Had I written this post back in October, it would have been completely different. My first couple weeks here I was completely frustrated and out of my comfort zone when it came to food. The high prices, the lack of selection, the absence of my daily staples (granola bars, sweet potatoes, hummus and greek yogurt, to name a few) made grocery shopping – something I normally don’t really enjoy – that much worse. But considering how much it costs to eat out (a simple sandwich is $10+, a typical entrée is close to $30), giving up on the grocery store wasn’t really an option. With time I’d adjusted my diet slightly, tried some new foods, become accustomed to not having 30 different types of cereal to choose from, and stopped converting to American dollars.
I’ll save the interesting Norwegian delicacies for another post and focus on the shopping experience.
I should first point out that I don’t like grocery shopping. To me it is just one of the necessary evils of life, much like showering (I joke…). So when everything is written in a foreign language and costs double the “normal” price and is crammed into a small and crowded store, it doesn’t become any more pleasant. But I manage.
There are quite a few grocery store chains – REMA 1000, Bunnpris, ICA, Kiwi, Coop, Meny… to chose from. All the stores are small (the largest being smaller than a small grocery store in the US) but there are many and most people live within walking or biking distance of at least one store. Like you’d expect, they vary in terms of quality by both store type and location. Unfortunately the store closest to my apartment (the one I visited first and, as a creature of habit, continue to visit) is also one of the closest to the university. It took me a bit of time to realize that while no grocery store in the Trondheim will compare to Wegmans, mine particularly sucks (and yet I keep shopping there…). It looks totally inviting, ikke sant? (new Norwegian phrase of the week… it means right?)
Small stores often mean small, cramped aisle as you can see here (random Bunnpris in Bergen). 5 of these aisle and you’ve got the whole store…
Random tidbit: almost none of the bread is pre-sliced but there are these neat bread slicing machines that slice it for you. Intimidating at first but now one of my favorite parts of shopping!
Another random tidbit: most grocery stores are not open on Sunday!
At some point I said screw the mental math to convert kroners to dollars. Now I just buy the food that I want and forget about how much it costs. Except when I do the conversion to enlighten those of you reading my blog.
From a recent shopping trip:
Luckily I don’t eat much fancy food – I’ve been living on a very small budget for 6 years now. Things are about double in cost, but by this point I’m used to it – looking at this list, it all seems reasonable (although when I spend $60 at the store and it all fits in one bag – ouch!).
All this for $34… (ps – for the first couple weeks I tried to convince myself that those Bixit bars were like granola bars. I’ve since admitted to myself that they are actually cookies. With no other options, I’ve kicked the one granola bar a day habit.)
At this point grocery shopping in Norway is something I’ve definitely adapted to and hardly think of the differences compared to shopping in the US anymore. Except when I am back in the US – those first few shopping trips in Seattle over the winter were a bit intimidating and intense!