For some people, finding the best food is a big part of why they travel. While I love trying new foods, I don’t make food the focus of my travels. Today I’ll be walking you through how I’ve been able to stay on a tight budget while still enjoying food. We’re taking a look at why you should consider finding cheap food on vacation in order to save money and travel for longer. I like to think that you can have your cake and eat it too! 😉
1. Know when to buy vs make meals
Depending on where you’re travelling, food will usually be more expensive if you choose to eat out. This isn’t the case in many Asian countries where a meal will only cost $1-2 which is why there won’t typically be kitchens to use in Asian hostels. In many countries it will be much cheaper to make your own meals and buy groceries.
PRO TIP: Look up the cheapest grocery store near you so that you spend as little as possible!
Even when I’m travelling in Asia where I’d be buying most of my meals, I make sure to pick up snacks at grocery stores/markets/convenience stores. It’s perfect when you’re on public transit or hungry in between meals.
2. Utilize free breakfasts
Many hostels offer a free breakfast at a certain time each day. If you happen to find hostels with free breakfast, TAKE ADVANTAGE! I can’t count the number of times I’ve packed a few extra bananas and made a peanut butter sandwich from the free breakfast to take with me to the beach later that day. Lunch = sorted!
3. Check the free food section
Finding cheap food on vacation couldn’t be easier if you’re staying at a hostel! One thing I didn’t realize when I first started travelling was that many, if not all, hostels have a ‘free food’ section. This is food (usually dry goods or sauces) that people leave behind when they move onto the next place. This section is a GOLD MINE and must be checked before you head to the grocery store. You can often create an entire meal from the ‘free food’ section alone but you might need to grab some fresh fruits or veggies.
I’d also recommend buying some Tupperware or brining your Stasher bags with you to store food you make to eat during the day. Some of my go-to recipes while cooking at a hostel include:
- Overnight oats – The best breakfast that can be completely customized depending on your budget.
- Stir fry – Chop up your fave veggies and toss them with some rice noodles and soy sauce for a quick and healthy meal.
- PB&J sandwich – So easy and cheap. Perfect for meals or snacks!
- Pasta with greens – You’ll need the carbs with all the walking around you’ll be doing. It’s simple and satisfying.
- Taco salad – Mexican will always be my fave! A taco salad is super easy and great if you want to mix in some extra greens.
4. If buying out choose wisely
It’s likely you won’t be cooking every meal while travelling! If you end up eating out, try to make it lunch. Lunch pricing at restaurants is usually much cheaper than dinner and there are often deals, making it a great time to fill your belly.
If you’re on a tight budget, you might want to do some research ahead of time and look up a few places to eat that. That way, you can compare pricing and still enjoy some of the local cuisine.
PRO TIP: Check out the street food options because they’re generally much cheaper than restaurants and SO delicious!
5. Get free food
Free food?! It sounds too good to be true! Surprisingly, it isn’t that uncommon.
Aside from the free breakfast offered at hostels, you can do a few hours of work a week at a hostel in exchange for a free place to stay AND meals are usually included! You can sign up on Workaway for $44 USD/year to connect with hostels and locals from around the world or you can contact hostels on your own to avoid paying the fee.
Are you ready to dig in?
I hope this guide has given you a few ideas and useful tips surrounding how to find cheap food on vacation! Travel on a budget is definitely doable and if you aren’t willing to compromise on food, there are many other ways you can travel cheap.
See you next week!
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