Grocery Shopping in Norway

One of the most frustrating things we’ve had to do in Norway (aside from jump through all the hoops to get our residence permits, tax numbers, and bank account set up) is grocery shopping. After being here two months now, the frustration is mostly gone so I thought I’d share what it’s like.

I wrote about grocery shopping in my latest column for The Minute Magazine, so if you want a little background to this post, you can read that article on page 22 of their Sept/Oct issue.

In this post, I’m going to focus on what you can’t find here that’s available in the U.S. and then talk about what you can find here and what we’ve been eating, while sharing some pictures from around our neighborhood grocery store. (If you’re looking at some of the prices in some of the pictures and wondering what that would be in U.S. Dollars, you can divide by 8 to get a rough estimate.)

This is our neighborhood grocery store that is right down the street from us. We mostly shop here, but sometimes will go to another store that is down a little further from us called Rema 1000. (For those familiar with these stores or future Fulbrighters looking at this post, Rema 1000 is considered the cheapest grocery store here, but I think it really all depends on how your neighborhood store is priced. We’ve found that Rema 1000 and Bunnpris prices are pretty much the same in our area.)

What’s Not Available

The biggest thing for us to adjust to here in Norway was not being able to buy things that we’re used to eating or cooking with. Here’s a list of some of the things that I can’t find in our neighborhood store or can only find in certain stores not near me and it’s super overpriced (because it’s been imported):

  • Goldfish or Cheez-Its (Matt did find some in Oslo at a candy store when he was there for Orientation and brought some back for the kids but they were double the U.S. price.)
  • Kraft Mac & Cheese (I’ve started making homemade mac & cheese and it’s good, but it’s not anywhere near the boxed kind so John Hayden won’t touch it.)
  • M&Ms (Norway has their own version of these and they taste horrible. Matt liked them but the rest of us will never eat them again. The candy coating is what is SO, SO wrong with these knock-off M&Ms.)
  • Chocolate chips (I’ve found a way around this by just taking a chocolate baking bar and chopping it up but it would be nice to just have chocolate chips you didn’t have to “make.” And even though there’s a way to get around the chocolate chips, if you’re wanting peanut butter chips, mint chocolate chips, or caramel bits, I’m pretty sure you’re out of luck.)
  • Cream of anything soup (In recent years, I had gotten to where I didn’t cook as much with these, but I still have some things we make that uses it. So far, I’ve only made one of those recipes since I had to make the cream of chicken from scratch and that was kind of a pain. So there’s a way around not having it, but it’s not convenient.)
  • Canned soups and less options for canned fruits and vegetables as well as few frozen vegetable options (I love soups and have been making quite a few, much to my family’s non-delight. I’m sure they’d appreciate it more if canned soups were available so that I could eat them for lunch and they wouldn’t be forced to eat them. Haha! Also, I haven’t seen applesauce, which is what my kids used to eat all the time, and they only like canned pears, but not fresh pears, and I haven’t seen those either. As far as canned vegetables, the choices are few. My kids like hominy, and as much as Norway likes their corn, I haven’t seen that either. )
The canned vegetable selection. Almost the entire right side of that is canned meats (see those canned fish balls on the bottom shelf 😳?)
Instead of canned soups, you have quite a large selection of soup starters.
  • Vanilla extract (Mom, I’m getting low. Might need a care package soon! 😂)
  • Breakfast sausage (Norway is big on sausages and hot dogs but they are links, not your breakfast type sausages. Also, I’m sorry, Norway, but I tried your hot dogs and I just can’t do it. Matt’s the only one in our family that will even touch them now.)
  • Refrigerated or frozen biscuits, crescent rolls, or pie crusts. (Pretty much anything you would find in that entire little section in a U.S. grocery store. This has surprisingly been one of the things that I find myself missing the most just because of the convenience of it. We now make biscuits from scratch whenever we do breakfast for dinner. We’re like little Betty Crockers over here.)
  • Cake mixes and canned icing. Muffin mixes or bread/cornbread mixes. Brownie and cookie mixes. Joy. 😂 (Norway has a few packaged mixes but they just do not taste good. We went to a dinner party the other night and agreed to bring dessert, so we found a recipe for yellow cake with chocolate icing on Pinterest and made it. Do you know how difficult that sucker was to make without a mixer of any sorts? Matt and I had to both take turns mixing because our arms got tired. It was incredibly rich and delicious but we’ve decided that effort is now being reserved for special occasions only.)
  • Enchilada sauces (I’ve seen red enchilada sauce, but it’s either at a store that takes like 30 minutes to get to on the bus or at a place where it’s way overpriced, so I made it from scratch. “From scratch.” That’s like the theme of this year in Norway so far.)
  • Rotel or canned green chiles (Canned green chiles in the one store I’ve found them are super expensive.)
  • Dressing (To be completely transparent, our neighborhood store does have exactly 3 dressing options. One is ranch, which I’ve heard isn’t that great, and the other two are unidentifiable and I haven’t translated them to find out exactly what they are. Right now, I have ranch dip packets that I bought with me from the U.S. but we’ve been trying to make them last so we’ve only used 2 packets so far.)
  • Bisquick/pancake mixes, frozen pancakes or waffles, and syrup (Norwegians don’t do pancakes like U.S. ones. They have “pannekakers” and waffles but neither are really like the U.S. version and we’re not crazy about them. They don’t eat these with syrup so if you find syrup here, it’s in tiny, expensive bottles.)
  • A large cereal selection, oatmeal, grits (The cereal selection is very small and sad. This has been hardest for John Hayden, since he would normally eat Cheerios for breakfast. The Cheerios here taste slightly different and he can pick up on it and won’t eat them.)
There is another section next to this that has some more granola options, as well as Muesli and porridge, which is what your option is here instead of oatmeal.
  • Velvetta (I rarely used it in the U.S. so it’s not really missed but would make some soups easier to make.)
  • Caesar salad kits (I miss these SO much.)
  • Saltine crackers (There are a lot of cracker options here, but not of something basic like this.)
  • Bagels (Technically, you can find frozen bagels but they are pretty expensive. For all the bread offered in stores here, it’s surprising fresh bagels aren’t an option.)
  • Stuffing mix or Shake-n-Bake type products
  • Graham crackers
  • Creamy peanut butter (I’ve seen creamy one time and it was because it was an import, so it was super expensive. The crunchy peanut butter in our local store–there is literally only one option–tastes fine to us, but I’ve seen some people from the U.S. say that it doesn’t taste the same to them.)

What Is Available

After that huge list, you might be wondering what is left to eat! 😂 As difficult as it may be to try to adapt to less options and have to cook from scratch so much, we’re really not suffering that much and no one is going hungry over here.

Here’s a list of what is readily available and easy to find in stores:

  • Taco fixings (Norway loves their tacos, and if you read my column you’d see that they have Taco Friday here, except they eat their tacos with corn and diced cucumbers. Taco fixings are something very easy to find in stores here.)
  • Pizza (Norwegians like their pizza also and there is a large selection of frozen pizzas, with Grandiosa being the popular brand. We normally make our pizzas ourselves since the stores actually sell refrigerated pizza dough and all the ingredients needed to make your own pizza. We stick with pepperoni but ham “skinke” is a popular topping here.)
  • Pasta (I didn’t take a picture of the pasta section but it’s pretty diverse for a small store and offers plenty of options for almost any type of pasta dish you’d want to make. Our neighborhood store offers the Barillo brand of red pasta sauce, which has been fine.)
  • Lunch meats and spreads (This section is quite large in the store. So large I had to take multiple pictures to fit it all. The normal lunch here is “smørbørd,” which is an open-faced sandwich, usually with cheese and a piece of deli-type meat, like salami, ham, etc. They also will use large crackers, like Wasa, instead of bread, and other spread options are various salads–like egg salad, etc–tubes of various spreads, like a ham and cheese one or bacon and cheese one, and things like liver spread, mackerel and tomato spread, or even just Nutella.
  • Cheese (There are lots of cheese options, but hardly any options when it comes to our tried and true choice of cheddar. Cheddar only comes in packages of a few little deli slices or in a cheddar/mozzarella shredded mix. There is a mild white cheese that is available that we will eat but John Hayden will only do cheddar.)
  • Fish and meat (We stick with chicken, ground beef, and fish, but I thought it’d be fun to show you some of the more unusual things that I don’t think I’ve seen or noticed in grocery stores in the U.S., like reindeer steak, ostesnitzel–I think that’s breaded pork, unsure–fish pudding, fish balls, fish cakes–which we have actually tried and liked–and the ultimate Norwegian dish, lutefisk–jellied fish; I will not be trying that.) 
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables (They can be really expensive, but for the most part, you can find the basics and there tends to always be a fruit on sale that week so that helps with the higher costs. We feel like a lot of the fresh fruit tastes fresher and better here.)
  • Sauces (If you want sauces with your fish or meat, you have lots of options!)
  • All.the.Bread (So many bread options, both fresh and frozen, except biscuits like I mentioned already. Also, my favorite thing is all the pastries they have available. This is my favorite one so far, called “skolebrød,” it’s got a vanilla cream filling with icing around the outer edge sprinkled with coconut and it’s usually just $1-2.)
  • Potatoes (Lots of options in lots of forms–frozen French fries and hash browns, mashed potato mixes, or fresh potatoes, although the most available fresh kind is yellow potatoes.)
  • Dips, such as hummus, guacamole, and salsa
  • Chocolate (The chocolate here is wonderful and it comes in huge bars. Each store also has a pay-by-the-weight candy section. You usually see people getting candy on Fridays or Saturdays because of “Lørdagsgodt,” which means “Saturday treat.” It’s common in Norway for families with children to reserve candy as a special treat for Saturdays.)
  • Snacks/Junk food (They might not have a lot of the snacks and junk food we recognize but the kids haven’t been deprived. There’s still plenty of chips, cookies, and ice cream here. They even have Oreos! The normal snacks for Juliette and John Hayden, though, are mostly popcorn, pretzel sticks, plain potato chips, and “kjeks,” which are biscuits–not southern biscuits, kind of like a cross between a cracker and a cookie. Sidenote: They aren’t allowed to take chips or any desserts in their lunch to school–against school rules–so for lunch Juliette takes an open face ham sandwich and fruit and John Hayden takes ham, cheese, and crackers with fruit.)

Hope you enjoyed this little peek into grocery shopping in Norway. I’m sure I left off some things, but I think I was able to give you a pretty good view of how grocery shopping is here. Happy eating, and think of us when you’re buying some of those “not available here” items. 🙂

3 thoughts on “Grocery Shopping in Norway

  1. I think the food thing would be the hardest thing for me to adjust to, especially having to feed a family. Really interesting reading about what is and isn’t available and how you’re adapting to what’s there. Thanks for taking the time and photos to share with us!😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, and the fact that I’ve never been a good cook makes it harder because I don’t really know what to do without a recipe. We’ve been trying a lot of new recipes and have been using seasonings a lot more.

      Like

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