Let's be honest about travelling costs for a second. Saving up for tickets is really only a small part of the battle. Even after you've paid for transportation, you are still going to have a pile of other expenses including accommodation, getting around once you've arrived, costs for activities that you want to do, and finally food. Depending on how long your trip is and how you go about purchasing meals, food expenses can really add up. Fortunately, there are a few ways to help reduce meal costs, which can really benefit you out in the long run. Here are some pointers and ideas to consider, which can help you be more frugal, as you purchase food while traveling.
Eat Breakfast In
Depending on where you are staying, you may have a room that has a kitchen, fridge and/or toaster, as well as plates and cutlery. If this is this case, it's extremely economical to buy some breakfast items, such as cereal and milk or toast and jam, which you can eat before you leave in the morning. On a side note, if you eat a big-ish breakfast, this can help you to cut down on meals or snacks during the day as well.
Make And Take A Lunch
If you are staying somewhere where you can store food, consider doing a quick shop for some items to make sandwiches. Sandwiches are great to take along during the day, as you can eat them almost anywhere and they are a simple lunchtime meal. If you decided to do this, don't forget to bring along or buy something to carry your sandwiches in, like Tupperware or zip-lock bags.
Buy And Carry Snacks
Buying snacks that are portable and easy to carry around with you is never a bad idea. I often like to bring granola bars in my backpack, for when I get hungry and need something quick to hold me over until it's meal time.
Eat Outside Of The Touristy Parts Of Town
In the centre of every big city, food is almost always more expensive than everywhere else. Anything quick and accessible to people passing by or those who can't be bothered to find somewhere cheaper to eat, are where restaurants tend to raise their food prices. I suggest either doing some research ahead of time or Googling places to eat, located a bit further away from the main touristy areas. Less traveled along streets as well as locals' favourite restaurants, are often more economical choices.
Choose To Drink Water During Meals
I understand how nice it can be to have your favourite soft or alcoholic drink during a meal away, but if you are looking to save money, consider aiming to drink free tap water. I know that buying a drink only slightly increases the total cost, but when you do this each meal and for multiple people, it really begins to add up. This also helps you to really appreciate the times that you do decide to treat yourself and buy the occasional drink.
Pass On Dessert
At almost every restaurant you go to, at the end of the meal, they will try to encourage you to buy dessert. Most of the time you are already full, but decide to order dessert anyway, because it looks nice or the idea of having dessert seems fun. I would suggest cutting out or at least cutting back ordering dessert, as it will really help you reduce you food costs. A great substitute for buying dessert, is to buy treats or snacks ahead of time from the grocery store (ice cream, cake, chips, chocolate etc) that you know will be waiting for you, when you return to your room later on. This is a nice compromise, as you are still getting to eat your sweet or savoury treat, but it allows you to cut out the extra steep prices you would spend at a restaurant.
Grab N' Go
Not every meal that you eat has to come from a restaurant. If you are out and about, check out an inexpensive street vendor or a convenience store for a pre-made meal or sandwich. Fast and inexpensive lunches can make for great time and money savers.
Set A Budget
Another idea for saving cash is to set a budget goal for food spending money. This can look like a total overall goal of the whole trip, or you can even split it up into how much you aim to spend per meal. If you do a cost per meal budget, it can protect you from spending too much at the beginning of the trip, as well as allowing you to budget for snacks. It also gives the ability to still splurge (within budget) on the occasional "fancy nights out," yet still allowing you to set a target price, encouraging you to spend less on some meals, in anticipation for the extra special ones.
Weigh Up Your Options
Cute little restaurants in the middle of the city are hard to resist. Travelling in Paris, we overheard a conversation between a few friends that really seemed to sum it up: "Aww that is such a cute restaurant!!" "Umm yes, I think it's a little TOO cute for our budget." Sometimes spending quite a bit extra for a few aesthetics isn't worth the money that you could spend on similar or better food quality, purchased elsewhere else, at a cheaper price.
Consider All Inclusive Meals
This is going to sound crazy, but in Paris, we opted to get McDonald's for a meal. We began noticing how much our food prices were racking up, and realized that for less money, we could get a meal including fries and a drink, for a cheaper price. Surprisingly enough, fast food restaurants or restaurants with a meal deal can actually save you some cash (depending on what you decide to buy). It might not be the most fancy option, but because of it, you very well may leave with your stomach and wallet more full.
Check The Menu Before You Enter
In Europe, they often tend to post a menu outside the restaurant. This is a fantastic idea, as it allows potential customers to see what types of foods are being served as well as the price ranges. Go ahead and check out the menu before you enter. If prices seem too steep, don't be afraid to walk away and find something more suited for what you're looking for.
You Don't Have To Go For Big Names
"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Even Shakespeare knew that there is so much more to something than just it's name. If you have the option, consider trying a local, less expensive restaurant with the same type and quality of food than a large, expensive, brand-name restaurant that you already know. This of course may come with the risk of eating somewhere you've never been, but who doesn't love a little sense of adventure? You may even discover an incredible gem!
Skip The Extras
There will almost always be an option to upgrade your meal, and of course, you will always be encouraged you to do so - adding sauce, extra bacon, more side options upgrading the size, and the list goes on and on. Adding extras can be nice from time to time, but just like with drinks or dessert, if it's something you make a habit out of, it will certainly start to add up. Be cautious on how often you decide to add those little extras to your meal. A steady few dollars here and there can end up being the price of an entire meal or more. The answer doesn't have to be never, but consider making it an exception rather than a rule.
I hope you've found some of these money saving tips useful for your next trip. Again, at the end of the day, it doesn't come down to depriving yourself of things you really want to do, or starving yourself to save a few extra bucks. If you are smart about how and where you eat, it can really help your budget, while still allowing you to enjoy your meals. All of this being said, don't be afraid to treat yourself from time to time as well. At the end of the day, it's all about balance.
How have you found buying food, while travelling abroad? Have you tried any of these before and what did you think? Do you have any other suggestions that you'd like to share? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!