Friday, September 25, 2009

Death and Taxes

Guest Post by Kristi from the blog A to Z.

Someone once said death and taxes were the only two things one could be certain of. This person obviously didn't visit Switzerland.

You can also be certain that Switzerland is frackin expensive. I am not going to bore you with how expensive, it is a popular topic that you can simply read up on by googling "Switzerland" or "Swiss" or "most expensive but beautiful place in the world". No higher pay, lower tax economics lesson will save you from the sticker shock (which will result in you curling up in a corner while violently shaking. You revert to an old thumb sucking habit you kicked at age eight and ironically, shock treatment is what it takes to snap out of it). You can arm yourself though with knowledge, and everyone knows knowledge is power.

So let's talk food shopping. Yes, I was all dramatic so we could talk about how to save time and money while food shopping. You are either intrigued or let down, but either way you want to read what is next as a result, don't you?

Tips for Saving Time:

1. Get to know your food store or stores: Become familiar with the aisles, the product placement, opening/closing hours, and general feel. I would do this before you plan to shop - just walk in and check things out. I went to a different store last Sunday and it easily doubled my shopping time because I couldn't find the canned beans.

2. Check out your staples and take notes: On the same mapping expedition, take notes with particular focus on your staples. What is the German word for milk, where are the eggs located (if you are American, this may shock you), how are things packaged (cute pics of animals on packaging identifies your meat), you learn that you are responsible for labeling and barcoding produce, etc. You will find yourself gawking at all the yogurt options and marvel at how few options you have for chips (paprika anyone?). If you are lucky, someone may mistake you for taking inventory and ask you where the cheddar cheese is. You can just point "thatta way" then shamelessly giggle when they still can't find it, trust's fun.

3. Plan your attack: I make menu plans once a week and stick to them. This may or may not keep you out of the store multiple times per week, but I am convinced it is why I can shop once or twice a week, never needing to go that third time. My menu plans consist of one pot meals that last two days or the recycling of ingredients into different dishes.

4. Learn how to convert to grams: You stare at the package of chicken, you wonder if 12 chf is reasonable for .206 kg of go home and Google it and you find out you have been had. The sooner you figure out how to convert to kg or g, the less time you will spend looking at a package of meat while scratching your head. Rule of thumb, one kg = 2ish lbs.

Tips for Saving Money:

1. Shop an hour before closing time: You will find many items drastically discounted at closing time. This is great if you are a meat eater - as many times you can find certain proteins discounted up to 50%. Be sure to either freeze or use this deeply discounted meat immediately as it is likely discounted for a reason, like death if you consume it tomorrow.

2. Check out the items sold in bulk: There is nothing better than discovering the 500g produce deals, 1.20 chf for 10 cloves of garlic...hell yeah! 12 chf for .890kg of chicken breast, pinch me...I must be dreaming. Buying in bulk can definitely bring about a good deal, you just have to look for it.

3. Produce is good AND cheap: The produce is so amazing compared to what I had back home and I can't believe I am about to say this, cheap! I want to pet it sometimes because it is so pretty and colorful and cheap. I try to make produce heavy dinners at least twice a week. I have also learned what turns quickly so I can make sure I use that particular item in the beginning of the week, saving the produce that doesn't turn immediately for the end of the week.

4. Store brands are your friend: The food stores here carry a discount store brand for many items and I have found most to be of high quality. While I can't say they are "cheap", they are less expensive than your branded items.

5. Use re-useable bags: Unlike in the States where bags are free at check out, they charge you 30 rappen (30 cents) per grocery bag. They are actually quite lovely bags, but you are still wasting money and spitting in Mother Earth's face. I brought three over from the States and am quite happy I did so, they have served me well.

6. Choose your organics wisely: I find the regular items to be of such high standard that I buy very little organic (labeled Bio or Biological here). This is a very personal decision though so I won't tell you what to do. The more organic you buy, the more you spend so choose wisely. I am comforted by the fact that the Swiss are known to treat their animals well and the cow I just ate probably had a Swiss massage before it kicked it (no Swedish massage here, they like to protect Swiss jobs...I Kid!)

I want to leave you with this one last tip, SURRENDER. Surrender to the fact that food shopping here is different. Different is why you came here though so the earlier you let go of that 50-foot chip aisle, the quicker you will adjust and maybe even enjoy the experience. The Swiss do enjoy some Pringles so while they do not carry 12 varieties of Doritos, you can crack open a can of freeze dried potato snacks. A little familiarity never hurt an expat...

So do you have a food shopping tip or an embarrassing story? Can anyone spot the Pringles can?

For more by Kristi, visit her blog, From A to Z


Romy said...

Both Migros and Coop sell cheddar. In Coop, it's at the cheese counter and also a very fancy aged British version in Fine Food packaging in the normal packaged cheese section. Otherwise, very good tips!

Chantal said...

Ooh, haven't tried the packaged kind from Coop. And let's be honest, the packaged kinds are the best because then you don't have to talk to anyone!

mrsmac said...

So true Chantal!

We try to shop as much as possible at our local Aldi. It makes a HUGE difference when buying protein.

Chantal said...

I wish we had an Aldi closer to us. But I can't complain. I've got Denner, Manor, Coop, and Migros all within walking distance.

Kathy said...

Great tips! I didn't know the one about hour-before-closing sales before.

My most embarrassing shopping story: When I first got here, I somehow failed to notice that I needed to weigh and price-sticker the produce myself, causing much annoyance on the part of the checker and backing up a long line at the check stand. Believe it or not, I managed to do this again before I started remember. That's probably when I stopped shopping right before closing :)

Chantal said...

Kathy--I didn't know about the produce sticker thing either. But the cashier yelled at me with such harsh German (at least I imagined it that way) that I never forgot again!

Unknown said...

kathy I love your blog! so informative and fun - I have a question that you'll know the answer of for sure - what time to supermarket type stores generally close? and are they open sat and sun. does this vary by canton?

Chantal said...

Hi Ina, be sure to stop by Kathy's blog to check out more of her great insights. But to answer your question, the stores generally close at 7pm on weekdays (except for Wed/Fri when they are open until 8pm). They are open on Saturday until 5 or 6 and are closed on Sundays. Yes, this may vary by canton. And there's usually a small store open in the train station on Sundays.

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