Thursday, April 3, 2008

I have started out on a campaign to reduce my weekly grocery bills. I am currently spending between 35 and 45 francs a week on food if I don’t eat out (and more if I don’t take food with me to school and have to buy it there), but I hadn’t kept close track of exactly what it is I’m buying each week. So, since I do my grocery shopping on Thursdays generally, and it is the first Thursday of the month, today seemed like as good a day as any to baseline the situation.

I started with a nice meal plan for the next 7 days, including 21 fairly balanced meals, some snacks, and provision for one batch of biscotti. I already have peanut butter, jelly, rice, cereal, flour, and pasta so those aren’t included in this week’s expenditures even though they sorta should count…I’m not really sure how people figure those sorts of things into weekly budgets. They last forever.

I went to the store and bought everything I’ll need for the week with the possible exception that I might buy more carrots midweek, and my grand total was 36.25—on the low end of my normal grocery bill, even though I bought meat and planned for a full 21 meals (I rarely eat that many meals each week and I almost never buy meat). So that’s a good baseline. It shows I can certainly eat for a whole week for that price. Now I’m thinking about how I can make it cheaper, but short of buying some chickens and growing my own vegetables, I’m not quite sure. I spent 5.20 on bread. I could reduce that by making biscuits each week…and I might be able to find someplace cheaper to buy vegetables and fruit. But about the chickens…I can’t remember exactly how much a dozen eggs cost at home, but 6 eggs cost me a whopping 2.70! And chickens lay them for FREE every day! I asked if we could get some chickens (the neighbors have some), but my land lady said only over her dead body. I’m guessing that also rules out the possibility of starting a fish farm or getting a pig or two. One salmon fillet at the store was 19.00 francs! Just think if we had our own swimming around. I wonder if I can get a fishing license here…that would be fun. I’d have to get a rod and tackle too, I guess, or I'll have to make some new friends. But I bet if I just got a couple things and a license…

I’ll look into it.


  1. Far be it from me to discourage good budgeting, but not buying bread when you are in Switzerland seems unreasonable. You're in the land of unbelievably good bread -- think of it as a tourism expense, or something.

    On the other hand, maybe you don't want to develop a taste for the great stuff you won't be able to get back home.

  2. You could make your own bread, too instead of biscuits. I was reading a food blog called Chocolate and Zucchini (you should really check it out...lots of fun ideas)...anyhoo, there was a book advertised on there called something to the effect of Artisan breads in 10 minutes or less. Apparently you can make dough in advance (supposedly taking only 10 minutes minus rising time) and then leave it in the refrigerator. When you need bread, you pull a chunk of dough out of the refrig. and put it in the oven...voila! Maybe a little less practical for us students?! :) Christi

  3. yeah, slightly so when you have an itty bitty fridge space. I could just eliminate bread from my diet...switch to tortillas as my staple, for example. They are fast, easy and cheap to make and take up less space too!

  4. You just spend 35-45 francs a week on all food???

    That seems to be impossible to me! I spend over 100 (15 +/- 5 francs a day)! This includes everything I eat during the day (including sandwiches at the University) as well as one fancy meal on sunday with wine. And I don't even buy very fancy food on weekdays and cook everything myself!

    From my experience what's most costly is:

    - buying stuff to eat during the day (like sandwiches) in mensas or at kiosks. Example: for about 3 francs(!) you'll get a 1/3 litre bottle of ice tea at a kiosk. 1.5 litre in a departement store costs 1.50 to 2.30. So bringing your own sandwiches and ice tea along will save you a lot of money.

    - buying ready made meals - even from department stores - is much costier than cooking your own meals. Of course this does not calculate in the time you spend on cooking (30 mins on weekdays, 1+ hours on sundays if you cook something special). The more you make from basic ingredients, the more money you safe (plus generally, the own cooked food is way better than industrially made food)!

    - What costs most is meat (including fish and poultry). The cheapest meat is chicken and pork. Out of season produce can also be expensive since it has to be produced indoors or imported). Cooking according to seasons thus is cheaper and more ecologic.

  5. 35-45 francs is only if I don't buy any ready-made sandwhiches at school/migros/Coop. If I don't plan well one day and have to buy something it's easily another 6-8 francs each time.

    I didn't count any extra coffee or sodas in this week (other than the coffee I make at home) but today, for instance, I have a project meeting at a coffee I am sort of counting outings like that separately and not part of my regular and required food, and I try to not do more than one thing like that a week.

    Like I said, I don't usually buy meat, and if I do, only when it's on sale, and I do try to buy cheap and in season produce.

    It's very helpful to know what you spend on food each week! I was curious what other single people spend.

    My food project is making me hyper sensitive though. I about had a heart attack two days ago when my land lady threw a away a whole pot of cooked ravioli because her son wanted something else for dinner!

  6. That son needs - you know what, I'll keep that to myself.

    Another expensive item is alcohol and soft drinks. Tap water, or if you need the taste, syrup or lemon water will cost you less.