Mar102016

Cost of food in Amsterdam at Albert Heijn and Marqt

Regular readers of Loyalty Traveler might know that I primarily buy my food and drink at grocery stores when I travel. Cost is a major reason, but also I prefer to prepare my own food so I can control my diet intake and know I am eating good quality food.

Albert Heijn is the major grocery store chain in Amsterdam. As of 2016 the store only accepts a Maestro credit card. As far as I know, Maestro is a MasterCard debit card widely used in Europe. None of my credit or debit cards worked to make an Albert Heijn purchase through a self-serve Maestro card only kiosk, which meant I had to use a register with a human cashier and wait in much longer lines every time I shopped. I also had to pay with cash at Albert Heijn.

AH logo

AH Albert Heijn grocery store logo, Jodenbreestraat Amsterdam.

Marqt is another upscale, WholeFoods-style grocery store we shopped in a couple of times. Kelley liked their salad selection better. Marqt did accept my U.S. credit cards.

Since so many travelers and bloggers are focused on credit cards, I thought a reader could enlighten me on Maestro cards. How do I get one?

The Cost of Food in Amsterdam

Most noticeable change in Europe over the past two years is the U.S. Dollar is so much stronger. The exchange rate in February 2016 during our trip was around $1.12 = 1 EUR. As recently as two years ago the exchange rate was closer to $1.40 = 1 EUR. Since grocery store food prices have not risen much in the past two years, the real cost of store food and many traveler expenses in the Euro zone has dropped about 20% for U.S. travelers.

As I have done in travels to other places, I keep track of how much food costs in cities where I travel. In Amsterdam we made nearly all our meals from Albert Heijn grocery purchases, except for one falafel hot lunch at Maoz on Leidseplein.

One of the main differences we see when grocery shopping in Amsterdam is a large selection of small serving size foods like prepared, packaged salads designed for one or two persons. Our other food staple is smoked fish. Kelley only likes smoked salmon, but I’ll eat smoked mackerel too and it is about half the price of salmon. Hummus and raw vegetables provided plenty of fiber and a variety of fruits were available, even though this trip was in February winter. Apples and oranges were freely offered in hotel lobbies.

Raspberries have become my fruit of choice this winter.

Amsterdam Food Prices at Albert Heijn (all prices in € EUR. Add about 10% for US Dollar conversion)

Packaged Salads 4.99 EUR

One salad fed two of us one meal and there were often more than ten choices for chicken, shrimp, tuna, beans, noodles or none, and different vegetable selections.

Smoked salmon typical package about €5 daily (22 €/kg or about $11/lb.)

smoked mackerel typical package about €3.00

Avocado €1.19

raspberries 200 g/7 oz = €2.79

strawberries 200 g/7oz = €2.00

Hummus 100 g. €2.00 (package 100 to 200 g?)

broccoli €1.39 (package 200 g?)

cauliflower €1.39 (package 200 g?)

cherry tomatoes €0.95

Heineken beer (0.5L  /17 oz.) = €0.87 + €0.10 bottle deposit.

I purchased three other kinds of 330 ml bottled Dutch and Belgian beers:

  • Amstel Pils (€0.59)
  • Jupiler (€0.60)
  • Hertog Jan (€0.65).
  • Kelley picked Jan Hertog as best of class.

There are likely lower priced stores if you were shopping on a regular basis in Amsterdam. In my walks around the city, Albert Heijn is the market I see most frequently.

We were able to eat and drink for around €25 to €30 daily with Albert Heijn purchases. Controlling our diet with store bought food kept us eating balanced and healthy meals for our trip and we always had plenty of food and little food waste.

We went out for drinks a few times around town including the W Hotel Amsterdam. Loyalty Traveler – After drinking up at W Amsterdam rooftop bar, go downstairs for toilets.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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Comments

  1. We were just there around New Years, and shopped at Lidl. I was shocked at how low the prices were. The Dutch government must subsidize groceries or something, because they were much cheaper than in the US. We went to Switzerland 4 weeks later, and I was shocked at how outrageous the prices were.

  2. @Gene , the dutch government does not subsidize grocery chains, we do have had a few supermarket ‘wars’ in the netherlands which have causes some insane low prices.

  3. Not sure how to get a Maestro card in the US, but in Europe and the UK they are widely available.
    In Netherlands its not even possible to get a debit card with anything else than a Maestro logo. Which is very frustrating when traveling abroad, and not being able to use it for online purchases. Whereas a US, or UK, Visa debit card can be used anywhere. (and we’re not even talking about Maestro’s ugly cousin “V-Pay” (from Visa) which you can hardly use for anything at all….)

    One of the biggest competitors to AH is called Jumbo, they even take American Express cards as of last year, and Visa and Mastercard.

    Regarding the beer, Jupiler is actually a Belgian beer. And it is Hertog Jan, not Jan Hertog ;).
    I do agree with your wife’s opinion, as Hertog Jan surely is the superior of the beers you picked, by far! 🙂

  4. The Albert Heijn Express at Centraal Station did take my US credit card (and had big signs on the door advertising Visa/MC).

  5. @Thomas – I wrote my notes after drinking the beers and reversed the Hertog Jan name in my notes. I have not seen a Jumbo market yet. Jupiler is another one of the many Belgian beers on the shelves. I did not pay attention to the brewery info on the label.

    @bluecat – 25 to 30 Eur daily was the cost for food and store beer for the two of us. We had other items too like a baguette and brie (both items very inexpensive compared to USA), half a chicken a couple times.

    I read a tip recently on some Europe travel article about going to the grocery store late to pick up discount food. We did not plan that strategy, but typically we found ourselves at the market during the last hour of store hours most nights and there were usually several hot items on sale at 25% to 50% off.

  6. Did you try a MasterCard Debit card with PIN at Albert Heijn?

    Maestro is to MasterCard as Interlink is to Visa, they are the online debit card networks of MC and Visa (NOT Plus or Cirrus which is the ATM network) that require a PIN for purchases (even before EMV). This is different from the US flavor of a MasterCard or Visa debit card which does NOT require a PIN to make a purchase.

    In the US, you won’t find Maestro cards, but some MasterCard debit cards displayed a Maestro logo on the back (like my old, WAMU card). I don’t know if this is still the case. The NL is one of those countries that traditionally had more MasterCard banks and merchants than Visa.

  7. The prices you paid are expensive for Europe. U are paying maybe 50% extra at AJ versus Aldi or lidl. Then again you are getting pre-packed single serve portions close to city center at AJ and convenient costs more. Here in US supermarket costs for same items are insane.

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