The New York Times just had a great article about food waste. It discusses how common the issue is and why it’s a problem. Moreover, it provides a solution. Looking towards an example set in Finland, the article author suggests that perhaps a Grocery Happy Hour is in order. No, it doesn’t mean that you drink while you shop.
What is Grocery Happy Hour?
S-market is a grocery store in Finland. They offer a Grocery Happy Hour. It starts at 9 p.m. At that time, any food that is very close to its expiration date goes on sale. Each item is 60% off. All shoppers can take advantage of these discounted rates. It’s as simple as that – one hour of steep discounts.
Benefits of Grocery Happy Hour
This is a great idea. It offers benefits to the individuals, the stores, and the larger community.
At the individual level, you can save a lot of money on groceries. If you get all of your food at 60% off, then you’ll cut your grocery bill by more than half. That’s a huge amount of savings.
How the Grocery Store Benefits
The store benefits because they sell items that they would otherwise have to throw away. It’s better for them to sell the item at 60% discount than not to sell it at all. Plus, it gets more shoppers into the store during Grocery Happy Hour. People stop in to pick up discounted items and might remember that they need something else, such as a bottle of wine to go with dinner. The less-than-savvy shopper might spend more than intended.
Reducing Food Waste is Good for Everybody
At the community level, Grocery Happy Hour reduces food waste. In fact, that was the whole reason that Finland started this program two years ago. According to The New York Times article, we waste over one billion tons of food annually. This leads to climate change issues among many other environmental and social problems. We should use that food. We shouldn’t waste it. One way to stop wasting it is to start buying what’s about to go bad and making use of it.
Additionally, if you shop at Grocery Happy Hour, you’ll shop more often. You have to use the food immediately. This brings back the old habit of stopping at the market each day. Therefore, you won’t have a whole bunch of food in your refrigerator. Keeping less food at home and shopping more frequently can also help reduce food waste.
Drawbacks of Grocery Happy Hour
Of course, if you have to shop more frequently, that can present some problems. Logistically it might be a challenge to fit grocery shopping into your everyday routine. If you usually shop for groceries weekly or biweekly then it would require a shift. Depending on your work schedule or other obligations, it might not even be possible.
If everyone starts shopping at Grocery Happy Hour, then that’s going to be a very busy hour at the store. The crowds could be frustrating for individuals. It could create a burden of work on the grocery store employees, depending on how well they manage the changes. There are potential problems.
It can’t solve all of our food waste problems. But it’s an interesting option to consider. I’d be curious to see if it worked in my own local area.