Expat Berlin · Food · Save Money · Supermarket Ignorance

Penny Pinching Berlin: Grocery Shopping

Ever found yourself clipping coupons when you had one income and only one mouth to feed?  I didn’t.  Ever found yourself quitting your job, packing up and picking up to move half way around the world to invest in love?  I did.  Now, with still only one income but two mouths too feed (one being 6’10”) I quickly learned the best ways to save a shiny penny.  I have enjoyed the pleasant challenge of opening the most logical doors to saving and searching through the cobb webs behind each one to find more hidden gems.   Applying each tool to our shopping habits in the last year enabled my husband and I to pay off debts and open up the door to new experiences.

After arriving and obviously taking firm grasp of our finances, I worked very hard at calculating (thank you excel!), our monthly expenses.  I began by reviewing how much we spent and where we spent it.  I trusted my receipt collection to one of my closest old friends, the good’ol Ziploc bag.  From the first to the last day of the month, every grocery AND restaurant/snack bar receipt has to go into the bag.  Tally up all food costs and hopefully you are still standing.  Once you have figured out how much you are spending, set a realistic target for the next month and repeat.  Deposit the allocated grocery budget into a jar to control your spending or keep track in a good ol fashioned ledger (I use my MOLESKINE weekly calendar).  My husband and I chopped off 120 euros from our monthly budget over 6 months, it was hard and I had to come up with some cost saving tricks to help us out:

1) Points Points Points:

Pick an alliance and stick with it.  We decided the Deustchland Card would work best for us.  Both Esso and Reichelt are participating vendors in this program.  My husband drives a fair amount every week, and we obviously go through food even faster.  We decided to hit up Esso with every fill up and Reichelt with every grocery shop.  Esso almost always has 6 times the points coupons and Reichelt sporadically offers double or triple the points – we always save these for the big shops.  You get 1 point for every euro spent and each point is worth one cent.  Every point adds up, just remember to try and keep to one reward program so all your spending can add up to some real savings.

2) Double up on Point Collecting!

If you can manage it without causing any damage, make use of a credit card that has a reward program attached.  Use it for any and every transaction you make: house bills, phone bills, groceries, gas, insurance, etc.  You may run into vendors in Germany that do not accept credit cards, BUT some credit cards may offer a MAESTRO card which acts like a debit card, but is attached to your credit card account and will help you stack up the points quickly and thus even more rewards.

3) Instant savings:

Keep your eyes open.  The weekly ‘Angebotes’ are published every Sunday for the next week, Monday thru Saturday, by each grocery chain.  Sad but true, my weekly rituals include reviewing all the angebotes and making note of items which we regularly buy.  I am always trying to buy our regular listed items on sale.  For example, Barilla Pasta is often ‘reduziert’ at Reichelt (Edeka) and Kaisers, for about a 1 euro savings per stick.  I buy this item in bulk when its on sale.  And for you sweet tooth readers: The Ritter Sport and Haribo favorites are often on sale, rotating between the major grocery chains.

BIG Secret: Reichelt opens one Sunday every month and they offer 10% of all groceries AND alcohol.  We aim to buy most groceries and all our alcohol needs for the month on this exact day.  It also helps that we allocate some storage room to dry groceries.

4) Plan, Prepare and Compete

Once you have figured out how much a month you want to spend, find out your daily allowance and plan out a weekly evening meal plan.  Figure out how much each dinner is going to cost you and make sure you leave a couple euros space for breakfast and lunch costs.  TIP: Always make double the amount for dinner and then some.  You can either freeze or take the leftovers for lunch the next day.

Best part, compete with yourself.  Try to slice off a few euros a week and you may end up ahead.  This requires making a plan and sticking to it.  After a while you will begin to learn some meals cost more than others and you can plan and adjust on the fly once you become an expert.  This often happens when I am at the local market and find a great deal that is not part of the ‘plan’.

5) Coupons?

Bring it on.  I love coupons, always carry at least one on me.  This week, I have a stack of Hohes C Orange Saft 0.40 euro off coupons by Edeka.  I found these on a table tucked away in a corner behind all the check out registers.  I learned that most stores will post weekly coupons on their web sites.  So….happy printing! Note: always present the coupon after you have had your rewards card swiped….some how their machines cannot process reward cards after coupons have been scanned.

It all really comes down to being organized and maintaining a routine.  Saving at grocery shopping can be fun and challenging.  When my husband and I want to treat ourselves to a big purchase, we often look at or grocery expenses, review the past meal plans and finding a way to cut a few corners and save a little bit more.  This month we are not buying any alcohol so that on our honeymoon we can buy those extra few rounds. Checks and balances…….it all equals out in the end, you just have to make sure that it doesn’t sum up way beyond what you can afford.

Let the piggy bank start filling up!



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