Eating Well in Romania On a Budget

I have to give credit where credit is due. The Romanian-language newspaper Adevǎrul has been running an interesting series – can 4 university students live on the legal minimum wage, which here is 461 lei (after taxes)? At today’s rate that’s 107 euros or 147 USDollars.

Interesting concept but today I see the boys went grocery shopping and made some horrible choices. Still, they spent 90 lei, theoretically to buy enough food to last two weeks. I doubt it.

Right away you see there’s far too many animal products. These are clearly going to be expensive. Then he buys only 12 eggs, paying a far higher price (per egg) than he would if he had gone for the 24.

Even though he went to Cora (a hypermarket), he didn’t even buy the cheapest milk there, which can save you two or more lei than the other brands. And the most expensive meat of all is treated/cured/processed meats, such as fish in a can and the salami/sausages. Huge mistake!

If saving money is your sole object, you need to load up on cereals – they’re cheap and will both fill you up as well as give you calories. Can’t say it’s an ideal choice but if you truly are pinching every penny, that’s the way to go.

You can get a huge sack of flour (or corn meal) for almost no money and even the most retarded cook can quickly figure out both pancakes (Rom: clatite) or else mamaliga. Jeez!

Pasta is also insanely cheap, as you’d expect. The cheapest fats are going to be vegetable oil – a five-liter bidon of that and you’ve got tons of options from salads to fried foods.

Which brings me to my last recommendation, which is potatoes. You can get an entire kilo for 2 lei or less and there’s about 50 ways to eat them. They make you feel quite full and are chock full of starch so they’re quite tasty day after day.

In an earlier, related article, Adevǎrul followed a retired guy to see how he survived on his pension of just 382,5 lei per month (122 USD/89 Euros).

The man lives in Bucharest too by the way:

Our retired man lives in a one-bedroom apartment, which he owns free and clear. He has no internet connection, he doesn’t go out on the town, he spends no money on gasoline or on public transportation because he always walks. He has no debts. He only pays the maintenance fee on his apartment, the electricity bill and food. Just the bare necessities.

Sounds kind of frugal – and it is. Yet look at this:

Maintenance: 100 lei
Electricity: 25 lei
Toiletries: 25 lei

Left Over: 232,5

In other words, that 232 lei is his food budget. Since I think this is so interesting, I’ve translated the entire thing below. For a rough currency conversion, 3 lei = 1 USD and 4 lei = 1 Euro.

  • 30 loaves of bread = 22.5 lei
    20 eggs = 8.4 lei
    5 liters of milk = 17.5 lei
    1 kilogram feta cheese = 9 lei
    5 kilograms chicken (head/neck) = 37.5 lei
    1 kilogram beef = 23 lei
    1 kilogram pork = 17 lei
    2 kilograms salami = 13 lei
    1 kilogram salt = 1.5 lei
    1 kilogram sugar = 3 lei
    2 liters oil = 7 lei
    1 kilogram corn meal = 3 lei
    1 kilogram rice = 3 lei

Whew! Look at all these cereals and animal products.

  • 5 kilograms potatoes = 6 lei
    3 green onions = 1 leu
    1 kilogram onions = 2.5 lei
    1 bunch of garlic = 1 leu
    1 kilogram beans = 2.5 lei
    1 kilogram carrots = 1 leu
    3 kilograms tomatoes = 12 lei
    2 kilograms green peppers = 6 lei
    1 kilogram cucumbers = 3 lei
    5 radishes = 2.5 lei
    4 kilograms of cabbage = 2 lei
    1 celery (root) = 3.5 lei
    2 bunches of dill = 1 leu
    2 bunches of parsley = 1 leu

WOW! I mean I was just floored. Not only did this guy not exceed his budget but he could BUY ALL THAT FLIPPING FOOD! Wow.

Some of those prices are quite good but otherwise I’d say that’s about on par with the piata in my town as well. That guy is eating meat, eggs, fresh vegetables and fresh herbs by the boatload for 214 lei a month! Insane.

And of course if he could get off the meat train, he’d save a ton of money. The meat came to easily a fourth of his entire monthly bill.

What’s even more insane is that I doubt 1 in 100 Americans of ANY income level, much less a senior flipping citizen on a limited, government income, eats and consumes that many vegetables in an entire month.

Someone was being snarky in the comments a few days back about “how could Romanians live so long with their diet, blah, blah” Well look at all the vegetables this guy is eating and he’s OFFICIALLY POOR. Jeez!

Very, very interesting contrast between this elderly Romanian’s food budget choices and the university students’.

22 thoughts on “Eating Well in Romania On a Budget

  1. I’m a bit late for the discussion, but I just wanted to throw in my two cents.. Now, I cook regularly (i.e. on a daily basis), I buy fruit & vegetables mostly from the peasants in the market (as opposed to from the soulless hypermarkets :D) and, with some exceptions, I mostly buy the cheapest brand I can get. And still, I spend about 200-250 lei for a week and a half’s worth of food for two persons. And we sometimes order in or our parents send us stuff (cake, pickles, jam, “zacusca”, the odd “salata boeuf”, usually stuff I’m not too skilled to be able to do and mom does it better anyway), ’cause the food we’ve bought is not enough until the next planned “shopping spree”. So no, I’m sorry, but I really don’t see how you could live with 100 lei A MONTH without eating bread & potatoes only (which is probably the sure way to.. scurvy? or smth).

    Moreover, as someone previously pointed, you need WAY more than food. Deodorant, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, dish detergent, cleaning supplies, hygiene supplies if you’re a girl.. they are quite expensive and you simply cannot do without them. Not to mention medicine if, god forbid, you get sick..

    So yeah, a salary is not for food only. It’s cool to do such an experiment, but when real life bites your ass (especially if you’ve been spoiled rotten while you were living at home with your parents and paying for nothing).. yeah, the Romanian “normal” wages are simply not enough.


    1. Soap and detergent you can make at home, same for toothpaste. Cost you almost nothing.

      Seriously, if Adevarul (or anyone else) pays me, I’ll live on the minimum wage and live like a king, you watch! :D


      1. this budget could be enough for a retired man, owner of the home, incredibly healthy (one common cold or flu and the whole budget is screwed) and with very low needs, resigned in a joyless life.
        but a person deserves to live with more dignity and be able to worry about something else than where to find the cheapest parizer. he needs something that gives him some joy, some reason to continue living. especially because he is old. why be so cynical? it’s damn sad that someone would end up living like this. plus you are omitting A LOT of stuff a persons needs to survive and remain healthy and live in dignity.


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