Copenhagen – the capital of one of the happiest countries of the world and probably also one of the most expensive cities. Moving from Lima, Peru to Copenhagen and first seeing the grocery prices was a shock, to say the least. Luckily, after nearly 2 years here, I have a system in place that permits us to stay within a grocery budget whilst filling our shopping cart with fresh and healthy food.
I found there is often the misconception that healthy eating is expensive. I’d like to disagree. I absolutely believe that it is possible to eat healthy on a budget, even in a city like Copenhagen. Sure, certain produce like for example free-range and organic eggs are more expensive compared to conventional eggs. But, when we make an effort to eat healthier, we also tend to crowd out processed foods. So, by leaving the bag of potato chips and chocolate cookies at the grocery store, we actually have more money to spend on nutritious food without skyrocketing our grocery bill. Also, another important point that is often overlooked is that healthy eating is a long-term investment into our health and we might not see all the benefits immediately. Investing today into our health as prevention, might save us some money in the long-term, especially thinking about medical costs, bills, medicaments and treatments.
To make the most out of your grocery shopping trip here is a list of the things that were most helpful to me:
- Eat seasonally: This tip doesn’t only apply to Copenhagen, but basically to any place. The first thing that I did when moving back to Europe was to check what vegetables and fruits were in season every month. Eating in-season foods doesn’t only help me to save extra money, but I quickly noticed that it was also the food that my body craves and thrives on. I feel much more in sync with the environment that I’m living in, when eating according to the season. During the mild Peruvian winters, I still enjoyed tropical fruits, but I can’t imagine eating juicy papaya or mango chunks at minus 5 degrees. In the cold winter months, my body craves hearty and warming root vegetables, stews with cabbage and winter collards and fatty fishes like salmon…. precisely what is in season locally. Isn’t nature wonderful that way?!
- Weekly offers: Every supermarket has weekly special offers (“tilbud”) and I have to admit I’m a special offer shopping ninja. I could spend hours comparing offers and can name the exact place to get the cheapest carrots in a 5 km radius. If you don’t receive the weekly offers (“tilbudsavis”) in your mailbox, you can check them out online. There is also a very helpful app, in case you don’t want to manually compare prices for hours like me, that is called CHASER. Available here for both Iphone and Android, it offers a complete grocery planning and compares total shopping prices for the biggest Danish discount supermarkets. Give it a try, you’ll be surprised by how much you can save with a little planning and preparation.
- Specialty shops in Nørrebro and Nordvest: All along and around the street Nørrebrogade you can find a variety of fruit and vegetable shops with very competitive prices. Vendors often sell produce that is going to get bad soon for very cheap. I once bought a huge carton of tomatoes for roughly 1 Euro and made gazpacho for a whole week. For me, it’s the perfect place for bulk shopping with a great variety of spices, fresh herbs, legumes, nuts and dried fruits for a fraction of the supermarket prices. If you’re looking for fresh coriander, tahini, miso paste or turmeric powder…this is your place.
- Foodsharing Copenhagen: A wonderful volunteer organisation that aims to reduce food waste by collecting unsold veggies, fruits and baked goods from supermarkets and bakeries and giving them away for free. They offer weekly events and you just need to bring your own bag. The variety depends on whatever has been donated by collaborators on that specific day, so you can’t be picky about what you get, but then again, it’s for free. You can find more information here.
- Too good to go App: Also on a mission to reduce food waste, the app TGTG let’s the user choose from an immense variety of restaurants and supermarkets that sell their leftover at the end of their day for a fraction of the price. They partnered with well-known supermarkets, as for example Irma supermarket or the organic bakery Emmery’s. Prices for the leftover mystery box are around 4 Euros, a good deal for a box of organic vegetables and fruits. It’s also available in the UK and other European countries like Norway, Germany, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Belgium.
- WeFood Supermarket: The world’s first supermarket only selling surplus goods at a 30% to 50% price reduction compared to regular supermarkets. As you can see, the no food waste movement is a very hot topic in Denmark at the moment and since opening the first shop in Nørrebro in 2016, a second location in Amager has been added. Here is the link for more info.
- DIY: Copenhagen has so much to offer in terms of healthy, ready to grab food. You can find a juice bar at every corner, 7Elevens offer everything from chia cracker to overnight oats to paleo salads with ginger shots. It’s truly a paradise for the health conscious. But the convenient and readily available options come with a rather steep price tag. My best advice is to learn a couple of basic recipes to cook at home or try to recreate the meals you like to grab when on the go.
If you have your own favourite tips and tricks, I’d love to hear them. Please leave a comment and we can work on spreading the word that healthy on a budget is unquestionably possible, even in Copenhagen!