Discovering Sweden: Financial Food Fight

2011-03-01. Published in Life in Gothenburg
by Nina

In light of my lack of employment, I found myself taking a hard look at all the things I’ve been financing. Though it’s easy to find things to limit your money on, I had a pleasant revelation about my food bill here in Sweden…

First of all, let me just say that eating here is fantastic. Very simple. Very refreshing. Of course you can find nearly every ethnic food you could want, but really, I find myself eating extremely well with the very basics. Fruits, vegetables. Yogurt smoothies for breakfast. Fresh breads. Hard boiled eggs. Small cold-cut sandwiches. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee.

Of course, there’s the differences in what surrounds the food you’re eating. Like how I swear the microwaves work faster here. And how plastic containers for, say, cherry tomatoes and the like, are quite flimsy (less plastic). And how yogurt is sometimes in cardboard boxes. And how there are far less plastic bags in plastic bags in plastic bags in boxes. The packaging here is great. And recycling here is practically mandatory—like breathing.

But in terms of saving money, there are definitely differences in the process of purchasing food that you, as a foreigner, may not notice takes a toll on your wallet…

Here’s a few examples:

  • More $$$: Things are sold with less pasteurization. Milk, eggs, and other dairy products will typically last about 7-8 days. If you’re like me, though—smelling the boxes and taking small spoon samples—you’d probably be able to stretch it.

  • More $$$: Produce is smaller than in the U.S., but probably the same price. And, admittedly, it takes better, as we all know the American market is famous for its sprawling list of tampered foodstuffs....

  • Less $$$: Brie here is super cheap. Seriously. And the hard cheese is in typically sold in 1 lb packages. And that stuff lasts forever.

  • Less $$$: If you’re a baking freak, you’ve probably noticed you can get vanilla extract here in powder form, not liquid. Way more bang for your buck…

  • More $$$: You don’t buy red meat. It’s crazy expensive. Chicken’s not as bad. But veggies and beans is where it’s at…you know, from a poor student’s perspective.

Ah, the joys of discovering Sweden. Or, more like Hemköp.

/Nina, team 2010