Travel Food Budget - Tips and Advice.


Reduce your travel food budget by using this helpful information from experienced travellers. Save money and eat well!

Food really is one item of expenditure that none of us can avoid. For our 5 person family, our travel food budget is our single largest cost as we travel, accounting for nearly 40% of our discretionary expenditure on our 35 week trip in 2008, averaging $314 per week.

We spent more than twice the amount on food than we did on accommodation, which even surprised us!

On a similar style of trip in 2006, we averaged $302 per week on our travel food budget. Reducing your travel food budget can have a major impact on your overall budget.

To put this expenditure into context, so you can work out if this information is relevant to you, you may find the following details about us helpful:

  • Our family consists of 5 people: Mum, Dad, 3 children, aged 4, 6, and 8 in 2008.
  • We travel in a 4WD & caravan, camping in a mixture of caravan parks, national parks, and free campsites. We basically do all our own cooking and food preparation.
  • At home, our equivalent weekly spend is approximately $250.
  • We eat a healthy mixed diet of bread, cereals, fruit, veg, nuts, meat, dairy, and a few supermarket type snacks eg crackers, sweet biscuits, chips.
  • The figures quoted above include all supermarket-type grocery items eg toiletries, cleaning products, and in some towns we purchased drinking water.
  • These figures include bakery & butcher, and occasional fast food, eg hot chips, noodle bar or subway meals, and a very occasional meal at a pub.
  • Grocery shopping is done as frugally as possible. ie at large supermarkets, stocking up on sale items, and so on.



Travel Food Budget Tips

nb These are general tips, and will not necessarily be true for every town/every situation.
  • Buy your groceries from the largest town available. Generally, the larger the town, the greater the competition, and the cheaper the prices. Conversely, in small towns, with little or no competition the prices will be higher.
  • Avoid stocking up in known 'Tourist Towns'. Again, this is a generalisation, but prices tend to be higher for the same products in popular tourist towns.
    • The best example we've found of a town to avoid because of this is Coral Bay in Western Australia, where at the one grocery store in this small tourist town, the prices were exorbitant. We also notice that in the tourist town where we live in NSW, prices are higher than at the supermarkets in towns just fifteen minutes drive from us.

  • Buy from the largest supermarket available. Generally speaking, the larger the supermarket, the greater the buying power, and the lower the prices. Look for supermarkets like Woolworths, Coles, Bi-Lo, and Safeway, for example.
  • At supermarkets, look for 'generic' type branding. For example, at Woolworths, their 'homebrand' and 'select' items are usually cheaper than other brands, and often for an equivalent quality product.
  • Buy the largest size package of your food choice.
  • Generally, cost per unit falls as package size increases. But do make sure you have the space to carry what you are purchasing!

  • Stock up at Aldi supermarkets.
  • These 'no frills' supermarkets have the cheapest stock of all. They are less common than other supermarkets, have a smaller range of goods, and you need to take your own bags and pack them yourself. But if you are not put off by these factors, try shopping at Aldi, and you'll notice your food dollars going further!

  • Stock up on food before desert crossings or long stretches of sparsely populated towns. This includes the Nullarbor Plain, Gibb River Road and all other desert crossings.

    There are many reasons for this:

    • The food is expensive because small quantities of food have been transported large distances to be on the shelves in these areas.
    • There is little turnover of food items, therefore the quality may have deteriorated, particularly for fresh foods.
    • Don't expect to buy fresh bread. Often, the best you can hope for is a loaf of bread out of a freezer.

  • Plan meals around foods which are in abundance at your destination. For example, seafood in coastal ports, tropical fruits in north Queensland. It stands to reason that these foods will be cheap there (although not always!), and has the added benefit of freshness and sampling the specialties of the destination.
We hope these tips will be helpful for you in reducing your own travel food budget.


Tips for Keeping Your Travel Food Budget in Check AND Eating Out While Travelling

  • Ask the locals where they like to eat out. It's always a much better guide than simply asking "Where is the best place to eat?" By asking the locals where they eat, you'll likely find a better meal at a lower cost.
  • Eat out at lunch time when menu prices are usually much lower. Or purchase a 'lunch special' and reheat it for your evening meal. (Chinese and Noodle Box restaurants are great for lunch specials.)
  • For a cheap treat: McDonalds sell 50c soft-serve ice-cream cones.
  • Subway restaurants sell a variety of good-value healthy rolls. They often have a "subway of the day" special, from as low as $5.95 for a foot long subway. Cut it in half and it makes a cheap healthy meal for 2 people!
  • Don't buy food at airports or at major tourist attractions. The food is generally terribly unhealthy as well as exorbitantly priced.



Food and Travel - Tips and Advice Combine food and travel in a healthy way. Useful tricks and tips for eating out, as well as planning, packaging and managing your own food as you travel.

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