When most people create a travel budget, they assume that flights and accommodation are their biggest expenses. But when vacationers come back home, they’re often surprised they spent more on food than anything else! If you’re traveling on a budget or trying to make your trip last longer, this is how to save money on food while traveling.
1. Split Each Course
Oftentimes, your eyes are bigger than your stomach. You start with bread, order two appetizers, two entrees and before you know it, you can’t even finish the desert you went in to try. As an American, it’s hard to not get carried away with this. Portion sizing in America is out of control and what we consider to be enough food is often too much. Fast food provides large dinners for 4 for the price of 2 and we think that this is normal.
But when you’re traveling, especially in Europe, it costs a lot of money to eat the portions you might be accustomed to. If you’re dining with another person, split each course. This way, you’ll eat enough food to stay healthy and you won’t break the bank.
2. Bring Snacks Along With You
When you’re feeling extra hangry, it’s easy to duck into the nearest cafe for some food ASAP. However, that cafe just happens to be near the biggest tourist trap and is super pricey. Rather than be forced to pay a large sum just so you can eat quickly, make sure you bring some snacks.
I recently brought my graze box with me which contains 8 tiny pouches of healthy snacks. Graze is a company that sends healthy, portion-controlled snacks to your door! Just bring it in your suitcase or carry on so you won’t have to buy snacks at the airport or along the way. These snacks were easy to bring everywhere, had plenty of nutrients to keep you full and were incredibly healthy. Perfect to munch on as you find your ideal restaurant while touring the city.
3. Avoid Eating Breakfast Around Town
Breakfast may not be the most expensive meal of the day, but it can certainly add up. There may be plenty of tasty brunch options in the city you’re vacationing in, but this is one of the greatest ways to save money.
Most hotels or hostels often offer a free breakfast. Try to take advantage of the discounted or free food at these properties. If you have a kitchen in your hostel, Airbnb or apartment, try to prepare your own breakfast (or even pack your own lunch). We packed our own lunch in Oslo and in Bergen, Norway and it saved us so much money!
4. Dine Like a Local
Or rather, eat with one. Instead of spending a bunch of money to have an “authentic experience,” you can actually eat at a local person’s home and make unforgettable memories. There are many ways that you can dine with a local whether you meet them through an app (like Travello or Couchsurfing), go to a website actually dedicated to dining with locals (like EatWith), or meet them authentically out on the town.
Either way, you might spend money. But you will spend significantly less on what you thought was a legitimate, authentic experience with an actual, genuine moment.
5. Avoid Food From Home
Westernized food, like hamburgers, are so much more expensive abroad. I get the occasional desire to partake in this type of cuisine, especially if you’re feeling a bit homesick. But if you really want to save money for more important things, then get out of your comfort and try that strange chicken tajine or weird looking lutefisk! You might be surprised to learn it’s your new favorite meal.
As far as where to get those meals, you’re gonna have to do your research. Street food is safer as long as there’s a big crowd! If it’s a street stand with no customers, then you know the food probably isn’t that good.
6. Shop Around the Local Markets
Nothing will make you feel less like a tourist than shopping around the local markets. Not only is it incredibly authentic, but you will find some wild and amazing things here! You’ll see weird foods on sticks, fruits you’ve never heard of and strange meals for less than $1! It’s incredibly thrifty and most of the food tastes amazing.
If you’re at a fairly popular market, keep an eye out for pickpockets! Outdoor marketplaces are the worst for petty theft and I have had my fair share of robbery in these places (naturally, I was a dumb rookie who left my purse wide open for the world to see). Just be smart, hold on to your belongings and keep your eyes peeled.