15 Ways To Find the Cheapest Food While Living Abroad
While living abroad, eating out at restaurants and buying local delicacies can be fun, but it can also get expensive fast.
You want to experience as much as possible while you’re away from home, so how do you find the cheapest food while being able to enjoy your time?
We have put together a list of 15 ways that will help you eat cheaply while still enjoying the local foods in each country or city that you visit during your travels.
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Table of Contents
Eat what locals eat
One of the easiest ways to eat cheaply is to check out what the locals are eating.
Drink menus in touristy areas may be higher priced because they know that foreigners will pay more for a good drink, but if you find a local bar or cafe then chances are that their food prices will be less expensive than restaurants in the area.
It is also helpful to ask your hotel or hostel staff where they like to eat, as these places are often the least expensive and best quality.
Another way is to make a friend from the area you are visiting and see what they eat.
People love to share their culture, traditions, and foods with travelers, so make sure you ask them where they go when it’s time for a meal.
Shop at grocery stores
If there is a market in your destination then you should definitely take some time to explore it.
Grocery stores are a great place to get many of the same products that you eat at home, but for half the price!
This is one of the cheapest ways to have breakfast or any other meal while in an area because you can purchase ingredients and eat cheaply instead of buying something pre-made.
On the other hand, if you want to buy the cheapest food at a grocery store then make sure that you don’t spend too much money on snacks or non-essential items.
It is easy to get carried away and think that every fruit looks delicious, but each extra item in your cart can add up quickly!
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Skip the snack bars
You may have noticed that there are many convenience stores or “mini-marts” on your trip so far, but don’t be tempted to buy the chips and candy bars on sale outside of them.
These snacks can be quite expensive compared to what you find at the grocery store, and they are not typically items that you can’t live without.
Instead, when you are really craving something sweet or salty, keep in mind that grocery stores often have delicious snacks for less than half the price of convenience store prices.
If you do want to buy something at the mini-mart then try to get items like bread, cheese, or fruit that you can easily turn into a meal.
Embrace the new tastes
One of the best ways to save money while eating is to embrace new tastes and flavors.
You’ve probably heard that an adventure isn’t complete until you try something new, but this goes for food as well!
Even if it doesn’t look very appetizing at first, try not to make your meal about the look and instead focus on what it smells like and how it tastes.
You may be surprised to find out that you enjoy a dish more than you thought, and this is a great way to try something everyone talks about without paying a fortune.
Likewise, ask for a sample before committing to an expensive meal or meal that you’re unsure about.
You may find something new and amazing at a local market!
Don’t buy bottled water
Drinking tap water is perfectly safe in most places (excluding some countries, so make sure to do your research before you drink the water), so if you want to save money then skip getting a bottle of water at convenience stores every time you pass them.
Instead, invest in a reusable water bottle and fill it up at the tap so you can drink freely while exploring your destination’s culture and cuisine!
Cook your own food and eat cheaply
If you want to save money while traveling then consider cooking your own food instead of eating out at restaurants every night.
When searching for places to eat, look up local supermarkets or grocery stores and see if they have a deli or meat counter.
You can often buy fresh, sliced meats for a better price than at a restaurant because the supermarket is able to cut costs by making larger portions.
In addition, you could pick up some bread from the bakery section of the store and make sandwiches for lunch or the following day.
You can also save money by cooking your own meals, especially when you are in an apartment with a kitchen!
This way, you will have more money to travel around and explore instead of spending it all on food that could be easily made at home.
Head for happy hour
If you want the cheapest food, then it’s time to find a good happy hour!
Many restaurants and bars offer special prices during their “happy hours” (usually a few hours after opening or before closing).
For those living abroad, usually, the best happy hour deals are right when you start to get hungry as places often discount their food just as they do their drinks.
So, for instance, you could go to a bar and get cheap drinks while eating free peanuts or popcorn.
You can even find restaurants that have happy hour specials outside of their establishment so all you have to do is walk in and grab the cheapest food without ever having to pay full price.
Just make sure you are familiar with the different kinds of happy hours available in the city you are visiting so that you don’t miss out on a great deal.
Hit up farmers markets to find the cheapest food
If you want to save money and eat healthily, then it is important to visit farmer’s markets when you can.
Not only will they have fresh fruits and vegetables at cheaper prices than most stores or supermarkets, but they also have a large selection.
This way, you get more for your money and can try new things rather than getting the same old products from a convenience store.
In addition to having the cheapest food, some markets sell handmade goods made by local artists which is a great activity if you want to find a souvenir without breaking the bank.
Cut out coffee
Coffee can be a major money sucker if you go to the same place every day and buy it for $4+ each time.
The easiest way to cut down on coffee costs is to just take the time to brew your own at home before you leave.
It’s so simple – all you need is water, coffee grounds, and a filter!
So, instead of buying $5+ lattes every day, buy beans or ground coffee for $20-$30 and make your own for a fraction of the price.
This way, you will save money and also have more to spend during the day on fun activities!
Take advantage of buffets
Another way to get the cheapest food is by visiting buffets when you can.
Buffets are great because they often give you access to desserts like ice cream, cakes, and pastries; but also because they offer all-you-can-eat options for people who want to try everything on the menu.
Buffets are usually quite cheap so you can get your money’s worth, while enjoying a unique meal experience.
They are also a great way to try new flavors without the pressure of ordering a dish you may not like since you can easily walk around and pick what you want.
Avoid “tourist” areas
When you are living abroad, it is important to be aware of the so-called “tourist areas” and avoid them whenever possible.
This means that instead of going downtown where all the restaurants seem to focus on foreigners, try finding local spots in residential areas.
These places may not look as fancy, but they will be cheaper.
This also goes for “restaurant malls” (malls that have overpriced food courts) which often look like the best option but end up costing you more money.
Not to mention you will be supporting local businesses when you spend your money in these local eateries!
Find inexpensive fast food
If you are on a tight budget and need something quick, then consider looking for local fast-food chains when you are in a new country.
Many of these establishments offer their own version of “dollar menus” and if you stick to the cheaper options, then you can get a full meal for around $2-$3.
Just make sure you check out the menu ahead of time so that you don’t choose something too expensive.
You can even find great deals at major fast-food chains that are located in the country you are visiting.
These chains will have the cheapest food prices than the ones in your home country so take advantage when you can!
Buy in bulk
Another way to save money is by buying groceries in bulk.
Whether you are shopping at a farmer’s market or the local grocery stores, they often offer the cheapest food prices for buying large quantities.
So if there is something you use on a regular basis or will run out of quickly, it might be worth the extra money to buy in bulk rather than buying them weekly.
You can even find bulk bins at regular grocery stores for items like pasta where you only need to scoop what you want into a bag rather than buy an entire box.
This also works well if you are living with roommates or another person who will split the bill with you.
You will also save extra money by hunting for cheap produce at a farmer’s market to make a large meal at home instead of buying several small meals/snacks from cafes and restaurants over the course of a day.
Don’t order alcohol
If you want to save money, then it’s a good idea to avoid drinking alcohol when you are at a restaurant.
That being said, if you’re going out with friends or family and they really want something from the bar or wine list, make sure you get something non-alcoholic instead.
For example, mixers with soda or juice can be just as fun, and you don’t have to feel left out.
There are also many bars that offer free and the cheapest food during happy hour (usually an hour before dinner) so make sure you check the options beforehand.
Whatever you do, just be sure to ask about the restaurant’s specials before you head out so that you don’t get stuck with an expensive bill
Learn some basic bartering skills
This will make a huge difference if you are planning on buying the cheapest food at a street market.
Most vendors are usually willing to lower their prices if you ask first and they know you are interested in buying their products.
Some places even offer free samples if you ask and the fruits and veggies there look fresh and delicious!
Not to mention you will make a new friend who just happens to have the cheapest food around!
Just remember that bargaining is customary in many countries so it won’t seem strange or off-putting to the vendor.
If you are considering buying trinkets, souvenirs, or other small items, then make sure you ask about their price before purchasing anything.
You’d be surprised at how often tourists pay way too much for these items when they have the option of getting them just as easily for a lower cost in another area of the city.
It’s also a good idea to know some phrases that will help you if speaking the local language is not an option.
So just be honest and try to have fun with this!
See how simple it can be to find cheap eats abroad?
By sticking to these tips, you should never go hungry (or break the bank) when visiting another country!
Now that you know how to save money on food while abroad, get out there and explore the world 🙂