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TIPS – Ideas for eating cheaply in western countries whilst travelling

Baguette with salami

Fresh baguette, street-side in Europe

Food can be expensive, especially if you are eating out all the time whilst travelling. However there are alternatives and tips for saving money that you might not have thought of! If you are a first time backpacker, your previous experience of eating abroad may be in hotels, restaurants, and fast food from McDonalds, Subway or KFC… When travelling you probably don’t want to be stuck only eating international brands, so here are some ideas to branch out without breaking the bank as well as some options for the cheapest possible way to stave off the hunger pangs!


Cheapish: Local Budget Cuisine

A tasty toasty in Lisbon ($4)

Every country seems to have a local snack food which is everywhere and the prices are kept low because of how prolific it is and because of competition. In the UK its Indian Curry, Its quite possible to get a take-away meal that’ll feed 2 people for about $10 (Curry + Rice), in student areas and at lunch time you can find some great deals!
In France I found you could get a baguette with a simple filler for a very low price. Italy = Street pizza slice. In the USA the pub meals are so big that you can normally share between two people and still be full, so a $12 meal becomes relatively affordable.


Cheap: Food Courts

Most shopping centres have food courts, some of which are cheaper than others of course… If you are willing to eat McDonalds then that’ll be your international starting point, I guess. I prefer not to, and there are always other cheap options in the food courts. For the smaller stalls which make up fresh food every day you may find that at the end of the day they will sell off what is left at a discount price!

Cheaper: Supermarkets


Seems obvious? Maybe. But for the price of an $8 6-inch subway sandwich you can grab yourself a loaf of bread, some Ham, tomato and lettuce and build yourself a whole stack of sandwiches on a street corner – as a bonus you get to feel like a posh tramp!
What about a pot noodle? For $1? Most hostels will have kitchens so access to basic cooking gear and boiling water should be easy enough, and couchsurfing hosts will sometimes let you use their kitchens too.

In Europe/Australia superstores (like Ikea) and bigger supermarkets often have there own little restaurants with very low prices, the Ikea $2 breakfast (Brisbane, Australia) is filling and not too bad for the price.

Turn up to the supermarket bakery just before closing and you can normally pick up food at bargain prices!

Also, Try shopping at a budget supermarket like Aldi or Lidl, you can often pick up the same product, in different packaging, for half the price of the major supermarkets.

Cheapest: Couchsurfing

Once again couchsurfing comes in as a super cheap option.

A lot of couchsurfing hosts will be more than happy to feed you for free, at least part of the time you are staying with them (sometime the whole time!). As always with couchsurfing, I suggest this with a proviso, expect nothing, be grateful of everything. I believe whole-heartedly in the philosophy of couchsurfing, if you approach the experience as “I can take advantage of these people to get free food and accommodation” then you will not do well in the community…