One of the best things about traveling is getting to try a wide variety of food and drinks and experiencing the unique food culture of different locations. For example, even If you’re traveling from one state to another within the US, the diversity n taste and flavor can take you by surprise, be it Tennessee’s southern-style food or NYC’s melting pot of fusion cuisine.
But what’s not-so-great about food tourism is how it burns a hole through the pocket, and each meal at a fancy restaurant contributes to a hefty bill. Even if you’re traveling to a city like Knoxville, TN, which offers a wide variety of places to eat based on your budget, you must be mindful of what and where to eat if you don’t want the expenses to go off the charts.
So to help you eat on a budget when traveling, keep these tips in mind.
Eat where the locals eat
A surefire way to save money on food is to eat where the locals eat. Not only will you get to enjoy delicious, authentic local food, but you’ll also get a glimpse into the local life. Following the example above, local, community-driven restaurants like Elkmont station in Knoxville, TN, invite visitors to enjoy an ever-evolving menu of handcrafted food and beverages in a friendly atmosphere that reflects the local culture.
Regardless of where you go, finding great local spots isn’t difficult. You can always start by asking around for recommendations — ask the hotel staff, tour guides, and shop owners where they go to get the best food. You can also search online for local restaurants. Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Foursquare often have helpful reviews and ratings from locals, so you can get an idea of a restaurant’s quality and price range.
When you’ve found a few restaurants you’re interested in, take a walk around the neighborhood to get a sense of the area. Do you see any locals dining there? Do the prices seem reasonable? Is the restaurant busy? These are all good signs that you’ve found a spot where the locals eat.
Look for lunch specials and happy hours
Many restaurants and fast food chains offer discounted prices for lunchtime meals. You can devour an amazing afternoon meal that costs you only a fraction of what you’d otherwise pay in the evening.
Look for eateries that offer two-for-one deals or combos (such as a soup and sandwich for a set price). Also, keep an eye out for happy hour while looking for a place to drink instead of settling for an overpriced cocktail.
Try street food
Street food is not only budget-friendly, but it’s often cooked fresh and packed with flavor. Hence, you get an authentic experience of the local food culture while keeping your wallet fat.
Trying street food is also a great way to get to know the local community. You’ll find vendors who’ve been selling their food in the same spot for decades, and they usually have some great stories to tell. For this reason, bustling metropolitan areas with a rich history like New Your City, Knoxville, and Chicago make for some excellent places to try street food.
As far as food safety and hygiene is concerned, look for busy vendors with lots of customers. This usually means the food is clean and safe to eat. When in doubt, always ask if the food is cooked in front of you.
Shop at a local food market and go picnic!
The next time you’re traveling on a budget, why not try shopping at a local food market and having a picnic?
You’ll find all sorts of fresh and local produce, pre-made meals, and snacks at local grocery stores. After you’ve stocked up, head to a nearby park or beach with a blanket, and enjoy a picnic. This is a great option if you’re traveling with people you love in a scenic town like Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg
Eating out is always enjoyable, but this is a great way to explore the local produce, get out of the city, and save money. Plus, you’ll be able to take in some beautiful scenery as you enjoy a delicious meal.
Follow the “cook one meal per day” rule
Cooking your own meals is a great way to ensure you get the nutrition you need without spending too much money eating at a fancy restaurant near your hotel.
Meal planning and grocery shopping ahead of time can be of great help. Before you travel, make sure you have a good understanding of the local ingredients available. You can also save money by planning meals that use similar ingredients. For example, if you buy a large block of cheese, you can use it to try different recipes throughout your trip. This way, you’ll get a variety of meals without having to buy a large number of different ingredients.
It’s best to eat out at lunch since you might be out and about during that time anyway, and indulge in a home-cooked meal for dinner to save some bucks.
It’s easy to go over budget if you’re eating in tourist traps, dining out for all three meals daily, or going after non-local food in fancy restaurants. As a savvy traveler, try sticking to local eateries and street food to make the most of your food budget. You may also find happy hour deals and free snack offers if you’re willing to explore local neighborhoods. Also, cook at least one meal per day if you have a kitchen, and replace the tablecloth with a picnic blanket whenever the weather demands it. Spending less on food will ensure you have more money to blow on experiences and shopping while on vacation.