After traveling around the world on a budget to cities like Tokyo, Istanbul, New York and Rome, my husband and I have become pretty savvy at finding ways to eat on the cheap. Whether we snag a few buns from our hotel breakfast to eat for lunch with grocery store cheese, or we find a street vendor selling delicious gyros, we try to never spend more than $40 a day eating in a new city. There are many ways to eat inexpensively when visiting a new city: you just have to keep your eyes and ears open, follow the locals, and keep these 10 tips in mind.

Enjoy the local cuisine

Don’t try to get a great deal on seafood in St. Louis or cheap and good Cajun food in Miami. Various cities excel in certain types of food, creating a large variety of restaurants that will price that cuisine to your budget. While in Miami, try the various excellent Cuban restaurants, and when in St. Louis, partake in that dynamite pulled-pork sandwich. Use the Locavore app to find local, in-season food in your particular city.

Seek out food trucks and street vendors

Cities like Austin, Portland, Los Angeles and San Francisco have embraced the food truck revolution with unique food items like Korean barbecue, organic burgers, gourmet grilled cheese, Thai noodles and good old tacos. Ask locals where the best food trucks hang out and find them with various free apps including Eat St. and Roaming Hunger. The apps are populated with Twitter feeds and updated by food truck vendors.

Look for coupons in community newspapers

Most cities have free community newspapers or magazines scattered around coffee shops and cafés. Flip through to find coupons for free items or a percentage off your next meal at a local restaurant. Many of these newspapers may also have a website where you can find even more deals. While you’re looking at these newspapers, also check out local events that serve food like book signings, church events or firehouse pancake breakfasts.

Eat where the workers eat

Don’t stick to the tourist areas when looking for your next meal. For example, a typical American breakfast in Manhattan’s Upper West Side will cost you about $15 per person versus a breakfast sandwich for half the price at a neighborhood grocer in Brooklyn. Court Street Grocers in Brooklyn sells gourmet breakfast sandwiches with eggs, hickory smoked sausage, arugula and cheese on a ciabatta roll for only $6.

Sniff out ethnic cuisine

San Francisco is one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. with most meals averaging about $100 per couple, but a dim sum bar in Chinatown is still a great deal at around $15-$17 per person for a lunch full of pot stickers, steamed buns and shrimp dumplings. Keep an eye out for dim sum employees on the street handing out coupons for various restaurants. Check out the Chow website and the Chowhound Discussions for restaurant tips on cities around the U.S..

Buffet it, baby!

Buffets are great places to get a lot of food for little money for the entire family. One of our best food experiences in Tokyo was eating at a buffet inside a mall for the local area’s employees. We were able to choose from a plethora of food that we wouldn’t have had a chance to try at other restaurants. It only cost about $20 (Japanese Yen equivalent) per person to stuff ourselves. U.S. cities like Las Vegas, Reno and Atlantic City have casino buffets where you can pay a low amount (around $10-$12) for breakfast and actually stay into the brunch or lunch hour to get even more variety. Try the U.S. Casino Finder website for more information.

Hit up the grocery store deli counter

While in Europe, we usually live off of bread, salami, cheese and bottled water from the local grocery stores, but the grocery deli counters in American cities have a huge amount of items to choose from. Choose from fried chicken and potato salad to stuffed grape leaves and sliced deli meats. Be sure to ask for free samples!

Park it and picnic

One of our favorite things to do when traveling in a different city is to visit a local grocery store or farmers market and grab a few items for a picnic. Throw a blanket out on the grass at Barnsdall Art Park in Los Angeles or sit near the troll under the bridge in Seattle’s Gas Works Park and enjoy some local fruit and vegetables. Download the Locavore app for tips on where to find local, in-season food.

Take advantage of B&Bs

When traveling, we usually stay in a local bed and breakfast rather than a hotel and take full advantage of a hearty breakfast that usually lasts us well into the afternoon. When traveling in Ireland, our breakfasts consisted of oatmeal (usually swimming in butter, Baileys and cream), bacon, sausage, eggs, various breads with jam, tea and coffee. Most B&Bs discourage taking food with you, but we’ll sometimes grab a bun or some fruit to keep in our backpacks.

Stay connected to your deal sites

Look for Groupon, Living Social and Valpak in the particular city you’re visiting.

This is a guest post by Christina from Washoe Valley, NV.


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