Ready to Save on Travel Food and Still Enjoy Your Meals?

Escape Cadet Staff

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Introduction: Savvy Ways to Save on Food When Travelling

Have you ever calculated how much of your travel budget is spent on meals? Food is essential during travel, offering us the opportunity to discover local flavors and traditions, but it can notably burden our budget. Yet, with a few smart strategies, you may enjoy the local gastronomy without burning a hole in your pocket.

Whether you’re a food lover who plans their trips around meals or a budget-conscious traveler, this guide will cover efficient planning and selected choices that will optimize your food budget. We’ll provide tips on everything, from planning your meals ahead of time to locating local markets and budget-friendly restaurants and addressing your health concerns on the go.

Let’s embark on a journey to savor different foods without splurging unnecessarily. With these tips, your travel experiences will not only become more affordable but also more local and immersive.

Smart Ways to Budget for Food While Traveling

Traveling is a delightful experience, but it can also be expensive, especially when it comes to food. However, by putting in place a few strategic tips, you can manage your food budget effectively and savor different cuisines along your journey without breaking the bank.

Plan Your Meals Ahead of Time

Planning your meals in advance is an excellent way to keep cost under control. This involves researching the eating habits, cuisines and the average cost of meals in your destination.

Research Local Cuisines

Start by learning about the local food environment. What are the specialties there? Are there any budget-friendly options or street foods that are a must-try?

Cost of Food at Your Destination

A bit of internet research should give you an idea of the average cost of meals in your destination. Consider the cost of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks as separate line items, and factor these data points into your overall budget.

Create a Daily Food Budget

Setting a daily allowance specifically for your meals makes it easier to control your expenses. Try to stick within this limit, but allow for a little flexibility to cater for unplanned but worthwhile culinary experiences.

Track Your Spending

As you spend on food each day, take time to log the expenditure. This will help you see if you’re staying within your budget or if adjustments need to be made.

Fund Saving Tips

Regardless of how thorough your planning and budgeting may be, it’s always helpful to know a few cost-saving tips when it comes to food while traveling.

Consider Preparing Your Own Meals

If you have the facilities, consider hitting up the local supermarket or farmers market and cooking at least one meal daily. Not only does this save money, but it also allows you to interact with the culture in a unique way.

Eat at Local Markets and Street Food Vendors

These often offer a uniquely authentic take on the local cuisine, while also being more budget-friendly than sit-down restaurants.

Limit Dining at Tourist Locations

Food options at prime tourist locations are generally pricey. Hunting for food a few streets down could translate to huge savings and a more authentic experience.

Capitalize on Free Breakfast

If your accommodation offers free breakfast, make sure you utilize it. It could save you a decent chunk of your daily food budget.

Final Thoughts

Budgeting for food while traveling doesn’t mean compromising on the culinary experience. It’s all about smart spending, balancing the occasions when you’ll spend a bit more with times when you won’t spend, to create an overall cost-effective strategy.

Practical Tips for Eating on a Budget During Travel

Cutting food costs while traveling doesn’t mean you have to skimp on delicious meals. Here are some additional practical tips that you can employ to ensure saving on food without necessarily compromising your quality of experience during your travels.

Opt for Accommodation with Kitchen Facilities

Staying in a place with kitchen facilities allows you to cook your own meals, which can significantly save you money, especially for longer trips.

Homestays and Rentals

Homestays, condos, or vacation rentals typically have well-equipped kitchen facilities that enable you to prepare your own meals.


Many hostels have shared kitchen facilities, allowing you to store and cook your own food. Even if you don’t want to cook all your meals, having access to a kitchen means you can store leftovers to eat later.

Leverage Grocery Stores

Visiting the local grocery stores not only helps you save money but also exposes you to the local ingredients and cuisines.

Budget-Saving Shopping

Aim to buy staples such as pasta, rice, and bread. These foods can form the base of many cheap and filling meals.

Local Fresh Produce

Buying fruits and vegetables from the local market or grocery store is more cost-effective than buying it from restaurants or cafes.

Dine During Happy Hours or Lunch Specials

Leveraging restaurants that offer lunch specials or happy hours can help you savor the local cuisine without spending a lot.

Lunch Specials

Many restaurants offer lunch specials where certain meals are cheaper than they are during dinner time.

Happy Hours

Check out local bars and restaurants for happy hours where you can get discounted food and drinks.

Carry Snacks and a Reusable Water Bottle

Packing snacks and a reusable water bottle is another excellent way to keep costs down.

Healthy Snacks

Carry nutritious snacks like nuts, fruits, or energy bars. These can tide you over between meals and reduce your spending on expensive snacks.


Carrying a refillable water bottle can help you save on constant purchases of bottled water.

Use Food Delivery and Dining Apps

Food delivery apps or dining reward-based apps can help you discover affordable local restaurants and offer deals or cash-back.

Food Delivery Apps

These apps often offer discounts or deals for first-time users or during specific hours.

Dining Reward-Based Apps

These apps allow you to collect points or earn cashbacks on purchases which you can redeem later.

Healthy and Affordable Food Choices While Traveling

Travelers can often struggle with balancing their food budget while still choosing nutritious options. Here are some strategies and tips for finding food that is both healthy and affordable on your travels.

Choose Whole Foods Whenever Possible

Whole foods, i.e., food that is as close to its natural state as possible, are often both healthier and cheaper.

Fruits and Vegetables

In many destinations, fruits and vegetables in their raw form are cheaper than prepared food. They also contain high amounts of vitamins and fiber, important for keeping you healthy during travel.

Whole Grains

Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and oats are cost-effective, healthy options that are high in fiber and will help keep you feeling full longer.

Limit Processed Food Intake

Processed foods often come with higher costs and less nutritional value. Limiting your intake can be both budget-friendly and health-conscious.

Avoid Convenience Foods

Convenience foods and snacks tend to be overpriced and less healthy. Opt for buying raw ingredients and preparing meals yourself where possible.

Limit Sugary Drinks

Beverages can be an area where both cost and excess sugar sneak up on you. Choose water where possible, or take advantage of local unsweetened drinks.

Order Wisely at Restaurants

Being smart about your restaurant choices and orders can help you maintain a healthy diet while on a budget.

Share Meals

Often, meal portions at restaurants are quite large. Consider sharing a meal with your travel partner to save money and avoid overeating.

Choose Grilled over Fried

Choosing dishes that are grilled or roasted rather than fried is a simple way to make your restaurant meal healthier.

Eating Healthy on the Road

It may be challenging to eat healthy while in transit, but it’s not impossible with a little preparation.

Prepare Snacks Ahead of Time

Having healthy snacks on hand can keep you from resorting to convenience foods or expensive airport options. Consider packing trail mix, fruits, or pre-cut vegetables.

Stay Hydrated

Hydration is crucial, especially while on the move. Keep a refillable water bottle with you at all times. This will also reduce your expenses on bottled water.

Advice on Budget-Friendly Dining Options

Where you choose to dine can have a significant impact on your wallet. Here are some options that allow you to experience local cuisine without overspending.

Dine at Mid-Day

In many locations, restaurants offer cheaper lunch menus than what is available for dinner. If you want to try a more expensive restaurant, opt for a mid-day meal.

Try Street Food

Street food vendors often offer authentic and affordable local cuisine, great for travelers on a tight budget.

Food Apps and Websites

There are a number of tools available to help travelers find healthy, affordable food options.

Restaurant Maps and Reviews

Use online maps and review platforms to find highly-rated, affordable restaurants near you. This can help you avoid more expensive tourist-driven areas.

Discount and Coupon Apps

Before you travel, check to see if there are any apps or websites that offer discounts or coupons for restaurants in your destination. Such apps could lead to significant savings.

Getting Free Food While Traveling

While it may seem like a far-fetched dream, it is indeed possible and quite easy to get free food while traveling. Here are some strategies that you can use to score complimentary meals during your trip without sacrificing your experience or your health.

Taking Advantage of Hotel Amenities

Many accommodations, such as hotels and bed and breakfasts, offer complimentary meals and snacks as part of their amenities.

Complimentary Breakfast

A lot of hotels and inns provide free breakfast to their guests. If your accommodation offers this, make sure you take advantage of it to save on your meal expenses.

Welcome Treats

Some establishments welcome their guests with free snacks or drinks upon arrival. This may be simple cookies or wine, but every little savings count when you’re trying to travel on a budget.

Hostel and Homestay Perks

Some hostels and homestays offer free meals or cooking classes where you get to enjoy the food you made. Not only do you get a free meal but a cultural experience as well.

Attend Public Events or Festivals

Public events and festivals often offer free food or samples which can help save on meal expenses while also experiencing the local culture and cuisine.

Food Festivals

Food festivals often have stalls where you can get free samples of the food they’re selling. This not only helps you save on meals, but also lets you try a variety of local and even foreign dishes.

Public Events

Public events such as fairs, community get-togethers, or other city wide events often offer free food. Depending on the event, you might even get to enjoy a full meal.

Volunteer for a Meal

There are numerous organizations and establishments that offer meals in exchange for volunteer work. This can be a fulfilling way to receive free food while contributing positively to the community.

Work Exchange Programs

Programs like WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) allow you to work on a farm in exchange for free food and accommodation.

Church and Community Services

Churches and community centers sometimes need volunteers for events or daily operations, and often provide meals in exchange for the work.

Soup Kitchens and Homeless Shelters

These establishments also accept volunteers and typically offer a meal in return for your time and effort.

Use Food Apps and Rewards Programs

There are several smartphone apps and rewards programs that can help you earn points, which can eventually be used to get free meals.

Loyalty Programs and Apps

Many restaurants, cafes, and fast-food chains have loyalty programs that reward you with free food or drinks after you’ve collected a certain number of points or visits.

Food Delivery/Courier Service Apps

Some food delivery services provide special promo codes or discounts that can get you a free meal. You may also consider becoming a part-time courier for food delivery apps to get free or deeply discounted food.

Credit Card and Banking Rewards

Certain credit cards and banking reward programs will offer deals with restaurants or fast food chains, allowing you to earn points for free meals.

Survey Apps

Companies like Swagbucks or Vindale Research will reward you with points for completing surveys. These points can be used to redeem gift cards for popular restaurants and food chains.

Food Foraging and Fishing

For travelers who enjoy nature, food foraging and fishing can be an exciting way to snag a free meal while also exploring the beautiful outdoors.


Edible plants, berries, mushrooms, and other foods can be found in the wild. Just make sure you know what is safe to eat and what’s not before you try foraging.


If you’re near a river, lake or sea, fishing might be a great option. Be sure to check local fishing regulations to ensure you’re abiding by the local laws and not causing any harm to the environment.

Gathering Shellfish

If you’re by the sea, you can also gather shellfish such as clams or mussels. Like fishing, ensure you’re following local regulations and only collecting shellfish that is safe to eat.

In Conclusion

Traveling doesn’t have to weigh heavily on your pocket, especially when it comes to food expenses. By executing strategic approaches such as meal planning, tracking your spending, shopping from local markets, leveraging lunch specials and happy hours, and making smarter food choices, you can significantly cut down on the cost of food.

Healthy food options need not be expensive. Whole foods are both nutritious and budget-friendly. Processed foods, on the other hand, provide less nutritional value and are often costly. Dining wisely in restaurants and preparing snacks ahead of travel can help maintain a healthy diet while traveling.

Moreover, accommodation choices, attending public events and festivals, and volunteering for work exchange programs can present opportunities for free meals. Food and rewards apps, and trying your hand at food foraging and fishing could further contribute to your savings.

What are some ways to budget food while traveling?

To budget food while traveling, take measures such as planning your meals in advance, researching local cuisines and the cost of food, setting a daily food budget, and tracking your spending.

Are there ways to eat healthy while traveling?

Definitely. Opting for meals cooked using whole foods, limiting intake of processed food, making smarter choices at restaurants, and carrying healthy snacks while on the move can ensure you maintain a healthy diet while traveling.

How can I save on food costs during my travels?

Some practical tips include leveraging hotel amenities to get free meals, attending public events or festivals for free food samples, volunteering for work exchange programs, and making use of food and rewards apps.

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