When you’re traveling, you want to fully enjoy and experience the local area’s cuisine. But if you eat out for every meal as a digital nomad, you’ll quickly break the bank. On average, it costs a whopping $46 per day to eat out while traveling. If you drink alcohol, add an extra $21 per day. Yikes!
If you’re staying in a hostel or living in a van, you may not have access to a fully equipped kitchen. This can make it hard to keep your food spending in check. But luckily there are ways to reduce your food costs even while you’re on the road. Here are some tips to help you save money on your meals so you have more room in your budget for exciting excursions.
Avoid Touristy Spots
One of the reasons it’s so expensive for travelers to eat out is because they often pick touristy spots. Eating at restaurants that are located in high traffic areas right next to all the attractions you want to visit will cost you.
You’re essentially paying for convenience when you grab a coffee and a pastry at a cafe right next to the Louvre. If you’re willing to walk a little further to find those hidden gems where the locals eat, you’ll save a bundle.
But how do you find these underground local spots when you’re in a city you’re not familiar with? You’ll have to do a bit of digging online to figure out where to go. I like to look for food and restaurant review blogs written by locals. Sometimes I have to use Google Translate to understand their blog if it’s written in a different language, but it’s worth the effort! Locals understand the area’s food scene and usually give the best restaurant recommendations.
You can also use Yelp to research restaurants, but remember that some of the reviewers may be tourists. I look at people’s profiles to see where they’re from and give more weight to reviews from people who actually live in the city.
Try Food Carts and Stalls
I used to be afraid of food carts because I worried that they weren’t sanitary. But once I started branching out and visiting more food stalls, I realized that getting sick is unlikely as long as you use common sense. I usually stick to stalls that are busy and have a long line. Even better if there are a lot of locals eating there, because they know which food carts are the best.
I also scope out the food stall for a minute or two before I get in line. I observe them to make sure they’re using safe food handling practices and cooking with clean utensils. If the cart looks sanitary and well-maintained, then I place my order. So far I haven’t had a problem, and I’ve gotten lots of tasty food for cheap!
Eat Prepared Food From Grocery Stores
Another cheap food hack is to eat prepared meals from grocery stores. No matter where you’re traveling, most supermarkets sell ready-to-eat items like sandwiches and salads. Although these convenience meals cost more than home-cooked food, getting one is still cheaper than eating out.
You can also put together a quick snacky lunch from grocery store ingredients. A bag of grapes, a baguette, and a block of cheese makes a pretty nice meal. A container of yogurt and a bag of granola is inexpensive and fills you up until dinner.
If you have access to a basic kitchen, you could even prepare easy meals like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or ramen noodle cups to save some money. Some of the meals you eat while on the road may not be particularly exciting, but they’ll give you the fuel you need to keep traveling!
Do you know any ways to save money on food while traveling? Share your tips in the comments!
Vicky Monroe is a freelance personal finance and lifestyle writer. When she’s not busy writing about her favorite money saving hacks or tinkering with her budget spreadsheets, she likes to travel, garden, and cook healthy vegetarian meals.