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:
- 2017: I spent an average of $146 (£114) per month in the UK.
- 2018: My portion of our groceries was $131 per month in Portland.
- 2019: I spent a mere $108 per month for groceries.
- 2020: In New York, my spending rose to $159 per month.
- 2021: Last year, I spent $137 per month.
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.
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.
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:
Typical Home Made Meals
Here are some more meals I’ve made for myself at home:
- Roasted corn tacos were from a verspakket
- Toasted sesame ginger salmon recipe (seriously I make this all the time)
- Pearl cous cous salad recipe
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:
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.