Three expensive things you should be doing yourself

By Wash

Geeks need to hack. It’s in their blood. But hacking doesn’t need to be something you do on a computer with a piece of software. As the awesome website LifeHacker has shown us, almost any problem in life has a solution, and usually it’s easier and cheaper to fix than you think.

I’ve recently had a number of epiphanies as a result of being completely ripped off by overpriced retailers in Gauteng, and today, I’ll share some of that wisdom with you. It IS a recession after all, and, goodness knows, making your own stuff is also a lot of fun and unbelievably therapeutic, especially when you see how much money you’re saving:

Three expensive things you should be doing yourself:

*Disclaimer: I know that there is certain “running” and “consumables” costs that you need to take into account for all of these tips, like the price of electricity, charcoal, fire lighters etc. Feel free to do your own calculations, but I can guarantee you that in all of these cases below the “running costs” are minimal and won’t push your real cost higher than what you’re being ripped off with by shops.

(1) Pizza

Okay, let’s face it, there’s nothing like a delicious wood-fire oven-baked pizza right? That crap that Debonairs and Scooters try and pass off as traditional pizza is a joke and even the pizzas you make yourself in the oven just don’t have the charred flavour we love from Pizzerias.

But there’s no reason why you NEED to pay upwards of R60 for a pizza, when you can do it yourself with a kettle braai and a pizza stone.

It’s an easy concept, you buy a pizza stone for R200 (and if you have eBucks, you can get one for “free” from Makro”), get a few ready-made pizza bases and toppings of your choice from your local Woolies and get a nice hot wood and charcoal braai going in your Weber.

When the coals are ready (read: red hot), you place the assembled pizza on the pizza stone, place the stone on the braai and cover with the braai lid. 10 – 15 minutes later…home-made, deliciously awesome “traditional” pizza.

Start-up cost: R200
Real cost: Depending on your toppings, average anywhere from R10 – R35 for a large (30cm) pizza.

(2) Fruit Juice

Two things bug me about fruit juice. 1 – you can’t find 100% PURE fruit juice anywhere (i.e. almost every “pure” juice you buy is still a blend) and 2 – when you do find a pure juice, they charge you upwards of R23/litre for it.

No way Jose. Go get yourself a juice extractor and stock up on the bulk fruits that are usually on special at your local Fruit & Veg City. You can buy a pocket of oranges, for example, which is enough to make about a litre of PURE orange juice for R7.99 from Fruit & Veg City. If you’re feeling like something a bit more exotic, you can get melons, berries, ginger and carrots too. Oh the freedom.

Start-up cost: R500
Real cost: Again, depending on your choice of fruits, average anywhere from R5 – R19/litre.

(3) Biltong

Oh. Emm. Eff. Gee. The price of biltong has just shot up recently. I remember when paying R150/kg for beef biltong was absurd (and, no, that wasn’t so long ago). Recently though, I’ve been horrified that shops will charge between R250 – R360/kg for BEEF biltong and over R400/kg for game biltong.

And no, this isn’t even Woolies that I’m bitching about, this is my local Food Lover’s Market! I haven’t done the calculations lately, but I’ve seen people complain that the aforementioned retailer’s biltong can be over R700/kg in some cases.

What. The. Fuck.

Making a biltong dryer is dead easy and will cost you less than R100 if you’re clever. All you need is an empty (and clean!) 20 litre paint bucket, some electrical wiring, a PC case fan, a light socket and a 40W incandescent bulb and about an hour of your time.

But if that’s even too much effort, you can pick up ready-made biltong dryers all over the place and they work just as well. There are a bunch of really good biltong recipes online too so you’ll never be lost about what spices to use or how to ensure your biltong doesn’t go funny.

Actually a friend of mine is currently going through his first journey of home-made biltong (you can follow his progress on the #DIYBiltonghashtag on Twitter).

Start-up cost: R450
Real cost: Depending on your choice of meat and spices, R40 – R90/kg, and it takes 3 – 6 days to make 3kg of biltong – depending on how dry you like your meat.



Wash is our resident uber-geek. He sleeps on a pile of comics, speaks fluent Klingon and spends his weekends unleashing all manner of Hell on the battlefields of his PC. If it’s related to gaming, comics, sci-fi or any other form of geekitude… chances are Wash has his sticky paws all over it.


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