About two years ago, I tackled the tension between finances and food after visiting Paris and Amsterdam. This instalment takes us to northern Europe.
Of course, one of the fun things about going on vacation is trying new foods and different ways of eating food.
While I managed to avoid hamburgers in Hamburg and danishes and Danish cookies in Denmark, I’d be damned if I was forced to miss Swedish meatballs in Sweden (photo above).
That said, eating out all the time can take a heavy toll on your wallet — and this is especially true in such places as Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland.
To illustrate: Struck with a sudden and brief bout of homesickness in Copenhagen, I wandered into the closest Starbucks I could find. The ensuing tall Frappucino set me back some 50 Danish crowns. With the exchange rate at the time, it would have cost me something in the neighbourhood of C$9. Needless to say, I did my best to suppress my desire for blended ice coffee until I got home.
A few days later, in Oslo, I wandered into a Turkish restaurant and spent the equivalent of $50 to $60 on a lamb stew, salad, bread and a glass of house red. Definitely tasty … but it also definitely got me thinking about how to tame my spending on food.
It took an escape to Norway’s fjord country to set my bearings straight.
Balestrand is a sleepy community on the Sognefjord. There is something resembling a commercial strip by the ferry dock, offering a very limited selection of restaurants.
The next-best alternative was to visit one of the two grocery stores just around the corner.
I was very glad I paid a visit.
Not being able to cook but still wanting to consume something with a lot of protein, I was drawn to their selection of canned meats.
Mackerel in sauce was cheap and plentiful — almost all of it processed from local/regional sources.
This particular store had access to locally grown salad, so a bag of rocket quickly found its way into my shopping basket.
Polish blueberries were in season and on special at the time, as were some varieties of apples and cherry tomatoes.
For snacking, factory-baked blueberry muffins and a bag of trail/nut mix caught my attention.
To say the bill surprised me would be an understatement.
The tally was 125 Norwegian crowns — a mere $20 at today’s exchange rates.
After wandering back to the hotel, I borrowed some cutlery and plates from the front desk and went about making dinner.
As you’d imagine, there were a few items I was able to save for later.
In case you were wondering about metrics: from the nutritional tables, the prepared foods appeared to have acceptable levels of protein, carbohydrates, fat, salt and sugar. (Thank you Google Translate!)
I was able to repeat the fish-as-main-course strategy a few more times as I wandered across northern Europe.
This is not something you’d necessarily want to do every day. I certainly didn’t.
That said, strongly consider exploring local fruit stands and supermarkets if you are looking for an easy way to stretch your travel budget.