Load shedding: How to hack it on a budget 


Yes, sustained load shedding is back.

Just as the country passed a collective sigh of relief that load shedding ended on earlier this week, another bout of short-notice lights out Stage 1 and Stage 2 notices surfaced almost every day, with mundane regularity.

Previously, Eskom hinted that this may likely be the best it is going to get, with a cold and dark winter on the cards for South Africa.

If you cannot beat them, join them, and with the price of generators, fuel and inverters not within easy reach, it may be best to prepare for load shedding every day.

Here are a few quick hacks to make it easier on yourself and your family, and how to budget for it.

  1. Keep the lights on and phones charged. Several hardware and homeware stores now have extensive ranges of emergency lightbulbs available that charge during the day and provide a few hours of extra light when Eskom cannot. Prices range from R 59 to R 249 and are available at Takealot Leroy Merlinand Builders Warehouse, amongst others. Stock is being snapped up, so hurry up. In addition, always make sure you have a power bank charged, these, available almost anywhere. Your bill for a 4-bedroom house and 2 cellphones: Budget at least R 450

 

  1. Buy a gas stove and skottel braai. It is a small investment, but there is nothing as frustrating as not being able to make coffee in the morning or cook a hot meal when load shedding lands up slap-bang across dinner time. A brand new gas bottle, stove top and skottel are must-have investments. Online stores like EcoDepot offer lesser-known brands from as little as R 250. The gas canister is extra, and subsequent refills of course, so add another R 850 to R 900.

 

  1. Even when there is no load shedding, an electric blanket can add a huge line item onto your electricity bill. Do what our grandparents did and get either a hot water bottle for around R 59 to R 100 ,or fill up old two litre Pepsi and Coke bottles with hot water to warm your bed. You can recycle the water, save electricity and keep warm.

 

  1. Save on buying takeaways every time the load shedding hits. This could end up an expensive exercise, with a family of four looking at spending a minimum of R 300 a night on meal deliveries. This adds up. Rather stock up on raw food. Creative and healthy sandwiches require no electricity to make, frozen homemade soup heated on a gas stove takes little effort and time, and there will be no fast and furious preparation before Eskom leaves you hungry. Salads, stir fry on the skottel, and even a braai, will save you loads of cash. Budget half of what a takeaway would cost you for load shedding meals for your family and get creative.

 

  1. Good old braaiing. Charcoal or briquettes are not cheap, but there is nothing quite like the aroma of grilling wors and steak to make load shedding blues go away. Accessorise your braai kit with a cheap but incredible braai mat, a plastic vinyl-type sheet that you set on top of the grill, which works like a frying pan. It immediately widens the scope of what you can cook on a grill, and for less than R 200, it is a gizmo that you would want even when the lights are on.

 

  1. Invest in alternative heating. Not only is gas still relatively cheaper than electricity, but a gas heater warms up a room both with its lovely glow and radiating heat. Beat the queues for 9kg cylinders and the recent gas shortages by getting a heater or two that uses refillable gas. The cylinder will set you back R 850 to R950 and a smaller, yet effective gas heater with less hassle on the gas buying front, another R 100 or so. Alternatives to 9kg gas burning heaters are available at Leroy Merlin, Builders and online. Investment R 2000.

 

  1. Entertain your family. It is time to get closer to one another and talk, engage and play. A deck of cards can cost lest than R 50, and with so many games to play – Rummy, Crazy 8’s and even poker – it can provide hours of fun at virtually no cost. Invest in a chess set, backgammon, Monopoly and 30 Seconds. Budget around R 500 for a popular game set. Chess and more traditional pastimes can cost as little as R 100 from shops like the Crazy Store. Alternatively, get a good book. We do not read enough.

 

Adding up everything, you would need less than R 5000 to loadshed-proof your life. It may sound like a lot, but beyond food and its such as books or gas refills, very little needs to be spent again.

So, if it is true and we are facing at least another 2-3 years of load shedding, hacking out of the dark comfortably will cost you the same as a month’s electricity bill for home. And it is a worthwhile investment.

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