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MONEY

EXPLAINED: 10 ways to save money on your groceries in Germany

With inflation at its highest level in 70 years, consumers in Germany are really feeling the pinch, particularly in the supermarket. Here are some simple tips on how you can save money on your grocery shopping.

Money is handed over a fruit and vegetable counter at a weekly market in the Schöneberg district of Berlin.
Money is handed over a fruit and vegetable counter at a weekly market in the Schöneberg district of Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christoph Soeder

1. Buy seasonal products

Fruit and vegetables are less expensive when they are in season in Germany, as they don’t have to be kept in cold storage which – thanks to high energy prices – incurs high costs which are passed onto the customer. So going for produce that is naturally abundant at the time of year can really pay off. 

At the moment, vegetables such as kale, squashes, leaks and cabbages are currently in season, but you can refer to an online Saisonkalendar (season calendar), such as this one, to keep an eye on which fruits and veggies are in season at different times of the year.

Regional organic vegetables on sale in Brandenburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Bernd Settnik

2. Go easy on butter 

The price of butter in Germany has increased by over 40 percent in the last year – in some cases, a 250-gram packet of butter now costs €3. 

READ ALSO: Energy crisis: Which everyday German products are increasing the most in price?

As a substitute for butter in cooking, go for vegetable oils such as olive oil, linseed or soybean oil or certain types of margarine and, for spreadable treats, consider alternatives such as quark or cheese spreads. 

3. Have a meal plan and a shopping list

One golden rule for saving money in the supermarket – wherever you live – is to plan your meals and write down the ingredients in a list. Having a shopping list often helps avoid expensive spontaneous purchases and helps you to really only buy the things you will definitely use.

A woman writes a shopping list. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Christin Klose

4. Buy less meat

The prices of meat products, such as sausages and fish have also risen by 19.3 percent since last October. As a result, German consumer advocate groups advise shoppers to replace some of their meat products with plant-based foods, pulses or legumes instead, such as lentils, peas, beans, chickpeas, and soybeans.

READ ALSO: Thousands protest in Berlin over price rises

5. Visit markets

Consumer advice groups also advise shoppers in Germany to visit their local fruit and vegetable markets, as fresh produce can often go for a lot cheaper than in the supermarkets.

6. Compare prices by weight 

Another good tip for buying groceries on the cheap is to compare prices by weight, not simply by the retail price on display. In addition to the retail price, you will usually see how much 100 grams of each product costs and you should use this number as a basis for comparison.

A customer stands at the scales for fruit and vegetables in the Eisenstein village store in Bavaria. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Armin Weigel

For example, if you want to buy Parmesan cheese and there are two different varieties marked at €4 and €6, the €4 package may seem cheaper. But if you then look at the price by weight, you may find that the €6 Parmesan comes to €1 per 100 grams, while the €4 package comes to €2 per 100 grams.

7. Use apps to find deals 

The price for the same product can sometimes vary greatly between supermarkets in Germany, so it can pay to shop around.

But, if you don’t have time to go from store to store hunting down the cheapest products, there are several apps – including Smhaggle, Marktguru and KaufDA – available which you can use to find and compare deals in local supermarkets. 

Another great app for those looking to make serious savings on their foodstuffs is Too Good to Go – an app which connects people to local restaurants, bakeries and food shops which are looking to get rid of surplus food. 

8. Get an advantage card

With an advantage card such as the Payback Card or DeutschlandCard, you can collect points every time you shop in a variety of stores, and then ultimately transform these points into monetary discounts. 

A customer uses their Payback app at the supermarket checkout. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/PAYBACK GmbH | PAYBACK GmbH

These cards are free to get and just require registration. Using them regularly, along with extra point-collecting coupons, can amount to quite a savings. 

9. Check out the bottom shelf

The bottom shelves in German supermarkets are often where you will find the most economically-priced products, including the supermarkets’ own-brand products. If you reach for the private labels “Rewe”, “Ja”, “Gut & Günstig”, “Edeka”, “Penny”, “Grandessa” or “Maribel”, you can get almost the identical product as the branded variety for half the price. 

10. Shopping just before closing time

If you shop just before closing time, you can often find great deals in German supermarkets – especially at the vegetable, fruit, meat and yoghurt counters. 

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s inflation relief measures to support people in cost of living crisis

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ENERGY

REVEALED: Germany’s planned hardship fund to help with energy bills

The gas and electricity price caps are coming, and the government wants to pay people's energy bills in December - but will that be enough to stop people falling into hardship? Germany's Economics Ministry thinks it won't be and has drafted plans for a new hardship fund. Here's what you need to know.

REVEALED: Germany's planned hardship fund to help with energy bills

When Germany’s traffic light coalition parties – the SPD, Greens and FDP – took office last December, they had no idea that they would be facing an energy crisis on such a major scale.

But with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sending the gas market into turmoil, the coalition’s big plans have been put on the backburner as they work out how best to support people with rising costs. 

Under the latest set of energy relief measures put forward by the Gas Price Commission, the government will shoulder the cost of people’s energy bills this December. It also plans to introduce a cap on both electricity and gas prices, which will come into force next March and be backdated to January.

READ ALSO: Germany plans to cap energy prices from start of 2023

This multi-billion relief package is likely to soften the blow for many households, but according to a new government document obtained by Bild, ministers are concerned that it won’t be enough to stop many people – and businesses – falling into financial hardship.

To ensure this doesn’t happen, federal and state economists ministers want to set aside billions more for additional aid. 

Here’s who can get hold of the extra cash – and how.

Renters and private home owners

People who rent an apartment in Germany and home owners who live in their properties can access additional help from the state if they can prove they’re over-burdened by their heating and energy costs.

That could be due to an eye-wateringly high back-payment for energy bills demanded by the landlord or due to the fact that they have to purchase expensive fuel such as wood pellets for heating. 

More specifically, people claiming unemployment benefits such as Bürgergeld can get some extra cash from the Jobcenter after their bills are calculated by the landlord. If they’re facing a hefty back-payment, or Nachzahlung, they can get up to three months of Bürgergeld retroactively to help cover the costs. 

In addition, someone who wants to claim Bürgergeld for a single month will be spared from having to prove the amount of money they have in the bank. Under the ordinary rules for Bürgergeld claimants, job seekers must have less than €40,000 in savings.

According to the government’s calculations, this emergency buffer is set to cost around €500 million. Claims for additional support will be handled by the job centres or social offices.

Small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs)

Small business owners have been among the hardest hit by the energy crisis – but luckily help may be on its way. 

In the document obtained by Bild, ministers say they assume that the gas and electricity price cap will be an adequate level of support for most SMEs. Nevertheless, there could be a few circumstances in which business owners slip through the net:

  • Business owners may already be facing huge hikes in their energy bills before the price caps come into force, for example in the form of a big back-payment for energy costs over several months, or
  • Businesses may find that, due to exceptional circumstances, they’re still unable to pay their bills – even after the price caps are introduced. 

In these two scenarios, SMEs can apply for extra support from the government. 

To be eligible, businesses must either show that their energy costs quadrupled at least three months between January and November 2022, or they’ll have to show that their energy costs have also multiplied in spite of the energy price cap and that their business is highly energy-intensive or costly.

The government expects this support package to cost around €1 billion and says that the details will be worked out after state premiers agree to the proposals.  

READ ALSO: How electricity prices are rising across Germany

Housing companies 

Large landlords could also be in line for some additional government aid under the ministers’ plans. Due to the way the current rental system works, many are paying high bills for heating and energy that they’re not yet able to recoup from tenants in the end-of-year bill.

Housing complexes in Berlin.

Housing complexes in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Monika Skolimowska

To help housing companies that are in this situation, the government wants to offer loans that could help tide them over. Twenty percent of this credit would be secured by the federal states, and the measure is expected to cost around €1.1 billion. 

Hospitals and care homes  

Care facilities and clinics face exorbitant energy bills – even in ordinary times – so this group of institutions will also be given financial aid, the draft said.

This will come in the form of a one-off support payment and ongoing support with gas and electricity bills. Hospitals and care homes will in many cases get their additional costs for energy completely refunded by the state until April 2024. Social agencies and social service providers will also be given subsidies and financial aid to help deal with their increased overheads. 

In addition, cultural sites and facilities like museums and art galleries will get subsidies intended to flatten out the rise in energy costs. In most cases, the energy price cap only applies to 80 percent of a business’ ordinary consumption, but this limit will be dispensed with for cultural institutions. 

However, the government says it still wants to incentive energy-saving measures as well as offering financial support. 

READ ALSO: When will people in Germany get their December gas bill payout?

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