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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

Six helpful tips to save money on food shopping in Austria

High inflation means that costs are rising in Austria, including in supermarkets and grocery stores. Here are some tips to help you if you're feeling the pinch or want to make your money go further.

Six helpful tips to save money on food shopping in Austria
With the cost of living rising, here are some tips for saving on your Austrian grocery shop. Photo: nrd/Unsplash

Some savings tips work whichever country you’re in: avoid shopping when hungry; plan meals ahead of time if you can; check products from the top or bottom shelves (usually cheaper than those placed at eye-level!) and compare prices by weight rather than by unit.

On top of these general frugal habits, there are some tricks that might be less relevant outside Austria, so here’s a quick rundown.

Reduce waste and cost

Over the past few years, a number of new mobile apps designed to combat food waste have arrived in Austria, helping you do your bit for the planet and save money, too. 

The main player, Too Good To Go, gives you the chance to “rescue” old food that might have otherwise been thrown away by supermarkets, restaurants, cafes and bakeries. After downloading the app, it’ll show you available offers within a certain radius of where you live or work. Sometimes you might strike gold with an incredible bistro or hotel brunch for a fraction of the usual price, other times you may end up with a mountain of bread products and cakes from your local bakery.

You can also find bargains by looking for discounted items in supermarkets close to their best before dates, particularly on Saturday evenings before the Sunday closure.

And your local neighbourhood may have a Buy Nothing or similar Facebook group where people will share details of food they’d otherwise throw away.

Sign up to loyalty schemes and offers 

These won’t always net you huge savings, and you need to watch out for being enticed to buy more than you otherwise would have down, but it’s worth signing up to your favourite supermarkets’ loyalty scheme or app. There’s Billa’s Jö Bonus Club, which also works at Penny Markt, Libro and a handful of other stores; Lidl Plus; the PAYBACK scheme for Unimarkt which also works at stores like DM and even Burger King, and MPreis has a loyalty card scheme.

While it won’t shave loads off your shop, if you let the points build up on the family shop, you might get a nice surprise when you can use that to pay for some groceries further down the line. The other benefit of these schemes is that you can get personalised discounts and offers based on the products you tend to buy.

Think about where you buy what

This can take some planning, but often pays off. Rather than going to your nearest neighbourhood shop, you could plan to do the bulk of your shopping either at one of the cheaper brands — Penny Markt, Lidl or Hofer — or at a bigger store if you go to Billa or Spar, which generally means lower prices than the small inner-city branches, plus wider availability of their discounted own-brand items.

And international supermarkets are another way to unearth treasures. Buying spices, for example, is often cheaper if you can find a grocery store specialising in foreign goods, and it means greater variety. At these kinds of neighbourhood stores you can also sometimes track down those hard-to-find home comforts, rather than paying a premium. The store with the widest variety in Vienna is Prosi, and in Salzburg there’s Asiatische Spezialmarkt, but smaller shops are also worth a visit.

Check out your local markets too, as sometimes these are the place to get vegetables, meats and spices for a bargain, and support local traders. But it’s usually cheaper to head outside city centres, where the major markets may have become gentrified or hiked up their prices after featuring in tourist guides, and find the markets still mainly frequented by locals.

Think like a restaurant 

One of the best ways to get into a budget mindset with food shopping is to think in a similar way to a restaurant owner. If you study the menu of the next restaurant or cafe you go to, you’ll generally find variations on a theme that use and reuse a selection of ingredients. That’s to ensure that the chefs can order food in bulk and avoid waste by using the same ingredients in different dishes, meaning they can still be used if some dishes aren’t selling well. 

So how does this apply to everyday folk? Well, meal-planning and buying staples you can use over and over again in different ways can be a great way to make your budget go further and avoid wasted food. For example, a sack of potatoes costs barely anything and can be used in a myriad of different ways.

And think like a local

Even when you’re using these savvy shopping techniques, it will still often be the case that foods and ingredients that aren’t traditionally popular in Austria will cost more than those which are.

Food is often a strong link to your roots, so it’s worth stretching your budget for those special items that will help you feel at home, but for your day-to-day meals, you might want to consider a more local menu and adapting your eating habits to match the products you can find most cheaply in Austria. 

Avoid quick delivery services

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, you’ve likely noticed a whole range of new app-based shopping services that promise to get your groceries to you in record speed. While we absolutely won’t judge anyone who uses these services, they’re unfortunately not a great idea if you’re trying to save money. Why? Because their business models generally work by adding a slight mark-up to each of the products they sell – and because you usually have to pay a delivery fee, and a tip for the drivers is recommended.

The one exception to this rule is taking advantage of any ultra-generous sign-up offers as a one-off treat. Some of the grocery delivery brands offer as much as €20 off a €40 shop for new customers, or €10 off a €30 shop. If you don’t normally spent that much, stock up on basics you know you’ll use and which don’t go off, like pasta, tinned goods, coffee and tea. 

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FAMILIES

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about parental leave in Austria

Mutterschutz, Papamonat, Karenz, and Familienbeihilfe: here's your guide to the main concepts and schemes for parental leave in Austria

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about parental leave in Austria

When it comes to parental leave, Austria has one of the most extensive systems in the European Union and the world.

This is mainly because, when you consider all the combined benefits, parents can have paid leave for years – even if not on their full salary or working part-time. The system is also very flexible, with different options that parents can choose.  

There are a few essential words and schemes that people looking to take parental leave in Austria should know. The Local talked with Severina Ditzov, legal advisor and co-founder of Austria for Beginners, to understand how parental leave and family benefits work in Austria. 

Mutterschutz

In Austria, there is a period of Mutterschutz, or “maternity protection”, that starts eight weeks before the baby’s due date and continues for eight to 12 weeks after birth. The mothers are not supposed to work during this time, and companies need to follow this period strictly. 

READ MORE: The smartphone apps that make living in Austria easier

During Mutterschutz, mothers receive an allowance known as Wochengeld, which consists of 80 percent of their previous salary. The process for the leave and the benefit is made by the company directly with the government, and the idea is to protect the pregnant woman.

When the child is born, fathers can take up to one month of unpaid leave, known as Papamonat (Daddy month). “This can be taken within the first three months of the birth of the child”, Ditzov explains. 

The “daddy month” is considered unpaid leave, but fathers can ask for a up to € 700 payment (equivalent of €22 a day) compensation from the state. Certain companies will offer new dads a couple of days off paid after the birth but this depends on the company and sector agreements in place.

Karenz

After the end of Mutterschutz, parents can ask to go on a Karenz, or parental leave period – the release from work in return for a suspension of wages. 

Austria has a quite flexible scheme, and parents can switch twice between who takes the benefit. They can stay on Karenz for a total of two years, though the minimum period for parental leave is two months. There’s also a protection against employment termination that ends four weeks after the end of the parental leave.

During parental leave, the families receive government payments, known as Kinderbetreuungsgeld, depending on the scheme they choose.

READ MORE: Six helpful tips to save money on food shopping in Austria

It is possible to obtain a lump payment every month or a percentage of average salaries, and the actual amount will be calculated based on how long the parental leave will last. Parents who take longer leaves will receive a lower monthly allowance. 

“The payment and the time on leave don’t need to match, so parents can choose to stay for two years on leave but only receive the payment for six months, for example,” says Ditzov.

Of course, that would mean the payments would be higher, even if for fewer months.

Persons who have not had gainful employment subject to compulsory insurance in Austria in the 182 calendar days preceding the child’s birth, which includes homemakers, and people who recently moved to Austria, will be entitled to the flat-rate childcare allowance.

“Even if you never worked in Austria before, as long as you follow certain requirements, mainly proving that your centre of living is in Austria, you are entitled to the flat-rate payment”, Ditzov says. 

Parents need to apply for childcare allowance, and the mother will need to show the Mutter Kind Pass, a document proving she has correctly carried out the mandatory examinations. 

Elternteilzeit

The parents who have worked with the same company for at least three years are entitled to request Elternteilzeit or “parents part-time”.

In that case, they can negotiate with employers to find a part-time working solution, usually working fewer hours every day or working fewer days a week.

However, not all companies can provide the scheme, as they need a minimum number of employers, and there are also requirements for employers.

Family benefits

Austria offers several benefits packages to families – some not conditioned to having worked in the country at all. 

For example, the Familienbeihilfe is paid monthly to every child resident in Austria until they turn 24 – with some exceptions. The amount depends on the child’s age but can reach € 165.10 a month for one child.

The only requirements are that the parents’ centre of life is in Austria and they live with the child. From 18 years of age, there are also requirements and conditions regarding education and schooling.

“Even if the child just moved into Austria, and even if they are not babies, they are entitled to that money as long as parents live here legally and are insured”, the advisor added. 

In addition, families get tax benefits for having children or in case of single parents, for example. Families with children between the ages of six and 15 also get the yearly Schulstartgeld every September, an automatic €100 payment before the beginning of the school year. 

Among the bonus possibilities is a € 1.000 partnership bonus that parents can request if they have received childcare allowance in approximately equal proportions (50:50 to 60:40) and for at least 124 days each. 

Austria has several online calculators to help families check their benefits depending on income or duration of parental leave.

Most of the benefits are either automatic or can be requested online with the insurance provider or FinanzOnline, and it’s worth checking the resources and making a plan based on what works best for your family.

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