Eating on a Budget in Europe..

By Posted in - Big Trip & Budget Travel & Europe on October 18th, 2010

Food is something you have to factor into your budget no matter where you go.

If you’re a foodie like me it can be challenging to fill your gastronomic needs with the local foods and still keep the costs down. Luckily there are a few ways you can still eat great food while traveling on a budget.

1. Hit up the local grocery store.

Aisles of Cheap Wine in Paris!

We have frequented grocery stores in Iceland, Paris and all through Italy. I love it. It’s a great way to see a slice of the local life but it’s also a great way to buy some excellent local food on a budget. Paris grocery stores have huge baguettes for about .70 cents. Pair that with some local cheese for about 3 Euro and a bottle of wine for another 3 Euro and you’ve got yourself a nice little picnic for 2 people for less than 8 Euro. Iceland had outstanding hummus for about $2 and Italy had amazing bottles of Olive Oil for about 2 Euro. Wherever we were it was always easy to find yummy, whole foods at the grocery stores. Another reason I love Europe – the snacks which sell by the bucket load in the U.S. are not very popular here. I think a large part of the reason is because they are expensive (far more pricey than the U.S. example: a can of coke will run you $3 in Iceland and $2 in Paris) and also because the good, quality food is much cheaper. You really can get amazing cheese for $2 or $3 in Europe and the veggies and fruit also seems to be much cheaper.

2. Farmer’s Markets

Strawberries at a Paris Market.

It seems that every city in the world has some version of a farmer’s market. It’s worth hitting up because you can usually find unique, local foods at a budget price. Plus it is also really fun to stroll around market streets and just watch the local people going about their daily shopping. I’ve noticed most people in Europe shop more frequently than their U.S. counterparts. The focus in Europe is definitely more on fresh, quality foods and so it isn’t usual for people to go to the market every day or every other day to get fresh bread, cheese, etc. If I could spend every day sitting around at a market watching people buzz around I think I would. I love the environment and the backpacker friendly food.

3. Go big at lunch, small for dinner.

Apple, Corn & Celery Salad on the Farm in Italy. Just a small part of a huge lunch!

If you want to eat out go for lunch. You’ll save a ton of money that way and you might even get bigger portions. Also as I’ve learned in Italy this is how people eat in Europe. They eat HUGE lunches and then a very small dinner. The lunch menus are always much cheaper than the dinner menus. Not only is it better for your savings account but it’s also better for your waistline. I love this way of life and I’m definitely going to try and stick with it.

4. Bring some food staples with you.

Randy eating oatmeal we brought with us in the tent.

We heard coffee in Iceland was expensive and it was. So we went to Starbucks and bought some VIA to go packs before we left. It was a great way to save money and still have a morning caffeine fix. We also brought some other staples like breakfast bars and oatmeal. I’m not a big breakfast person but it was nice to have something cheap and quick to munch on instead of buying something mid morning. Plus it came in handy a few times when it was siesta time (all the stores and restaurants are closed) and we were really hungry.

5. Check out the street food.

Cheap & Yummy Paninis in Paris. Only 3 Euro!

Yum – street food! In Iceland it’s the hot dog, in Paris it’s crepes and Paninis and in Italy it’s pizza and gelato. Street food is always a cheap way to fill up your tummy quickly. I didn’t partake of the hot dog in Iceland but I definitely had enough paninis and pizza to float a boat for the rest of the trip. In my opinion Paris had the best street food because they sell foot long Paninis for 3 euro each! Not only are they tasty but they are actually filling and you can easy have one for a quick and cheap dinner without feeling hungry a couple of hours later.

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(13) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • Ant Stone -

    October 19, 2010 at 6:03 am

    Great tips, and — as always — great accompanying photographs. I can vouch for Tip #3; it makes sense on so many levels. Eating a large meal in the evenings can take time, and leave you feeling a little sluggish so it’s better to get your fill at lunchtime, perhaps take a siesta, then you have the rest of the afternoon and evening free to roam.

    • Bethany -

      October 19, 2010 at 8:24 am

      Yeah, the Europeans definitely have great eating habits. @Ant Stone,

  • roclafamilia -

    October 21, 2010 at 5:04 am

    Helpful blog, bookmarked the website with hopes to read more!

  • Eurotrip Tips -

    October 22, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    European have great eating habits that we screw up with our American appetites, I think. We just haven’t learn to eat the same way hence why we sometimes go over our head when it comes to food (the other easy solution is certainly to eat as much as you want and walk off those calories).

    Now, regarding the cheap side of eating, I certainly agree with all your suggestions. I wrote something similar a little while ago:

    Oh and pretty photos, by the way. Reminds me how cheap wine is in Europe (sometimes cheaper than water)

  • Michael Hodson -

    October 25, 2010 at 6:29 am

    love the tips and also the shots — really like the focus effect on most of them. Very nice.

  • -

    October 26, 2010 at 6:00 am

    European Getaway Day 8 Florence…

    Day 8 – Florence I wake up fairly early and head for breakfast, ham, cheese and bread rolls follows the usual sort of food we are becoming accustomed to. This morning there seems to be a buzz around the group, which I learn is due to a football gam…

  • Jodi (legalnomads) -

    October 26, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Great post, and really handy as I’m about to be sent to Europe for work where travel expenses are covered but food is not. Excellent timing! Discovered your site via Michael (go see write) and looking forward to perusing your great food photos.

  • The Poor Travel Blogger -

    October 29, 2010 at 11:32 am

    I just came across your blog when I started following you just recently. Love this post however because I’ve faced the same problems of eating cheap in Europe, which is ESPECIALLY hard when you are hitchhiking. Most of the time you are dropped off at truck stops and gas stations. And you know how expensive food is at those places! I’ve been stocking up at the grocery store however and it’s a lot cheaper! I’m subscribing to your blog.

  • Erica -

    November 1, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    The street food made my tummy grumble.

    I have to say that one of my most favorite “meals” while we were in Spain was when Shaun headed out to the market one morning and brought back a fresh baguette and fresh cheese. I still dream of it. The whole thing cost us less than 3 Euros.

  • Taylor -

    October 28, 2011 at 11:13 am

    (God that bread looks good.)

    I know that we all are budget travelers, but when in Europe budget a little more for food. There is no reason to go to Europe and not eat well. What’s Spain without Jamon Serrano, or Paris without a a meal at a brassier.

  • Christy -

    March 31, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    Great tips! I’ll have to keep this in mind for our Italy trip in May. My two month trip to Europe in my early twenties was a free for all and definitely not cheap, so hopefully I can stick to a food budget this time.

    It’s kind of crazy to me that many American’s don’t food shop very often. I’ve been spoiled these last few years since we live right next to a health food store where I shop every day. I’ve really gotten used to this style of life where I constantly have fresh fruit and veggies.

  • Zara from -

    March 31, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    Another tip to add would be to not eat near the touristic landmarks. But I guess that applies for Europe and most of the world, right? Food will definitely be more expensive and probably more rushed and not as good quality as you are likely to find in other areas.

  • H.D. Lynn -

    August 4, 2012 at 10:32 am

    I did all of these things while spending two weeks traveling between countries in Europe. I would hesitate about bringing food with you; maybe some trail mix, dried nuts or fruit, but that’s about it. If you’re trying to save money, stay away from restaurants for dinner. Eat more earlier in the day and do picnics later in the evening. Snack a lot, too, which cuts down on spending money on large dinners.