One of the things I was honestly most excited to do when we got off the airplane in Keflavík was go grocery shopping. Weird, right? I don’t know, I guess it would just seem like the ultimate adventure!
We rented a Kuku Campers van for our 19 day road trip around Iceland, and for budget reasons, planned to cook the majority of our own meals (you can read about our bakery, cafe, and restaurant adventures here). Eating out is very expensive in Iceland, and since we had a small stove and electric cooler in van, it only made sense.
The various Facebook Iceland travel groups are filled with posts about people asking how much food they can bring in their luggage and the like. Why?! Maybe it’s just me, but I wasn’t flying 3500 miles to eat the same stuff I eat day in and day out back home. Plus I needed that luggage space for far more important things, like all the hair products I’d never touch in 19 days, a million pairs of thermal leggings, and my toy dinosaur that goes everywhere with me. #priorities Needless to say, the only food items I brought with me from the US were a box of 5 protein bars that I figured would be good for hiking and a zip lock bag full of various teas I enjoy. (And I’d bring home 3 of those protein bars, and twice the amount of tea since I bought more in Iceland…)
Another good reason to consider buying locally in Iceland is just that, buying locally. I’m invading the Icelanders’ beautiful country for weeks, and therefore I don’t mind dumping some money back into their local economy.
And lastly… it turns out groceries were really not that more expensive than what I pay back in Cheyenne, WY USA. More on that later…
We were able to raid the “free shelf” at Kuku for a few essentials, such as salt and pepper, and instant coffee that Kubo decided was the best thing in the whole world (it wasn’t half bad, to his defense). The camper van rental companies and campground often have these shelves (with the Reykjavík Campground taking the cake for most impressive collection of unwanted free items), and they’re worth a look, especially for basics like spices/seasonings, coffee, paper towels, etc.
Stores of Choice
This goes without saying… Bónus is where we did the majority of our shopping, with a couple stops at Krónan for good measure. Bónus is your bargain grocery store, whereas Krónan seemed a bit more classier (think Walmart vs. King Soopers/Safeway type of deal).
Grocery stores in Iceland have limited hours compared to us spoiled Americans with our 24/7 shopping choices, so something to consider for itinerary planning. You won’t be able to shop to at 7am or 11pm, at least not at the cheaper places. You also might be limited in locations for the bigger brand stores, so look up where they are when planning itineraries, and plan to stock up if you’re going to go several days without see another Bónus. (The south coast is really devoid of the cheaper grocery stores, for example, though there is a newer Krónan in Vík which was a nice surprise.)
Our shopping schedule:
Day 1 – Bónus in Hafnarfjörður (across the roundabout from Kuku and other rental companies) – Big shopping day to get all the essentials plus some… you know that whole “don’t grocery shop if you’re hungry” (or fresh off the plane after an overnight international flight) thing? Yeah… we got a lot of stuff!
Day 4 – Krónan in Mosfellsbær – stock up of perishables
Day 6 – Bónus in Stykkishólmur – stock up before disappearing into the Westfjords, where civilization becomes a bit more sparse
Day 8 – Bónus in Ísafjörður – stock up for a decently long haul without shopping
Day 13 – Bónus in Egilsstaðir
Day 16 – Krónan in Vík – last little stock up of the trip
- The selection is way less than what’s found in the US. However… it was refreshing. You don’t have 25 different brands of yogurt, and that is great. Makes it a lot easier to decide!
- Produce was largely locally grown in Iceland, at least when we traveled. Produce on a whole seemed fresh and delicious.
- The meat section can be scary if you don’t use Google translate. Everything looks the same when it’s raw, which leads to your beef steaks turning out to be horse…
- Buy some reusable bags, which saves you on the bag fee, and make great totes on your road trip (we used ours mainly when going to hot pots and pools for our clothing) and once you’re back home.
- “Cool American” flavor Doritos were nowhere to be found. This was heartbreaking to me.
- The bread is to die for.
- Skyr in Iceland is far superior in taste (and flavor selection) to American skyr
- The Cheerios taste different
- The produce, dairy, and meat sections in Bónus are large, walk in rooms that are refrigerated. Bring a coat/wear layers. Krónan had all their items in the standard coolers that I’m use to in the US.
Meals we prepared:
- Breakfast was typically Cheerios for me, muesli for Kubo, skyr, juice, fruit if we had some
- Our staple for lunches were sandwiches. Swiss cheese, ham, salami, some weird gross meat concoction for Kubo, sprouts, spinach. Always with paprika flavored Lays (why don’t we have these in the US?! Seriously?!), and often with some veggies to snack on.
- Spaghetti we had two nights, once with hot dogs and another with hamburger
- Carbonara mix with hamburger added in
- Hot dogs
- Eggs fried with scallions, peppers, and rolled into tortillas. Make amazing carry along hiking foods (we cooked up a big batch for our day hike in Landmannalaugar), or for chilling at the westernmost point of Europe.
- Horse steaks because someone thought it looked like beef…
- Rice as a side for a few times
- Beef steaks with baby potatoes
- Chicken cordon bleu with broccoli and baby potatoes
- Soups! Usually used a packaged mix and added in some scallions or broccoli. I bought a ton of Maggi soup mixes to bring home with me. Yes, I ended up bringing home more food from Iceland than what I brought originally
- Hraunbitar… which are the BEST THINGS EVER. So sad I didn’t bring a ton home with me.
- Appelsin orange soda (amazzzzinnnnggggg)
- Bananas, apples
- Various chocolate bars
- Pickles… the pickles in Iceland are darn good, and I was eating them by the jar!
So about the prices… they were NOT nearly as bad as the big, bad internet makes them out to be. I’m sure this can be dependent on where you live, but still. Coming from a land-locked high altitude desert that is barren and cold as hell, I’m use to produce prices being a bit elevated as we have to import everything into Wyoming. And also harkening back to my post-college years spent in New Jersey where grocery prices were stupidly elevated, I just didn’t see the fuss over the grocery prices in Iceland. Even if we were paying slightly more, it was much better than trying to smuggle 3 weeks worth of food in our luggage (and even then, we still would’ve had to buy our dairy, eggs, produce, meat, etc in country).
Here’s some prices, based on what we paid in September 2018 (with very rough USD prices based on 12/30/18 exchange rate):
- Bananas: 179 isk/kg (kg = 2.2 pounds) – ~$1.50
- Blueberries imported from the USA: 679 isk – ~$5.8s
- Carton of cherry tomatoes: 349 isk – ~$3.00
- Bag of muesli cereal: 298 isk – ~$2.56
- Bag of Lays paprika chips: 195 isk – ~$1.67
- Ísey skyr: 175 isk – ~$1.50
- 1 liter of milk: 179 isk – ~$1.50
- Síríus chocolate bar: 275 isk – ~$2.36
- Package of baby sweet peppers: 498 isk – ~$4.28
- Loaf of sandwich bread: 387isk – ~$3.32
- Hraunbitar: 223 isk – ~$1.91
- 500g of horse meat: 565 isk – ~$4.85
- Package of Maggi soup mix: 169isk – ~$1.45
- 1kg bag of frozen broccoli: 279 isk – ~$2.40
- Dozen eggs: 519isk – ~$4.46
- Package of ham sandwich meat: 689isk – ~$5.92
- 10 pack of hot dogs: 395 isk – ~$3.40
- Smjörvi butter spread: 498isk – ~$4.28
- 1kg spaghetti noodles: 169isk – ~$1.45
- Cheerios: 595isk – ~$5.11
- 6 pack of Appelsin soda: 474isk – ~$4.00
- Blueberry jam: 298isk – ~$2.56
- 8 pack of tortillas: 169isk – ~$1.45
- Bag of pretzels: 139isk – ~$1.19
- Package of fresh bacon bits: 330isk – ~$2.83
- Package of Swiss cheese for sandwiches: 929isk – ~$8.00
- Bunch of green onions/scallions: 198isk – ~$1.70
- Bag of spinach leaves: 329isk – $~2.82
- Bag of shredded mozzarella: 412isk – ~$3.54
And so on!
Now for pictures!
And now some random photos of our meals, because who doesn’t like taking photos of their meals, amIright?!
And that’s all on that! Grocery shopping was a fun adventure, and economical considering our mode of travel/accommodation and length of stay. We did leave a moderate amount of stuff on the free shelf of the Reykjavík campground on our final day – mostly instant soup mixes (not my Maggi’s, though!), what was left of our bread, couple things of skyr, jam, butter, paper towels, and toilet paper. I am so happy that I did not bring any food (aside from protein bars and tea) from home, especially since I ended up bringing back a ton of soup mixes and leftover snack items. When I go again I’m definitely planning on doing a bit more shopping before leaving Iceland for items to bring home, and will not bring anything from the US with me. Just not necessary!