Chances are, when you’re on vacation, the last thing you will want to do is cook. On the other hand, even if you visit the local Burger King or McDonalds, you may find yourself spending over $10 for a halfway decent meal. And anything you buy at a more upscale restaurant will – of course – be much more expensive. So what to do? Even if you rely on the continental breakfast served at your hotel, you’ll still need to find something to eat for the rest of the day. Here are a couple of ideas for the budget-minded traveler:
Fresh Food Markets and Stands
If you’re visiting a rural area, you’ll have access to all kinds of fresh fruits and vegetables, depending on the season. You may also be able to locate stands that sell smoked meat, fish and other local cuisine. Aside from being healthier, you may also have a chance to speak with the farmer directly. You’ll gain a better appreciate of the culture your visiting, and you might be able to get inside advice on where the best food in the area is sold.
You’ll find a similar setup in the open air markets of many major cities. You’ll be able to speak directly with the people who made the food, and you’ll save a lot of money over traditional restaurants. However – a word of caution. Vendors in these markets aren’t always as cautious about food safety and sanitation as traditional restaurants will be. To stay safe, look for the busiest shops in the market and buy your food there – chances are, they wouldn’t have so many customers if the food wasn’t good.
Pick Your Own Produce
In rural areas, there are bound to be some small farms that will let you pick some of the fruits and vegetables that are available. Aside from offering you a fun way to spend a few hours, you’ll also enjoy the fresh taste of fruits and vegetables that you picked just a few hours before eating. Of course, take the time to wash and rinse all your produce before you bite in – even the freshest looking produce may be covered in synthetic pesticides, fertilizers and soil bacteria.
If you can find a dairy farm, you may also want to stop in and see if you can buy fresh milk and cheeses. As with produce farms, you may be able to watch as the farmer processes milk, and even have a chance to learn how different kinds of cheeses are made. In addition, if you can’t find a cow farm, you may be able to locate a sheep or goat farm that specializes in milk and cheese from these animals.
Check Out the Local Grocery Stores
It’s amazing how much American culture has spread. Visit a local grocery store where you’re vacationing, and you’ll be surprised to see many of the same soft drinks, candy bars and packaged foods you can get at home. In addition, many grocery stores have small restaurants or pre-cooked food available at a much cheaper price than a restaurant. You may even want to buy some TV dinners or other foods and take advantage of any microwaves that are available in the hotel.
Unfortunately, if you only look to restaurants while you’re on vacation, you’ll be missing out on some of the best and least expensive dining opportunities in the area. Look for local farms and markets where you can enjoy foods that are fresher than you’ve had in years. Or visit a local grocery store and pick up snacks and meals to keep in your hotel room. By taking advantage of these different food options, you’ll experience the local culture to it’s fullest without breaking the bank.