food · health · life · sustainability

The stress of grocery shopping

Be advised, this post will mostly be a rant.
In the past few years I grew more and more disappointed about grocery shopping. We are far from being a green family, but we are shocked by the amount of waste we produce and by products’ tracking and origin.
I was standing at my local grocery shop the other day, looking at “freshly baked” bread. I had seven different loaves on sale in front of me, only two made in Finland. The rest came from Luxembourg, France, and Sweden. Fresh bread. Seriously?! Do we really need to fly bread from France? Just imagine the environmental impact that has. And how do they do it? It cannot be freshly baked.
I am no hypocrite, I enjoy to easily get foreign products here. As an expat, eating Italian food is part of my daily life and I am not ready to give that up. However, it’s getting too far. As a consumer, I state it openly: I don’t need to have anything-right-now. I know this goes against the whole policy grocery chains carry out nowadays, but I feel only we consumers can bring change to it. Shopping responsibly is close to impossible, unless you are one of those willing to do major life changes and go fully green. I try to choose the local products over the cheaper ones. I started cutting expenses by learning cheaper recipes, to adjust to the change. If I learn a company is not behaving responsibly, I stop buying their products. I try to limit processed foods and cook from raw whenever I can.
Health is another worrying aspect. We’ve recently learned that a huge portion of chickens in Finland are full of superbacteria and people are strongly advised not to touch their raw meat. We have no idea how vegetables and fruits are cultivated. I try to choose organic products whenever I can, but I know it’s an overkill as many farmers are responsible but cannot afford to pay for the certification. And is it even enough? I cannot bet my life on that.
The other aspect of grocery shopping that I find maddening is the waste. Oh my god the waste in Finnish shops. Everything comes wrapped in plastic. Multiple layers sometime. Organic greens are the worst: single-wrapped cucumbers, zucchini, peppers. If something is not covered in plastic, you wrap it yourself in plastic bags. We see our big plastic trash bin getting full all the time. The solution? I didn’t find one yet. I am not aware of farmers’ market nearby. Shopping in organic-green shops is not affordable – I am happy to pay more, but we are talking crazy difference here. I try to limit the plastic wrapping by keeping some plastic bags in my bag and reusing them plastic bags. In the summer I try to harvest something from my own garden, but I have a small yard and I am not a good gardener. Plus harvest season lasts two months here, so it’s far from covering our needs.
I am mad about how much time I need to waste on these issues. I got more sensitive about them when I started having my own household and my children to feed. Am I the only one living with this frustration? I understand the market has to accommodate the needs of most people, but is this overflowing of stuff stuff stuff really what most people feel they need? I would love to hear other opinions and experiences. Drop a comment below!

7 thoughts on “The stress of grocery shopping

  1. I was just noticing the increase of pre-wrapped items in our local store. It wasn’t this bad when we moved here last year. I’m from the U.S. and a lot of what I’m seeing now is similar to U.S. grocery stores; pre cut and packaged vegetable mixes is the biggest one. I wonder if it has anything to do with our neighborhood being mostly expats.


  2. This topic is often on my mind when grocery shopping in Helsinki. Or buying chemicals like make-up. After having kids, my mind is about to explode! So many types of plastic everywhere, which ones are good for the kids and the environment, how do I know they are what they say they are, is anyone testing them… Don’t even get me started on food 😀 It’s nearly impossible to get anything fresh here (I don’t even have a garden) and yes, everything is flown from far away, wrapped in plastic, expensive and pretty much inedible due to it still being raw or having gone bad… Rant over! (Seriously though, I’d love to be able to trace food back to its origins! Like Michael Pollan in Omnivore’s Dilemma. I liked reading in your other post that Oatly does that.)


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