The month of January in Kenya has been Christened Njaanuary to mean there is hunger and no money, with the assumption that people used up all their money for the Christmas festivities. The memes on both Facebook and Twitter to depict this often difficult month have been hilarious but as soon as the words back to school are mentioned, the mirth dies a very natural and painful death.
There are those who may have sacrificed Christmas to save for books and supplies and these can keep laughing. But hold on, you might have saved only to realize that the school your children go to has increased the fees so you are also not laughing. There are those people who did not overspend but never had much in the first place anyway. All these groups of people have to spend on school fees and supplies but may not have enough money. All is not lost however, as there are unconventional ways that can make things much easier for you.
1. Look for affordable, secondhand supplies (Thrift shopping)
I know you are familiar with the word second hand but probably associate it with just clothes. There are several places that sell secondhand school supplies at a cheaper price. Mathurwa for instance has secondhand shoes that you can buy at half price. I got a beautiful pair for my daughter after the price at conventional shops almost gave me a heart attack and sent me scurrying away home. A post by a fellow mum redeemed my hopes that my daughter will not have to go to school in slippers!
If you want affordable good quality school bags you should go at the bus station just behind Afya centre. There is however, a catch, you will have to wake up very early as the gentlemen that sell the bags bring them at 4.30 am and by seven in the morning all the early birds will have beautiful bags in their possession. The price of the bags is just Ksh. 200 which is cheaper than most places. You can buy bags for different ages and for both genders. If you are lucky you can get a bag for yourself as well.
There are book sellers who sell legitimate secondhand textbooks an you can get such sellers in your locality by simply posting on social media that you need one. You can buy the books from parents who had students in the same class as yours but have since moved on to the next class. It is also possible to sell any textbooks that your children do not need any more to get money to buy new or secondhand text books.
2. Eliminate Middlemen
This mainly applies to uniforms whose prices have skyrocketed over the past few years. One of the reasons for this is that from the tailors and designers they are sold to distributors who may add any amount to make profits. You can buy them at a cheaper price by going straight to the people that make them. One such place is the Uhuru market in Eastlands, just off Jogoo Road. If you have ever wondered what those large buildings with a dome-like roof are for then you should know that some of them house the best uniform designers and makers. At the shops, you will find everything from sweaters to shirts, dresses, P.E Kits, tracksuits, socks, ties and so on. They provide a one-stop shop where you can get everything you want which will not only save you money but time as well.
3. Exchange Books
If you do not have any money at all you can start by exchanging books with other parents. Just post your list on your social media accounts or on the various groups and you will realize that there are many other people who want what you have and can offer what you need.
4. Buy in Bulk
Buying in bulk can help you save an extra coin as well. You can get together with other parents who may need the same supplies as you do and contribute to buy them in bulk. Such items include pens, glue, crayons, pencils, exercise books and so on. Once you have bought the items you can divide them among yourselves according to your agreement. Remember, the more the merrier.
5. Brands do not Matter
When buying school items some children may insist on branded items which can be very expensive. In such situations, you should sit them down and tell them that the branded items can work as well and that your family cannot afford them at the moment. Stick to your list until the time you can afford the more expensive brands.
6. Milk ATMs
Milk is one of the fastest moving commodity good in this country especially in the urban areas. It has also become the most expensive item amidst a growing monopoly that ensures that regardless of over supply by farmers, a half litre packet still goes for between KES 45-60 depending on the brand.
If you have never tried, I would suggest that you try out the milk ATMs that are in almost all Tuskys and Naivas supermarkets as well as those regional supermarkets like Kamindi or Self ridges. A litre of milk from a milk ATM is Ksh. 60 and they usually provide empty bottles. Naivas give out the bottles free of cost but Tuskys will charge you depending on the size of bottle.
The milk has been pasteurized but its always safe to boil it especially if you are giving kids.
7. Grocery Shopping
Groceries have become quite expensive especially fruits. If you have young kids then you have no choice but to have fruits in the house everyday. I often buy mine either at Kawangware or Wangige markets. I would recommend the following markets where you can buy in bulk to last you 2 weeks; Muthurwa, Marikiti, Kawangware. Supermarkets are convenient but very expensive plus you can’t haggle.
8. Legumes rock!
Did someone say Meat!
Legumes such as Ndengu, lentils, beans and dried peas can be real life savers at this time. Their nutritional value is actually higher than meat (esp lentils) and they only cost a fraction of meat price. Buying legumes in bulk saves you money, energy (whether using Jiko or gas) and time. Once you buy, set aside a day to boil/roast them all from morning till evening ( the trick is to soak them overnight) then pack them in clear polythene bags and into the freezer.
9. Farmers Choice Depos
I learned about farmers choice depos a while back from a lady friend who buys her supplies in bulk for the whole month. There are about 3 depos in the Nairobi CBD where you can buy Farmers choice supplies at a very discounted rate (almost half the cost of buying in a supermarket).
I usually buy brawn, sausages, bacon (when I have the extra cash) and chicken liver. The brawn is popular in our house for making sandwiches which we normally carry as packed lunch for us and the kids
10. Storing Sukuma Wiki for weeks
I learnt this trick from my cousin who is a chef. When you go to market (the ones I listed earlier), buy sukuma wiki (kales) and spinach in bulk. Sometimes they will sell you 3 huge batches at KES 50 instead of each at KES 20. When you get home, chop them up in to the desired cooking size. Get a large sufuria and boil water. Put the skumas into the boiling water and let them boil for about 2-4 minutes. In another sufuria/basin, put cold water. Remove the skumas from the boiling water using a big sieve and put them in the cold water. wait for them to cool then, drain the water and pack them in polythene bags. Put them in the freezer for future use. When cooking, they will be green and fresh.
What hacks are getting you through this Njaanuary, we’d love to hear from you. Also, let us know which ones from this list you tried and how it went.