How I Spend $120 A Month On Groceries in Amsterdam

woman holding chips

When you think of Dutch food, what comes to mind?

Maybe the “caramel cookie wafers” some airlines hand out– known to Nederlanders as stroopwafel? Or perhaps you’re obsessed with Trader Joe’s cookie butter, based off of the Dutch treat speculoos.

Aside from knowing about a couple of desserts, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect of the food when I moved to Amsterdam from the U.S. When I did my research, I learned that Dutch food tends to be notorious for being a bit bland. American expats let me know I’d likely miss some of my favorites: New York style bagels, Mexican food in general, and Hot Cheetos (a guilty pleasure of mine). At the end of the day though, I am in charge of what food I make and can add all the spices I desire, so I wasn’t too worried about the cautionary tales of culinary catastrophe.

On the other hand, I was a bit nervous about how much I started spending on food. With a grocery store right around the corner, my refrigerator started filling up right away.

Are you curious how much an expat might spend on groceries while abroad? I’m a single person in a high-cost-of-living city, and I went ahead and dug into all the numbers. Here’s a tour into one woman’s grocery spending living in Amsterdam!

A Blast From The Past: Grocery Spending Over The Years

One awesome thing about keeping a blog for five years is that I have data to compare to from the past. Here is my grocery spending for different years in different places:

Prediction About My Grocery Spending In Amsterdam

My first expectation is that food spending will be similar to my UK spending, because I lived alone and cooked at home most of that year. However, one big difference is that I eat less at home than I used to. I eat out a few times a week, and I don’t cook in bulk as much as I did before (I find that things go bad much more quickly here).

Also, with my anti-frugal experiment I have been doing the previously-unthinkable and not looking at the prices of groceries before I put them in the cart (insert frugal-despair-scream here). We’ll get to see how much that impacted how much I spent!

Total Cost Of Groceries Living In The Netherlands

I live within a 5 minute walk of two mini-grocery stores. The “Kroger” (Fred Meyer for the Pacific Northwest, King Soopers for you Coloradoans…) of The Netherlands is called Albert Heijn, and it’s where I get most of my groceries. I make most meals at home and order in about once a week. After crunching all the numbers, I determined my average grocery spending this year living in Amsterdam is… (drum roll please! 🥁🥁🥁)

An average of €118 ($120) per month on groceries.

Not bad! In fact, it is on par with my general average spending on groceries, whether I lived in the UK, Portland OR, New York, or California.

Monthly spending on groceries in different places I’ve lived

All About What I Cook In The Netherlands

My Favorite Homemade Meal:

I think one of the best things I had this year was from this recipe: Moroccan Shepherds Sweet Potato Pie. We accidentally added a little bit too much spice, but it ended up being delicious.

pan of stirred ingredients for sweet potato moroccan pie
Delicious Sweet Potato Moroccan Pie

All-In-One Ingredient Kits

Shopping for groceries is infinitely easier here partly because there are verspakket (fresh packages) or boxed ingredients for meals. I always wondered why grocery stores didn’t do something like this. It’s a cheaper versions of Blue Apron and other delivery kits, and it is mad convenient. The selection rotates, and I’m a frequent purchaser of the enchilada kit, as well as fresh tomato soup, curries, and Dutch stamppot, a local comfort food of mashed potatoes.

Most of the kits are really good, but I did see one in store that made me pause. It is an ongoing joke of expats that Mac ‘n Cheese is one of those American meals that tends to get butchered over here. This one includes sweet potato and cut vegetables for some reason:

a package of ingrediants for mac n' cheese on the shelf

Typical Home Made Meals

Here are some more meals I’ve made for myself at home:

I moved into a pre-furnished apartment, which that included all cooking paraphernalia like pots, pans, kettle, knives, utensils, a toaster, cutting board, etc. The only thing missing is a blender, and a cat who can oversee me when I bake something.

Oh wait I have one of those:

a cat on the shelves above a tart on the stove
My friend’s cat watching me bake an flatbread onion tart

Thoughts On My Grocery Spending In Amsterdam

Since moving to The Netherlands over a year ago, my food spending has shifted a lot. Amsterdam is not a particularly cheap city, and I have been socializing primarily at restaurants and bars. My next post will focus on my restaurant spending in Amsterdam. Given that I eat out and order-in much more often, I expect that line item will be a bit higher, but we’ll see!

There are a couple other differences in my habits in the U.S. versus Amsterdam:

Fewer Meals In Bulk

For one thing, I make less meals in bulk than I used to, which might be a combination of lack of motivation making a ton of food for just me or generally things going bad more quickly. I have yet to master utilizing my freezer (which is now a tiny lil’ EU freezer) to stretch my leftovers for very long.

Less Free Food At Work

I used to get a decent amount of free food from work, which no longer applies as I now work from home.

Stopped meal planning

I realized in writing this post that I used to meal plan and I don’t do that at all anymore. It might be a good idea to get back into that habit!

Even given recent changes, my spending is still in the average range. Now I’m curious what other peoples’ spending looks like in other countries! Although my spending varied a lot depending on where I lived, I found that my spending reflected my habits much more than where my home is.

What About You

Did your grocery spending go up or down during the pandemic?

What’s your favorite meal to cook at home?

What is your city famous for, food-wise?

Share in the comments below!

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  1. Oddly, my grocery spending went down during the pandemic, when I switched to shopping mostly at my little neighborhood organic natural food store! They were doing such a good job with pandemic precautions that I felt safer there. I think it translated into more frequent but smaller shopping trips. In the Before Times, I used to make the monthly trek out to a big box budget grocery store (Winco in PNW) and then do a big “stock up” shopping trip where I ended up buying more than we needed. I prefer this new way and love my little neighborhood store.

    We also have a farm CSA box and receive a giant weekly box of seasonal fresh local veggies for about $22/box between June-October. It’s a bargain but also a challenge to eat them before they wilt or go bad.

  2. Thank you for posting the links to those recipes! The ginger salmon looks especially awesome. I laughed out loud at the car overseeing everything!
    I think the Blue Apron type meal kits being sold in the grocery stores is is genius. I wish we had that here in the US. That way there wouldn’t be the waste of the shipping and packaging.
    I hope you will post more about meal planning and how you keep costs down. Like many people I sometimes am challenged with that. Loved the post!

  3. Loved the article and that shepherds pie reminds me of a recipe back home that my grandma used to make 🙂 Being Greek myself and struggling with the cost of living but also the absence of something tasty, warm and of substance (i can’t stand those ready meals in the big supermarket chains) i started searching for ethnic stores, in there if you know what you are looking for you can find almost complete ‘meals’. I can vouch for Tjin’s Toko for texmex items but also Bakaliko for greek pies which are delicious and i just put them in the oven and voila an almost complete meal! I ‘ve placed the link on the latter as sometimes i order online too 🙂

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