How we ate cheap in Norway

When we got back from Norway several people asked me “How was the food?” and I answered “I don’t know.”  That’s because, instead of seeking out local specialties and eating in restaurants, we just bought basic groceries from supermarkets and prepared the food ourselves.  That’s not a romantic way to eat and it doesn’t make for good travel stories.  But you know what is a good travel story?  HOB and I bought round-trip tickets for $333 each from Chicago and traveled around one of the most expensive countries in the world on a modest budget.  And we didn’t have to compromise on any sites or experiences.

In anticipation of picnics, we packed a set of collapsible interlocking bowls and reusable plastic cutlery.  Since Norway’s tap water is lovely (it tastes like water I’ve run through a new filter at home) all we needed was a water bottle to stay hydrated.  Staying caffeinated was easy too.  After arriving we bought a drink in a glass bottle and for the rest of the trip we reused that bottle for a kind of scrappy cold brew.  Before bed we would boil water, prepare instant espresso, add milk, and refrigerate the concoction in the bottle overnight and take it with us the next day for on-the-go energy.

Groceries from Norwegian supermarkets cost about the same as those in other European countries, except for the alcohol, which is quite pricey.  The names of the supermarkets we shopped in were: Meny, Kiwi, Coop, and Rema 1000 and there was always a market readily available wherever we were and it was generally open long hours.  (A funny thing about the hours: we arrived in one town on a Saturday night and I was concerned that the supermarket would be closed on Sunday, like in most European cities.  But when we checked out the hours we saw the market by our airbnb was indeed open on Sundays.  The next day we went to the supermarket only to find that the spacious market was closed and just a small, bodega-sized room was open with a greatly reduced selection.  Oops—beware of Sundays.)

Every place we stayed in had a kitchen, except for our hotel in Olso, which had a microwave and refrigerator in the lounge for all guests.  For breakfast we would have yogurt and muesli with fruit.  Lunch was a picnic—either a sandwich or a salad.  Naturally, we carried around lots of snacks, like boiled eggs or cut up veggies or fruit and those yummy Norwegian chocolate bars called Freia.

saladstavr

trondheim

At night we cooked dinner, never a dull experience considering the randomly stocked kitchens in a typical rental apartment.  Why do so many apartments have 20 wineglasses, but no colander to drain pasta?  Or dusty, expired spices but no salt and pepper?

pasta

What worked out well for us was making a pot of whole wheat pasta and eating half of it for dinner.  The other half of the pasta we’d use for a pasta salad for our next day’s picnic lunch.  Below is HOB eating his pasta salad on the train.

salad

A combination of smoked salmon and Snøfrisk (spreadable goat cheese with the consistency of cream cheese) made for scrumptious and filling sandwiches.

hottunaI constantly crave hot food when traveling, particularly when spending a lot of time outside in cold weather.  Even just taking 30 seconds to melt cheese on sandwich had an enormous payoff and kept HOB and I away from more expensive and less healthy options.  (Except for that one afternoon, following hours of walking, when we sat on a bench in front of a shopping mall and ripped apart a rotisserie chicken with our bare hands in a Dionysian frenzy.  Let’s pretend that didn’t happen, okay?)

No, I didn’t feel the least bit deprived from our Norwegian budget-eating plan.  In fact, as is often the case, I was enormously pleased with my own ingenuity.  Why blow our travel budget on restaurants, anyway, when we could be munching on Snøfrisk sandwiches while looking out a bus window at this?

 

throughbuswindow

 

 

19 comments

  1. For a one-handed shot with cheesy fingers out of a moving bus, that last photo looks good!

    A neighbouring country has fish baked into bread and jars of pickled herring. I had a lot of these one summer long ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I found the pictures so disappointing after the real life majesty of the landscape.

      We had the herring in the Baltics and it agreed with us—perfect on rye bread.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this way of eating when abroad. I’m generally fascinated by the different produce in the supermarkets of other countries I visit and it really makes me want to cook lol. I love the idea of a pasta salad for the next day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re so right about foreign supermarkets—they are uniquely fascination. Sometimes I have dreams about them.

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  3. Wow! Impressed with how you travel, as that is how we also like to travel!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Did you visit some wonderful farmers’ markets in Bangladesh?

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  4. I also catered for myself in Norway, the same as anywhere else where food is expensive. I guess eating, or eating out, just isn’t that important for me and I’d rather spend the money on other things. But we’re all different. Good to see I’m not the only one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Food is important to me, but it doesn’t have to be fancy or anything—street food is my favorite but street food culture isn’t a thing in Norway because of the climate. Assuming I one day have a higher food budget, I’l like to go back and eat more fish. Did you have any good seafood when you were there?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nope I was on a ridiculously low budget. I think I even took packs of biscuits with me (I was living in London then and I just went for 5 days or something)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh we often bring some food from home too, no shame in that. It is complicated with the small backpacks though.

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  5. i remember craving hot food when taking my annual train holiday in France when I was a student. I could afford the week’s ticket on my grant. took night trains as hotels were out of the question but the food budget was distinctly minimal…I did once splurge on a citron presse on a boiling day at Nimes station but otherwise it was cheap supermarket fare all the way…..I can understand the dionysian frenzy with that chicken…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That you still remember the citron presse splurge is testament that even the most rigorous budgets must allow for an occasional lifesaving accommodation…..Our traveling pants still remember the Dionysian eating frenzy thanks to the residual chick fat stains on our thighs.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Norway’s great to get you off the booze, that’s for granted. By the way we did the same in Iceland, especially after we discovered their yogurts. Boy the Iceland yogurts!!! The brands are available here in the UK as well (e.g. Siggi) but, in a cruel twist, they’re either made in Slovakia or Denmark. Ain’t that a stab in the back?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is the sort of cruel twist that forces us to travel. As a major yogurt fan, now I’ll have to check flights for Iceland.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. (they’re not big on churches though)

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Right, this is pretty much the way we eat all the time, not just when traveling. It’s the best way to get plenty of veggies and fruits. I always find restaurant food way too salty, then I drink gallons of water, then I’m constantly looking for a bathroom. Plus we like to eat dinner with our feet up, so we tend to stay in
    and make simple meals. I do have a weakness for museum cafes at lunchtime, though—I always figure I’ve earned that slice of cake.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, budget aside, it can be quite hard on your body to suddenly start eating differently while traveling than while at home. Also agreed that cooking and eating in privacy is relaxing. (It was kind of awkward, though, when one of our Airbnb hosts stopped by to pick up our payment while we were cooking in our skivvies).

      I work in a museum next to one of those cafes with excellent cake. The temptation is real.

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