I’ve talked about how to find cheap accommodation in Norway and how to travel cheaply around Norway, but there’s been one huge missing hole in this Norway on a budget puzzle: food! Because as beautiful as Norway is, you’re not going to be able to enjoy it if you spend your entire trip here hangry.
Okay, so here are some rules to live (eat?) by when traveling in Norway on a tight budget:
Only eat out somewhere really nice with tons of atmosphere, otherwise don’t even buy any prepared food
That includes convenience store hot dogs and even ready made sandwiches from a supermarket. When I work in the bakery section of my supermarket I make those sandwiches, and personally, I would not pay 40 kroner for a baguette filled a few slices of recently expired ham and cheese – it would be cheaper to buy a plain baguette and an entire new packet of ham.
This is where your accommodation choice in Norway is key: in my post about finding cheap accommodation in Norway I strongly recommended staying at an Airbnb, not only because it will likely be cheaper than a hotel, but also because you can then self cater, which will save you so much money.
And don’t worry, cooking for yourself doesn’t have to mean missing out on Norwegian cuisine! I’ve put together a guide to 10 Norwegian meals to make for less than $10 (and I’ve linked to all the supermarket listings for the ingredients, so you’ll know exactly what to buy).
Only buy food and snacks at supermarkets, never gas stations or convenience stores
So often I’ll hear tourists saying that they paid a shocking $10 for a bottle of water and a chocolate bar at a gas station, and I’m always like what were you doing buying food at a gas station? Go to a supermarket, they are everywhere.
Rema 1000 and Kiwi are the cheapest supermarkets, though other more expensive stores will still carry either a cheaper store brand or “First Price” version of most basics. I know that at least as far as First Price brand food goes, must of their stuff is exactly the same as regularly priced food, it just has simpler branding or their fruit or vegetables won’t look as pretty.
You can also download this app to find all the current special offers and sales going on in supermarkets in Norway.
Bring a reusable water bottle
Norwegian tap water tastes like magic, and bottled water is absurdly expensive.
Bring a thermos
Hiking in Norway can get a bit chilly, so I always try to bring a thermos full of hot tea or cocoa to keep me warm. Also pack some chocolate, or healthy snacks if you prefer, and then you won’t be tempted to stop into a convenience store or gift shop during the day.
Bring your own dehydrated food
If you’re going to do longer camping trips and will want dehydrated food, definitely bring that with you from home, because it’s super expensive in Norway!
And on a slightly unrelated note, make sure you like the food before packing tons of it – not all dehydrated food is equally yummy! (I like this one.)
Skip the pubs
Norway isn’t exactly known for having lots of cozy pubs – in fact I think I’ve found exactly two pubs that I like in all my time in Norway. And I would argue that the clubbing scene in Norway is even worse – likely because buying drinks at a club in Norway is so expensive that most everyone pre-games and arrives super drunk, which doesn’t exactly make for the most fun atmosphere.
Alcohol at a restaurant, pub, or bar is going to be absurdly expensive, so my advice would be to just skip the drinks altogether. Remember what I said about Norway’s magical tap water?
If you do want to sample the local beer, buy some at a – you guessed it! – supermarket and if it’s a nice day take them to the park or fjord. It’s technically illegal to drink outside but I’ve seen police pass by outdoor picnickers without saying a word.
And if you really think you’ll want to be drinking while in Norway, buy some liquor at Duty Free! (It will still be cheaper to buy it in the country you’re flying from than when you land in Norway though.)
Check out the Asian food stores
Most sizable Norwegian towns have an Asian food store, where you can get great bargains on things like lentils and PG tips tea. If you’re really strapped for cash then lentils and rice is one of the cheapest meals I know!
Opt for the fancier restaurant
Wait, what? No, it’s true – the price difference between a really nice restaurant and a fast food place is surprisingly small (is that some sort of Norwegian socialist thing?) so if you’re going to spend money on eating out, then at least get the most out of it!
You might also consider having your nice restaurant meal for lunch instead of dinner, as lunch menus will often be cheaper.
And if you’re in Oslo, there’s a 3-hour buffet on wooden boat sailing through the Oslo fjord that you should totally check out. Check prices and availability here
To splurge or skip?
Of course there are some things worth splurging on in Norway, and some things that you can probably go ahead and skip.
Splurge: Freia milk chocolate
Norwegian chocolate is the best in the world, and definitely not something you want to miss out on!
Skip: Solo and Kvikk Lunsj
Let’s hope no Norwegians are reading this, because they would surely be horrified to hear me put down their favorite hiking snacks like this but… Solo really just tastes like any old orange soda, and Kvikk Lunsj is exactly the same as a Kit Kat bar.
There, I said it.
Splurge: Brown cheese
Only buy a small package of it because you’ll likely hate it, but then again some foreigners instantly adore brown cheese so you never know! At any rate, it’s incredibly Norwegian and so you can’t really leave Norway without at least trying it.
Skip: Expensive vegetables you can get at home
A lot of vegetables in Norway are absurdly expensive – maybe wait until you’re back home to satisfy that avocado craving.
Splurge: Hobby, Troika, and waffles
Hobby is one of my favorite Norwegian chocolate bars and I can’t think of anything I’ve tried anywhere else that tastes at all like it. And if I liked marzipan I would be a huge fan of Troika, which from the rate I see people buying them at the supermarket seems to be the Scandinavian equivalent of a Snickers bar. And you can’t come to Norway without indulging in some cardamom waffles!
If you’re staying at an Airbnb then your kitchen might be equipped with a waffle iron, otherwise buy some waffles in town – they’ll be worth it, I promise.
Tough call: aquavit
If you want to sample the most Norwegian of drinks, give aquavit a try. Then again, I’ve never seen a visitor to Norway actually enjoy aquavit so… maybe skip it?
Anyone have any tips to add? Share in the comments!
This was really helpful! Food is a real concern abroad, thanks!
I’m a big supermarket fan on all of my travels, ha.
Haha I wish I knew this two weeks ago, I just came back from a holiday to Norway :p.
Aaaah you’ll have to come back!
Van @ Snow in Tromso says
Thanks for telling us the truth about Norwegian sandwiches. I always hated them but now I know at least why 😀
This is brilliant information!
And I definitely miss Norwegian chocolate here. Germans can defend their chocolate all day (and it is good, don’t get me wrong), but Norwegian chocolate is just better. Hands down. My favorite type was smash. I never had tasted anything like it the first time I tried it. I used to buy it in Cincinnati when I lived in the states too. Such amazing stuff.
Hmm… thinking of anything I can add…
I really think you hit the nail on the head with gas station shopping. I learned this the hard way when I first moved there. I used to do all of my Sunday shopping there like an idiot. But I do think that the hot dogs and sausages offered in gas stations are a good budget tip if they are on sale (which they often are). 7-11 or Narvesen is always running a deal on them for 19kr or something and I always recommend that to travelers if they want a cheap lunch but need to eat out (and I’m not a meat eater, but they are freaking good).
The Asian store thing was a good mention that not many people know about. You can find Mama Thai ramen in there for less than one euro and it is always easy to find hot water in Norway to mix it with. I know people want to eat Norwegian food when in Norway, but it is very difficult to find traditional Norwegian restaurants anymore in the big cities. Most restaurants just cook a lot of fish and charge an armload for the stuff. Indian and Pakistani food in Oslo was always so tasty and super cheap.
If people are also in Norway for a while, I also recommend looking at the grocery store ads on their websites. In Oslo, you’re always within walking distance of at least 3 to 4 different ones and you can budget shop so easily for sale ingredients.
I also say to people to be a vegetarian when traveling to Norway if they want to be on a budget. The meats in grocery stores are completely expensive, but you can buy a can of chickpeas for nothing. But if you’re going to splurge on one thing whilst there, splurge on fish (except the terrible farmed salmon) or seafood.
Really great tips! I can’t wait to share this with people 🙂
Really good additions! Especially as you have more of a city perspective than I do. I didn’t even know about that hotdog deal, haha. And I already eat so little meat that I forget that that’s a huge expense for people! Also, I still have never tried Smash!! Buying a bag tomorrow.
I am really intrigued to try brown cheese and aquavit. What makes so many tourists hate it but Norwegians love it?
Brown cheese is almost caramely, which just tastes wrong in a cheese to me. And aquavit is a bit liquorishy which I guess people don’t like?
I have found the brown cheese at my local supermarket here in California. The cheese is just plain weird, but I LOVE it! When I have someone try it for the first time they have to commit to two bites. I put a slice on a French baguette (that is usually what I had around). The taste is sharp and different. The second bite is somehow mellower and at that point, it is hard to stop eating it. It is good on homemade lefse, but nothing beats butter, cinnamon and sugar on warm lefse.
Ooh, Freia Melkesjokolade! <3 <3 <3 I think that's the number one thing I love about Norway (after the fact that it helped produce my boyfriend and in close competition with the fantastic outdoors)! Norwegian fish (especially salmon and salmon trout, a.k.a. ørret) is totally to die for, too… And Norwegian supermarkets usually have lots of wonderful bread and amazing jams (very wet, but so fruity!)…
I personally love aquavit (so guests in Norway that like it exist), but I have to confess that I tend to sip it in fairly small quantities and my favourite brand is Danish 🙂 – Aalborg aquavit is a bit milder than the Norwegian ones I've tasted.It's so strong, I can imagine not many people like it!
Aaah someone who enjoyed aquavit! I like it too and always force guests to try it, but maybe I need to be sneaky and give them the Aalborg kind, haha.
I stayed in Norway for a couple of months and basically lived of salmon because that was the cheapest meat.. And so delicious! And yes, once you’ve had Freya chocolate there’s no going back, luckily you can get that from time to time in Netto here in Denmark 😛
There is seriously no going back from Norwegian chocolate!
Brita Conroy says
How difficult is it to bring Freya into the US after a trip to Norway? I’d love to bring enough to share with 38 students.
That shouldn’t be a problem, I’ve brought a huge bag of chocolate before!
Haha Norway sounds fun, so much hustle if you’re there on a budget. Are there any vegetables that are cheap throughout the year? I’ve always been a fan of having a loaf of bread and bananas on hand. 1/2 a banada fits on a slice of bread, roll it up and nom nom nom!
Great snack for on the go (not sure how much bananas cost in Norway though lol)
Bananas aren’t too expensive, and there will always be some vegetables that are cheap depending on the season. So basically if you investigate the vegetable section while you’re here you’ll definitely find some inexpensive stuff, you just can’t come with your heart set on something out of season and very expensive.
Thanks for this article! I just planned for a 17 day hiking trip to Norway. Planned (and tasted!) all my rations for 15 days, first and last day I will eat out. Because of you I will rally opt for the fancier restaurants.
Would love to read more about typically Norwegian food + restaurant chains 🙂
Ooh that’s so exciting! And I don’t know much about Norwegian restaurants (I always just choose whatever looks coziest) but I do have another post or two coming up about Norwegian food 🙂
I just returned from a weeklong vacation in Sweden a little bit ago, and while I’m sure Norway is even more expensive, I found myself doing a lot of shopping at supermarkets and staying away from restaurants and pubs. I noticed in Stockholm too, though, that the difference between a fancy restaurant and an “average” one seemed a lot smaller than I’m used to.
Yeah the price difference thing is weird – like, it sort of makes more sense to get a ready made sandwich in a cute cafe than at a supermarket, which is just so bizarre to me.
The Rye bread I was able to buy in Bergen was by far the tastiest I’ve ever found in my wanderings the pre soaked whole grains the yeasty texture, Mmm I’d go back just for some Rye bread & fisk soup.
Hmm, I’ve never heard of brown cheese before. But as a cheese lover I’m super intrigued by it, even though it sounds like I might hate it…And $10 for a bottle of water. That’s crazy!
Wow these pictures are so beautiful!
Also, the cheese sounds very interesting!
I’m thinking about traveling to Norway in the near future, and I will definitely keep the eating out vs eating fast food price difference in mind! When I went to Iceland the food was stupid expensive; I’m assuming it’s somewhat similar in Norway! Aquavit definitely does not sound like it would be great and I’ve heard not so good things about it… but when in Norway I suppose. Great post!
I’m Norwegian, but I’ve lived a few places and of course brought with me Norwegian foods when I visited home. Seems our stuff is weird, but mostly liked. The thing people loved the most is Smash. I brought two bags to two different groups and at the first one (Italians, English and Benelux people) they both disappeared in like five minutes. The second group (Barbados, Spaniards, Portuguese, Germans, Austrians, Canadians and Americans), I had loonily fill a small bowl at a time and make sure everyone got some, but it didn’t last long. The American and Barbadian said it was like Bugles dipped in chocolate.
Our chocolate is also popular. Even the Belgian girls fell head over heels. Seems it’s because we add a pinch of salt to it. Also, Nugatti beats Nutella any day of the week, Seigmenn are for kids but adults still love them, Non-Stop are way better than M&M’s and don’t believe anyone who says Solo tastes like any ol’ orange pop.
My ex (Finnish) got the weirdest eyes when she tried brown cheese the first time. She practically screamed at me “it tastes like butterscotch!”, which she happens to love…
Aquavit is disgusting, trust me…it’s a spirit made of potatoes (nowhere near a good vodka) and has spices, mostly caraway in it. *shudder* Everyone hates it. Fun fact: Linje/Linie (old version of the work “linje”, which means “line”) akevitt has to have crossed “the line” twice to be allowed the name. The line is the equator. Yes, it is sent on a long trip around the world and then comes back and is sold here. They say temperature, barometric pressure and stuff does something with the flavour. Still tastes like garbage run-off to me.
Smoked salmon has gotten cheaper, but is still seen as relatively “posh” by many. Serve it on whatever bread or flatbread you like, with scrambled eggs. People scarf it down like your cat with the munchies…
NEVER buy any black candies, nobody non-nordic likes them, I swear. I tried giving them to people, it never works out, they get offended…It’s more often than not (very) salty liquorice and it seems only we like it. One good use: I would have a bag of “Turkish Peppers” at my desk at my former job. I needed a cig every now and then, even though I promised my girlfriend I quit. She would smell it on my breath when I came home, no matter how much gum and breath mints I had, but two of those black beauties and she was none the wiser…
Lastly, the most important thing: beer. We are getting quite a lot of quality beer here. Buy a few of the somewhat more pricey ones and skip the mass produced lagers and stuff you already know. The special brews are much better and you can have a small epiphany several times a night. A lot of them have more than 4.7% alcohol though, and has to be bought at the state liquor monopolies.
Oh, and vaffler (waffles) are really just American pancakes with less air in them and some cardamom added…and ALWAYS insanely overpriced.
So… what I’m getting from this is go to supermarkets? Just kidding, great post!
When I lived in Germany I bought PG Tips from Asian stores 🙂
Cindy Simba says
These are all really usefully considering I’m currently in Norway, Bodø. I always knew this country was expensive but I’m still experiencing shock lol. I opted to not try the brown cheese because I just spent six weeks in France and my cheese taste palate has just automatically become more selective lol. You’re right about the tap water too. It tastes heavenly especially compared to the one I was drinking before. To the contrary I love how high the wages are here. I feel like if you budget effectively and find a cheap place *somebodies basement ;)* to live you can make serious dough during the summer.
About the price difference in food thing, the reason the cost difference is quite small is that the minimum wage even at places like McDonalds is quite high, and they have to use a certain quality of food (In many other countries they can use crap).
So the meals at the fast food places get higher than other countries, but the “nicer meals” seems “cheap” when they are just normal priced 🙂
Drinks are however a ripoff at most nicer resturants where they cost up to 5-10$ (at least), and that could be only for a 0.35l bottle of coke…
You should also factor in that everyone that works here is making a living wage, so no one is living off tips like in many other countries 🙂
Catia @ A Pulgarita says
This was super helpful since I’m going to Norway in about 3 weeks from now! Super excited and since me and my boyfriend are super budget-savvy we were already planning to eat all the time from supermarkets so knowing there are quite nicely priced options there is great! I just feel a bit concerned about the price of fruit even though it’s expected. What are the cheapest fruits right now? Just hoping a few apples, pears and bananas will be quite ok in price. Now I am seriously craving the Freia chocolate though! =)
Apples and pears are quite cheap at the moment, and bananas are the same price as always. Oranges and kiwis are super expensive now, so you might want to avoid those!
Jhon jaka says
I just came across your post while preparing for a winter adventure in Tromso. Lots of useful ideas and hints, thanks a lot for that! I think I will also pack and bring some food (canned or instant) with me from Poland to save some money. I guess it is possible not to go bankrupt 🙂
It’s definitely possible not to go bankrupt, haha. A winter adventure in Tromso sounds very exciting – have fun!
I use an app called “mattilbud” it has all the weekly deals from the different supermarkets 🙂
Visting Norway in 2017! Went through a few of your Norweigen blogpost. Thank you for all the travel tips on Norway 🙂
I’m going to live in Norway for 6 months, in Trondheim as student. I’m so freaked out because of the prices. Would you please name the cheapest supermarket which I can buy foods, or the app or website that announces sales or bargains weekly?
Don’t worry, it’s definitely doable on a budget! I’ve actually already named the supermarkets and linked to the app in this article (Kiwi and Rema 1000, and the app is mattilbud). Good luck, and enjoy your time there!
Coop Obs has great deals on food. I do my huge grocery shopping there when i have time. There’s one in City Lade and one in City Syd, if u live in Trondheim.
Sometimes Rema1000 and Coop have 50% off on beef & other foodstuff because of near expiration date.
When i worked in a kafe and had too many pastries left, i give it away to the customers coming at closing time instead of throwing them away. So u know where to go at certain hours….😉
Dont forget Ikea too.😉 They have hotdogs in a bun for 5 kroner (i dont buy though because i’m not a fan of hotdogs). If u like fish u can fish by the fjord… plenty mackerels which i really like😋
The best thing in Norway is free wild berries in summer & early autumn. Just take a walk in the forest or hill and u can bring home buckets of blueberries and raspberries. I love berry picking and there’s an abundance here. Every summer i fill up my freezer and i have smoothie every morning til next summer😊😉
Before i forget, i love kvikklunsj… I’m eating one right now 😀 Speaking of chocolate, visit Nidar chocolate factory near Sirkus shopping. Then u can have free chocolate tasting to your heart’s content😉 It’s cheaper to buy chewing gum and of course chocolates there.
How can they not like Aquevit? I like it! Taste reminds me of sambuca. I’m not norwegian but i embrace the food and drink here. Try pinnekjøtt too. Yummy!! It’s plenty this season. And of course ribbe… better than our crispy pork belly in PI. Coop mega has ready to eat ribbe and they cut down the price when they’re nearing closing hours.
Hope this helps abit😀
I am a Norwegian living in Texas but spend 3 months every summer in Norway. I like your blog but I have to say: kvikklunsj is NOT the same as KitKat! No way! No family with respect for themselves will go hiking without a kvikklunsj in the back pack. It’s the best!
And Solo: the best soft drink ever made.😊
haha you sound like a true Norwegian!
Hey Silvia…Thanks for all the tips!! I’m in Norway with my husband last 2 weeks of May and we’re hoping we get decent weather to do some hikes and bike around…fingers crossed! We’re driving around so also hoping roads are accessible. Excited to see your beautiful country 🙂
Aww I hope you have an amazing time! Most of the roads should be accessible by then, and you might get to see the crazy high snow on each side of the mountain roads too.
Viviane Feeney says
I love binge reading your blog! I’m going to Bergen, Norway in July so maybe we could meet up there? 🙂
Ooh I would love to, but I’m going to be gone most all of July it looks like. I actually won’t be in Norway much this summer at all 🙁
Thanks for all your tips. This was all very helpful. I’m heading out Wednesday! I hope I get to see the crazy high snow !
Casey Bertelsman says
I’m planning a road trip through Norway next summer and your posts have been so helpful in helping me create an itinerary and a budget! I love all of the photos you post and am so excited for the trip. Now I just have to wait for the airfare costs to drop 🙂
Am trying to enrol for my masters program in stavanger university and my big problem now is how to get a very cheap accommodation for the year 2018 and am coming all the way from Nigeria Africa. Norway has been my dream country to be. Kindly give me advice on this. Thanks
I imagine the university should be able to help you out with that, or you could look on finn.no.
Herb Reiersen says
I’m taking a 2 week road trip with my son this summer starting in Oslo and making a fishhook route down to Kristiansand,Stavanger and then up to Bergen and Trondheim. When I was in Norway years ago, we were told that when we stayed at hotels with breakfast spreads, we could ‘butter some bread’. That meant that we could make sandwiches for the day. Is this still an accepted practice?
Also, I’ve been told to check out thrift stores for Norwegian sweaters. is there anyplace that you would recommend? Thanks
Oh I’m not sure. I’ve never done it, but I also can’t imagine staff at a hotel telling anyone off for anything, so you’d probably get away with it! And Fretex is the most common thrift store.
I know this is a super old post, but I hate the milk chocolate bars. I hate milk chocolate in general and those bars are extra “milky”. I do like the kvikk Lunsj ok but especially when you can buy them in dark chocolate!
Haatem Alramsi says
I will be disembark from NCL Cruise in Copenhagen at 12:00 pm on 22 July 2019. My return ticket from Oslo is reserved at 2:00 pm on 3 August 2019. I am traveling with my pregnant wife and would like to spend our time between Copenhagen (2 days) and the rest in Norway. Can you please arrange a tour for us. We are looking forward to see the beauty of norway.
Oh I absolutely love Kvikk Lunsj. It tastes better than a Kit Kat, at least from what I’ve had in Australia. I’ve noticed from travelling that toblerone in Switzerland tastes different to having it in Australia. Everyone has a different opinion which is cool though. I think I need to try out this unique Hobby chocolate. Cool post! I need to buy another reusable water bottle, Thanks for the reminder!
This is absolutely amazing information!
Thanks for giving us a tips for our little trip to Norway, cause we are actually staying there for 24 hours !
Mikkel Bergson says
Kit Kat and Kvikk Lunch are completely different in both taste and quality! >:(
Tracy Reynolds says
Thank you for all the fantastic advice! I’ll be there for 3 weeks and now I have a good idea of how to feed myself! 🙂
Boy, I am glad for all of your advice!
For what it’s worth, I spent 400NOK to get butter, a loaf of kneipbread, servelat, leberpastel, Freia chocolate, smoked lox (salmon), a cup of Skyr yogurt, and some tomatoes. I ate the for breakfast and dinner while saving nice meals for late lunch AND having 2 meals included in two of my excursions. I also couldn’t help but buy ANOTHER skolebrød at Eurospar! (They’re not available at Coop and KIWI). I also tried Troika; I’m a big fan of marizpan but this isn’t anywhere close to what’s sold in Central Europe.
Altogether, my food budget was around 400NOK/day and I think I may be going over juuuuussst a bit if perhaps because I made a choice to have one drink (roughly 100-140 NOK) with my nice meal.
I recommend bringing your favorite coffee and tea with you even if you’re staying at an Airbnb.