The Hartz IV menu

When I read this article in “Die Welt”, it made me think about food rationing during the Second World War in England, with everything planned down to the last ounce how much a person needed to live on every week.

Now a German politician has done the same sort of calculations for the long-term unemployed to show that the benefits they receive are sufficient to live on.

Germany had to have very good unemployment conditions – provided you were actually looking for work and had paid into the benefits scheme previously, then you could reckon with a certain amount of income.  These days, even if you have been paying into the scheme for all of your working life, you only receive two years of “normal” unemployment benefits – after that you are reliant on the “Hartz IV”.

Hartz IV has been calculated based on the minimum that a person needs to live on, and if you have savings above a certain amount then you will be expected to use these up first.

Anyway, back to the menu.  Here is how to live on 4EUR per day:

2 rolls
1 slice of cheese
1 apple
1 glass of fruit juice
2 cups of tea

1 Bratwurst with Sauerkraut and mashed potato

An evening meal is not mentioned in the article, but this should give some idea of the scope of the menu.  Apparently it has been calculated using current supermarket prices and effectively means 128EUR per Month.

I think the problem is that the calculation does not take into account the number of people living in a household.  Just being married with one child means that you can buy larger amounts of food without the waste that may occur if you are a single person, so in the end the amount you spend per person can work out less.

When I calculate the food budget for large events (eg. Scout camps) I work on 5EUR per person per day, because I know that with bulk buying (eg. for 20 people) that is the sort of amount that I will be spending – based on experience.

But is the same true for a single, unemployed person?  Is 138EUR per month enough to live on?


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About Graham

Graham Tappenden is a British ex-pat who first came to Germany as a placement student in 1993, returning in 1995 to live there permanently. He has been writing for since 2006. When not writing blog posts or freelancing for the Oberurseler Woche and other publications he works as a self-employed IT consultant solving computer problems and designing websites. In 2016 he gained German citizenship.


  1. […] for food is set at 4EUR per person per day, which led to the publication of a so-called “Hartz IV menu” earlier this […]

  2. […] for food is set at 4EUR per person per day, which led to the publication of a so-called “Hartz IV menu” earlier this […]

  3. Hartz IV says:

    […] for food is set at 4EUR per person per day, which led to the publication of a so-called “Hartz IV menu” earlier this […]

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