04 May 2014

Grocery Shopping in Norway

Grocery stores in Norway are expensive. Like, really expensive.

Don't expect to be able to visit them on just any day. No no. Certain stores are only open on certain days, even the "big stores" are much smaller than the ones you'll find in the states. Most depressingly, you can only buy beer - no wine or alcohol - from these groceries, and even then the beer is no more than 5% ABV.

Oh, and did I mention ONE beer at the GROCERY STORE is about $6 USD? That's $6 for an 18oz. of 4.5% beer. Yeah. Ouch.

This beer: $6.

If it sounds like I'm complaining, I'm not. I knew from the get-go our grocery bill would amount to a small fortune. Norway is one of the richest countries in the world - they're sitting on a stock of oil, and technically every Norwegian is a millionaire. Folks who live there just get used to the prices, then rejoice when they go anywhere else because, basically, everything is on sale.

Norwegians care a lot about their vacation time. It's standard for everyone to get 6-weeks. Bosses insist employees take every single one of those days. The country shuts down for major stints at a time to observe holidays - Easter being one.

The reason for my trip was to visit my friend Kelly (who has a fantastic blog - you should check it out) while she was on Easter holiday. Kelly moved temporarily to Norway a few years ago while in school, fell in love with the place, and moved there on a semi-permanent basis last December. On her first visit she experienced the joy of "Easter Holiday Week":

Easter may have just become my favorite holiday. Here in Norway we have several days off from work, it is expected that people go skiing, and chocolate is plentiful! From my observations, Easter in Norway isn’t all the much about the religious holiday, but instead about spending time with family and out in nature (many Norwegians travel to their cabins for the long Easter weekend). 
Because we were visiting on Easter week, everything was closed. And not "closed" in the American sense, but closed in the you-better-get-groceries-on-Monday-because-we-don't-open-again-until-Thursday sense.

We arrived on a Sunday evening and found a small store where we werebought provisions for the first night and next day. When I say small store, I mean that the five of us walked in there and could NOT move around. Picture your average gas station size. Only smaller. Full of hungry mostly-Americans.

We found enough provisions and were able to make a delicious dinner of salmon (fresh!), cous cous, and veggies:

Mmm, first meal in Norway.

On Monday we went skiing (which I promise to write about when I have brain capacity to process the hundreds of photos) and after we went to a BIG grocery story. You know, like a little American one.

Prepared with shopping list in hand, we wandered around looking for our 'grocery assignments'. It didn't take long for us non-Norwegian speakers to more or less gave up and just mill about waiting for Kelly and Julian to do it all though. Becuase: language is hard.

I did see and was super impressed with my first bread slicing machine experience. One could say it was the best thing since sliced bread...

Put it in the top, it comes out at the bottom all nice and sliced.
You even get a handy little shelf from which to wrap your loaf.

For their part, the Norwegian checkout people seemed pretty non-plussed by our MASSIVE cart. It took one person unloading the cart and three people bagging (and loading into multiple carts) for us to get out of there. The final bill?....

Our cart, pre-beer.
Nick in the candy aisle - WITH beer. And that was his face *before* he knew how much it cost...
Check us out checking out.
... At checkout we paid KR 4,987.00, which is roughly equivalent to $835 USD. It's been a while since I went to the store and bought a huge cart of groceries,....but, that seems a bit high to me....

Overall we spent about $1,100 on groceries for 5 people for 8 nights and 7 days (of skiing, so high-calorie intake with reasonable drinking), which works out to just over $9/meal/person. Much higher than my usual consumption rate... After consulting with Kelly (our "bank" or "sugar mama" for the week) I learned roughly 1/3 of our grocery bill was beer. That's right - we spent $330 on beer. And not just any beer, marginal you-can-only-get-this-in-Utah beer. We started the week planning for 1x beer per person per day. After our hellacious rain day (which I promise to write about when I have brain capacity to process the hundreds of photos) we upped that to 2x beers per person per day. So...55 beers total. In America, that many comperable beers would cost $73. I'm just sayin....but hey, when in Norway!

Our big haul.

We ate all but two containers of yogurt, a head of lettuce, and 4 eggs. Not bad.

We WERE able to recoup some of our money later in the week when we returned our cans for their deposit amount. Three bags of cans (I swear I don't have a drinking problem) merited us about $6. So, enough to buy just one more beer.

Kelly returning the cans.

The beer we bought with our can-ransom money.

I must say though,I clearly enjoyed my Norwegian grocery experience or I wouldn't have written this long blog about it. What can I say? Great things happen at the grocery. Those tricky Norwegians grocery stores really hooked me with the whole "scarcity ploy" by only being open for a grand total of like 10-hours while I was in the country. Plus you never know when you'll find your first bread slicing machine or get to wear awesome leggings in public in Norway! Or, see a poster for a professional all-women ice fishing team. Yes. I did say professional ice fishing team.

Kelly can I give you a hand (or a leg) with those cans???

No fish were harmed in the making of this poster.

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