Gluten-Free Norway Part 4: Daily Grocery Shopping
For the other parts in my series on living Gluten-Free in Norway, Click Here.
Maybe you’ll get into a really swanky place with a full-size fridge, but the majority of places we looked at have a mini-fridge with two shelves, a tiny crisper drawer, and a little shelf space for a freezer. For two people, there is room for about two days worth of food, maximum. That’s okay though, because fruits and vegetables here don’t seem to store as well as in the U.S., and you should plan to use what you buy quickly. U.S. habits of weekly shopping go out the window. Get used to the European concept of “marketing.”
The exception is Sunday, when only convenience stores are really open (7-11, some mini-Bunnpris). These might have milk and cheese, but not many other gluten-free items.
The good news about navigating shops is that the vast majority of Norwegians, especially younger folks, speak excellent English and are happy to switch to English if you ask.
Things you won’t easily find here, that you might be used to finding in a grocery store in the U.S.:
- Trash bags (you buy shopping bags for one kroner at the store, and re-use them for trash and recycling)
- Vanilla extract (you can use vanilla sugar (vaniljesukker) in the same amount as extract)
- Sudafed (prescription-only) or oral decongestants like Dayquil. Norwegians either tough it out, or use nasal sprays to treat symptoms.
Grocery stores usually carry a small selection of cleaning supplies and hygiene items, but you will need to visit a specialty store for some things:
- OTC meds, mouthwash, vitamins, first-aid supplies: Visit an apotek (drugstore)
- Cleaning utensils such as brooms and mops, kitchen utensils, etc: find a hardware store, such as Jernia or Clas Ohlson
- Alcohol: some light beer is available in grocery stores, but all alcohol over 4.75% is only sold in the state-run Vinmonopolet shops, which are not plentiful and have odd hours.
GLUTEN -FREE SHOPPING
As I mentioned in the last post, these are the grocery stores in Trondheim with excellent gluten-free selections:
- Rema 1000
- Kiwi (best produce prices)
- Meny (has the best overall selection)
Look for the closest one using Google Maps; preferably within walking distance.
These stores usually have a full set of shelves of gluten-free items all clustered together. You still need to read labels though, as they might stick some other special dietary items (like vegetarian) in the same area that are not gluten-free.
By law, products with less than 100ppm gluten can be labeled Svært lavt gluteninnhold, or “very low gluten.” These might be suitable for people with light reactivity. Products with less than 20ppm can be labeled gluten-free:
These are all different ways to say gluten-free, depending on the origin of the product (Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, etc.). In addition, there may be a little picture of an ear of wheat with a circle and cross through it:
Allergen labeling in Norway is fantastic. If a label has bold-font items, they are potential allergens, and we have found that we can generally trust them to disclose gluten ingredients. Look for variants on these words:
- Wheat: hvete (don’t confuse with hvite, which is “white” or hvitelok, which is “garlic”)
- variants: hvetemel (wheat flour), hvetestivelse (wheat starch, may be low or no gluten but cause those with wheat allergy to react), durumhvete (durum wheat), Kamut (species of wheat), Enkorn (species of wheat), hvetekli (wheat bran)
- Barley: bygg
- variants: byggmel (barley flour), byggmalt (barley malt)
- Rye: rug
- variants: rugmel (rye flour)
- Triticale: tritikale, a rye/wheat hybrid found in northern Europe and Scandinavia.
- Spelt (same as English)
- Farro: emmer
- Oats: havre (only an issue if you are high sensitivity or cross-sensitive)
In addition, there may be a “may contain” warning after the ingredients list. It will read “kan inneholde <gluten, etc.>” or mention “traces of” (spor av). “Ikke” negates whatever is after it, so “Ikke inneholde” would mean “does not contain.”
We have not yet had an issue with packaged plain raw meat or vegetables having gluten cross-contamination, but tend to wash them off before cooking to be safe.
At first, your daily trips may involve a lot of time staring at package labels. After a few trips, you’ll have a few favorite brands you buy, and the trip will get faster. Remember to ask for the number of bags (“poser”) you’ll need at the checkout. They’ll cost 1 kroner each, but are nice and sturdy, so they can be re-used either for future trips or trash can liners.
The produce tends to be seasonal and limited compared to what we can get at large grocery stores in the U.S., but the quality is much higher. You can pick up a perfectly ripe avocado and take it straight home for lunch without having to let it sit for several days. There are a few things that are simply not part of Norwegian food and are hard to find (e.g. sage) but also a few things I haven’t seen much in the U.S. and highly recommend trying (e.g. celery root). Try to be flexible and learn to cook to what’s available.
Beef is pretty expensive in Norway. Pork is the least expensive meat, and pork chops with a dollop of lingonberry jam is something that should be on your bucket list if your diet allows. Chicken “Strimlet” is chicken sold already sliced into small pieces, which is fantastically handy for preparing a meal in a tiny kitchen without bacterial contamination of surfaces.
This is where you can maximize your European foodie experience.
Norway isn’t as cheese-focused as France, but you certainly won’t find the weirdly formed artificially dyed blocks that pass as cheese in the U.S. Jarlsberg is the all-around cooking cheese, with a light nutty swiss flavor. Brunost (and the stronger flavored goat-milk geitost) is a distinctly Norwegian experience that you should try with fresh strawberries. Nokkelost will only appeal if you’re a fan of caraway and cumin. Snofrisk is a delicious soft, sweet goat cheese. If you’re curious about something, pick it up and try it!
smør, or butter, comes in more than just the salted and unsalted varieties you’re used to. Look for foil-wrapped blocks, as anything in a tub is probably margarine. Tine’s usaltet smør is a good, mild, all-around unsalted butter. For a stronger flavor, try their setersmør
Tine’s flavored yogurts, with real fruit and sugar instead of corn syrup and artificial flavorings, are enough to put you off Yoplait forever.