4 Ways We Saved on Food in Europe
Want to know how we’re saving money in Greece but still enjoying it to the fullest? Here are 4 ways, plus our menu this week!
This past week, we fulfilled a 10-year goal and debt-free milestone by flying our entire family to Greece. My husband’s great grandfather immigrated to the US a few decades ago, and Chris still has cousins who live in the home country.
We stayed with them when we were first married, but never took our kids to meet the family and learn more about their heritage. After years of job changes, moves, babies, saving, medical emergencies, more saving, and general adulting, it was time.
While we didn’t plan for a European-Vacation-on-the-Cheap, we spent our money very intentionally. Getting the whole family over here was expensive enough. As a result, we tried to find a healthy balance between fully enjoying our experience (street food, anyone?) and guarding our budget.
4 Ways We are Saving on Food in Greece
Here are 4 ways we are saving on food while in Greece.
1. Shop at Lidl
Lidl is very similar to Aldi, in that it is a small grocery store packed with only the essentials at a discounted price. They have them in the US, but this was my first experience shopping at this store.
Unlike Aldi, they have a fresh bakery section, and after testing it (pastries are one of my favorite things about Europe) I decided it was worth shopping for most of our food there. While I’m sure their pastries aren’t the best in town, they are better than anything I’ve tasted in the US, and that works for me.
2. Eat Local Food at Home
Preparing meals at home is always a simple way to save money while on vacation. However, when our kids asked for pizza, we had a serious talk.
It went something like this:
Do you know who makes the best American food? Americans. Do you know who makes the best Greek food? The Greeks. While we are in a country, we will generally eat as the locals eat. It will be far tastier than anything American that we try to piece together (we miss you, tacos), and it will be far cheaper.
On Saturday, we plan to visit the local Farmers Market for fresh produce and homemade goodies.
3. Keep it Simple
As much as I love cooking, I don’t want to cook on vacation. There is a time and place, and the vacation we’ve been planning to 10 years is not it. Besides, we are staying in a traditional Greek house with a very small and dimly-lit kitchen that is adorable but also makes me kind of sad when I’m in there.
Here is what we eat in our Greek home right now:
Plain yogurt (Greek of course) with muesli and fruit
Sandwiches (PB&J, lunch meat and cheese, usually with fresh bread from the bakery) and big salads with kalamata olives
Pasta, tomato sauce, chicken, and a big salad
Adults have the option of simply eating chicken and salad for lunch or dinner
(Note: Yes, we made one main dinner and ate it this entire week. Everyone loves it, no one is bored, but if someone does get bored, they can simply piece together their own thing from the food we have on hand.)
The house we rented has a yard that is smothered in orange trees. We’re enjoying those as a fun free treat.
Lidl furnished most of our favorite European treats at a really good price.
- Spanikopita (spinach and cheese-filled phyllo pies)
- Tiropitas (cheese-filled phyllo pies)
- Chocolate croissants
- Assorted Belgian chocolate
- A pack of chocolate biscuits that just beg to be eaten with tea
- Sesame and honey candy
- Pringles and a few other salty snacks
This is more snacks and treats than we normally eat, and that’s okay because VACATION.
4. Eat Out Strategically
All that said, we are eating out a few times. One of our favorite parts of vacation is eating interesting new food. We budgeted for some gyros, ice cream, baklava, and a few nice meals.
However, we only go out for lunch or a mid-afternoon meal. Generally, lunch is less expensive than dinner. If we eat in the mid-afternoon, we usually only need a small snack for dinner, which saves on groceries.
We used these tips in Europe, but we also use similar rules on road trips to Grandma’s house. No matter where you go, if you are trying to guard your budget, use these ideas to find a healthy balance that works for you.
What You Can Do Now:
How do you save money on vacation food? Let us know in the comments below!
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