The (Nearly) Empty Fridge

(A fair warning to any potential houseguest: the photo above shows our actual fridge. It really does look like this most of the time. Actually, it’s fuller right now than it usually is because I went grocery shopping today.)

Long ago, even before we moved here, our relocation agent was giving us an overview of life in Denmark. One of her jobs seemed to be lowering our expectations.

“In Denmark,” she said. “The grocery stores are a lot smaller than they are in the United States. The things you can buy are also a lot smaller. You can’t buy a gallon of milk, for example. That’s too much milk. In Denmark, no one wants to buy that much milk at once.

“So, you will notice,” she continued, “that people don’t keep a lot of food at home. They just have what they need at the moment. No one keeps foods in storage. There’s no room for that. We store our food at the store.”

I thought that was pretty funny and the “storing our food at the store” quote stuck with me.

In the United States, people are encouraged to keep a “three-day supply of food and water,” in storage. You’re supposed to be prepared for the unexpected. In case of a natural disaster or just your general disaster, most people keep bottles of water (plastic bottles that disintegrate over time and need to be replaced) and canned foods and freeze-dried foods and just regular cereal boxes that don’t expire for at least ten years.

Everything I buy here will go bad next week.

In Denmark, no one worries about not having provisions. Most people live within walking distance from a grocery store. And if something horrible happens and the grocery stores don’t open? Well, there is this general feeling (and expectation) that if that happens we can look forward to a delegation from the Kommune serving hot cocoa and roasting hot dogs on just about every street corner.

When I lived in the United States I threw out an amazing amount of food. Even all those cans of beans and pockets of instant oatmeal, although loaded with preservatives, eventually expire and need to be replaced.

Here I, like most people in Denmark, am very much unprepared for any natural disaster. It’s a very liberating feeling.




  1. Hey there! This is compelling on such a deep and meaningful level. I didn’t grow up with a ton of food in the house, so in some ways I guess I’m used to thinking about food as a smaller part of my daily or weekly approach to planning. I’ve also lived alone for many years, where buying too much food meant I’d feel guilty as I tossed what I hadn’t eaten before it expired. What you’ve said at the end is interesting – that it feels liberating. I can see that being the case, since you’re living in a place where people anticipate being okay, rather than our American model that says, if you’re in a tough spot, you’re on your own. Thank you for sharing your… food… for thought. Haha! I couldn’t help myself.

    All the best,
    Phoenix in Seattle

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! The moral of the story is that it’s nice not to worry so much ahead. There is, of course, no joy in not having enough… The point is that this is enough!


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