Shopping for Groceries in Iceland

Shopping for Groceries in Iceland

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Iceland is known for being expensive, but it doesn't have to be if you research beforehand.

Grocery shopping in Iceland may seem daunting, but this guide will tell you everything you need to know so you can get the best deals and food for your Icelandic adventure! Read on for our top tips, favorite stores, and stores to avoid.

A common concern for first-time and seasoned travelers alike is Iceland's high cost of living. It is true that compared to the US and many European countries, the prices in Iceland are high. They're comparable to other Nordic countries, and eating a meal in a restaurant in Reykjavik will set you back a pretty penny. However, there are ways that you can still enjoy Iceland on a budget, and smart grocery shopping is one of the main ones!



Tips for Grocery Shopping in Iceland

Reykjavík has a wide amount of supermarkets catering to all budgets, such as Krónan, pictured here.

Reykjavik is home to a relatively large selection of supermarkets, varying in size, selection, and price, but the farther you venture from the capital, the more limited your options become. Planning and doing most of your shopping before you leave Reykjavik is helpful if you want to stick to a tight budget.

Some general tips for shopping in Iceland are as follows:

  • Google Translate is your friend! In most supermarkets, the products will only be labeled in Icelandic. Make your life easier and be sure you're getting the food you want by using the Google Translate app, where you can either type in the product name or scan it with your phone camera, and the app can directly translate what is in the picture.

  • Bring your bag with you or prepare to pay a few Icelandic krónur for paper bags or compostable bags. Iceland is very focused on sustainability, and plastic bags aren't available at grocery stores (unless you get a whole bag roll).

  • Read the labels on meat very carefully. Unique meats such as foal or reindeer are readily available in supermarkets so double-check your meat products if that isn't something you want to try. You'll have no issue finding beef, pork, chicken, or lamb.

  • If you want to try cooking authentic Icelandic lamb, make sure to check the origin of the packaging. It's common to see lamb from countries like New Zealand in grocery stores. However, Icelandic lamb has a Protected Designation of Origin, and the packaging should clearly state that it's from Iceland.

  • Don't expect to buy your alcohol at the grocery store. Supermarkets can only sell beer with an alcohol percentage of 2.25% or below. Alcohol is sold exclusively through state-run liquor stores called Vinbudin.

  • Like many places in Western Europe, credit cards or contactless payments are the most typical in Iceland. When using a self-checkout at a supermarket, cash is not accepted. Supermarkets generally do not accept foreign currencies.

Most Icelandic grocery stores sell plenty of fresh fish, meat, fruit, and vegetables, but the rule of thumb is that the cheaper the store, the lesser the variety. The upscale stores make up for what the budget stores lack in selection and service by adding to the price.

The main exception, as will be covered in more detail later in this article, is the store 10/11. It's both expensive and lacking in range.



Ethical Grocery Shopping in Iceland

There are many ways to reduce waste in grocery stores in Iceland

You can use your shopping trip to leave plastic, paper, and old batteries in Kronan locations in Iceland. They will then be recycled for you.

In this day and age, travelers to Iceland and locals alike are increasingly concerned about the origins of their food. Many fresh fruits and vegetables are locally grown in heated greenhouses, harnessing the abundant geothermal energy that Iceland is well known for, and livestock is mostly free-ranging.

Additionally, grocery stores no longer offer plastic bags, requiring customers to bring their reusable bags or pay a few kroner per paper bag. There's even a small corner store in the town of Hafnarfjordur that doesn't use any plastic for all their products, called Matarbúðin Nándin.

Vegetarian and vegan diets are increasingly popular in Iceland, so many supermarkets and restaurants cater to such diets. It is not difficult to find a wide array of fruits or vegetables when shopping at the leading supermarket chains.

However, those seeking kosher or halal food might have a little more work ahead of them, so keep this in mind when planning your trip. The supermarkets Kronan, Bonus, and Netto carry some kosher and halal products, though kosher and halal meats will be more challenging to find.



Budget Supermarkets in Reykjavik

The best way to save money in Iceland is by shopping at budget grocery stores

Iceland is an incredible country to vacation in, but it is well-known that it can be expensive. Smart travelers, however, can minimize the impact on their wallets by researching the cheapest places to buy groceries before arrival.

You can save hundreds of dollars by purchasing your food at the locations listed below rather than spending at expensive restaurants or pricy supermarket chains that target unknowing visitors.

The supermarkets that offer the lowest prices do have some downsides. Budget supermarkets might have fewer staff members, so it can also be more challenging to find help if you need it. However, most grocery stores now have self-checkout lanes, so paying for your products has gotten very quick.

A good tip is to use your translation apps or memorize the Icelandic words for some of the most common items you might purchase. This will shorten the time you spend shopping and thus increase your time enjoying Iceland. 

Krónan

Krónan has cheap groceries in Iceland and a great selection of productsKronan has that perfect balance of a very affordable price range and a great selection of food items. They have an impressive selection of organic and preservative-free groceries, and is a great affordable option for enviormentally friendly products. All their stores have received the Nordic Swan Ecolabel.

One great thing about Kronan is that they directly support local farmers and small producers by offering a selection of more specialty products. They regularly host farmers' markets and other fun events. Many of their stores also feature fast-food places like Tokyo Sushi, Rotisserie, and Olifa, with many also located next to Dominos.

Kronan runs stores nationwide, with most of them being located along Iceland's South Coast. They're open from morning to evening on weekdays and weekends. They usually close at either 8 or 9 PM.



Bonus

Reykjavík has many stores called Bonus, which boast the cheapest foods.

Operating around 30 stores nationwide, Bonus is the most visible supermarket in Iceland.

Due to minimal customer service, a raw warehouse interior, and the conglomerate's market share size, Bonus can underbid all of its competitors. Surveys almost always find it to be Iceland's cheapest grocery store. 

Bonus stores are open on weekdays and weekends, identified by a yellow banner showing a chubby piggy bank. They close earlier than most supermarkets, usually at either 7 or 8 PM, but sometimes a bit earlier in the countryside.

Mid-Range Supermarkets in Reykjavik

Iceland's mid-range supermarkets are great for travelers looking for various items, which often extend beyond foodstuffs. They can also be an excellent option for picky eaters, as they are far more likely to have products from home than the stores at either end of the price range.

Netto

Netto is a cheap supermarket, many branches of which are 24 hour.

Netto is a combination grocery and department store home to an interesting array of everyday items, ranging from knitting products to kitchen utensils and relatively affordable groceries.

The stores are open both on weekdays and weekends. Many are open 24 hours, making Netto the country's best place to buy Icelandic yarn should you run out in the middle of an all-night knitting marathon.

Hagkaup

Hagkaup is a superstore in Iceland.

An extensive range of goods, from cheap clothes and a great cosmetics selection to a large selection of food items, makes Hagkaup Iceland's only chain of upscale hypermarkets. The interiors often feel more like a mall than a simple store.

The food prices are considerably higher than at the budget shops, but most branches are open until midnight or 24/7 for convenience, except the one at the Kringlan shopping mall.

Iceland

Iceland supermarket logo

Iceland is a British supermarket chain focused on frozen goods while still having a decent selection of essential food items. The supermarket opened in 2012 and has a few locations within the Capital Region.

The relationship between Iceland (the supermarket) and Iceland (the country) has often been strained. The country and the supermarket have battled in courts over the right to use the name "Iceland" as a trademark.

In 2019, an EU court ruled in favor of Iceland (the country) being allowed to use the name "Iceland" for marketing purposes. It should be mentioned that Iceland was given its name in the 9th century, about 1000 years before the supermarket chain was established.

Trademark disputes aside, some people might get a kick out of being in Iceland in Iceland while shopping for food.

Expensive Supermarkets in Reykjavik

Iceland's supermarkets on the more expensive side are numerous, conveniently located, and inviting, with glowing signs and English labels. They often create an unpleasant surprise for the wallets of unsuspecting tourists. If you are traveling with little concern for budget, they are fine for a quick snack or a pre-made meal. For those on a more careful budget, avoiding the stores below is advisable.

10/11

10/11 is an expensive but convenient store in Iceland.

While incredibly convenient and easy to find in downtown Reykjavik, shopping in the bright green 10/11 stores will add at least 50 percent to your grocery bill. It's well-known that these convenience stores are the most expensive places to shop in Iceland while offering a somewhat limited selection. It's not uncommon to spot unknowing travelers exiting 10/11 with full grocery bags for their trip, making all surrounding locals flinch at the thought of the cost.

The 10/11 stores tend to alter their electronic price tags at night, increasing the prices of their already overpriced assortment of food by an average of eight percent every evening. However, for travelers who have perhaps just returned from northern lights tours and are just looking for a quick snack, they will prove convenient as most are open 24 hours a day. There's also a location in the arrivals hall of Keflavik Airport that can be a savior when arriving late or early.

Krambudin

Krambudin supermarket logo

With stores located around the country, Krambudin is the main competitor of 10/11 when it comes to convenience and long hours. These stores usually have a good location but a moderate selection, focusing on ready-made meals and essential food items. Locations in larger towns will also have bread and pastries, which are freshly baked in the morning.

Krambudin stores open early in the morning and close between 10 PM and midnight. They are open on weekdays and weekends. The prices are usually slightly cheaper than 10/11, but they don't boast the 24/7 opening hours.



Corner Stores in Reykjavik

Melabúðin, Pétursbúð, and Kjötborg are some of the last corner shops left in Reykjavik, remnants of a time when most of the shops were family-owned stores, and customers had a much more personal experience.

Each shop has a charm uniquely of its own, with friendly personal service and an authentic atmosphere. Of course, by necessity, they are more expensive than most supermarkets (although not 10/11), but shopping at one is excellent for the local economy and readily justifiable for those with a bit more money to spare.

Should you long for sincerity, fair trade, and a glimpse into Iceland's economic and cultural history, you would do well to take your business to the endangered species that is the Reykjavik corner shop.



Iceland's food industry is largely sustainable due to its wide, open countryside, small population and greenhouse industry.

Did you find this guide to grocery shopping in Iceland helpful? Where did you purchase your groceries, and did you find them expensive? Did Iceland's supermarkets cater to your tastes? Let us know in the comments section below.

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