For most travellers, spending money on food is both a necessary and significant expense—the third-largest line item in your budget, after flights and accommodations. Of course there’s nothing wrong with indulging in a few nice meals while you’re away, but how much you spend on food can quickly get out of hand. Here are five ways to save money on food without sacrificing any of the taste.
GET FAMILIAR WITH GROCERY STORES
One of the first things I do when I arrive at a destination—particularly in North America or Europe—is to look for the closest grocery store. I stock up on snacks and drinks since it can be much cheaper than buying them at convenience stores on the go. Remember, grocery stores also sell local snacks and foods that aren’t available back home, so don’t be afraid to try out a few.
Cost-saving tip: Check out what prepared meals are available since it’s much more affordable than going out to restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
SEEK OUT LOCAL STREET EATS
Canadians may only think of hot dogs and sausages as street food, but once you head overseas, it’s a whole new world. I remember pad Thai costing me just $1 CAD in Thailand, while a donair kebab was $3 in Berlin. Of course, some travellers wonder how sanitary these street vendors are. My general rule is that if there’s a lineup of locals, then I consider it vetted.
Cost-saving tip: Get chatting with residents and ask for suggestions on where to savour cheap eats. Also, explore local markets, where street food is often reasonably priced.
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COOK A FEW MEALS
If you have access to a kitchen while you’re travelling, take advantage of it and exercise your culinary skills. Make enough at each meal so you have some leftovers and you won’t need to cook as often. The money you save on eating out can be allocated to other travel expenses, like attraction tickets and shopping.
Cost-saving tip: Look for bulk bins at the grocery store or central market, so you can buy small amounts of ingredients (and snacks!) while staying within budget.
BOOK A HOTEL WITH FREE BREAKFAST
This is an easy way to save money on food when you travel. It won’t always be fancy, but a free continental breakfast is a good way to start the day. That being said, it’s important to determine if you’re being billed for your breakfast in other ways. Breakfast-included accommodations that cost an extra $50 a night (compared to a similar hotel without food) mean that morning meal isn’t exactly gratis.
Cost-saving tip: With some hotels, the breakfast rate is extra, so make sure you double-check what you’re getting for the price offered before confirming. And when booking a room, remember that AMA members benefit from hotel discounts around the world.
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STEER CLEAR OF TOURIST TRAPS
We’ve all been there: it’s been a long day of exploring, and we trek into the first restaurant in a touristy area only to be disappointed by the food and prices. I’ve found that restaurants a few blocks away from major attractions tend to have tastier and cheaper food. Now, I won’t eat at a place unless I’ve seen the menu and read reviews online to figure out whether it is worth spending my money on.
Cost-saving tip: Don’t be shy about asking your hotel’s concierge for recommendations on tasty, reasonably priced restaurants.
HOW TO SAVE EVEN MORE
With your AMA membership, you can get discounts or earn reward dollars at more than 165,000 partner locations worldwide—including popular restaurants and eateries.