Posts Tagged With: grocery

24\7? Forget it!


One of the things I’ve had to get used to living in Finland is that grocery stores actually CLOSE.  6pm on Saturdays. Closed on holidays.  I can always tell when there’s a holiday the next day because there are 20 times as many people at the grocery store, and they’re buying…milk and bread.  God, I wish I was kidding about that.  But there you go – it happens in Finland, too.  One time, I was behind a guy with nothing in his basket except 12 cartons of milk and 6 loaves of bread.  Hand to God.

The store closing for a day shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but I’ve learned not to trust the meat here in Finland more than a day.  I don’t buy meat until the day I’m going to use it, because if I buy it the day before, it tends to be…yucky.  So I have to do extra planning when there’s a holiday, maybe make a casserole the night before so we can have leftovers, or plan on frozen pizza.

Last weekend was Easter Weekend, and here in Finland, both Good Friday and Easter Monday are holidays.  Oh, and Easter Sunday, too, of course.  So three days of grocery store closures over the course of a 4 day weekend.  Luckily, we went out of town, so I didn’t have to do the Mass Pre-Holiday Grocery Trip.  However, I ran into a bit of an issue.  Stephen’s work sent out an email with the store hours, what would be closed, what would be open, and when.  According to this email, the stores would be open from 12-6 on Monday.  So, I figured we’d get home from our trip on Sunday evening, grab some take out, and I’d go grocery shopping on Monday.  No biggie.

Except (you knew that was coming, right?).  Except I drive to the grocery store and find it closed up tighter than…well, something closed up tightly.

There are a few gas stations that have a small grocery store inside, so I drove over to one of those (the one that was a little bit further away, because I knew it was bigger than the one closer to where I was).  I walk in, and find…the grocery part closed.  Oh, but there’s this other tiny little grocery on the other side of the gas station that’s open.  It’s probably about 20 feet long by 10 feet wide.  And there are about 25 people inside.  What options do I have?  None.  So I go in and see if I can figure out something for dinner.  Chicken.  Tortillas.  A quick mental inventory and I knew we still had some shredded cheese at home. Tacos it is.

So now I’ve got another issue, and that is, I won’t have the car again to go shopping until the weekend.  There’s only so much I can carry home with me while walking, and that does not include milk, soda, big cereal boxes, or (the most important item, as we were running out) toilet paper.  So this week ended up being one of those weeks where I visit the grocery store every day to get the stuff I would have otherwise gotten in one trip, and making Stephen stop on his way home to buy the bulky/heavy stuff.

Oh, I know, I need to quit my bitchin’.  The truth is, I like that stores close here.  I like that holidays are exactly that – holidays when no one has to work (except those in gas stations and kebab restaurants).  I like that there’s not “May Day Mania” and “Epiphany Extravaganza” sales.  It goes with the whole slower pace of life.

As long as I can plan for it… (whoever sent that erroneous information at Stephen’s work – I’ve got my evil eye on you.)

New in my zazzle store:  Took this great picture last week with my new zoom lens, on a morning when the trees were all frosty from the cold.  At the top of the picture is the Church of the Holy Cross in Old Town Rauma; colorful Finnish homes in the foreground.

Categories: Finland | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Random thoughts from Finland, v. 3

Hubster and I went back to the States last week for my sister’s wedding, and it was lovely to see family and friends again (not to mention the beautiful weather!).  But in going back to the States, I noticed a couple of new things, more about the States than Finland.

Even while writing the last two “random thoughts” posts, I felt like they were a little negative, which I certainly didn’t mean them to be.  They weren’t meant to be negative or positive, simply different.  Different from what I’m used to, or different from what I expected, or different…for whatever reason – things I noticed that stood out.  That’s why it’s funny that I noticed some new things about Finland when I went back to the States – because the States were “different.”

  • Finland has these handshowers (link not necessarily SFW) – they’re kind of like the spray nozzle on the kitchen sink in the States, except they’re in the bathroom, and it’s basically the Finnish version of a bidet.  I guess because of that, the toilets are really high – I’m 5’2″, and I have to point my toes to touch the ground when I’m sitting on the toilet.  On top of that, there’s literally about 14-18 inches between your bottom and the water in the toilet.  One of the toilets at my parents house had maybe a 3″ clearance.  I couldn’t help thinking how freaking close the water was to my butt!
  • There really isn’t a lot of traffic around here.  I think drivers tend to police themselves, and they’re generally a lot more…cooperative, I guess is the word I would use, than in the States.  I haven’t seen a lot of “ME” type driving – it’s not “Me First!” so much as “let’s just all get there, who cares about the thirty seconds I wasted by letting that guy get in front of me.”  I mentioned the weird 4 way non-stops last time – as annoying as I find these, everyone just seems to get it and work together so there are no accidents.  Can you imagine an intersection in the States without signs?  Mayhem!!!
  • I mentioned the amount of litter on the streetlast time, but I also noticed the twenty or so people I saw around town this week picking up trash.  Now that everything has thawed and the city workers don’t have to clear snow every two hours, they get to work on city beautification.  Which is pretty much what I thought would happen, but it’s still nice to see.
  • I love the grocery stores here.  If you’ve been to an Aldi in the States, you have kind of an idea of how it is.  You pay for your grocery cart in the form of a deposit – you insert a coin, you get it back when you return the cart.  Not having carts strewn across the parking lots is so lovely, I can’t even tell you.  You also pay for your grocery bags – certainly an incentive to bring your own or reuse bags.  The produce department is generally DIY – you put your apples in a bag, put it on a scale, key in the produce code, and place a sticker on your bag to be scanned when you check out.  Added hassle, yes, but I like knowing what I’m going to pay beforehand.
  • Recycling isn’t as big here as I thought it would be.  Stephen lived in Germany for a while, and Finland certainly doesn’t recycle like Germany does.  There doesn’t seem to be a lot of policing of recycling here – although, from what I’ve seen, there isn’t an issue with people not recycling.  I just found it was a little difficult to find out information on how/what to do – whereas, I thought it would be a very succinct list of instructions.

That’s it for now.  I’ve been sick since we got back from the States, and I hope to be over this cold soon.  The weather is getting nice around here, and I’d like to be able to enjoy it!

Categories: Finland, Random | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Getting to know the town

It’s been a fun weekend here in Finland, the two of us roaming around and attempting to soak in some of the sites and sounds.  We got some experience at the local “WalMart,” as I call it, spent some time with some other Americans (and a German and a South African) gaining some local knowledge, learned what paprika is in Finland (it doesn’t come from a bottle in the herb cabinet), and had a Hesburger.  Jealous much?  😉

Saturday we went to the City Market, which I thought was kind of like a WalMart.  They have electronics, clothes, home decor, and food, all in one location.  We were supposed to meet some Americans for dinner, and ended up running into them at the Market.  So, yeah, smallish town.  I learned a lot in the City Market, though – a lot of stuff is in English (or Finnish and English), they have a lot of American products (including shampoo, lotion, etc), and they have Chipotle Tabasco!!  Oh, so happy.  Actually, many of the restaurants have Tabasco Original on the tables, which was a nice surprise.  The City Market has an American Aisle, filled with (off-brand) marshmallows and Twizzlers and Mac&Cheese and Old El Paso Mexican stuff.  We checked out the produce section – they had pineapple and avocado and butternut squash.  Yes, everything was more expensive than in the States, but the prices weren’t as bad as I expected.  I think the pineapple was about 5-6€.  It looked good, too. Bread and cheese is plentiful and inexpensive – I think a chunk of brie was about 3€.  Once we have a place to live, I’ll get back to the store and give you a better idea of prices.

We had a good dinner with some other Americans (and a German) who have been here since summer.  We learned not to speed, as the penalty can be pretty steep (one guy got a 7000€ fine!), we learned a particular street sign that had been driving me crazy trying to figure out, we learned a great restaurant and cafe, and we learned not to tip.  The prices on the menu already include tax and tip, so they seem high, but it’s not too bad.

Today we drove out to where Stephen will be working, to make sure he knew how to get there.  Then we drove up to Pori, another 40 minutes up the road.  We drove around it, but not through it, and headed back.  We had intended to walk around Pori today, to get a feel for it, but we decided to wait to try to get a tour guide, one of Stephen’s friends who lives there.

We had pizza for lunch at a place across from our hotel.  The pizza we ordered had “tomato, cheese, pepperoni, champignon, onions, and paprika.”  Since all the pizzas had tomato listed as the first ingredient, I figured that meant tomato sauce (I was right), and based on the context, I suspected paprika was actually peppers, not table pepper (which is what I thought someone told us), so we got the pizza without onions but with paprika, just to be sure.  Sure enough, the pizza came out with roasted red peppers and banana peppers.  Now we know!  (Champignon is mushrooms, btw – I had to ask Stephen.)

For dinner, we went to Hesburger, which is like McDonalds.  It was okay – nothing special.  Also, I’ve now had fries at two additional restaurants, and both pale in comparison to the fries from the other day.  I think it must have been the seasoning on those that made them so good.

Boring stuff, I know, so how about some pictures?

Ducks on the frozen canal

Bridge across the canal - as you can see, people ride their bikes in all kinds of weather here!

Rauma is an old fishing town, so there's lots of monuments to the industry.


The highway to Pori. Studded tires are required in the winter!

This is a very safe town. I have yet to see a bike locked up. Finland has one of the lowest crime rates in the world.

Categories: Finland, Food | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

For Sale: Kraft Mac&Cheese – $6.21/box

I had heard that Finland was an expensive country.  They have to import most of their food, so the prices are understandably high. Travels With Pam showed what she bought for $150, and I heard somewhere that Kraft Mac & Cheese was $6…a BOX.

For some reason, that stuck with me.  I mean, you can buy, like, a 24 box pack of Kraft Mac & Cheese from Costco for about $6, I think.  I started joking that the blue box would be in my care package requests from the States.

Behnford’s is a store in Helsinki that carries “American and British grocery products you cannot find anywhere else in Finland.”  They have an online store and a storefront, and evidently there’s a lot more product in the store than online.  However, a brief sampling online came up with the following products:

  •  Doritos Chili Heatwave, 40g bag, 1E (Converts to $1.27 – that’s the equivalent of what you buy out of the snack machine for $0.80)
  • Dr. Pepper, 330ml can, 1.95E ($2.47 – a can in a vending machine goes for about $1.00)
  • Tabasco Bloody Mary Drink Mix, 946ml, 15.90E ($20.17 – sells in the US for about $2.00)
  • Blueberry Pop Tarts, 400g, 6.50E (Converts to $8.25 – sells for $2.39 in the grocery store in Charlotte)
  • Cheerios, 396g, 10.50E (Converts to $13.32 – sells for $3.85 in the grocery store)
  • And, of course, Kraft Mac & Cheese, 206g, 4.90E (Converts to $6.21 – sells for $1.19 in the grocery store)

Kraft Mac & Cheese gets a bum rap sometimes, I think.  It’s “child’s food,” or the Shells and Cheese is so much better and creamier.  Baloney.  I love me some Blue Box…but then, I know how to make right.

Sara’s Fantabulous Mac&Cheese (Spiked Mac&Cheese) Recipe:

  • The Blue Box (I prefer the spirals)
  • Butter
  • Chardonnay
  • Spinach
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Button Mushrooms
  • Olive Oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Ground Ginger
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Cheese (your choice)

Slice mushrooms and cut grape tomatoes in half.  How much?  I think about half a pint each, but really, however much you want.  Sauté them in a pan with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  When they’re properly sautéed, add the spinach (a handful or two, however much you want – I usually rough chop it) and wilt it.

Cook Mac & Cheese according to package instructions, add butter per instructions, add some ground ginger (not a lot – to taste), add cheese (packet and non-packet), *but add Chardonnay instead of milk* (same amount).  (I totally stole that idea from the book Must Love Dogs, and trust me, it’s good – and MAKES the dish.)  The cheese can be 2 slices of American, some Herbed Skinny Cow (my favorite), goat, blue…whatever.  It can melt, like the American, or it can stay in chunks, like the Skinny Cow.  Whatever you want.

Stir that up, allow the cheese to melt, then add the veggies and stir.  Season with some salt, pepper, or whatever else you feel like throwing in there.

Serve with leftover Chardonnay.

Oh, yeah.  Guess what I’m having for dinner tonight!

Not your mama's mac & cheese!

Categories: Finland, Food | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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