How to feed yourself and survive in Reykjavík
Every time I see tourists shopping for basic food staples at high-end grocery stores—including, but not limited to, loading up on litres of bottled water—I feel a pang of sympathy and pity. Sympathy, because I, too, once didn’t know the difference between buying food from 10/11 and Bónus. And pity, because it’s so easy to avoid burning your money to this degree. So as a public service to you, we at Grapevine have compiled this short list of ways and means to eat for a lot less than you might’ve thought.
1. Know where to shop.
This is key to everything else. The 10/11 on Austurstræti might be very conveniently located, and that location is open round the clock, but the markup is ridiculous. You’re much better off going to Bónus—the yellow-themed grocery store with a weird black-eyed pig mascot—which has more food for a whole lot less. Check out bonus.is for a list of locations and operating hours near you.
2. DO NOT buy bottled water.
This is arguably the biggest scam aimed at tourists. I know you may come from a country where nearby roadwork will shake the rust loose in the pipes and give you spigotfuls of brown water, but in Iceland, the tap water is literally the same quality as the bottled water. This has been proven, over and over, by every environmental and water quality measure taken. Save a plastic bottle, and drink water from the tap. It’s the same water, and you’ll save some money.
3. Don’t be afraid of organs.
Not one for the vegetarians, this, but lamb hearts, kidneys and livers are in season again. Yum! And fortunately for you, a pervading bourgeois snobbery means most Icelanders look down on this food, making it super cheap. Lamb hearts are particularly succulent, and at a couple hundred krónur for a pack of three or four, you’ll be feeding yourself for days on less than a bill.
4. Keep your eyes peeled for Euro Shopper anything.
Our European readers probably don’t need to be told this, but if you hail from North America, Euro Shopper is a massive, continent-wide generic foods wholesaler. They have the off-brand equivalent of pretty much any variety of basic food there is. In some instances, they can even surprise you: for example, the Euro Shopper nacho chips are comprised solely of corn flour, oil, salt, and nothing more. Not too shabby for generic food!
5. Think before you dine out.
If you have the luxury of going out to a restaurant, don’t let that mean that you have money to burn. Do some comparative selecting between different iterations of the same kind of restaurant before picking a place. On the positive side, you probably won’t have to worry about waiting staff upselling you—servers get paid a living wage in Iceland, and don’t work for tips. Although, nobody will stop you from leaving money on the table.