Traveling in Europe may seem expensive, especially if you enjoy centering your travels around food. Ane expresso here in Italy, five tapas there in Spain. Soon you’ve spent more on food than you did lodging because all the food was so inviting. But with these tips, you can learn how to save money on food while traveling Europe without breaking the bank.
1. Use Your Discounts
Some restaurants, shops, and stores will have discounts if you’re a student, teacher, or veteran. Be sure to keep your eye out for useful signage or just ask. When I was shopping in Madrid, I noticed the Carrefour offered a 10% discount to people under 30. That’s essentially getting food tax free. Of course, I’m going to take advantage of that. Something similar happened to me in Portugal when I was buying movie snacks. Remember, closed mouths don’t get fed or save money darlings.
2. Say Goodbye to Meat…For a Day or Two
I’m not one of those people who is going to preach the ethics of meat consumption to you. Lords know I eat my fair share of it, but if you’re trying to save some coins, going meatless or a day or even a meal each day will slowly add to your savings. Meat is expensive, especially quality meat that isn’t going to have you rushing to the bathroom. That’s would just be money and time wasted. So do yourself a favor and enjoy those veggies and other forms of protein. It won’t disappoint. Your fellow meat lover promises.
3. Remember Sharing is Caring
Despite being a snacker, I’ll go hours without eating then boom! Everything starts to bother me, but also everything on the menu looks delicious. That could result in ordering more than my little stomach can handle. And by the time I realize there’s no room for that dessert I saw the man at the other table eating.
So how do we remedy this….share with your travel friends if you aren’t doing solo travel. You can split our appetizers, entrees, and save the dessert for yourself. We don’t have to share everything after all. it’ll be like getting two meals in one, and your body and bank account stay healthy. Hanger side effects don’t overpower sense and wins all around.
4. Bring Snacks Along With You
As I said, I’m a snacker, especially during summertime travel when I’m out sweating and walking. If you’re like me, you might be tempted to pop into a cute little cafe and grab a tart or small sandwich that’s displayed in the window. I’m here to tell you to back away. Issa trap!
This is why I walk around with snacks in my bag. Yeah, this means you’ll have to opt for a carryall or backpack instead of a cute crossbody, but your photos won’t suffer. Pack your water bottle, some fruit, and other small things you can munch on. You can do this from the time you leave home because TSA allows all kinds of food. So you don’t even have to worry about missing your favorite snacks from home ,like that yummy Trader Joe’s kettle corn or those cheap granola bars.
5. Breakfast is the Most Important Meal
But not the way you think. I’m not talking about the health benefits but the financial ones. If you’re dropping $10-$15 on breakfast, when how much do you have left in your daily budget for lunch and dinner? So starting your day off cheap might mean having the ability splurge later in the day when it really counts.
Also, be sure to browse around the neighborhood. If you’re grabbing pastries and things for your morning meal. One place may be 50 cents to a dollar more. Breakfast or brunch may not be the most expensive meal of the day, but just like everything else, those cents and dollars add up.
Also, consider your breakfast when choosing your accommodations. When I’m looking for an AirBnB or hostel, I always give the ones with free breakfast top priority. If I’m going to get the same quality accommodations, why not get it with a free meal. Who doesn’t love free food after all.
Typically they will offer coffee, tea, or fruit that you can grab and go. That right there might become a snack or two you can munch on throughout the day. My hostel in Milan offered a stocked kitchen, free breakfast, and free dinner. It saved me so much money for only $25 a night. And they welcomed me with a free alcoholic beverage. How could I not love that?!
6. Eat Like a Local
Here in Spain, the largest meal of the day is lunch. Having three or four courses is normal during lunchtime. So it isn’t odd that you might see restaurants with a lunch menu listed at 15-20 euro drink included. Don’t worry, you aren’t falling into a tourist trap. You’ve likely struck gold. You’ll be so stuff that by the time dinner rolls around, you’ll only want a small pincho and glass of wine. When my friend from The States and I went to Madrid, this is exactly what we did and it saved us so much money. Especially in a tourist city.
This also includes street food. Granted you want to look for a place that has a good deal of locals swarming to it, to make sure your wallet and stomach aren’t being scammed. But if you see a crowd, it’d take my chances. That’s what I did in Naples, and it was one of the best meals my friend and I had there. So look for the places the locals eat and make yourself at home. You won’t regret it and your belly will thank you.
7. Don’t Seek Food From Home
I’m being a hypocrite because every time I go to a new country, I find a McDonalds because I’m curious to see what’s on the menu. Things are far more expensive that they are in the US, but they also taste better. That said…if you’re trying to save money. Leave American chains in America.
For those who aren’t Americans, the same applies to you. Stop looking for your comfort foods while abroad unless you want to hurt your bank account. More than likely they’ll be more expensive, and unless you’re months-long backpacking, you’ll be able to have your favorite foods in a few short days or weeks. You will survive!
8. Shop Around the Local Markets and Grocery Stores
Nothing gives you a peek into a culture like seeing how they shop for food. You’d be surprised the things you find at markets and grocers. You never know what gems you may find. When I was in Brescia, Italy visiting a friend who prepared a homecooked meal, I found some of my favorite candy. You make even be able to sate those home cravings if you’ve been traveling for a while. When I was in Belgium, I damn near cried when I found salted pretzel because they are like finding a golden ticket here in Spain.
Not to mention if you do have access to a kitchen, it is a great way to bond with your travel partners or other people if you’re staying at a BnB or hostel. You could end up spending a few dollars and have two or three meals. There’s also the option of fresh fruits and veggies or prepackaged pasta and sandwiches which might be cheaper than the ones in shops.
If I’ve somehow forgotten to bring tea bags with me from home, I’ll grab a box at the grocer. Often times big chains will give you hot water for free. So fellow tea drinkers, be sure to bring a travel mug with you. Then you can get your caffeine fix on the low while you’re out and about.
9. Please Drink Responsibly
I’m not about to sit here and tell you not to drink. Not when my camera roll and SD cards are filled with pictures of beer, wine, mixed drinks, and so on. It’s not my way. I believe you can learn a great deal about a culture and its people by partaking in its alcoholic drinks, especially in regions that are known for certain beers, wines, and spirits. It can elevate a meal.
That said, there’s nothing stopping you from going to the grocery store, grabbing a bottle of wine and chilling at a park or in your accommodations. With that, be sure to ask your servers if they have local/ regional recommendations when you go out to eat. You might be able to find that house wine or something similar at the grocery store for a few dollars a bottle.
If you’re really into the drinking culture, look into samplings or tastings. I did a wine tasting that cost $10 where I sampled ten different wines and received a whole hearty glass. Best $10 I spent that whole year.
These tips have saved me and my friends tons of dollars and euros. If you have any hacks on how to save money on food while traveling leave them below.