From Iceland — Eating Well On a Budget

Eating Well On a Budget

Published June 3, 2023

Eating Well On a Budget
Photo by
Art Bicnick

How to feed a family without splurging

Katrín Björk Birgisdóttir regularly posts her grocery hauls to YouTube. A nail technician by day, Katrín is known for challenging herself to cook on a budget. Is it possible to feed a family for cheap in Reykjavík? The Grapevine caught up with Katrín to find out.

GV: How did your food budgeting journey begin?

I have a family of four, including two boys who are always hungry. I’ve always been budget focused. Even when I was younger, I made multiple accounts with money for this and that week. I’ve always just been interested in it and I’ve always wanted to make a go of this YouTube thing. I started doing this not necessarily because we needed to save the money, but to challenge myself. I found that there was less food waste, too. 

“I started doing this not necessarily because we needed to save the money, but to challenge myself and see what we could actually end up saving.”

GV: What are your specific tips and tricks for saving money on food in Reykjavík?

Firstly, shop in stores like Bónus and Krónan. Always make your meal plans based on what you already have in the fridge. I would always just graze over the fridge, maybe write down what’s in there, what needs to be used, and account for the stuff in the pantry and freezer. Also, purchase foods that you can use across multiple meals. For me, that’s buying larger proteins like whole chicken.

Also, use a smaller basket. You’ll be thinking, ‘How is this supposed to feed us for a week?’ but then it does because nothing is going to waste – you’re using all of it. I used to purchase a bag of carrots and use two for a meal, but the rest would go bad. A lot of people think they have to make a meal plan for seven days. But five days is plenty, because there are always leftovers or just the lazy days, or maybe you’re invited somewhere. 

GV: Is Bónus still cheapest?

It is. I always have Krónan’s app open when I’m in Bónus. Most items are the same price by about 1-2 ISK. But if you’re buying protein powder or some different products, Bónus is cheaper. It would probably be 1000 ISK more at Krónan. 

My mom taught me very young to check the price per kilo, not just the price on the shelf. I was shocked to find out that not all people know this.

GV: What are some budget-friendly recipes for families?

Soup. I love soups and my family does, too. You can put literally anything in there. I usually work with red or brown lentils and veggies. When I have big chickens, I make stock to freeze – it just provides so much flavour and heartiness to the soup. I always have pasta or something to add to bulk up the meal. 

I love making rice pudding and the kids love it. It’s just easy to have and lasts long in the fridge. Also, stuff like chilli con carne is pretty cheap to make. You can often find ground beef at 50% off to stick in the freezer.

Photo by Art Bicnick

GV: What are some of your pantry staples?

All kinds of tomato products, like canned tomatoes and tomato paste. I always have beans, chickpeas, jam, ketchup and barbecue sauce. Also all the different dried goods – like lentils, mung beans and barley – that keep for a long time. 

GV: Do you have any tips for avoiding impulse purchases? 

I always have a list. I always end up with something else in the basket anyway. That’s usually when the kids are there. Don’t go shopping hungry and don’t go shopping with your kids, if you can avoid it.

I never buy takeaway because I am honestly always disappointed. But one tip for people who have a hard time not buying takeaway is always to have a freezer pizza or a freezer meal that is easy to make and that you know you enjoy. There will always be days where you’re like, ‘I cannot do this. There’s no time to cook. The kids are being annoying. I need something now,’ and that’s when you’re going to order takeout. But if you already have the frozen pizza that maybe cost 500 ISK, you’re set! 

GV: What was the reaction like when you started sharing your budgeting journey on YouTube?

It was mostly good. A lot of people were complimenting me, but there were a lot of negative comments too, of course. 

Some people are negative because they’re afraid to try. They see how little I’m spending on groceries and are like, ‘No, that’s, it’s impossible.’ They find something to comment about so that they can dismiss it instead of challenging themselves. 

For more tips, check out @KateWiium on YouTube.

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