The one thing that surprisingly made the most difference to our food budget: our choice of hostel (The Pod Sydney).
If you read my previous post How to Have a One-Week Holiday in Sydney, Australia for PHP 50,000, you’ll know we budgeted 15 AUD per person per meal for our one-week family trip to Sydney. The rationale:
To estimate the food budget for this trip, I used Numbeo, a crowd-sourced depository of information on cost of living around the world. For Sydney, here’s what they have:
- Cost of a typical meal at McDonald’s or other fast food chains – AUD 10
- Cost of a typical meal at an inexpensive restaurant – AUD 15.75
Based on these numbers, I figured AUD 15 should be a reasonable budget per meal per person — or AUD 45 per day.
We got lucky though! The accommodations we booked — The Pod Sydney, a family-friendly hostel smack in the middle of Sydney’s central business district — was located just a few meters away from a Coles supermarket. We had ready access to both fresh ingredients and frozen ready-to-eat or -pop-in-the-microwave food and we had at our disposal a kitchen with a fridge, stove, cooking utensils, microwave, etc. That made all the difference.
Disclaimer: this post is neither sponsored nor in any way incentivized by Coles or The Pod Sydney but we definitely highly recommend both!
A 2-Dollar Coles Meal
- A loaf of sandwich bread (about 20 slices) costs 0.85 AUD.
- A pack (roughly 8 slices) of hardwood smoked sliced ham costs 4 AUD.
- A 24-slice pack of cheese costs 3 AUD.
- A salad bag (with various greens that are just the right size for slipping into a sandwich) costs 3 AUD.
- A liter of orange juice (good for 3-4 meals) costs only 1 AUD.
A nice, filling ham & cheese sandwich paired with a glass of orange juice could thus easily cost less than 2 AUD.
Quick and Easy Meals
The ideal thing to do, of course, would be to prepare your own meals by buying the ingredients and cooking them yourself. Our hostel had a rice cooker which my sister used several times to prepare fresh, steaming hot rice for us. Our hostel-mates cooked everything from steaks, ramen, stir-fried vegetables, and spaghetti (surely the most popular meal at hostels worldwide).
That said, traveling can be tiring and sometimes all you want at the end of the day is a quick (but still delicious) dinner that you don’t have to make yourself.
Ta-dah! Microwave meals. 😀 They were actually quite good! Plus they’re filling and cheap:
- Beef lasagne: 7 AUD
- Shepherd’s pie: 7 AUD
- Sweet & sour chicken with rice: 6 AUD
- Thai green chicken curry & jasmine rice: 6 AUD
I personally went for some basmati rice (2 AUD) and lamb rogan josh (7 AUD) — they were delicious and there was actually enough in each pack for two meals (or two people).
These meals especially come in handy if your feet are aching from a whole day of walking and can’t bear the thought of going out again. Or if you’re traveling with a kid who has gotten exhausted and cranky (this applies to adults too, lol).
Savings: Over PHP20,000
It’s hard to believe but PHP20,000 is actually a conservative estimate — we actually saved nearly PHP30,000 on meals alone.
We spent only 2-10 AUD per meal, instead of the 15 AUD we budgeted for. Considering there are five of us and we stayed for a week (roughly 21 meals) in Sydney, that translated to a WHOLE lot of savings. We didn’t even need to scrimp on the amount of food: we bought tons of fruits, snacks, even dessert.
It’s fairly common to go a bit over your budget when you’re traveling. You always think: oh, I might as well go ahead and treat myself, I don’t know when I’ll be back after all. So the fact that we actually saved on this trip — and all the while feeling full, never wanting for anything — was definitely a pleasant surprise.
Get a good idea of the prices at Cole’s HERE.
Yup. Staying at a place with cooking facilities and buying food from the supermarket is the best way to save money on expensive meals. I did this in Iceland where a typical meal can cost you US$30 easily.
Ouch. $30! Iceland intimidates me for that reason. Your Iceland photos are so beautiful though! I hope I can get there one day.
Thanks for dropping by. Yes, there are blogs about visiting Iceland on the cheap. Not visiting during summer and staying in hostels are some of the tricks.