Today I write about a basic chore in everybody’s life – the fascinating task of going to the grocery store! I just have a hunch that if you are ever in Finland, you might wonder to a market of some sort to get at least snacks. There are some things you may encounter that need a bit of explaining.
Odd (but eco-friendly!) bottle deposit system
In Finland, you cannot buy a can or a bottle from a store or a kiosk without paying an advance bottle deposit (in restaurants & cafés you are not charged this). How this deposit is then collected back from stores by customers? Well, in almost any grocery store, you can find bottle deposit machines. They are big grey or blue things mounted on the wall, usually near entrance. They are very easy to use. You just put the empty bottle or can to the machine and get a receipt. With this receipt you can collect that amount of money from the shop till. The deposit varies from 10-40 cents/item. You can also return a non-deposit bottle to the machine, without it giving any money for the item, naturally.
Because of the deposits, collecting empty bottles is a pass time for youngsters or disadvantaged people in Finland. This is why you sometimes see people putting their hands and arms into bins (I don’t recommend this hazardous move!) as they are searching for bottles and cans to recycle.
You might already know, that there is a dedicated shop called “Alko” for wines, strong alcohol and anything that contains more than 4,7 % of alcohol. Alko-shops have good locations so you are able to find one most likely very easily. Bare in mind, that no store is allowed to sell alcohol from 9 pm to 9 am in Finland. Restaurants of course have no such restrictions.
Boxes of bulk candy
We Finns have a sugar tooth, for sure. One of our weekly favourites is to choose our own mix from the huge assortment of bulk candy. This aisle is packed with children and adults on Friday evenings, when everybody is there buying their candies for a movie night or pampering theirselves after work week. Being fresh and with weird Finnish flavors (salty liquorice, for example) I urge you to test them! Bulk candy is actually one of the most missed things from Finland for Finns living in other countries.
Packed fruits and vegetables
Many vegetables and fruits are packed because of transportation and easiness. In most stores you also have to remember to weight your own fruits & veggies in the department! Browse through the department for scales and press the according number on the “keyboard” as you can see on the item’s price label.
Protected service and self-service products
Bakery, fresh meat and fresh fish service counters may look different here than in your home country. One reason is, that because of the law, every item must be somehow contained in a store; by wrapping or a big plastic cover or placed behind doors or a glass.
Buying huge amounts
Finns are great at being efficient. This is also true when we are doing groceries. Many families go only 1-2 times/week to do all their food shopping. On the other hand, going out to eat is quite rare in Finnish families, so most meals are eaten at home, school or work. Thus, the heaps of food you see in people’s carts are no sign of a party or their own restaurant business, they are just buying the equivalent of a one-week consumption of their household.