Master courses: We find all the cheap food at the supermarket so you don’t have to


Yeah, we know –  the prices here suck. And every kroner spent on real food is money that can’t be spent on beer. What’s a starving college student to do?

Students starting classes Wednesday at The University Centre in Svalbard will get their first meal free (sandwiches following their orientation). After that comes the never-ending challenge of skimpy funds providing enough calories for extreme mental and physical activities in the extreme cold.

Slowly wandering the aisles at the supermarket is an annual tradition among many new students. But for those preferring to scout out other things, here’s a rundown of what’s cheap and mostly nutritious at Svalbardbutikken and a few other places. Prices tend to go up and down often, and scanners don’t always match the advertised prices, so don’t blame us if the listed prices end up a bit off before long.

Grab a huge box of X-tra cornflakes (10 kr.) and a liter of UHT milk (18 kr.) and you’ve got a week’s worth of breakfasts for about the price of a cup of coffee (assuming your university-level brain can figure out where to score free sugar packets). If you’re into hot breakfasts, a 500-gram box Axa vanilla/raisin oatmeal (13 kr.) works, or a kilo of X-tra muesli (12 kr.) offers both options.

For those more into the European-style of things, the best place to find quality rolls and bread is the day-old selection at Fruene, where individual loaves (some of them enormous) and bags of four to five large rolls are 20 kroner each. Cold cuts and cheese are way expensive, but an 18-pack of X-tra eggs (48 kr.) and a tube of X-tra cavier (9 kr.) will last a long time.

One-kilo bags of X-tra coffee (8 kr.) will deliver the necessary caffeine fix, pharmaceutically speaking, but those with more discerning tastes will need to bite the bullet for pay for their preference. If you need a quick coffee fix, the only truly cheap option is the five-kroner cups of instant battery acid from the machine at Longyearbyen Library, but the cafe at Kulturhuset offers free refills of its 20-kroner cups – plus it’s usually less crowded, the free wifi works better and there’s more places to plug in your computer than at Fruene.

During the day:
A can of co-op chick peas (6 kr.) works great for making instant hummus – a liter of X-tra rapeseed oil (12 kr.) will provide the lubricant and many other uses. If you’re not in a confined space with other people, cans of Co-op tuna (7 kr.) are another durable and portable option.

If you’re not in the mood to eat sandwiches made of day-old bread, a massive 520-gram package of Wasa’s husman flatbread sells for an inexplicably low 11 kroner. A package of Wasa rice cakes (12 kr.) also offers a cheap crunch.

And speaking of cheap crunches, a huge bag of Co-op cheese puffs (9 kr.) is unbeatable, although a 300-gram packet of Co-op peanuts (13 kr.) might be smarter option in the field.

Those with access to a kettle can save themselves the walk to the supermarket and instead indulge in one of the starving college student’s basic food groups – instant ramen noodles – by perusing the huge and exotic selection at Longyearbyen Thai Shop (7 kr.). While there’s plenty of other bargains for the open-minded, caution is advised since the selection also offers a lot of budget-busting temptations.

For about 85 kroner you can buy a single serving of microwave lasagna. Or about five kilos of X-tra spaghetti or spiral pasta (about 10 kr./kilo) and enough jars of X-tra tomato (8 kr.) or Co-op pesto (12 kr.) sauce to cover them.

Add two loaves of X-tra frozen garlic bread (12 kr.) and a large bag of Co-op frozen veggies (10-15 kr.), and you’ll have plenty of cushioning for that initiation known as binge drinking. If your starch tastes are more Asian, five-kilo bags of X-tra rice (43 kr.) and one-kilo boxes of quicker-cooking Uncle Ben’s (15 kroner) are common budget picks.

If those forms of starch are too healthy, 1.8-kilo bags of X-tra frozen fries are 19 kroner. They’ll pair well with a 900-gram box of X-tra fish sticks (18 kroner). For fake fish variety, X-tra imitation crab sticks (8 kr.) can be used in creative ways with the above starches.

Speaking of creativity, some of the best bargains are the “odd bits” of animals that show up from time to time. Salmon heads, cod liver, pork rib fat, chicken feet and other things people generally consider offal (yeah, we resorted to that tired pun) have been known to appear in inexplicable large and cheap quantities.

Lighter eaters might make do with Co-op dried tomato soup (6 kr. for a packet that makes one liter) and a chunk from a two-pack of X-tra heat-and-eat baguettes (10 kr.). And while we’re generally omitting clearance-priced items since they’re not consistently available, the cooler with red-tagged produce is the first place you should look for fresh fruit and veggies.

A few other random useful ingredients are X-tra cans of corn (2 kr.), X-tra taco kits (7 kr.) and 800-gram cans of X-tra fishballs (8 kr.)

For homework or movies, a box of Co-op microwave popcorn (13 kr. for three bags) will fulfill the salt quotient, while two-liters bottles of X-tra soda (10 kr.) will offer a sugar rush instead of one resulting in a hangover.