TRAVELLING IS NOT AS CHEAP AS EVERYONE THINKS…BUT IT CAN BE!
One of the toughest parts about creating a travel budget is planning a food budget for your travelling experience. Whether you stay in a hotel, resort, or you hop in your vehicle for a road trip daily expenses of food must be accounted for or even estimated to keep a tight budget from exploding.
Here are ways we’ve learned to save money on food while travelling that we want to share with you so you don’t make the same mistakes we made along the way.
Not everyone uses a travel budget when going on vacation which means the grocery budget or entertainment category may be the next two logical places to carve a bit of money from. The reasoning behind using the grocery budget is because if you’re not home to buy groceries you spend that money on travel food. Makes sense to me if it’s a simple road trip but a destination holiday may prove a bit more costlier.
Most travellers are so focused on planning the trip that they put food on the back-burner because it doesn’t seem like such a big deal. You can always eat out, right? There has to be food somewhere? You’re on vacation…just eat and spend money because you earned it. If you’ve planned the money to splash then use it up but if not I’d caution using this money mentality on vacation.
Unless you’ve got unlimited funds or your employer is covering your food expenses you WILL want to create some sort of plan so your daily expenses on food fit how much money you have to spend. The last thing you will want to do is bring out your credit card to start charging for dining out because you’ve run out of cash.
I’ve travelled to many countries around the world and although I only ate once or twice a day in my twenties it was still important for me to eat well while saving as much money as I could. I wasn’t going to starve myself because I was being cheap on holiday as I wanted to eat what the locals ate too. It’s about being realistic about what you can afford.
Don’t be this Person
Do you know the people who go on vacation who act like they are rich when they have piles of debt at home? Those are the people who spend money and deal with the consequences later. Big mistake. Your first mistake is travelling with high amounts of consumer debt and the second not planning your daily expenses on what could be your highest costs apart from the hotel and airfare. FOOD!
Before I would board any plane to go on vacation to another country or jump in the car for a road trip I would always do 3 things to jump-start the trip. Don’t get me wrong I’m not a crazy frugal traveller either, I just don’t want to deal with any financial aftermath if I don’t need to.
This is what I do and you should to!
- Research Cost Saving Ideas for Food
- Research Where the food shops, food trucks, food stands and popular food hot-spots were located.
- Make sure I always had somewhere to cook
I didn’t always come away spending less money as most of my investigation came from searching online but I did learn various ways to cut expenses on food costs while travelling through trial and error. You’ll always set one bad example of reckless daily food expenses while travelling but hopefully you’ll learn what not to do the next time you travel.
Road trip daily expenses for food
Probably one of the ways travellers blow money on food is the somewhat convenient and simple road trip. Whether you stop at a pit stop on the highway or pull into a city and hit up a local restaurant or fast food joint these expenses can bust your budget.
Something we started doing when we would go on a road trip is pack a cooler full of food, snacks and cold beverages. Once we had our son even more so did we pack food because we did for him too.
If the weather is nice we tend to stop off somewhere and enjoy a picnic on a blanket like we did this past summer in Tobermory, Ontario. If we’re checking in at a hotel or just enjoying a daily road trip food is less of a priority to beverages but we always have snacks. You’ll spend a fortune on coffee, water, juice and pop if you plan to buy it while travelling.
Fill your cooler with lots of snacks and drinks so you can save money to spend on other things. Going to McDonald’s to get 2 Big Macs, 2 medium fries, 2 large coffees and a kid’s meal will cost you a staggering $18 (with a Buy 1 get 1 free coupon too…ouch) which is outrageous for fast food. Whoever tells you fast food restaurant eating is cheap is lying to you unless you stick to the value menu but even then you’re still hungry.
You could take that $18 and turn it into delicious healthy food that you can make a meal from and pack in your vehicle. On a road trip most rest stops have tables you can enjoy something to eat that you’ve made at home or in your hotel before moving forward on a long road-trip.
Even a road trip to local Ontario tourist spots like Wonderland, Marine Land, Thousand Islands, Niagara Falls, Grand Bend, Provincial and National Parks and so on will cost you to eat out. Pack food and drinks and save your cash to enjoy the high costs of travelling to these tourist locations.
Not everyone wants to cook while on holiday but if you have the opportunity to do so, balance how many times you eat out and make food to save money. Many hotels and motels give you access to a mini refrigerator, kitchenette and a barbeque so you can prepare light meals in your room or outdoors.
A motel we stayed at in the summer in Tobermory had a kitchen including a microwave and outdoor barbeque that we could use to prepare and cook food if we wanted to instead of going to a restaurant. We would use the room refrigerator to store our food or keep it in a cooler packed with ice.
When the wife and I were spending a few days touring London England as she’s never been we decided to eat at the hotel one evening. Big mistake. We let our exhaustion from the full day of walking and tube travelling take over our stomachs and decided to eat in at the hotel. Never again. I wouldn’t let my wife see the bill but she knew it was pretty high, and it was. If we were smart we would have grabbed fish n chips or a decent meal at a local shop and brought it along with us.
Typically I would always pack a lunch and bring drinks in a back pack but this particular road trip wasn’t planned so well. I wanted to show my wife as much of England as I could when she would visit including the places I’ve lived. Things change when you move away from certain areas so it’s still important to do your research. Bad on me.
Related: 10 ideas to Save Money On Travel
Destination travelling daily expenses for food
Whether you’re travelling and board a boat, airplane, train or other means of transportation that will get you from point A to point B out of the town and country food expenses can get costly. Typically when you are on a boat food expenses are covered in the price of the ticket as you’d expect from a cruise. This is great because you don’t have to worry about spending extra money on food because it’s already supplied to you. Keep in mind though that snacks may not be so pack some away if you don’t want to pay outrageous costs in a cruise shop.
When destination travelling you may have the food included in an all-inclusive resort but for those of you who don’t care for resorts like me planning food expenses takes a bit more work. If I was staying in a self catering apartment I made sure that there was a fully equipped kitchen that I could cook in which meant I did a bit of online research to see if there were any markets close by or vendors on the street where I could buy fresh foods.
Many times I would cook during the week while I was on holiday and it saved me a bundle of money. I also ate out at restaurants and would snack on street food but I never went over-board. I also learned to be picky about the foods I chose to eat.
The worst thing you could do is buy food you aren’t familiar with and waste your money. If you don’t speak the local language don’t buy food if you have no idea what you’re eating. If you do, prepare that you may hate it, it may not agree with you and you waste money.
For some this is part of the travelling thrill so budget that thrill money if you want to eat on a whim. My suggestions would be to search online for popular foods that a country was famous for and whether pricing was reasonable to stock up on while I was visiting.
Some of the best restaurants that I ate in were the cheapest but with the best food. I could hardly finish my meals in Thailand because they were filling, cheap and they gave you lots to eat. Most of the street vendors were more than excited to have foreigners buy and eat their food. Keep in mind that you can always barter with many street vendors because they want your business so understanding how to barter in any country I visited was important to me.
Daily expenses for food included looking for snacks that were budget-friendly in the shops to eat at night rather than always buying actual meals. When staying in a resort you may not have the luxury of snacks unless you go to a local resort store but you’ll pay the price for those snacks. I’d recommend bringing snacks from home to off-set any of the costs that aren’t needed.
You might be shocked to find that there are coupons for restaurants if you reserve seats ahead of time or print them online before you take off on holiday. My wife explained to me on a past trip to Disney World eating at the resort would cost a fortune. It was recommended to pack beverages and snacks every day.
If you are staying off the Disney resort in a condo with a kitchen or renting a house or using a timeshare you can cook but you can also visit restaurants in the local area and use coupons to cut costs. You pay for convenience no matter where you travel but if you don’t mind a bit of work you can save yourself some money even if it’s simply by hitting, print or opening a savings app on your smartphone.
I know when we plan to take our son to Disney I’ll be doing extensive research to keep food costs low while enjoying every minute of seeing our son smile.
Buying snacks costs BIG BUCKS!
Unless you’re buying an unusual snack that you’ve never had before and if you don’t try it there and then you may never again, avoid buying snacks. I loved eating foods that the locals made but I would only get what was new to me and something I’d probably never make at home.
If you’re boarding a plane don’t buy snacks on the plane if they aren’t included apart from your complimentary pretzels because they are pricey. A small chocolate bar could run you upwards of $2 each when you’re in the air and $0.50 at the Dollar store on the ground. Always stock a few treats for air-travel and cut food expenses along the way. Some flights actually give you the option of having an in-flight meal or not. Opting out of having the meal can actually save you more than you think.
For some people when they go on vacation their bowels don’t agree with them in the new environment and changes to routine so cutting back on how much you eat may also save you money and time on the toilet. I remember I was sick for days with some sort of virus in Thailand that I couldn’t eat but I wanted to and when I did it would just come up. I wasted more money trying to get food in me but that all ended in the bin. Eating less and drinking lots of water and eating greens will help move things along.
Trim Daily Expenses on food 101 when travelling
- Wherever I travelled I would eat the most food I could depending on price. If lunch was the cheapest meal of the day I’d eat something small for breakfast and dinner. Come lunch time I’d be sure to fill up. This way you stay full for longer especially if you load up on proteins and fats but limit carbohydrates. Making sure I was always hydrated also helped me from wanting to eat when all my body wanted was water to hydrate.
- Choose Hotels or Apartments with cooking facilities so you can buy groceries and eat a meal in the room to lower your daily expenses on food. This is something I was passionate about because it gave me the opportunity to explore different foods at the grocery store and make them myself.
- If heading out on a road trip always scope out the city you are visiting by going online to see if there are any coupon books you can buy to help cut your daily expenses while visiting the city or town. Many times you might get lucky and find 2 for 1 dinning out coupons or discounts on shopping. This includes travelling over the border to the USA.
- Depending on where you are travelling research restaurants online as most now have websites displaying the full menu with prices. You can pick what you might want to eat and know how much it will cost before you even step food in the establishment.
- Always bring snacks to the airport or anywhere you are travelling as you will get gauged at the cash register if you don’t. Expect to pay double or even triple what you would in the city if you don’t.
- Talk to the locals when you arrive and ask them where they like to eat local food and what they recommend. I did this many times and found the best joints with frugal menus were hidden off the main tourist streets. When the wife and I travelled to Niagara a short drive out of the main district 10 minutes found us cheaper food than what we would have paid if we stayed close to the hotel.
- If you are unable to bring snacks with you find out what your destination is popular for because usually that means the food is in abundance and cheaper to eat. I would buy tonnes of cheap bananas in India because they grow everywhere. The bananas kept me fuelled on the many road trips we went on throughout the day until the next meal.
- Food trucks and street vendors will almost always have cheaper food than what you’d pay for in a restaurant plus you don’t have to leave a tip. Whether you are in Canada, USA or overseas ask a local where the best outdoor food is located and what they suggest to eat. Fill up on good eats for less so you can save your money for your pricier meal of the day.
- Bulk shopping at the grocery store will likely be inexpensive so if you’re hotel or apartment has a kitchen think “Big” when shopping for food. Don’t buy more than you will eat as you may not be able to travel home with extra food if it’s not allowed by customs.
- If you’re crossing the border to do some shopping or go grocery shopping unless you plan to eat out I’d suggest eating before you go. The reason is that if you don’t plan to eat out if you get stuck in bridge traffic it may be hours before you get to eat. You may also find that if you are hungry you get suckered into restaurants by the smell of food or cheap buffet prices. Again, if you plan it go for it but if you can’t afford to eat out just get what you need and get home with snacks and bevvies in tow.
Overall, travelling should be fun but it shouldn’t break you financially. If you include travel food in your grocery budget it becomes more critical to invest time into knowing where your money will go before you leave. With proper planning you will eat good local food, cut costs and enjoy your trip no matter what mode of transportation you chose to take.
What other ways can you save on daily expenses for food when travelling?
February Grocery Game Challenge posts 2016
Join in the 2016 Grocery Game Challenge (GGC) fun and post your grocery shop in the comment section of each GGC blog post. Here are the rules to get you started and where you’ll also find a link for the updated 2016 GGC schedule. Please feel free to download, save and even print the schedule so it’s handy. Thanks to Mary for putting this together for us again this year. If you need any help please let me know.
New monthly prize: $10 President’s Choice Gift Card for Canadian residents only BUT If you want to play from outside of Canada and have PayPal and you win I will pay you $10CDN. I use a random online generator to pick the winning ballot every month.
If you missed any grocery game posts for the month I will post the line-up each week below for you so you don’t have to go looking for past GGC posts for the month. Alternatively, just click on the “Grocery Game Challenge” tab on the blog side-bar to see past posts.
- 5 Ways to Slash Binge Shopping From Your Grocery Budget– #1 February
- Should you buy into the Costco Membership Hype?- #2 February
Free Money Saving Tools 2016
I know I blast you every which way I can on this blog about my free money saving tools and that’s because I want you to take advantage of them being FREE. So many people pay for budgets and tools on the internet to help them save money and honestly you don’t need to. Even a paper and pen will do the trick.
Click, Save and Print. It’s that easy!
This is the budget that brought us to debt freedom back in 2013 and now I’m offering to all of you for FREE. We still use this budget every month as it helps us to see our overall financial picture.
You can download the FREE Canadian Budget Binder Budget Spreadsheet in Excel…Grab it while you can… It’s FREE! We use it to budget and in large part a reason we could pay our mortgage off in 5 years, check it out!
Free Money Saving Downloads are awesome lists that were created to get us on track to work towards reaching our budgeting goals and now we are sharing them with you.
Get organized with a FREE freezer inventory, meal plan, shopping list, price comparison list and much more all for FREE.
CLICK HERE to download all the free lists and even our family budget spreadsheet. So many free resources at your fingertips.
Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide 2016
The Ultimate Grocery Shopping guide is ongoing with new informative money-saving posts added every month.
Even if you don’t live in Canada there are some amazing budget saving tips that will help put you on the path to more savings at the supermarket.
Share this guide with your friends and tell them about Canadian Budget Binder especially if they are struggling with their grocery budget.
The time is NOW to get started saving money on groceries so please enjoy the many money-saving posts in the The Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide.
2016 Grocery Shop Results
Yearly grocery budget for two + 1 Toddler 2016: $2820
(The above total does not include the stockpile budget of $300/year or $25/month.
Points Overview (add any other sections you need to show us your savings)
- Total Grocery Budget for the Month:$235.00
- Total Grocery Budget with any carry-overs $217.05
- Total Gift Cards used to date: $50
- Total Rewards Points redeemed this week: $0
- Total Rewards Points used to date: $0
- PC Points Plus Earned to date: 58570
- Scanning Code of Practice (SCOP)to date $0
- Shoppers Optimum: Over 700,000 points ( I will update this twice a year)
Coupon Apps (add any other apps you use to save money)
- Snap Groupon to cash out: $0 (Cashed out $45.00)
- Zweet to cash out : $18.25
- Checkout51 to cash out : $7.00
Grocery Shop This Week
- 1 x 2% milk 4L- $3.97
- 2 x Homo 3.25 % Milk 4 L $4.97
- 6 x Omega 3 Eggs Sale $2.47 each
- 3 pack Romaine Hearts Sale $1.97
- 2 x Philadelphia Cream Cheese double container Sale $2.97 each
- Liberte Yogurt Sale $2.97
- Brussel Sprouts 1lb Sale $2.88
- Baby Spinach container $3.00
Total Out-of-Pocket: $45.49
- 4 x Schneiders Bacon Sale $2.97 375 g.. not a pound..sneaky~
- 4 x Armstrong Cheese Sale $3.88 each
Total Out-of-Pocket: $27.40
- 3 pack cucumbers Sale $3.00
Total Out-of-Pocket: $3.00
- Total to spend this month $235.00-$17.95 over Jan = $217.05
- Stockpile budget 2016 ($25.00):$25.00
- Stockpile budget used this month: $0
- Total coupons used this week: $0
- Total coupons used to date: $4
- Total in-store discounts this week:$0
- Total in-store discounts to date: $128.10
- Total spent this week: $75.96
- Total spent so far this month: $149.96
- Total over/Under spend this shop: under
- Total over/Under spend for the month:- $n/a
- Total left to spend for the month: $67.09
- Total Spent To Date 2016: (does not include stockpile budget) Jan $252.95+ Feb $
Weekly Overview (your final thoughts)
We stocked up on bacon, eggs and cheese for the wife while they were cheap this week. We also picked up a few vegetable for salads. We still have veg in the refrigerator as well as fruit in the freezer that our little guy is eating up with his yogurt.
Coupons and Coupon Apps 2016
Here are some great places you can find Canadian Coupons! These are your latest Checkout 51 offers which you can use to help save money. We’re finding less and less coupons in the stores these days. What are your thoughts? Are coupon apps taking over the paper coupons?
Grocery Game Challenge 2016 FAQ’s
- Grocery Game Challenge RULES: Read the rules first and if you have any questions email me or comment on this post with your question and someone will answer you as soon as possible. The rules have been updated for the 2016 challenge year.
- Do I have to be Canadian to post my Grocery Shop?: No, you don’t have to be Canadian to post your shops. We have fans who post their grocery shop who live all over the world.
- What is the monthly prize and who can claim it?- The monthly prize is a $10 PC Loblaws Gift Card and for our out of country friends it’s $10 CDN via Paypal if they win. As more people join I will add more money to the gift card or I will split it up and offer 2 prizes every month.
- When does the Grocery Game close each month?: The Grocery Game Challenge closes at midnight of the last Sunday of the last post for the month but you will still get a ballot when you post your shops even if they are late but I encourage you to stay on schedule. If you choose to post monthly or bi-weekly you will only get 1 ballot for that shop. It’s a proven fact the minute we stop doing something that is scheduled that we end up forgetting to do it altogether. Don’t let that be you! You can post your shops all month-long.
- Does your Grocery Budget include health and beauty and laundry products?: No, our Grocery Budget includes such items as shampoo, conditioner, laundry soap, fabric softener, dish soap etc. As of 2014-2015 we no longer include such items in our grocery budget so we can see actual food numbers at the end of the year in order to plan accordingly our budget.
- Do you stockpile food? We don’t mind stockpiling items that won’t be affected by expiry dates or have long expiry dates but not so much food any longer as we found we weren’t eating it fast enough. Stockpiling is still great and just one way to help cut your budget to save money if you do find items that you can buy in bulk at a sale price.
- Canadian Coupons:Where can I find Canadian Coupons?: Here are your latest Checkout 51 offers that you can use to help you save money in the Grocery Game Challenge. There are many great Canadian Couponing websites online that share weekly coupon match-ups so you can plan your grocery list.
- Best Coupon Apps: Coupons are slowly fading with mobile coupon apps being the big rave these days. Just recently the popular coupon site Save.ca that mailed coupons to households has gotten involved with the addition of a new mobile Save.ca app joining forces with the many other coupon apps available. If you find an app that I don’t talk about please let me know as they are always being added and I’d like to review them.
- What is the Best Flyer App- We use Flipp on our Iphone so if you wan to have all your flyers in one spot download Flipp from the Apple Store or get it on Google Play.
- What is an FPC?: An FPC is a free product coupon which means you can get a free product as described on the coupon.
- What is GGC?– The Grocery Game Challenge of course!
- How Do I Know what stores accept coupons?: If you are not sure it’s always best to call the store and ask.
- How Do I Grocery Shop?: I can tell you about grocery shopping and what we do in terms of shopping to save money and how it works for us. There are no wrong or right answers, just smart choices.
Nobody is perfect, heck we struggle with this part of our budget like many people do. This is why the grocery game challenge was created back in 2012 and is one of the most popular hang out spots for people who want to save money on groceries in Canada.
If you’ve just joined The Grocery Game Challenge 2016 get ready to examine your grocery budget by learning…
- Where you are spending money
- How much money you are spending
- How much money you are saving every month
If you want to learn everything I know about grocery shopping in Canada check out my Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide! It’s FREE!
If you know a topic that should be discussed send me an email. If I use your topic I will put your name in a draw for a prize at the end of the year.
You’ve made a wise decision to take control of your grocery budget now show me your shops and let’s get saving!
Welcome to The Grocery Game Challenge 2016!
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