Meal Budget

His girlfriend manages to spend hundreds for meals on a long weekend trip. What are some ideas for scaling back?

Some people like wining and dining. If that is the trip’s main recreation, it is difficult to reduce spending and still feel satisfied. So my first suggestion would be to have an advance plan in mind about what else, other than wining and dining, that you want to do. Talk about that in advance and get excited about it. Then perhaps for the sake of better enjoying those other activities, you could scale back on the time (and money) taken for meals.  I’m no Ann Landers but that is my thought.

If you want to save on meals, then here are some tips:

*If you are eating out, having your big meal for lunch rather than supper can save money.

*I like diners. I usually research USA locations in advance to find where they may be and add them to my itinerary.

*Buy a bottle and have a drink at your lodging and then skip pre-dinner drinks at the restaurant.

*Early bird specials are an option at some restaurants that can include great discounts. Later at night, you can always share a bottle of wine over a game of  Backgammon.

*When ordering at a restaurant, don’t feel obliged to pick one thing from each grouping (appetizer, entree, meat, pasta, salads, soups, desserts). Order just what you want to eat and specify when what food is to be served.  You could get two totally different dishes and share.

*Picnics! Decide on your picnic location and then buy a picnic lunch. Sometimes the best local food is the take out food. Food trucks can be a great deal for lunch. If I know I am driving away from any metropolis, I will generally get something in advance that I can store for a meal option.

*Getting Chinese take out to eat back at your lodging can be a great way to stretch one meal for two people and still have plenty to eat.  You can get your beverage at the grocery store. (This gives you more time to enjoy a show and stop for a late night drink.)

*Stocking up the night before on yogurt and fruit from a convenience store is a breakfast that helps one get an early start.

*Look for a restaurant outside the tourist neighborhoods. Oftentimes, the more local it is, the less stuffy and less expensive. (You can dine in a hushed, romantic atmosphere at home.)

*Upscale food markets can be a great way to taste an assortment of local specialties.

What do I do? I always leave home with a peanut butter sandwich and an apple and I bring instant oatmeal packets and tea bags. That way if I arrive late in the evening, I can turn to these snacks rather than to room service or restaurants (so I can get some sleep).

I recommend you don’t let the price keep you away from an historic or famous spot that you fancy. Look at menus in advance (many are online) and plan wisely. Remember, you can walk around a bar holding a glass of seltzer water with a twist of lemon just as well as a mixed drink.

I do some advance research on the food options to get an idea if my overnight will be off the beaten track. (Sometimes that results in stopping at a grocery store or a restaurant a few towns before my destination). Otherwise, you may find you are driving more than an hour to get to the closest food option. (Depending on fuel costs, the advance planning could leave you with a good sum more for your food budget.)

Fried Grasshoppers – EAT LOCAL FOOD!

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