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COST OF LIVING

EXPLAINED: 8 ways to save money on your groceries in Switzerland

With the cost of living going up, many of us are thinking of ways to spend a little less. Here are some tips on how you can save money when grocery shopping in Switzerland.

Shop in season to save money when it comes to fruit and vegetables.
Shop in season to save money when it comes to fruit and vegetables. Photo by Sharon Pittaway on Unsplash

Think about the supermarket where you shop

A lot of the time, food items cost a similar amount in different shops. But there are many items that are available at much lower prices than the competition. Discounters like Denner, Aldi and Lidl offer some products at a much cheaper price than the two largest retailers Coop and Migros. You can check out the articles below to compare prices. 

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Buy products in season

Purchasing fruit and vegetables is less expensive when they are in season. That’s because the products don’t have to be kept in cold storage in the same way, which thanks to the current high energy prices incurs high costs that are then 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, pumpkins, squashes, leaks and cabbages are 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.

Opt for cheaper products

Instead of entrecôte or fillet of beef, try a cervelat or minced meat. Vegetables are also cheaper than meat, so you could go for more ‘meat-free’ days.

You can also save by buying low-price or own-brand products (for example, Prix Garantie from Coop or M-Budget from Migros). For some items, the price differences between cheap products, own brands and brand-name products are small, but for others they are bigger.

READ MORE: Pasta up by 13 percent: How food and energy prices in Switzerland are rising

Many common products are now more expensive. Image by Alexa from Pixabay

Look out for discount stickers and special offers

Discount stickers are an easy way to save money when shopping for groceries in Switzerland. All the major retailers like Migros, Coop, Denner, Aldi Suisse and Lidl reduce the prices of many food products shortly before their expiry date. The discounts are marked on the products (usually with a red or orange sticker) and often range from 25 to 50 percent below the retail price.

When picking up discounts, you need to be flexible. You won’t know which items are discounted before you go on your shopping spree. Usually, the evening shortly before closing time, and weekends are the best time to go bargain hunting. And keep an eye out for special offers. Customers can find out about weekly promotions in the Migros magazine, in the Coop newspaper and in the brochures of Denner, Aldi and Lidl, as well as online. 

Collect loyalty points

Many large Swiss food retailers have customer loyalty programmes. The most popular are Cumulus (Migros, Voi, Migrolino) and Supercard (Coop).

The two programmes work similarly: show your customer card or the app at the checkout. As a rule, you get one point for every franc spent. With Migros, you receive vouchers every three months that you can use like cash in Migros shops. At Coop, the points are automatically credited to your points account. You can use these points to pay for certain products as part of promotions. You can also pay for your purchases with points at the Coop City department stores’ (without the food department).

100 points correspond to one franc with both Cumulus and Supercard. This means that you normally have to spend 100 francs to get the equivalent of one franc. Get collecting. 

READ MORE: Cost of living: How you can beat Switzerland’s inflation blues?

Pasta

Photo by Bozhin Karaivanov on Unsplash

Keep an eye on coupons

Collecting coupons is a bit like playing the lottery. Sometimes the coupons match the groceries on your shopping list, sometimes they don’t. With the right coupons, you can get discounts of up to 50 percent. Checking out customer magazines like the Coop paper and regional newspapers can be worthwhile. You can also find coupons in the apps of supermarkets like Migros, Coop and Lidl. And sometimes the coupons are even available in the shop itself. If you buy groceries online, you can often find coupons for online grocery shops and delivery services on numerous discount sites.

But don’t be blinded by the coupons: they are often branded products that are much more expensive than other items in the same shop, despite the discount.

Try shopping at farms

Wherever you live in Switzerland, chances are high that there is a farm fairly nearby (or it may make a nice day trip on the weekend). Some farmers sell their fresh produce directly from stalls, and the fruit and vegetables can be cheaper than in the supermarket.

Some farms in Switzerland are open around the clock. Money can usually be deposited in a cash box. Often payment via Twint is also possible. On schweizerbauer.ch you can find a list of Swiss farms by location. Although you can also buy regional products from farms on online platforms. However, the same savings are often not possible there as when you buy directly from a farm.

Fight food waste – and save money

Some organisations who want to reduce food waste sell almost expired food in Switzerland at a good price. Plus, retailers sometimes reject products simply because they are not in the desired shape, for example (such as crooked carrots).

The app Too Good To Go is well known. Customers use this smartphone app to buy a surprise package of leftover food. At the time specified in the app, you pick up the package. Various supermarkets, as well as restaurants, bakeries and takeaways are on board with the app. Food-waste shops like the Äss Bar shops, which sell baked goods from the day before, aim to reduce food waste rather than cost, but the prices are still far below the retail price.

If you are affected by poverty, you can also go shopping at Caritas grocery shops. Everyday products are usually available at much lower prices than in conventional supermarkets. The prerequisite is that you are on or below the poverty line, receiving economic social assistance or supplementary benefits to social security, or are in debt. There are also some local projects and food banks where people in poverty can buy cheap products – or even get them for free.

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For members

PENSIONS

EXPLAINED: Is it worthwhile setting up a private pension plan in Switzerland?

Pensions are a hot-button topic in Switzerland right now, as voters are getting ready to weigh in on whether retirees should receive an additional monthly payment. We look at whether it's worth setting up a private pension plan.

EXPLAINED: Is it worthwhile setting up a private pension plan in Switzerland?

On March 3rd, Swiss citizens will weigh in on the proposal, created by left-wing parties and trade unions, which calls for the payout of an additional old-age pension, of the same amount as the ‘regular’ (AHV/AVS) pension received each month.

This move, according to supporters, is a necessary increase to compensate for the inflation-driven higher cost of living and lower purchasing power.

Under Switzerland’s three-pillar pension scheme, AHV/AVS (the first pillar) is set up to provide only the very basic income for retired people.

This means a monthly payment ranging from 1,225 francs to 2,450 francs a month for an individual, based on the salary and the length of employment. Married couples receive 150 percent of the maximum individual pension — that is, 3,585 francs at most. 

Clearly, this is not enough to live on in an expensive country like Switzerland, and this is where the second-pillar pension, called BVG /LPP, kicks in.

It is obligatory for anyone who earns at least 22,050 francs a year.

The combined income from both pensions is intended to correspond to between 60 and 70 percent of the retirees’ last salary.

Whether or not this is enough to live on depends on where the pensioners reside (large city or rural areas), and their spending habits — the thriftier they are, the better off financially they will be.

READ ALSO: What is Switzerland’s ‘second’ pension and how you will benefit from it?

For those who want a more comfortable retirement, there is also an option of a private pension. That’s the third pillar.

Unlike the first two, this one is a voluntary contribution to your pension, whose aim is to ensure an additional income stream after you retire.

In a nutshell, it is a type of a savings account which you can open with a bank or insurance company when you start working (or at any time after).

This article provides all the details about this plan:

READ ALSO: What is Switzerland’s ‘third-pillar’ pension and how can it benefit you?

Should you set up this plan?

The answer depends on several factors.

First, the ‘pros’, the most obvious of which is that you will have more money to live on each month, on top of your two other pension pillars.

Just how much more depends on the amount you contribute to this fund each month; clearly, the more you pay in while you work, the more you will get out of it once you retire.

The  maximum amount that you can pay into this account each year is 7,056 francs. Self-employed people without a second pillar can pay in 20 percent of their income, but no more than 35,280 francs a year.

That’s the maximum which, if you can afford to put aside each year, you will give you a very comfortable nest egg when you retire.

As an example, if you contribute the full amount each year during the 44 years of full-time employment (from age 31 to 65), you will have well over 300,000 francs accumulated in the third-pillar pension when you retire.

Obviously, this is the ‘best-case’ scenario that is not applicable to every employee.

But even if you contribute less than the allowed maximum, and for fewer than 44 years, you will still have extra money saved to add to your two other pillars.

If you opt to open a third-pillar account however, keep in mind that while you are investing in your future, contributing to this fund will leave you with less disposable income while you are still working.

That’s because you will have to put a part of your salary into this account which, depending on what your income is, may or may not be doable.

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