How to Eat Well on a Budget While Traveling - Intentional Travelers
How to Eat Well on a Budget While Traveling - Travel tips for the value traveler

14 Sep How to Eat Well on a Budget While Traveling

What is a Value Traveler?

This is an excerpt from a Yelp review I once wrote in Paris, trying to describe what it means to be a budget-conscious traveler. I refer to the ‘value traveler’ because the word ‘budget’ always gets associated with negative terms like cheap, poor, terrible quality, etc.

“A value traveler is someone who understands that the Euro is worth more than the US dollar. A value traveler knows that in Paris, especially in central Paris, things are more expensive. A value traveler also knows that if you do your research, it is possible to have a great meal that doesn’t cost as much as it would at a supposedly more “well known place” and with a more “fabulous atmosphere.” A value traveler also knows that just because a place may be inexpensive, it doesn’t mean cheap, and it doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice quality.”

We try to be value travelers. We are intentional about how we spend our money in order to have the best overall experience.

Jedd vs. the budget

When Michelle first introduced me to the concept of ‘life on a budget,’ I have to say I was against the idea. In fact, I hated it. I thought budgeting meant being cheap. It meant poor quality. It meant restrictions. It meant a more challenging lifestyle.

I wasn’t ready to sacrifice a certain way of living to save a few pennies here or there.

I was wrong.

Benefits of Budgeting

Budgeting is not about sacrificing time, energy, or quality. It’s a practice of intentionally knowing where your money is going and making good choices towards achieving two ultimate goals:

1. Getting the best value/experience for your money
2. Saving your money to be able to afford the things you value most, including giving

I’ve now used the word “value” 10 times. What do I mean (specifically for travelers)?

Travel Value

Ask yourself what are the most valuable things to you when you travel? Is it quality? Is it cost? Do you value time? Do you care about service? Of course, no situation is perfect. And you probably can’t get everything you want all the time- or what fun would that be?

Eating is one of the most fun things to do in a new country, but you shouldn’t have to spend tons of money – or worse, settle for cheap, fast food. It’s an opportunity to learn about a country and it’s culture, plus you need to eat. You just need to figure out a way to get the best value and experience for your money.

How to Eat Well on a Budget While Traveling - Travel tips for the value traveler

Enjoying an affordable, leisurely breakfast in our apartment during a family reunion in France

Tips for Value Traveling:

1. Do research on your destination before you travel

As a value minded traveler, one of the biggest concerns regarding travel expenses is around food. In some countries, like Vietnam and Thailand, eating out is extremely affordable. A bowl of pho that would normally cost $7 – $8 in the States can be easily had for less than a $1 in Vietnam. For the price, quality, and overall value, these are the ultimate travel destinations for food.

But what about countries like France or Switzerland where things are generally more expensive? Or traveling to the U.K. where the dollar is weak against the pound?

2. Consider making your own meals, eat out sparingly

One of the best ways to save money and enjoy your time eating out is staying at a place that has a kitchen. We love hotels with suites, but this can be an expensive option. Instead, we prefer Airbnbs because of the access to a kitchen. We’ll choose an Airbnb location based on access to public transportation, walking distance to a grocery, and kitchen amenities.

This doesn’t mean we don’t go out to eat. It just means that instead of eating out for every meal, we are very intentional about when we do.

3. Eating out for lunch instead of dinner

If you are going to eat out, consider what time you are going to eat. Breakfasts and lunches are usually a lot more affordable than dinners. Seek out happy hours or brunches.

4. Make eating out a special occasion

When eating out for every meal, it doesn’t feel special anymore. One of my favorite things that Michelle and I try to do is to save our money by making our own meals and only go out for one special occasion at a place that might be considered a splurge.

5. Buy inexpensive local treats from the grocery store

We love trying local flavors and specialties. When we were in Belgium and Switzerland, these countries were known for their chocolates. We could have gone to all of the specialty stores and spent a lot of money, or we could go to the local grocery stores and get a lot more for less. And we even staged our own taste testing.

How to Eat Well on a Budget While Traveling - Travel tips for the value traveler

What tips would you share for getting better value for your dining funds on the road?

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  • Irmela
    Posted at 16:01h, 19 September

    Thank you for re-phrasing what I always thought was stinginess. I am a low budget traveller and always watch my budget. I am not doing this because I don’t have super tight budget but like to travel as long as possible and make the most out of it. But this doesn’t mean I am eating cheap, sugary biscuits and Ramen noodles all day. Quite the opposite, I am always looking to eat well and healthy and try the local foods.

    Eating healthy without breaking the bank isn’t that difficult. I usually choose hostels and guest houses that have a kitchen so I can prepare most of my meals there. From fresh fruit salad with musli in the morning to delicious one-pot-wonders in the evening, people may actually be surprised what they can conjure even in the most under equipped of kitchens.

    My tip is to check out the local market where you get fresh, local produce to affordable prices. Very often it is also organic and you may find exotic and unusual foods too. This is especially true for South America and also parts of Europe.
    In Asia, especially the South East where you may not find guest house kitchens and restaurants are cheap anyway, I look for Community or NGO run restaurants that give something back to the local people whilst deliciously dinning out at the same time.

    • Michelle C
      Posted at 17:26h, 19 September

      Hi Irmela. Thanks for your thoughtful comment and excellent tips. Happy travels!

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