Groceries are definitely one of the greatest expenses of living in Switzerland. It's easy to spend 100 Francs ($105) at the grocery store and walk out with just one modest bag of groceries! Our budget for grocery and household up until very recently, was 1,000 CHF per month. That included groceries, garbage bags, cleaning supplies, etc. But then I read in Time Magazine that on average, 40% of food goes to waste. That statistic stuck with me, and I thought about it every time I threw away leftovers I had forgotten about, or a head of cauliflower I hadn't used before it went bad. Then, when I decided to go on the Holy Mama Yoga Retreat in May, I figured it was time for a little experiment.
If 40% of food is going to waste, why not cut the food budget by 40%? It was a bold move, but so far it seems to be working pretty well. The first week was a total success and we actually had money left over at the week's end. Week two hasn't been so wild a success, but we haven't gone over by very much. Here is what I have learned so far.
Make a Plan
It is absolutely essential to make a plan! I use a recycled envelope and sheet of paper from the mail (why waste paper, right?) and fold one half of the paper into a grid. On the opposite half, I write the shopping list. I include vegetarian meals and one or two chicken/meat meals. Meat, even poultry, is extremely expensive here, so including vegetarian meals is key. Another important thing is that produce goes bad exceptionally fast. So I only shop for the first half of the week on Saturday, and then I go again on Tuesday or Wednesday for the second half of the week. I keep the meal plan and shopping list in the envelope along with a pencil and all of the week's receipts and take it with me to the store. Having it with me makes it pretty impossible to impulse buy. Only buy what's on the list!
Utilize the Frozen Section
Frozen berries and vegetables are awesome! I buy frozen peas, green beans, blueberries and spinach. The blueberries are a great snack for Coco plain, or they go into smoothies or pancakes. The spinach is awesome for omelettes or scrambles and Coco loves frozen peas plain, or steamed. I actually really like frozen green beans because they taste more like fresh green beans than canned green beans. I really miss the frozen French green beans from Trader Joe's. ;) Plus, frozen veggies don't have salt added the way canned ones typically do.
Make it from Scratch
Pie crust, cookies, pizza dough. Just make it yourself. It costs almost nothing when you make it yourself and it really isn't even that labor intensive. It just takes a little time. Or, if you want this pizza dough, a lot of time. But it's worth it! ;)
Finally, plan on leftovers. For us, as a family of three, we plan on a meal that feeds four feeding us twice. Sometimes I'll give Coco a different vegetable, for example, peas when we're having salad. But mostly she eats what we eat. The first week, all of the recipes checked out and the portions were accurate so we got multiple meals out of them. This week, a few yielded much smaller portions than I had expected so we have gone over by about 20 Francs or so. Not a huge deal, but next week, I'll watch out for that. Here is the plan from week one:
Pizza & Sautéed Zucchini
Leftover Black Beans & Rice
Leftover Chickpea & Coriander Burgers
Leftover Chicken Parmigiana
There were even leftovers for lunch most days! It was awesome. I found most of the recipes by searching for "cheap, healthy recipes" and pinned many more to my Pinterest. Feel free to check them out! What are your tips and tricks for keeping the grocery budget down? What would you do with the money if you could cut yours by 40%? ;)