I have a hunch that there are some things you may encounter in a Finnish grocery store that need a bit of explaining. To help you out, I’ve listed here seven things to know about grocery shopping in Finland.
Table of Contents
Free money – the eco-friendly bottle deposit system
How to get free money in Finland? Just collect old cans and bottles and recycle them!
In every grocery store in Finland, you can find bottle deposit machines. They are these big grey or blue things mounted on the wall, usually near the entrance.
The machine is very easy to use. You just put the empty bottle or can into the machine and get a receipt.
With this receipt, you can collect that amount of money from the shop cash. 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.
In Finland, you cannot buy a can or a bottle from a store or a kiosk without paying an advance bottle deposit. Note that in restaurants & cafés, you are not charged this.
Because of the deposits, collecting empty bottles is good for the environment and your piggy bank.
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 need to visit a state-own alcohol shop in Finland
You might already know, that there is a dedicated shop called “Alko” for wines, strong alcohol and anything that contains more than 5,5 % of alcohol.
Alko-shops have great locations so you can find one easily. Bear in mind, that no store is allowed to sell alcohol from 9 PM to 9 AM in Finland. Restaurants don’t have such restrictions. Phew!
Finns love pick’n’mix candy
We Finns have a sugar tooth, for sure. One of our weekly favorites is to choose our mix from the massive assortment of bulk candy. This candy aisle in a shop is packed with children and adults on Friday evenings!
Everybody is there buying their candies for a movie night or pampering themselves after the work week.
Being fresh and with weird Finnish flavors (salty licorice, for example) I urge you to test Finnish bulk candy! It is one of the most missed things from Finland for Finns living in other countries.
Almost all fruits and vegetables are packed in Finland
Many vegetables and fruits are packed because of transportation and easiness. In most stores, you also have to remember to weigh your 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 are a standard
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 them, using a big plastic cover, or by placing them behind doors or glass.
Finns buy huge amounts of food
Finns are great at being efficient. That is also true when we are doing groceries. Many families go only 1-2 times per week to do all their food shopping.
On the other hand, going out to eat is quite rare in Finnish families. Most eat their meals only at home, school, and 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.
Get to know the finns
Join my free cultural class and avoid the culture shock when you are in Finland. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Food shopping for children
Kids are a huge priority for Finns. Even the smallest of stores has a decent selection of baby and toddler food. Finnish ready-made food for kids is of great quality, and organic choices are common.
Looking for more information on food and everyday life in Finland? Check out some of my other posts on the topic:
Finnish drinks: 15+ unique drinks around Finland
Moving to Finland: Living in the 20 Largest Cities
How to Prepare Yourself For Culture Shock in Finland
FinNISH CONNECTION COLLECTION 🇫🇮
I’m the founder of Her Finland. I love cultural tidbits, aha moments, Finnish folklore, and cinnamon buns. My newest interest is learning bird songs. Read more about me..
Tuesday 28th of February 2023
My father was the manager of the Co-Op Store.
Pop used to be sold in returnable bottles. So was milk and cream.
Mayonnaise and salad dressing jars were reused as canning jars. So were pigs feet and pork hocks jars.
Now pop is sold in cans and plastic bottles. Milk is sold in paper cartons and plastic bottles.
Mayo and salad dressing jars are now plastic. Pigs feet and pork hock jars are still glass but the lids are no longer screw-on and can't be used for canning.
Milk cartons, cereal boxes, other paper packaging are used for kindling in the sauna stove.
All meats came from the meat case. Now, most are pre-packaged creating waste.
We never went out to eat. Too expensive for our family.
We recycle everything that is accepted. Unfortunately, the rest goes into the landfill. That's progress.
We shop specials only. Here in the States, the liberal form of government has made it too expensive to buy at impulse. Hopefully, that will change on election day 2024. We will be able to afford steaks, salmon, ham, bacon and other treats when we get a more conservative government in charge. Our relatives in Finland are lucky. Their election is coming up April 2023.