdoe
DAWN NOEMDOE is a journalist and content producer who cut her teeth in community radio. She brings a natural curiosity instinctively dedicated to truth telling. Persistent and nurturing a strong sense of commitment, Dawn’s heart for equality drives her work, also as Food For Mzansi’s Project Editor.