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Six essential tips for saving money on your groceries in Germany

With everyday prices on the up, a lot of people in Germany are feeling the pinch right now. Here are some tips for making your weekly food budget go that bit further.

Six essential tips for saving money on your groceries in Germany
A woman shops at a supermarket in Essen. Photo: pa/obs/obs/E.ON Energie Deutschland GmbH | E.ON/Fotolia

For consumers in Germany, there’s been very little good news lately. Energy and electricity costs are soaring, and the price of other everyday goods is also on the rise. On Monday, discounter Aldi announced that it had hiked the prices of around 400 of its products – with dairy and meat seeing some of the biggest increases in cost. 

Unfortunately, this isn’t a one-time thing: in fact, this is the third time in the space of around two weeks that Aldi has had to raise its prices. And the popular discounter isn’t the only retailer taking drastic steps – Edeka and Rewe are also raising the price of a number of their products.

If you’re already feeling the squeeze on your energy bills and weekly shop, there are some things you can do to make your money go further. Here are our top six tips for saving money on your next grocery shop. 

Take advantage of apps 

As is pretty much always the case these days, when it comes to saving money on groceries, there’s an app for that. Over the past few years, a number of new mobile apps designed to combat food waste have arrived in Germany. Beloved of students and families alike, these not only help you do your bit for the planet, but also have the side benefit of helping you save money, too. 

The most famous of these, Too Good To Go, gives you the chance to “rescue” old food that might have otherwise been thrown away by supermarkets, restaurants, cafes and bakeries. After downloading the app, it’ll show you available offers – or “Magic bags” – within a certain radius of where you live or work. Sometimes you might strike gold with an incredible bistro or hotel brunch for a fraction of the usual price, other times you may end up with a mountain of bread products and cakes from your local bakery. Generally, there’s a bit of a ‘pot luck’ vibe, but if you’re an adventurous sort, it’s can be a great way to make your money go further.

If you’re looking for something more community-focused, the OLIO app is now available in all major German cities. OLIO not only connects you with businesses who have food waste, but also with your neighbours, allowing people to offer leftovers and groceries that are nearing their expiry with people in their local area. 

Another option for intrepid food rescuers is the ResQ Club app. With ResQ, you can browse numerous retailers and restaurants offering their leftover snacks, meals and groceries at a 50 percent discount. Unfortunately, it’s only in Berlin and Duisburg right now, but will hopefully launch elsewhere in the future.

READ ALSO: 10 apps to download if you’re moving to Germany

Sign up to loyalty schemes and offers 

These won’t save you megabucks, but since you don’t have to pay to sign up, it certainly can’t hurt. The first big one of these is the Payback Card points scheme that lets you earn points at DM, Rewe, REAL, Penny and Aral. The second is the Deutschland Card bonus scheme, which gives you points for shopping at Edeka, Netto, Ebay and more. 

While it won’t shave loads off your shop, if you let the points build up on the family shop, you might get a nice surprise when you can use that to pay for some groceries further down the line. The other benefit of these schemes is that you can get personalised discounts and offers based on the products you tend to buy, so you can also save money that way. 

Shop at international shops

This may not apply everywhere in Germany, but wherever there’s a large international community, you can often find great value groceries. Berlin’s two successful Turkish supermarket brands, Eurogida and Bolu, offer a huge range of goods for budget-conscious shoppers, including both everyday groceries and products that are sometimes harder to find in Germany. If you’re a fan of mediterranen flavours and textures, you’ll love the deli counters with freshly made dips and olives you can buy by the gram – often at a very affordable price.

Turkish supermarket

Turkish supermarket owner Alim Cosgun stands outside his shop in Frankfurt am Main. Photo: Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Boris Roessler

Even if you’re just in the market for a general shop, these supermarkets are an ideal place to buy fruit, veg and all your other staples. The fresh produce is generally cheaper than in regular supermarkets, and since they don’t tend to sell pre-packaged produce, you can just buy as much as you need. You can also get buy rice, lentils, beans and other pulses in bulk, which is always worth doing as these dried foods don’t go off. After a small initial outlay, you can build cheap meals around these healthy staples for weeks on end. 

Though Eurogida and Bolu are the well-know brands in the capital, you’re bound to find at least one or two independent Turkish supermarkets in any fairly large city. Keep an eye out for smaller African and Asian shops too, though the latter aren’t always cheaper than regular supermarkets. 

READ ALSO: What I’ve learned from five years of living in Berlin

Think like a restaurant 

One of the best ways to get into a budget mindset with food shopping is to think in a similar way to a restaurant owner. If you study the menu of the next restaurant or cafe you go to, you’ll generally find variations on a theme that use and reuse a selection of ingredients. That’s to ensure that the chefs can order food in bulk and avoid waste by using the same ingredients in different dishes, meaning they can still be used if some dishes aren’t selling well. 

So how does this apply to everyday folk? Well, meal-planning and buying staples you can use over and over again in different ways can be a great way to make your budget go further and avoid wasted food. For example, a sack of potatoes costs barely anything and can be used in a myriad of different ways, from Spanish tortilla to Schnitzel und Bratkartoffeln

Another way to think like a restaurant is to cook everything from scratch and build your meals around cheaper ingredients that are less affected by the price hikes, like fruit and vegetables, pulses and basic carbohydrates. In general, cutting down on meat and dairy is an easy way to save money in the long-run. 

Know your brands

When it comes to saving money in Germany, it’s helpful to know your brands. This can be difficult for foreigners to get their head around at first: is Netto the Walmart of Germany? And, for any Brits out there, which one’s Tesco? 

Over time, though, you start to get a picture of where to go for what products. Discounters like Netto, Penny, Aldi and Lidl are great options for people trying to save a bit of cash, while Edeka and Rewe offer a slightly wider selection and a slightly more ‘premium’ experience for shoppers. 

Rewe

An aisle in a Rewe supermarket. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Federico Gambarini

If your nearest supermarket is a little bit more on the pricey side, then keep an eye out for supermarket own-brands like ‘Ja!’, Rewe’s discount brand. The packaging may be plain, but the price is normally right, and you won’t notice any difference in quality. 

READ ALSO: Tip of the week: Your guide to German supermarkets

Avoid quick delivery services

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, you’ve likely noticed a whole range of new app-based shopping services that promise to get your groceries to you in record speed. We’re not quite sure what black magic they use, but some of them even manage to be at your door in 15 minutes or less. 

While we absolutely won’t judge anyone who uses these services (hey, who doesn’t get the munchies while working from home some days?), they’re unfortunately not a great idea if you’re trying to save money. Why? Because their business models generally work by adding a slight mark-up to each of the products they sell – and because you usually have to pay a delivery fee.

The one exception to this rule is taking advantage of any ultra-generous sign-up offers as a one-off treat. Some of the grocery delivery brands offer as much as €20 off a €40 shop for new customers, or €10 off a €30 shop. If you don’t normally spent that much, our advice is to stock up on basics you know you’ll use and which don’t go off, like pasta, tinned goods, coffee and tea. That way you’ll be filling up the larder for later while saving a bit of cash. 

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LIVING IN GERMANY

Living in Germany: Exploring locally, Bargeld and the NRW state election

In our weekend roundup for Germany we look at exploring the country this summer, the country's obsession with cash and some facts about North Rhine-Westphalia, which goes to the polls on Sunday.

Living in Germany: Exploring locally, Bargeld and the NRW state election

A chance to explore Germany 

Although we’re still in the pandemic, it feels like life in Germany is beginning to feel a bit more like it did before Covid hit us. With many restrictions easing, people have been really enjoying spring and looking forward to summer.  So it’s no surprise that many of you have been reading our stories about travel. Our articles on the €9 monthly ticket as well as train travel in Germany and beyond have been particularly popular. The public transport offer will also give many people the chance to explore closer to home. I know I am really looking forward to seeing more of Germany, whether it’s around the Brandenburg area near where I live, or going further afield (Heidelberg, I’m looking at you). I’d love to know if you want to use the €9 ticket or if you have any plans to explore Germany this summer. Please fill in this survey on the €9 ticket (it’s open until Monday) and get in touch with your opinions or other travel plans by emailing [email protected]. Thanks so much to those of you who’ve already been in touch.

Tweet of the week

The German love of cash or Bargeld in 2022 while the rest of the world goes contactless is indeed one of life’s greatest mysteries, as this tweet highlights. We’ll definitely be using our ‘ask a German’ series to try and find out more about this habit… 

Where is this? 

Pankstrasse U-Bahn
Photo: John MACDOUGALL / AFP

Berliners or those who’ve visited the capital may recognise this U-Bahn station which is situated in the north. The station is actually part of the Pankstrasse nuclear fallout shelter. Built in 1977 during the Cold War, this “multi-purpose” facility was intended to protect the citizens of West Berlin in case of a nuclear conflict. The bunker serves not only as an U-Bahn stop for commuters but also, in an emergency, could have sheltered 3,339 people for up to two weeks. For those interested, we’d recommend checking out a tour like those run by Berliner Untervelten E.V. Due to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which has led to massive tension between Europe and Russia, the tours have become even more topical.

Did you know?

Since people in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) or Nordrhein Westfalen are going to the polls this Sunday, we thought we’d look at some facts about this western state. This is Germany’s most populated state with about 17.9 million people. It’s also home to the most foreigners – around 2.5 million non-Germans live in NRW. With cities such as Cologne, Düsseldorf, Dortmund and Essen, the state is a culturally rich and diverse part of Germany. Many people don’t know that Bonn was the capital of the former West Germany all the way up to reunification, before Berlin took the title. Many federal buildings and institutions still have their base there. 

The state is led by Christian Democrat Hendrik Wüst who took over last year after Armin Laschet resigned as state premier following his unsuccessful federal election bid. The CDU is currently in a coalition with the Free Democrats. But it looks like change is on the horizon. The CDU and the Social Democrats are both polling at around 30 percent, with the CDU having a slight lead of two to four percentage points. Meanwhile, the FDP appears to have lost support. It’s going to be a tight race – and the Greens party – polling at around 17 percent – will likely be the kingmakers. Important topics for voters include the future of German industry, and how to secure jobs in the move to renewable energy. Many people see this election as a test for the federal government which is led by the SPD’s Olaf Scholz. 

Thanks for reading,

Rachel and Imogen @ The Local Germany 

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