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Cost of living For Members

Seven ways to save money on food and drink in Sweden

The Local Sweden
The Local Sweden - [email protected]
Seven ways to save money on food and drink in Sweden
The discount section of a Lidl supermarket. Photo: Magnus Hjalmarson Neideman/SvD/TT

Food prices have shot up after two years of rising inflation, but there are still ways to save money on your food shop. Here are our top tips.

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1. Shop around

Where do you usually do your food shopping? See if you can save money by switching to a cheaper supermarket.

An investigation by the Swedish National Pensioners’ Organisation (PRO) carried out in 2023 showed that you can save hundreds of kronor just by shopping at a different supermarket, with smaller supermarkets often more expensive than the larger stores that are often a bit further out of town.

As far as which supermarket chain is the cheapest, a 2022 Matpriskollen comparison of over 2,500 products on sale at Swedish supermarkets put Willys and Lidl in joint top place.

In second place came ICA Maxi, which - depending on the branch - came in zero to six percent more expensive than Willys, with a few ICA Maxi stores in western Sweden matching the price of Willys supermarkets.

In third place came Stora Coop stores, six to eleven percent more expensive than Willys. On top of this, they have a good membership programme with bonuses.

Finally, City Gross came in fourth place. Although their prices worked out ten percent higher than Willys, they often offer members ten percent off their purchase, which makes them equally as cheap as Lidl and Willys once this discount is applied.

2. Check for discounts

Have a look for weekly discounts or erbjudanden - you might get these posted through your letterbox or find them in the back pages of newspapers, but you can also check them online or on your supermarket's app.

Here are Lidl's discounts, here are Willys', here are Ica's and Hemköp's are here. You'll usually have to type in the name of your local store as discounts vary depending on location.

3. Buy in bulk

If you really want to commit to buying in bulk, see if you have a City Gross or ICA Maxi close by. Usually outside of the city, these larger supermarkets are great for stocking up on bulk items or doing a weekly shop at a lower price, and are often a better option than the smaller, more convenient, neighbourhood ICA Nära stores.

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4. Shop online

If you’re mainly buying groceries online, you’ll be charged for delivery, but may be able to save considerably by planning your meals carefully and doing fewer shops. You might even find this cuts down your spending because you’re less tempted by impulse buys.

Some supermarkets offer the option to do your shopping online and collect it from the supermarket rather than have it delivered, paying a smaller fee, which is a good option if you have a car or know somewhere you could borrow one.

You can also try using online services like Matsmart, who combat food waste by selling food about to hit its best before date at a low price, and are also a great option for buying in bulk.

5. Check for deals when eating out

Cutting down on takeaway coffees is a cliched money-saving tip, but if you prefer not to give up your caffeine hit, make sure you’re using any available loyalty cards or apps, and taking advantage of frequently-offered discounts for bringing your own reusable mug.

Many restaurants and cafes offer generous daily lunch deals (dagens lunch), where you can often get the exact same food and portion size on offer in the evening for much cheaper. Coffee is usually included too!

Download money-saving apps for foodies, such as The Fork, which offers restaurant reviews as well as exclusive discounts; Karma, which advertises hefty discounts on food which would otherwise go unsold by shops or restaurants; and Too Good To Go, which also allows you to buy surplus food from your favourite cafes and restaurants.

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6. Order food and drink at home – or skip the booze more often

Alcohol is undeniably pricey in Sweden, so if you go to a bar or a restaurant, look out for afterwork deals, the usual term for “happy hour”, when your order may be cheaper than usual.

Drinking at home? The state-run alcohol monopoly Systembolaget doesn’t offer any discounts or special offers on booze, since its stated purpose is to reduce Swedish consumption of alcohol. But it’s still much cheaper to drink at home than in a bar, so why not invite a few friends over instead? You can return unopened bottles of alcohol to Systembolaget, even if you've lost your receipt, which is worth knowing if you find you’ve bought six bottles of a wine that no one likes.

You can also get takeaway and eat it at home (which is sometimes cheaper anyway), avoiding paying for expensive drinks at a mark-up.

Try going alcohol-free more often. Non-alcoholic beer is widely available in Sweden thanks to laws against advertising alcohol, which have contributed to many craft breweries creating a non-alcoholic range. Sweden’s strict laws on alcohol also mean most breweries do a “light” version of their beers at less than 3.5 percent ABV, as this is the maximum alcohol content that can be sold in supermarkets. Lower-alcohol or alcohol-free drinks are almost always cheaper.

7. Eat seasonally

Sweden's northern latitudes mean that the growing season is quite short compared to other countries, so out-of-season vegetables can be expensive as they are often grown in greenhouses which need a lot of electric heating and lighting.

This means that you may be better off buying seasonal veggies like kale, cabbage and root vegetables in winter, rather than expensive tomatoes, peppers and courgettes.

A completely free way of eating seasonally is foraging. Admittedly, there's not much to forage at this time of year. As the days get lighter, you could try embracing your inner Swede and see if you can find any ramslökkirskål or nässlor, or keep your eye out for berries and elderflowers when we get closer to the summer.

In autumn, look out for mushrooms in the Swedish forests. Chanterelles often sell in supermarkets for over 100 kronor per kilo (admittedly, they don't weigh very much), so you can save a fortune if you find a good spot to pick your own. 

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Under Sweden's right to roam (allemansrätten) you can forage wild herbs, flowers, berries and mushrooms, although some plants (such as rare flowers) are protected, meaning you aren’t allowed to pick them.

You can only forage the flowers and berries which grow back each year – no digging up plants or roots in a way which will damage the plant.

Here's The Local's guide on how to pick mushrooms in Sweden like you’ve been doing it all your life, here's our spring foraging guide and here are some summer finds you can keep an eye out for.

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Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
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Anonymous 2023/03/12 10:53
Re: the weekly 'erbjudanden' - many immigrants to Sweden will move into 2nd-hand apartments or homes which might already have the familiar "ingen reklam tack" (no flyers please) sticker on the mailbox. My tip is to peel it off! The big supermarkets usually distribute flyers over the weekend with new offers that start on Monday. I didn't know what I'd been missing until I started receiving them. If you take 5 minutes to plan your shopping, you will usually find something in the flyers that makes it worth diverting to the other shops.

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