fish cakes fish balls supermarket norway

Visit To a Supermarket in Norway

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I know I'm not alone in my enjoyment of visiting foreign grocery stores and markets when I travel. Today I thought I'd take you on a little tour of a typical supermarket in Norway, which I visit once a week to buy our groceries. We have several major chains in Norway and they pretty much dominate the food shopping scene for better or worse. In Stavanger I'm familiar with ICA, Co-op, Rimi, Kiwi, Rema 1000 and, my personal favourite, Helgo Meny. Meny has the best selection of international brands and food though the prices can sometimes be a bit higher than the others. Rema 1000 is the bargain store for me, but that doesn't mean it's bad. These photos are from there and Co-op.

The first thing to remember on a visit to a Norwegian supermarket is to bring along a 10 kr coin because you'll usually need it to provide a deposit for the shopping trolley if you wish to use one. Otherwise just grab a plastic basket at the front of the store when you enter.

cold seafood section supermarket in norwayI've only photographed the things that I find to be unique to supermarkets in Norway for this post. The rest of the items can usually be found elsewhere in the world. I find the selections in some of the stores to be quite limited, both in the range of brands and also in the availability of sizes. As I mentioned in my last post you don't find a lot of bulk items in Norway. In some shopping categories, however, the selection is tremendous. Look at the range of fish cakes, fish balls, shrimp, caviar in a tube and other fish products available here, for example.

fish cakes fish balls supermarket norway

caviar supermarket norway

In this section you'll also find that mayonnaise in a tube, which is popular in Europe, a variety of prepared cold salads and quite a few varieties of jarred fish. I really need to be more adventurous in my eating habits here in Norway and try some of this stuff. I assume these are Norwegian dietary staples because this section exists in every supermarket. I rarely eat processed foods so this is the main reason I haven't explored the cold seafood section.

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sausage section norwegian supermarket

Norwegians love their sausages so there is also always a large sausage and cold meats section of the supermarket. The bacon here is delicious, though I do prefer to buy my sausages and bacon at the butcher in Stavanger town centre.

bread at supermarket in Norway

I am in love with the bread section of the store. We've been stupidly buying packaged sliced bread until I recently started exploring the fresh bread loaves and the slicing machine. Just select your loaves from the huge variety, remove from the paper wrapping, place the entire loaf into the automatic slicer and close the lid. The bread is cut automatically and then you simply place it onto the metal rack (see it sitting at an angle there?) and slide the paper wrapper back on. Most shops have plastic bags that you can put the bread in before placing the paper back on (the cashier will need the barcode on the outside so don't forget) - handy if you want to freeze the bread.

kavli baconost and other ost tubes

Another must-try for me...sandwich spread in a tube. These are flavoured cheese spreads that come in varieties like ham and bacon. I'm wary of products like this in any country, but should probably give it a go...

fresh fish supermarket in Norway

If you're after fresh fish, some of the grocery stores will have a counter where you can ask to have fillets sliced from the large pieces. I serve ørrefillet once a week - it's trout and it's delicious, especially when the skin is crisp. Salmon is also available. We've only tried another white fish once - because I don't really know what they are, I just stick to the ones I know are good. Norwegians also eat lutefisk, which you can sometimes find in this section of the supermarket. Sometimes this is translated as 'rotten fish.' It's made using air-dried or salted whitefish and lye, giving it a gelatinous texture. John tried this in a restaurant with his co-workers once but I have not been so adventurous. I also see things like fish organs at the counter. As you would expect, Norwegians enjoy their fish. I recommend Helgo Meny if you want to explore this section of the supermarket - their counters usually have the widest variety and, I think, some of the freshest offerings.

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grotris norway

I tried making this the other day - it translates to paella rice but is actually more of a porridge that requires a ton of milk to make. It's tasty enough but I find it to be more of a meal than a side dish. Perhaps for breakfast on a cold morning?

asian section norway supermarket

Most Norwegian supermarkets have large Asian sections, which is wonderful for some variety. If you want to make sushi, Thai or Indian food, you won't have trouble finding ingredients. Though I prefer the smaller Asian grocery stores for these items. Mexican food is also popular and several brands of Tex-Mex staples may be found.

brown cheese norway

Apologies for the blur but it wouldn't be a Norwegian supermarket post if I didn't show you the famous Norwegian brown cheese. Brunost is a caramelised whey cheese that tastes a little like hardened peanut butter to me. It's slightly sweet and usually served in thin slices, perhaps on a piece of toast. The Fløtemysost is a variation made from cow's milk that is more mild, though as you can see from this photo, there are several varieties of Brunost to choose from.

coca cola expensive norway

It can be easy to avoid products that are bad for your health in Norway for a couple of reasons. The first is price. Here you can see that a six-pack of Coca-Cola costs around $10. So we don't drink soda here. Ever. The prices help me avoid the candy aisle as well (John is not so good about this). Another reason I feel I'm eating healthier in Norway is the requirement for labelling of GMO food.

yarn in a supermarket in Norway

Sometimes you'll find random things in a supermarket, like this almost entire aisle side devoted to yarn at my local Rema 1000.

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Once you've finished shopping it's time to head to the checkout counters. This is my least favourite part of the shopping experience because there is usually a line. Cost-cutting is a must for businesses here so I've never seen more than two cashiers working at the same time. Once it's your turn, prepare for the mad scramble if you buy a lot of stuff at once. Norwegian cashiers must be some of the highest paid in the world but I'm pretty sure they also have the easiest job. They don't bag anything so you have to hurry to pack all of your things. It's a race because you only have the one person behind you as a buffer. If they are slow in packing, you have to move faster so the purchases of the person after him don't start crowding yours on the conveyor belt. Some of the cashiers don't even have to count change. They simply insert each bill into the correct slot on a large machine and the correct amount of change is spit back out. How's that for progress?

Do you enjoy exploring foreign supermarkets?

Planning a move or visit to Norway? We lived there. Check out our Norway stories and resources.

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  1. Juan Fernandez 14 October, 2013 at 07:01 Reply

    Thanks I live in Norway for school and have been out here for almost three years now, from my home town of Albuqueruqe New Mexico. I have weaved my way through the same pitfalls and came to a lot of the same conclusions as you did. I found your article for my report on Rimi. I hope you don’t mind if I reference your article (citations included of course). Supermarkets and extreme costs have been the bane of my existance here but my paper is going to some of the execs here for some of the chains. Thanks for the info.

  2. Berk 27 August, 2013 at 08:22 Reply

    Great work! Especially valuable for someone who is trying to make a living budget during studies. Can you offer some websites of these chains, in which I can find ordinary prices?

    • inspiringtravellers 27 August, 2013 at 11:13

      Hi Berk – just do a search on Helgo Meny, Kiwi and ICA “i Norge” you’ll find them. Good luck!

  3. Zara @ Backpack ME 11 May, 2013 at 10:01 Reply

    I’m glad to see coke is so expensive – it discourages people from drinking such large amounts.
    When I used to live in Dubai I found it amazing that a can of soda cost something around $0.20, when things in general were not that cheap. Now I’m traveling in the US and chocked to see that a large soda tends to be cheaper than water .. at least you can drink straight from the tap, but the truth is that I rarely see people having water in regular places, mostly sodas.

    • inspiringtravellers 11 May, 2013 at 14:14

      I agree – as a mostly water drinker, it saddens me that so many people (including children) steadily consume soda. But Norway prices are a bit crazy for me

  4. Carl Youngblood 1 May, 2013 at 01:09 Reply

    I hate how rushed I feel at the check stand in Norway! And how they don’t have separate conveyer belts for alternating customers so your stuff gets crunched while the next customers’ things are coming down. Like you said, it’s especially hard when you buy a lot at once. :)

  5. Andrea 8 April, 2013 at 09:08 Reply

    I love checking out the grocery stores in every new country I visit as well. It’s a cultural lesson to itself, isn’t it? I noticed many similar products when I was shopping in Danish and Swedish grocery stores. For some reason I’m drawing a blank on Norway but that’s probably because it was so expensive that I wasn’t eating LOL!

    • inspiringtravellers 8 April, 2013 at 10:40

      Hahaha – I know that feeling. My junk food consumption is virtually nil since moving here. I wouldn’t think of buying a soda or any candy in Norway.

  6. Ali 4 April, 2013 at 15:25 Reply

    Foreign supermarkets are fun. Even after all the time I’ve been living in Germany, I still occasionally see something odd or funny. I’m not sure I could handle the strong emphasis on fish in Norway since I’m not a big fan of fish. It’s sometimes hard enough to adjust to the emphasis on pork here in Germany.

    • inspiringtravellers 5 April, 2013 at 16:23

      We didn’t do much supermarket exploring in Germany come to think of it – I’m not sure why but I regret that!

  7. Nate 22 March, 2013 at 22:41 Reply

    Hey Andrea!

    I love checking out supermarkets in other countries. Also, I looooove that Norwegian Brown Cheese. I was so happy to find it back in Perth last time I was there.

    Hope you are well, Nate.

    • inspiringtravellers 25 March, 2013 at 21:34

      Hey Nate! I had no idea they export that cheese all the way to Perth…so cool! Hope all is well with you too =)

  8. Kyle 21 March, 2013 at 05:56 Reply

    Foreign supermarkets are my favorite! I spent HOURS in one in China.

    And I have to say, I’m surprised by how exotic Norwegian food sounds…not in a good way to me, but still! I’m a picky eater so I’d be avoiding most of the things on your must-try list as well :)

    • inspiringtravellers 21 March, 2013 at 08:27

      I’m still impressed that you ate the pig’s ears in Estonia! I think you’re more food-adventurous than you give yourself credit for =)

  9. nicole @thewondernuts 20 March, 2013 at 20:04 Reply

    I love supermarkets in other countries! Especially because portions for things are normal, not costco-sized. In amsterdam, we filled up on all the stroopwaffle we could find in the supermarket. =)

    • inspiringtravellers 21 March, 2013 at 08:28

      Yeah, the regular portions are great when you travel, not so much when you live in a place. I miss being able to buy some things in bulk for the cost savings…

  10. cosmoHallitan 20 March, 2013 at 03:03 Reply

    So happy to have stumbled on your blog! I’m moving to the Baltics next year and this is making me even more excited! I can’t wait to explore such a fascinating part of the world. I’ve been living in Shanghai for the past two years and am in for a bit of culture shock!

    • inspiringtravellers 20 March, 2013 at 10:04

      Yes, I think you will definitely be in for some changes. But, of course, variety is the spice of life! =)

    • inspiringtravellers 20 March, 2013 at 10:04

      I’m with you, Bethaney – a lot of it is packaged or processed food, and I prefer fresh. I believe this is because of the climate here. You’ll find a lot of frozen foods as well.

    • inspiringtravellers 19 March, 2013 at 09:14

      I really need to try the caviar – I’m just convinced it won’t be that great, I mean, look how big it is and the price isn’t that high!

    • inspiringtravellers 19 March, 2013 at 11:35

      I know you do, Stephanie =) I’m super sneaky…though in Norway I don’t think anyone cares about things like that. I’d be very surprised if anyone came up and said anything – people here are not confrontational…

  11. Jill 19 March, 2013 at 03:57 Reply

    This is a great post. I love the idea. Isn’t it funny that something so seemingly boring as a supermarket can be so fascinating? I love shopping and exploring foreign supermarkets too. There are always new and strange foods to check out.

    Sounds like grocery store cashier is the job to have in Norway. You don’t have to do much work AND you get to see what everyone is having for dinner!

    • inspiringtravellers 19 March, 2013 at 09:13

      I agree, Jill – totally enjoy the supermarkets…I always feel a little funny sneaking photos in them but cannot resist!

    • inspiringtravellers 19 March, 2013 at 09:14

      I don’t know why nobody else seems to save the ends – keeps the bread fresh!

    • inspiringtravellers 19 March, 2013 at 09:12

      Too many good breads – it’s a bit like Germany, haha – I love the smell!

  12. Karla 19 March, 2013 at 00:20 Reply

    I always check out supermarkets when I travel. Whether it is to buy water, snacks, or just get lost in the alleys.

    I loved doing my groceries in Seoul during the year I was there. There was a small international foods section and it was like comfort food which was kind of expensive but hey, its the best we could get!

    What a great idea to have a bread slicer!

    I love the yarn section ha ha so cool 😉

  13. The Guy 18 March, 2013 at 14:39 Reply

    I made my first visit to a Norwegian supermarket in January this year and the aisles and prices look familiar :-) Sadly I don’t remember what chain it was, definitely not Co-op as I would remember that one.

    I don’t recall the auto change machine for the cashier either. Is it only certain chains who use those?

  14. Ayelet - All Colores 18 March, 2013 at 13:04 Reply

    I like that you’re encouraged to eat healthy foods there. Supermarkets can be interesting, and they can say a lot about a culture. In Argentina, the first thing I saw in my first supermarket was meat, because Argentines love their meats. One day I’ll write a post about my first visit to the huge Wal-Mart and the other big stores in the States. It was very interesting to explore them.

    • inspiringtravellers 18 March, 2013 at 17:19

      Wow, we probably take those stores for granted in the US. We have Co-op Mega here in Norway but it’s nowhere near the size of a Wal-mart (or even a Target for that matter)

  15. Jess @UsedYorkCity 18 March, 2013 at 13:27 Reply

    I LOVE visiting foreign grocery stores when on vacation! Not only does it give a great insight into local living, but you can also pick up great little local candies as inexpensive gifts for folks back home!

  16. Lisa 18 March, 2013 at 07:29 Reply

    Andrea, It’s interesting to see the products and foods that are staples in Norway. Grocery shopping has been an adventure in Budapest.

    • inspiringtravellers 18 March, 2013 at 08:30

      I’m trying to remember the supermarket we went to in Budapest…I know we did some shopping there. Definitely enjoyed the food there!

  17. Paul 18 March, 2013 at 00:43 Reply

    Great post. I love going to supermarkets when I travel. It’s so interesting to see all the products on sale, and what the locals actually eat on a day to day basis.

  18. Cheryl 17 March, 2013 at 23:14 Reply

    My first few attempts at the super market in Berlin were rather interesting but it’s so fun to discover cultural differences. I used to break into a nervous sweat stuffing all my groceries into my bag as it seemed I could never do it fast enough for their liking. :)

    • inspiringtravellers 18 March, 2013 at 08:29

      I still do, haha. John has a trick where he throws everything back into the trolley and takes it away to pack at his leisure =)

    • inspiringtravellers 18 March, 2013 at 08:28

      All the houses have dishwashers so I’m happy, haha. Can never get my head around full service petrol pumps…freaked me out when we visited New Jersey earlier in the year where everything is full serve.

  19. Dani 17 March, 2013 at 21:43 Reply

    The ‘brown cheese’ is my favorite – I am not sure why they don’t export it to other European countries (hint, hint) – we got addicted to it when we were in Norway. Exploring supermarkets in foreign countries is one of my favorite kinds of sightseeing, by the way :)

    • inspiringtravellers 18 March, 2013 at 08:27

      I think they do export it to other countries — have you checked out your more specialty food stores? It could be there =)

    • Matt 13 November, 2014 at 19:44

      The brown cheese in the US is mostly Ski Queen brand. Most large supermarkets or COOP type stores carry it.


  20. Alouise 17 March, 2013 at 19:19 Reply

    I’ve never really thought about visiting the supermarket when I travel to another country, but it definitely looks like it would be a fun experience…except maybe that whole packing your own groceries thing.

  21. Jennifer 17 March, 2013 at 19:01 Reply

    I love exploring foreign supermarkets. I could spend hours in our various Italian markets. As for Norway, I love the brown cheese! Do you ever see fresh king crab at the market? So delicious!

    We also have to bag ourselves in the Italian supermarkets. It’s the same concept. There is a divider and you have until the person behind you is finished to get everything bagged up.

    • inspiringtravellers 18 March, 2013 at 08:25

      I have seen crab at the market but am never sure how fresh it is…always looks so tempting though!

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