Eat healthy and frugally in Switzerland (for less than CHF 3 per meal only!)

Last updated: February 17, 2019

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Until now, food was one of the only topics I had not addressed in terms of financial optimization. By lack of time and laziness. At home, Mrs. MP is the historical cook. And honestly I wasn’t complaining about it (her, a little more!)

I often thought that if we could cut even CHF 100 a month on this recurring expense, it would already be huge savings with compound interests. Something like CHF 17'749 more in our pocket in 10 years!

One of the mistakes I made (in my head) was to want to plan 1 month of groceries at once. The task seemed immeasurable and so I pushed back this todo.

But around January 3 this year, I talked to Mrs. MP about it again:

Me: “Would you be OK that I help you with grocery shopping and meals so we can eat more vegetables, and try to optimize expenses in the process?”

Mrs. MP : “Yes, but you’re nice with your ideas, but if we do so, will you really help me? Because I doubt a little bit how long it’s going to last… 1 weekend? 1 week? And I’ll be in charge alone again at the end of the holidays?”

Despite her fears, we went for it. And this time seems to be the right one because I’ve been holding on for over a month and a half. The habit is established!

Grocery shopping is like a budget

Until the end of last year, we were preparing the list of groceries beforehand, but without having in mind the menu for each meal of the week. This meant that we often ended up with surpluses. On top of that, laziness made us eat less well on some days when we didn’t want to cook.

I see a lot of similarities with a budget. In the sense that shopping for groceries also needs to be planned!

Unfortunately, I do not have the details of what we spent in previous years on food only. If we take into account everything that goes into the grocery shopping list, we are at an average of CHF 1'088 per month. But that’s not counting the exceptions for going out to dinner, the times we invited people, the holidays, and the days when we didn’t prepare food for lunch at work.

It doesn’t matter! This does not prevent us from wanting 1/ to eat more healthily (i.e. especially more vegetables), and 2/ more frugally.

An example of a frugal (less than CHF 2) and healthy recipe: spinach omelette

An example of a frugal (less than CHF 2) and healthy recipe: spinach omelette

Target: CHF 3 per meal maximum!

I voluntarily set a realistic goal for us, so that we would not give up after a week of testing.
If we succeed, it will mean monthly food expenses of up to:

CHF 3 x 3 meals x 30.5 days x 3 people (2 adults + 2 half servings per child) = CHF 823.50/month

This represents at least CHF 100 of monthly savings according to my estimate, i.e. CHF 17'749 more cash in 10 years. And all this to eat better. That is, more vegetables and homemade dishes, and less industrial dishes.

A week of menus of the MP family

I point out that we regularly shop for groceries on the other side of the border (France). Hence, prices of the menus below could be biased and useless for many readers who do not live close enough to a border to be able to enjoy it.

So I decided to list all our recipes with all the grocery shopping done on (this is Migros’ e-commerce site, for those who don’t know). For each dish, I put the names of the ingredients as they appear on their website :)

Here is a week of menus for less than CHF 3 per meal:

Every morning

Every lunch et dinner

Monday lunchtime: Ground meat and Chinese cabbage

Recipe: sauté the onions and vegetables together. At the same time, cook the meat. Then simmer it all together in the same wok.

Ingredients :

Monday evening: Large salad

Recipe: put everything in a bowl.

Ingredients :

Tuesday lunchtime: Endives with ham

Recipe: roll each endive in a slice of ham. Drizzle with cream. Then spread the cheese on top and put in the oven.

Ingredients :

Tuesday evening: Spinach omelette

Recipe: heat the spinach, then add the omelette mixture and stir until cooked.

Ingredients :

Wednesday lunchtime: Chicken tacos

Recipe: cook the chicken. Then put the meat with the other ingredients in tortillas.

Ingredients :

Simple and quick to make: chicken tacos

Simple and quick to make: chicken tacos

Wednesday evening: Eggs “cocotte” and ham with asparagus tips

Recipe : an example here.

Ingredients :

Thursday lunchtime: Penne with ham, leeks, and mushrooms

Recipe : see this website.

Ingredients :

Thursday evening: Radish, carrot, lamb’s lettuce, and chicken salad

Recipe : put everything in a bowl.

Ingredients :

Friday lunchtime: Trout gratin with vegetables

Recipe for 4 people : see this site.

Ingredients :

Friday evening: Ham and cheese paninis

Recipe: Put the ham and cheese in the panini bread. Use a waffle iron or similar to compress the panini until cooked.

Ingredients :

Saturday lunchtime: Chicken stew with cauliflower purée

Recipe (for 4 people) : see this website.

Ingredients :

Saturday evening: Homemade pizza

Recipe (for 4 people): spread the pizza dough. Spread the tomato sauce over the whole dough. Put ham everywhere. Top with grated cheese. Put in the oven for baking.

Ingredients :

Sunday lunchtime: Sweet and sour chicken wok

Recipe (for 4 people) : see this site.

Ingredients :

A delicious and frugal meal for Sunday lunch: sweet and sour chicken wok!

A delicious and frugal meal for Sunday lunch: sweet and sour chicken wok!

Sunday evening: Soup, bread croutons, and rye bread

Recipe (for 4 people): cook the soup. Cut the bread into croutons that you can toast in the oven. Serve it all.

Ingredients :

Total figures for one person

Per week : CHF 61.31.
Per day : CHF 8.76.
Per meal : CHF 2.92.
Reported over a 30.5-day month : CHF 267.18.

For our family of 3 (2x adults and 2x half-portions for children), that would be CHF 801.54.

Objective met!

With these new menus, we eat better and we save CHF 121.96 per month, or CHF 21'650 in 10 years if we count on compound interest of an investment with a 7% return via one of the cheapest online brokers.

As mentioned above, we regularly jump across the border. According to my calculations with the same ingredients, we arrive at CHF 224.68 per month per person, or CHF 674.04 for us 4. This saves us CHF 129.33 per month in addition to the CHF 121.96 of the Migros list. On the next 10 years with compound interests, we earn CHF 22'950 in addition to the CHF 21'650 above.

What about the average Swiss consumer?

According to the figures of the Swiss Federal Statistical Office, an average household of 2.2 people spends CHF 632 per month on food products. That is CHF 287 per person per month.
My first reaction when I saw it was: shame! My so-called frugal blog presents a month of Mustachian menu with only CHF 20 difference compared to a typical Swiss consumer…

So I delved into the Excel file above. Looking at the statistics more closely, I saw that they contain meals taken in restaurants, at the canteen at work, takeaways, and other outings with friends. And all this for an additional monthly amount of CHF 471.76 for 2.2 people, or CHF 214.44 more per person for a total of CHF 501.44 per person per month.
So in the end, if this average consumer ate 3 meals a day 7 days a week at home, he would spend much more than our week of frugal menus! I am reassured :)

Are you a dietician?

If you are in the field of health and nutrition, we are interested with Mrs. MP to have your opinion on our week of frugal meals. Aren’t we too bad? Or completely off the mark on the balanced meal level?

How can we make it even more frugal?

2019 promises to be more frugal than ever for the MP family in terms of food.
But as I read your comments in response to my last article, I see that we can do even better.

If Ričardas, Tpn, MLTVB, Chris, Paolo, and Caroline read this article, I would be very grateful if they could share their most frugal meal ideas. Like 1 or 2 CHF per person (that’s my next goal)!

And you who reads my article, how much do you spend per meal on average? Feel free to share your ideas if you have ultra-frugal recipes in stock!

Note: for menu ideas, all this is just my experience sharing. I decline any responsibility in case of allergy or other consequences on your health, so be careful with yourself according to your situation!

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