How to Eat Really Well on a Tiny Budget

Okay, I’ll admit it – I’m a total Foodie (and Wine enthusiast, but that’s not for this post.) I like to try variety of foods, especially when traveling, but sometimes that can put a huge dent in my wallet and cause excessive trips to foreign ATMS. So as a community of travelers, let’s avoid this. As a twenty-something year old student traveler, I need to try and stay within my means. AKA, spend as little as possible.

So, this is what I have learned from traveling through 23 countries in the past 3 or so years…

Avoid the “Tourist Menus”

I realized this when I was in Paris three summers ago and accidentally spent 50 euros on a cheap “Tourist Menu” lunch. Ever since, I’ve been steering clear of the tourist areas and doing as the locals do. Always order the special on the foreign chalkboard displayed in the corner. It’s usually always delicious, and if not, it’s at least authentic. In Rome, don’t eat anywhere near the Colosseum or the Trevi Fountain – you’re just asking for jacked prices and low quality food. Just a tip. It took me three months of living in Rome to discover my favourite neighbourhood to find amazingly priced authentic Italian foods and it’s just north of Piazza Navona.

Grocery Stores are the Holy Grail

Especially when you’re staying in a hostel with a communal kitchen area or a budget hotel with a kitchenette – take advantage of local grocery stores. It’s cheaper to go buy a baguette, cheese and deli meats and call it lunch than to hit up a local restaurant. I also tend to buy a big carton of juice and water while I’m there. This can easily bring your food budget down from, say $50 a day to maybe $10-$15 a day. Muy Bueno!

Go to Local Markets

Almost every major city will have some sort of local food market and when you find it, it’s like unearthing a gem. It might be off the beaten track, or it might be a tourist destination in and of itself, but either way it will be worth checking out. It’s a great way to get more intertwined with the culture and to try great quality local foods. During my summer in Madrid, the market that I frequented was “El Mercado de San Miguel” which boasts many different food stands with everything from cheap tapas to fresh fish. In Jerusalem, I went to Mahane Yehuda Market and came out with enough food to last me three days, all for less than $12. So seriously, check these out!

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Pack Snacks in your Day Bag

This has been a lifesaver of mine on many occasions. Snacking throughout the day means you’re less hungry when you actually get to the restaurant, market, kitchen, or wherever you’re dining. Which means you will probably spend less when you’re there. My snack of choice is usually bananas or granola bars, items that are pretty easy to find wherever you are in the world.

Traveling to the Mediterranean? Try this…

I wish I was told about this years ago, it would have saved alot of time and money. In countries such as Spain and Italy – not so much Southern France – it is typical to go to a bar, buy a beer and get free food. Let me elaborate, for example, in Madrid you can go to almost any local bar and be served with free tapas with the purchase of a beer or a Tinto de Verano. These tapas can be as elaborate as chicken skewers and as simple as peanuts. The most infamous Tapas Bar in Madrid is called “El Tigre” which is just north of Gran Via near the Chueca district. This place gets pretty busy so go early. Order a large drink and eat dinner for free, I’ve been several times and have never been disappointed. In Italy this tradition also occurs but goes under the name “Apperitivo”. You can go to almost any local hotspot, order an apperitivo beverage such as a Capirosca and get an all you can eat buffet for free. These buffets usually boast options from meat to pasta to vegetables. A meal to keep your belly happy all night. In Rome, go to Freni e Frizioni, which is a happening spot just off the bank of the River near the Vatican.

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