If you want to learn how to eat cheap or even free while traveling or even at home, you must have an open mind and a sauce made of hunger. It’s really not as hard or disgusting as you might think, and you could actually form some habits, though not always legal ones, that could save you loads and keep you on the road longer.
In this guide I will teach you the techniques that will enable you to cut your food costs and prolong your adventure indefinitely. The first section will covers some simple ways to save. The second part will introduce some strategies, albeit unorthodox ones, that could potentially eliminate your food expenses all together.
How To Eat Cheap Around The World
Though these tactics are fairly obvious, they are often overlooked.
1) Buy Food At Supermarkets
If you’re traveling in the western world, the supermarket is always your cheapest means of sustenance. The best value backpacker meals generally include bread, butter, cup of noodles, eggs and cold cuts. When buying your next meal you should always contemplate how many calories (units of energy) vis a vis the price.
2) Buy At Street Markets
In most developing countries, the local street market is always locally priced and the best place to buy eggs, fruit, produce and meats. Street Markets are also often home to traditional hole in the wall restaurants where you can find hot local meals for cheap. Just remember, if it tastes funny, like poop or rotting meat, spit it out.
3) Eat Street Food
Street food is always low-cost and delicious. It also provides a nice introduction into local cuisine. There’s no better street food in the world than that in South East Asia. For the cheapest food stalls be sure to get off the main tourist roads. With all local food in developing countries, be sure the meat is cooked well and nothing has been bathing in the sun too long. Check out How To Avoid Travelers Diarrhea.
4) Wait Until The End Of The Day
Many Bakeries in Europe and also Japan offer huge discounts on their baked goods at the end of the night. Additionally, some pizzerias in New York will do the same if you simply ask.
4) Never buy food in Tourist Traps
Prices at train stations, attractions, bus stops and hotel restaurants tend to be 30-40% higher than the rest of the world. It’s a true budget killer.
5) Eat Less
People from the US, UK & AU in particular have been raised on 3 glutonous meals a day. But the truth is, you really don’t need as much calories as you were raised on. The ancient Romans believed it was healthiest to only eat one meal a day. And many modern European cultures prefer only 2 meals a day. Not only will eating less save you money but it will keep you fit.
How To Eat For Free
These next methods are reserved for the traveler whose not afraid to get a bit dirty or go the extra bite to eat for free. I’ve utilized all of these options at one time or another.
1) Go Dumpster diving
Every market has very strict regulations when it comes to aging produce and meat. In the result, they are forced to dispose of a variety of edible foods. Most of the time, these products still haven’t reached their expiration dates. What does this mean for you? If you’re willing to jump on in that dumpster, free food is yours for the taking.
While you’re in the dumpster, carefully selecting and gathering food, keep on the look out for additional items that you might be able to resell or recycle. Flowers, cans, and bottles are always good finds. If you aren’t able to sell the flowers on the street, you can always use them to try and pick up a girl or guy, provided you’ve showered recently.
2) Enjoy The Leftovers
Nothing says class like somebody who just grabbed a handful of fries from your plate while you were looking back at the homeless guy peeing on the side of the restaurant. And guess what, you can be that somebody. In fact, when the hunger pains become unbearable, you just might have to. The best way to do this is to ask to use the restaurant bathroom. Then on the way in, swipe some food in a napkin from an un-cleared table. I probably don’t have to mention this, but discretion is advised.
3) Ask Restaurant & Cafe Owners
Restaurants and Cafes are always throwing out food. The best time to eat this free food is towards closing time. Simply ask the kitchen staff or manager if you could have their leftovers at the end of the night. Many times managers will be kind and let you help your self. And if they are really nice, they might even treat you to a proper meal.
I used to head to the Starbucks in Lahaina, Maui every night at closing time and pick up a big bag of sandwiches and muffins.
4) Eat With A Local
Although this method is one of luck, it often happens around the world, especially in the Middle east. There’s nothing better than sitting down with a local family. The food is always traditional and never in short supply.
I can’t even count the number of times I was invited for dinner in Jordan, Syria, Turkey, and Egypt.
5) Remember The Holidays
Around Rosh Hashanah in Israel and Thanks Giving in the US, you can often find free meals at shelters and religious centers. But by far the best holiday for free food is Ramadan. In Cairo the rich actually provides free dinners to everyone in the city for 1 whole month.
6) Raid The Maids Carts
If you’re really hungry and in need of a quick pick me up, hotel maids carts are never in short supply. Simply sneak into a quality hotel, head up to the top floor (where the suites are) and search for a cart. Here you’ll often find candy, snacks, and other items destined for the mini fridge. Check out How To Sneak Into Anywhere.
This is the least advisable option and should only be utilized as a last resort. Karma is real and when you steal food, more times than not you will end up with diarrhea or with several birds pooping on your head. True stories.
To sum up, if you’re not too strapped for cash, shop smart and eat less. If you’re starving, be savvy, hit the dumpster and stay positive, you never know when you might run into an old friend for the first time for a meal at their house.
Good luck and safe travels
Ps. If you have ever utilized these techniques or have some of your own, I would love to hear about them. Feel free to post below.