How to Eat on a Budget While Traveling

One of the main mistakes I made while backpacking up the east coast of Australia had to do with my eating habits. Incidentally, this rolled over into my spending habits. It took me a while to get it down, but I learned that there really is an art to eating on a budget.

Don’t Be Picky

First and foremost, don’t be picky. I’m not generally a picky eater, so that made things easy for me. As long as I’ve got something to “fill the gap” I’m pretty happy. Instant noodles became a pretty regular thing for me and, if you plan on spending your money on things other than food, they’ll become a daily occurrence in your life as well. Be sure to experiment with different brands and extra toppings, though. Truly the spice of life.

Cook for Yourself

That said, cook for yourself. Eating out becomes a very expensive habit, one that I picked up very quickly. It’s far too easy to spend money on food, so stock up on some groceries and keep things cheap! Pasta, canned tuna and sausages are amongst some of the cheaper food options but hey, it never hurts to spoil yourself once in a while. Spend a few extra dollars, but not all the time.

Be a Freeloader

Make sure you check the free food shelves at your hostel (if you’re reading this article, I’m going to go ahead and presume that you’re staying at one). I’ve managed to find some pretty good stuff in the free food bins, often times feeding me for up to a week!


If you’re traveling with friends (or happen to make some along the way), make a meal for everyone and split the cost. Things work out to be immensely cheaper if you’re cooking with others so find a group of four and get everybody to throw down some dollars. It’s worth it.

Splurge on Lunch

If there’s a restaurant you’re dying to try, make sure you go for lunch instead of dinner. Nighttime mains will often cost twice as much as lunchtime meals so make it out during the day if you can. Create a daily food budget and give yourself a few extra dollars for a couple days out of the week.

Food costs can add up quickly, so it’s important to think long-term. And try not to spend too much money on munchies during a big night out!

About the Author

Jeremy Scott Foster

Jeremy Scott Foster is an adventure-junkie, gear expert and travel photographer based in Southern California. Previously nomadic, he’s been to ~50 countries and loves spending time outdoors. You can usually find him on the trail, on the road, jumping from bridges or hustling on his laptop working to produce the best travel and outdoors content today.
  1. Bring food with you from home 🙂
    Instant noodles are a good idea. Especially if you have your own portable water heater!

  2. Some of the tips in here are very common but I think not being picky and going for lunch than dinner to the most desired restaurants are cool!

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