A Guide to Supermarkets and Grocery Shopping in the Netherlands
Why Go to the Supermarket?
In the Netherlands, supermarkets are the most common and reliable source of most kinds of groceries and everyday supplies you’d need. Everything from food products to cleaning supplies can be found here, and you can usually get it at a good price as well.
This guide will go over different supermarkets you can find in the Netherlands, as well as other ways you can buy groceries. It will also help you determine which specific chains match how much you’re willing to spend, what exactly you’re looking for and what’s available in your local area.
Compared to buying your groceries online, you have more freedom of choice when going to the supermarket yourself. This is especially the case regarding fruits and vegetables, which you might want to determine their quality before buying.
When you compare grocery shopping at your local market to a supermarket, you get a lot more opportunities and consistency. Not only do they usually have a more extensive selection and longer opening hours, but you can also be sure that the same products are available regardless of the day or season.
Of course, it all depends on what’s available in your area. Even within the same chains of supermarkets, some stores are larger and offer more than the others. Therefore, we recommend checking out what’s in your area and what fits you the best.
Supermarkets You Can Find in the Netherlands
There are some Dutch supermarket chains that are quite common all around the Netherlands. These will most likely be the supermarkets closest to where you live, so it’s important to have a general overview of them, so you know where to go depending on your needs.
The Largest & Most Common
The biggest Dutch supermarket chain is Albert Heijn. It’s a bit more expensive than some of the other supermarkets, but they also have a larger focus on the quality of their products. If you want to save some money when shopping there, you can get an AH Bonus card and get some discounts.
Another big chain is Jumbo. They’re generally a bit cheaper than Albert Heijn but offer a similarly large variety of brands, many of which can also be found in Albert Heijn. These two will most likely be very common in your area.
The Higher End
There is also the supermarket chain Plus. This one focuses on quality and is generally more expensive, though they regularly have great discounts. It mostly operates in the south of the Netherlands, particularly in South-Holland and North-Brabant.
Coop, another Dutch supermarket, is in the middle of the pricing range. They have a fine selection of brands, along with some good products that are unique to their chain of stores.
For a supermarket chain that is generally very cheap, you can look for Dirk, previously known as Dirk van den Broek. They mostly offer in-house brands and a limited selection of goods.
Many other supermarkets operate more locally, so they will vary depending on your city. Some examples are Vomar, Deen, Dekamarkt, and Hoogvliet, but it’s always a good idea to see who else operates in your specific area.
There are also a couple of German supermarket chains that are also commonly found in the Netherlands. One of these is Lidl, which is generally cheap, though it still has products of fairly good quality. It’s also common for their stores to have in-store bakeries with freshly-baked goods.
Another German supermarket chain that could be found in the Netherlands is Aldi. Other than food products, they also have a variety of other products like kitchen appliances and household items. This supermarket is one of the cheapest ones, though the quality suffers just a bit. Still, this is a great place to go if you’re on a budget or just looking to save some cash.
Last but not least, there is the fully-online supermarket Picnic that does not have any physical stores. Buying groceries from Picnic is as easy as tapping away on the Picnic mobile application. They offer a reasonable price for most of their products too.
TIP: Given the current situation with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the Netherlands, you can buy groceries on the online platforms of most supermarkets.
Comparison of Price
A study conducted by the Consumentenbond on the cheapest supermarket chains in the Netherlands found that “A-brand” or premium brand products (Coca-Cola, Calvé, Heineken… you get the idea) are generally cheaper in Jumbo (4-7% cheaper) than in Albert Heijn (4% more expensive).
Furthermore, Picnic is almost as cheap as Jumbo while Coop is as expensive as Albert Heijn even if it has limited options. Plus is also nearly as expensive as Albert Heijn. Aldi and Lidl were not included in the study as they do not sell many A-brand products.
Therefore, by comparing the prices of the same brand at different supermarkets, you’ll be able to find the best deals. Of course, products of in-house brands will always be cheaper than A-brand products.
Speciality Supermarkets and Shops
If you can’t find whatever you’re looking for in the supermarkets, there’s always the option of looking through speciality shops. These can follow various themes and will often have a wider selection within a particular category of goods.
There are a few chains that specialize in vegan and ethical goods. One of these is Marqt, which most notably operates in Amsterdam, Den Haag, and Rotterdam. They have a wide selection of vegan food of excellent quality. In return, they’re also more expensive.
Another chain similar to Marqt is Ekoplaza. This chain focuses on ethically-made goods and has a great organic product line. They’re also working towards a plastic-free shipping process to be more sustainable in their operations.
Something the Netherlands is famous for is its quality cheese. It should, therefore, be no surprise that they have many speciality shops that sell a great variety of cheeses, which are generally of a higher quality than what can be found in supermarkets.
If you find supermarket bread a bit bland, you can always visit a bakery where they have baked goods of higher quality than what can usually be found in supermarkets. Besides, you can also find some delicious Dutch cakes and goodies.
Foreign Food and Where to Get It
You may have spent a few months (or just a few days) living far from home, and that can leave you feeling a bit homesick. Don’t worry if that’s the case, as it might still be possible to get a taste of home even while living in the Netherlands.
All over the country, particularly in the cities, there are supermarkets that specialize in food from cultures other than the Dutch. There are many different versions of these, though most specialize in a kind of Asian cuisine. The most common ones are Turkish, Moroccan, Chinese, Indonesian, and Japanese supermarkets.
A chain that sells Asian food that is very prevalent around the Netherlands is Amazing Oriental. They have just about any type of ingredient and cooking tool you may need for Asian cooking. Most Amazing Oriental stores also have a restaurant area where they sell delicious Asian food, pastries, bubble tea and more.
If no shop near you sells what you want, you can also try going online. There’s a great number of websites where you can order food from different cultures to be delivered to the Netherlands. A famous one is Kelly’s Expat Shopping that has a wide range of UK and US food products and is currently expanding its range to other cultures as well.
Food Markets and How They Work
It’s common for many cities in the Netherlands to have food markets on certain days of the week. Here, you can find many stalls selling fresh produce like fruits, vegetables, baked goods, meat, and snacks such as nuts or dried fruit. In many cases, these are even cheaper than what can typically be found in supermarkets.
Usually, several food vendors operate in food markets too. The range of products include snacks such as ice cream, Belgian fries, or freshly-made stroopwafels. After a day of shopping, it’s always nice to end it with some tasty tidbits.
These markets are very popular, both among regular citizens and tourists. It’s, therefore, to be expected that some of them can be quite crowded. This is particularly the case for areas that usually attract many tourists, especially in bigger cities.
Be aware that many markets are only open on certain days of the week. You can find out online when the one near you is open so that you don’t go there expecting bustling stalls only to find an empty square.
Things to Keep in Mind when Grocery Shopping
Dutch supermarkets are typically open from 07:00 or 08:00 to around 22:00. Many supermarkets also have different opening hours on Sundays. It’s therefore crucial that you get your grocery shopping done in advance so that you don’t miss out on dinner or breakfast.
If you need to buy anything after your supermarket has closed, there may be a convenience store nearby where you can get the essentials. They usually have longer opening hours, though their products are of a more limited selection. Some common convenience stores are Spar or Albert Heijn To-Go, though there are also many independent ones.
Just like most stores in the Netherlands, many supermarkets don’t accept credit cards like Visa or Mastercard. The most common method of payment in the Netherlands is with cash or a debit card connected to a Dutch bank account.
While it’s certainly possible, it’s not common to buy a shopping bag when grocery shopping. Instead, most people bring their own bags, either a reusable bag or a backpack. Contrary to some other countries, the cashier does not fill your bag for you; that’s done by yourself.
While alcoholic beverages like beer and wine are available in supermarkets, the same cannot be said for strong liquor. These cannot be sold in supermarkets, so you’ll have to go to a liquor store. However, many supermarkets do have their own separate liquor store inside the shop.
NOTE: The cashier may need you to produce your ID if they think you look younger than 25 years old.
Many bottles and cans can be recycled, and you receive a small refund if you return them. Most supermarkets have a bottle return system where you can collect this deposit, so try it out the next time you go grocery shopping.
Everything’s in Dutch!
This shouldn’t be much of a surprise, but it can still be overwhelming if you’re used to actually knowing what you’re looking at when picking out a product. It’s always a good idea to have Google Translate on hand.
You can also always ask an employee for help if you can’t find what you’re looking for or if you’re having problems. They’re friendly, and Dutch people are generally very good at speaking English, so don’t be shy about seeking help.