Groceries in Finland
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- Saving Money on Groceries
- Market Halls - Kauppahallit
- Butchers, Fishmongers & Greengrocers
- Online Grocery Shopping
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Groceries constitute a regular and significant outlay of funds. One aim of this page is to help you save you a few euros on your grocery bill. It's not about gourmet cooking, and dedicated 'foodies' may disagree with my suggestions - some of which are based on my own experiences and opinions.
Most people, for convenience and economy, do their food shopping at one of the big supermarket chains. The major players are the Kesko Corporation and S-Group, with Lidl also competing in the market. In the food retailing sector, Kesko owns K-Market, K-Citymarket, K-Extra and K-Supermarket. S-Group has Sale, Alepa, Prisma and S-Market. Lidl is Lidl!
These supermarkets range from small convenience stores to huge hypermarkets designed to provide customers with a one-stop retail outlet for all their needs. The biggest markets are often located on the fringes of large towns and cities, whereas 'urban' supermarkets can be rather small with a limited selection. So, living close to the town centre does not guarantee the biggest choice of groceries, although there may be more specialised shops such as butchers and greengrocers available in the vicinity.
Use the Discount Stores
The 'discount stores' include Lidl, Sale, Alepa and K-Market.
- Lidl has consistently low prices; many studies over the last 5 years have found Lidl to be the cheapest way to buy groceries in Finland, even without loyalty program benefits. Lidl imports a lot of low-priced gourmet foods from Europe; they don't offer so many familiar brands, nor is their range consistent, so if you're not feeling lucky Lidl might not be for you! Also, there are still comparatively few Lidls in Finland; so you may not have one nearby. My own experiences with Lidl products have been good.
- My local grocery stores are Sale and K-Market. Sale is consistently 5-10% cheaper than K-Market but that's not a 'hard and fast' rule; prices do vary between stores in the same chain - apart from advertised sales, which are 'chain-wide'. In the Greater Helsinki region a 2015 study found Prisma Jumbo to be the cheapest grocery store.
- Get to know your local stores; with a little picking and choosing you'll eventually have a bunch of favourite regular products at good prices.
Check the Specials
In some countries it seems everything in every shop is advertised every day as "On Sale", but the prices never change. Finnish sales aren't like that; the weekly specials usually involve a discount of 20-30% or more. Buy double and put one in the freezer! You may, however, need a loyalty card to take advantage of advertised specials.
Check for Impending 'Sell By' Dates
Groceries with an impending 'best before' date are usually offered at 30-50% off, sometimes as much as 70%. You'll notice the orange labels on the products. Big savings, particularly if you're in a shop which is already reasonably priced.
Froodly: In mid-2015 a young team called Froodly made it their mission to reduce stores' wastage of food. Froodly's food rescue app for iOS and Android alerts users to 'still-fresh' discounts around Finland.
Sign up for the Loyalty Program
The Loyalty Cards page is all about signing up for Kesko's K-Plussa and/or S-Group's S-Etukortti, which can save you money in various ways. For example, sale items in some supermarkets are only available to cardholders; otherwise you pay the normal price. Even when buying regular-priced groceries, it's good to be a cardholder because you will add to your 'total monthly spend', or similar, and later receive some benefit such as cash vouchers in return.
Try 'Own Brand' Products
The big chains each market their 'own brand' labels, as well as branded products. Kesko's include Pirkka and Euro Shopper, and S-Group's is Rainbow. The products are usually as much as 25% less than the 'big' brand names. I'm no expert on food OR shopping, but my experience over many years is:
- Every Pirkka product I've tried has been from fine to excellent. They are good quality and easily on a par with the brand names. The Costa Rica coffee is great; my second favourite only to Presidentti Gold Label Black, which is about 4 times the price per kilogram. In my opinion, Pirkka is nine thumbs up!
- Recently I've been using more Rainbow products, since the Sale supermarket is close to home. The quality of Rainbow products has been improving consistently over the years and I now regularly buy Rainbow cheese, eggs, pasta, and many other products, and they are all good. I think the prices are 5-10% lower than Pirkka products, too.
The above supermarkets are handy and cost-effective for most people's day-to-day needs. Before moving on to 'specialist' shops, however, I should mention Stockmann. The oldest and perhaps most prestigious department store in Finland, each Stockmann store has a delicatessen / supermarket section. Stockmann has a bit of a reputation for high prices, but their grocery prices are actually very reasonable and they sell many products which are hard to find elsewhere. If you're a foreigner looking for something from your home country, it's always worth checking Stockmann!
Deli section: herkku.stockmann.com Fi, Sw
It seems the dominance of the chain stores has left small independent grocers in the shadows. You see very few butchers, greengrocers or fishmongers, and when you do they are often at marketplaces or events for a limited time only. You can however visit your local kauppahalli for something special and, if you choose, a distinctly Finnish flavour. 'Kauppahalli' means "Market Hall"; Helsinki has 3, and they are also in Iisalmi, Joensuu, Kouvola, Kuopio, Lahti, Lappeenranta, Mikkeli, Oulu, Pori, Tampere, Turku and Vaasa.
Kauppahallit are well known for local produce; they have a large range of dairy, bread and Finnish pies, fish, meat (including moose, reindeer etc), potatoes, fruit and vegetables. There are also imported foods such as cheeses and sausages. Apart from enjoying the produce, you'll probably get to see a piece of your town's history; many market halls are over 100 years old, and adjacent to the town's market square.
Where is the Kauppahalli?
To find your local market hall just enter the word kauppahalli and the name of your town in a search engine. Kauppahallit generally have 'normal' opening hours, for example Monday-Friday 7.00-17.30 and Saturdays 7.00-14.00
I've tried with limited success to find local grocers using Fonecta. Try entering the following terms and your location in the Henkilöt, yritykset, palvelut ja puhelinnumerot box.
- Butchers: lihakauppias (butcher), lihakauppa (meat shop), lihaliike (meat business)
- Fishmongers: kalakauppias (fishmonger), kalatori (fish market), kalakauppa (fish shop), kalaliike (fish business)
- Greengrocers: vihanneskauppias (greengrocer), vihannes (vegetables), hedelmät ja vihannekset (fruit & vegetables)
If you see a Fonecta result including:
- tukku, it means wholesaler
- ravintola, it means restaurant
A Finnish online 'supermarket' is available at www.ruoka.net. The site is in Finnish only. I have not used this service so cannot recommend it one way or the other. Ruoka.net appears to have been in business since 1999. The product range looks to be what you'd find in a 'normal' Finnish supermarket, and the grocery prices don't seem exorbitant. In addition to the price of the groceries you'll be paying delivery charges, which vary according to speed and time of day. A number of other charges are listed, such as a an ordering fee and a billing fee. If I understand correctly, they serve "Southern and Central Finland (excluding Oulu)".
If you're shopping at Amazon from Finland, use a European Amazon site rather than American or otherwise. Finnish ALV (VAT) will then be taken into account during the purchase process and you won't be liable to additional customs or excise when your goods arrive in Finland. There are restrictions on the import and export of certain goods, so you may occasionally get to checkout and be told "Amazon can't ship this to your address".
From the Grocery section of amazon.co.uk I've imported chocolate, candy, and pistachio nuts, but was not able to bring Vegemite to Finland. So, it's a bit "hit and miss" but worth trying for a couple of reasons:
- Amazon sells groceries which are either completely unavailable or extremely hard to find in Finland
- The products are often attractively priced compared to buying in Finland
Amazon Buying Tips:
- Select the right delivery method or charges can be high
- You often have to buy big quantities, so make sure you have time to consume them before the Best Before date
- Check the Customer Reviews of any product you're not familiar with so you minimise your chances of ending up with lots of something you don't like
- 'Opening Hours': Free Finnish site listing business hours for almost everything in Finland. Works well at Google Translate
- A Beginner’s Guide to Grocery Shopping in Finland: Laura Luoto of the Helsinki University Erasmus Student Network has published this helpful guide with information about Finnish food and labelling, and English translations of 'Finnish food vocabulary'. PDF Archive