Eating is one of those things. You just need to do it. Three times a day. Eating out for all your meals whilst on holidays really adds up. A way that we have found to save some money, not miss out on too much exploring and still be eating like the locals is like this. When you are spending three or more days in one destination, cook yourself. This is our alternative to living off kebabs in Turkey, gyros in Greece, pizza in Italy and bakeries in France.
This is easier said than done. You do need to be staying in accommodation with the ability to cook. For Our Europe Holiday we made sure that in areas that we thought we would like to cook we booked an apartment with at least a kitchenette and knives. We did this through AirBNB and loved the flexibility that otherwise would have limited us to eating out. This not only can be cheaper but also a lot healthier than sticking to food budgets by eating cheap foods like pizza or gyros for every meal. Don’t get me wrong we had our fair share of both of these and loved every bite, but the ability to spend the same money for something more substantial was great.
The places we had a kitchen and actually used it were Santorini, Mykonos in Greece and Florence and Bologna in Italy.
How We Saved on Food In Santorini
As we had a place with a kitchen, Santorini was a place we went to expecting to save money on food. We did. Santorini is well known to have breathtaking views and one of the best things to do here is just that… sitting and taking in the amazing views. We were able to get a cave house in Oia through Airbnb, with a kitchen and a great view whilst eating. This had the added convenience of being able to relax knowing you are already where you want to spend most of your time. This was our mindset anyway. This is how we did it.
Breakfast was the meal we chose to have at our accommodation each day. This is a quick way to easily save 10 Euro minimum per person straight off the mark. Cafe or restaurant breakfast in Santorini did not come cheap. Depending on what you enjoy for breakfast, you could cook it yourself if you have a kitchen. Mandy and I love our eggs so for us omelettes and scrambled egg are the easiest way to enjoy eggs using foreign kitchens and utensils. Cereal is also a way to still get a good start to the day without the price tag. Even simple things like having that coffee that was at your accommodation free, rather that paying 4 Euro for a ‘proper’ coffee that might be average anyway, adds up by the end of your holiday.
Like I mentioned Santorini is really about soaking in that view and the company you have with you. So why not have lunch at your place and save money on food whilst on your holiday in Europe. When we went for our food shop on arrival to Santorini, the produce on display at the mini markets and convenience stores was definitely not top notch. This led us to go the frozen route, which worked out cheaper and better quality in my opinion. Frozen beans were 1.80 Euro for a bag and a kilo of frozen chicken nuggets only 3.50 Euro. This served three people easily with left overs for a fourth (my two brothers were also hungry at the time of cooking). Nuggets are always easy in either pan or oven and beans were done in the pan with a little butter with salt and pepper (provided by AirBnB host). Simple, yes. Satisfying, yes. Cheap, yes. Even if this was just for Mandy and I it was still done for just over 5 Euro. Lunch would be at least the same on a couple of gyros but you can’t just have gyros every meal to save money on food in Santorini and Europe, you need to mix it up a little.
Other ways we saved money in Santorini was to enjoy afternoon/evening and sunset drinks at our accommodation. All soft drinks, beers, wines just like at home are always cheaper to purchase at shops rather than bars or restaurants. If you have payed for a view use it! Save by having your sunset wines and drinks at your place.
Saving on Food In Mykonos
By the time we made it to Mykonos the amount of Greek salad we had eaten was absurd. Must have been kilos of the stuff. Another dish that if you have even just a knife and fridge can do you for a few lunches, snacks or even a light dinner. We stayed in the Old Town of Mykonos and had a fruit and veg shop just around the corner with some great produce. So we went for it. Making Greek salad in Greece. What a way to save money on food in Greece. Greek Salads were 5-10 Euro each often down the 10 Euro end. When you can make it for a lot less and still have the same satisfaction, why not.
Yum. As good as any for two bowls was about 5 Euro. This is even buying bottles of red wine vinegar and even a small bottle of olive oil. I know what you may be thinking. That is a lot of feta, which it is but thats how they like it in Greece! Just so you know the amount in the picture was about a third of our block and the whole block was 1.51 Euro. Feta is a lot cheaper at deli’s which you can pay for a portion by the kilo. If you bought the amount pictured in a sealed individual portion it would be about 4 Euro itself. The per kilo price might look intimidating but it is definitely worth it.
As a whole in Mykonos we also saved by cooking scrambled eggs for breakfast as well as buying cereal, snacks, and drinks at the supermarket. Beer, wine and soft drinks were quite expensive in Mykonos and for a fifth of the price you can get them from the supermarket. Have a look at our main Mykonos shop.
Cooking From The Markets In Florence
So in Florence we had been told that there was a great market called Mercato Centrale. We went to Florence having booked accommodation through AirBnb with a kitchen, ready to cook at least one meal. We went to the markets not really knowing what we wanted to cook. There was so much amazing food to buy, but the fresh pasta just looked too good to pass up. This is what we bought.
Lucky for us our host had been exceptional in her attention to detail and provided all the essentials as well as bunches of fresh herbs and garlic! So actually all we got was about 5 Euro of fresh ravioli, 1.5 Euro of fresh Pecorino and butter. The sauce I opted for was a burnt butter and sage sauce. Mandy ordered this the night before and I was quite selfish and just wanted some myself. I had seen this made on tv before but never made it, but winging it proved easy enough. The end result with crispy sage leaves exceeded my expectations and would definitely have this again.
The DIY Bologna Bolognese
Okay the DIY label might be a little deceiving. We bought our bolognese ragu from the markets pre-made and in a jar. This being said it was more ‘Bolognan’ than the bolognese from home. Traditionally on tagliatelle, a ribbon like pasta, with a ragu, it is a delicious staple of Bologna. We decided that I felt like tortellini and Mandy felt like bolognese ragu. Simple answer. Tortellini Ragu was the compromise and with a little cheese on top, it didn’t disappoint.
More Ways To Save Money On Food In Europe
Throughout our trip we made sure that we regularly saved on food in Europe. Something else that we did a few times through Italy and France was making our own cheese and meat plates to enjoy either before or as a meal, instead of paying for it at restaurants for triple the price. We found this a great way to still indulge in all the delicacies at a reasonable price tag. The same went for wines and even desserts. In Lyon was a great example of this. Les Halles de Paul Bocuse had absolutely incredible desserts which we took back to the hotel to have after dinner. This was a way to still enjoy dessert but for a few Euro instead of ten. If we had our time over, there would have been more nights along the way that we had amazing pastries and desserts we had bought earlier. And you don’t need to spend big to have an amazing experience. One of our most memorable moments was sitting under the Eiffel tower eating cheese and baguettes!
The Wrap Up: Saving on Food On Holidays
Overall we can suggest a few ways to save money on food whilst on holidays:
- Firstly by spending a few nights in the one destination you can buy a few groceries that can be used as cheap alternatives for breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks throughout the day. But beware. Don’t go crazy and buy so much that you can’t use it all, as you will literally be throwing money in the bin when you leave each destination. If you don’t buy too much you have the freedom to decide that you do want to eat out after all and not waste much.
- Stay in accommodation with fridges and kitchens, a cheap way to do this is by using AirBnb.
- Try to cook food that is popular in the place you are as if the locals are eating it it will normally be not only cheaper but taste better too. Save money on food in Europe without missing out on what a region has to offer. That was our goal and I feel we met that.
- When eating out, avoid the tourist traps. They are often more expensive with less quality. How can you tell? Well, usually they are right next to the sights and might have people trying to persuade you to eat there.
- Eat at restaurants at lunch time rather than dinner, as there is usually a cheaper menu.
- Make at least one meal a day, not a restaurant meal. Buy a sandwich for lunch and eat it in the park, try some street food or anything else that takes your fancy!
Do you have any other tips to save money on food in Europe? Let us know below!
Here are some other money saving articles to help you save on holidays: