I recently heard someone mention that he spent $300 on groceries during a week’s vacation in Iceland. Food prices in Iceland can be very high, yes, but spending close to $50/day is completely unnecessary!
I managed to spend less than half that amount during a full nine days on the island. Eating in Iceland doesn’t have to be expensive if you strategize in advance.
The basic plan involves bringing a few snacks from home, seeking out the cheapest grocery store in Iceland, and sticking to fast food and gas station meals.
If you want splurge and eat at the best restaurants in Reykjavik everyday, that’s great – these tips are not for you.
This guide is meant for budget travelers who want to minimize their costs while getting to enjoy the stunning scenery of Iceland. Read on for more cheap food in Iceland tips.
Dealing with the high cost of food in Iceland
Is food expensive in Iceland? Yes. There’s no getting around that. Grocery stores are moderately expensive, and restaurants are massively expensive. But there are some things you can do to keep your costs low.
Since I had read how expensive food was in Iceland, I brought some dry snacks in my luggage from home. Just a few granola bars, nuts, and raisins. These were my breakfasts and between-meal treats.
The more snacks you can bring from home, the less you’ll have to spend while in Iceland. And those savings will go a long way.
Iceland grocery store prices can be high, but Bonus usually has the best prices. This place also gets style points for its silly logo with the giant pig in the middle. Think of Bonus grocery store as the Aldi of Iceland.
At Bonus, I nabbed a loaf of bread for $3, a jar of peanut butter for $2, a jar of jelly for $3 – I had to go with strawberry since grape was difficult to find – and a bag of chips for $3. That gave me six easy meals for a total of only $11. Score!
I could’ve gotten even more meals out of the bread, since it was a large loaf, but I decided that six PBJs on one trip was my limit. You have to draw the line somewhere!
I went to Subway a couple times. The footlong sandwich was $13-15 (eek!), but it provided both lunch and dinner so the cost was acceptable. Two Subway footlongs plus another bag of chips equaled four meals at a cost of $31.
In total, now we’re up to 10 meals in Iceland for a total cost of $42.
More cheap food in Iceland tips
Next, add in a couple of pre-made grocery store salads at $5 each, a $2 frozen pizza that I cooked at my Airbnb, and a gas station hot dog for $3.
And then one night while my friend went to dinner at a fancy restaurant, I found a pre-made sandwich at a gas station for $4 that was marked down to $2 because it was the last day before expiration. Score!
Now we’re up to 15 total meals for a cost of $59. That’s crazy cheap!
I spent around $20 for the trip on additional snacks like chocolate, candy, apples, and bananas. Factoring that in, we’re now up to $79 spent on food.
For my remaining three meals, I splurged and went to restaurants. I spent about $20 at a mediocre ramen place (bad decision.) I spent $13 for lunch at KFC Iceland (I was curious. It wasn’t good.)
Overall, that brought my total cost for nine days and 18 meals to $148. Add in a couple (expensive) beers on our one big night out in Reykjavik, and I still only spent $165 for food and drink on the entire trip.
You could even do it for less if you skip the restaurant meal at Cafe Loki or buy your alcohol at the airport.
Conclusion: My Best Tips for How to Eat Cheap in Iceland
Eating in Iceland doesn’t have to be expensive. It just depends how badly you want to save money!
1 Bring snacks from home on the plane.
Focus on snacks that won’t get damaged in baggage, and which are substantial enough to satisfy your hunger. I like granola bars, trail mix, nuts, and small packages of crackers like Wheat Thins.
You can’t bring fresh fruit, vegetables, or meat into the country, but packaged products like those mentioned above are fine.
You also cannot bring any meat or dairy products into the country from outside Europe (with some exceptions.) So don’t try to bring things like jerky and pre-made sandwiches.
If you plan to stay at a hotel or Airbnb with a kitchen, you could even bring packets of ramen from home and cook them for your lunches. Paying 37 cents for a brick of Top Ramen at your local grocery is better than paying 20 bucks for lunch at a restaurant in Iceland!
2 Get your groceries at Bonus.
This store will have some of the cheapest foods. Also don’t be afraid to buy prepared sandwiches at gas stations, as they’re typically affordable.
3 Buy what is cheap.
Even at Bonus, a lot of foods will be expensive. So don’t buy them! You do not need to spend $18.99 on a pint of Ben & Jerry’s (yes, that was the actual price!) Instead, if you see salsa on sale for $2 and tortilla chips on sale for $3… buy away!
Let the prices determine your purchases, rather than going to the store with a list and mindlessly buying everything on it.
4 Minimize the number of restaurants you eat at.
By all means, splurge for a nice meal or three! Try Icelandic cuisine, and have that cultural experience. But fill in the rest of your meals with the cheap stuff. Like Subway sandwiches, or fast food, or gas station hot dogs.
Trust me, when you look back at your Iceland vacation, you’re not going to think about what you ate. You’ll be thinking instead about the magical volcanoes, waterfalls, and scenery that you encountered.
5. Bring a water bottle and drink water.
Constantly buying drinks, even bottled water, adds up on a vacation. Iceland tap water is good to drink, so stick with good old H2O and keep your wallet happy.
And if you want more money-saving tips to lighten your budget, here’s how to live on a tight budget in most major American cities.