I wanted to bring you a series of tips on how to save money while you vacation. My first tip in this series is save when you eat and use the local grocery stores. When we travel, food is usually a big part of our travel. When we go to a new country, we want to experience new foods, new textures, new smells, but cost of food can sometimes be astronomical. There are ways to keep your food costs low and still enjoy all the country has to offer.
PONTA DELGADA and MADEIRA
This past May, my husband and I travelled to Sao Miguel in Ponta Delgada, Azores for a few days and then went on to Madeira, Portugal. Portugal has a lot of different foods to offer including the freshest fish you can find. My favourite has to be limpets (in Portuguese pronounced lam-pesh). These are aquatic snails that stick to the rocks. One evening in Madeira, my husband saw a young local man strip down to his underwear and wind his way around the rocks near shore, holding a bag to carry the limpets in one hand and a knife used to scoop these snails off the rocks in the other hand. He said he resembled a dancer, the way he wound his way in and around the rocks, even hanging upside down to get underneath the large boulders. The best way to cook these little treasures is to broil them topped with garlic butter. They are the best.
Tip No. 1, however, is use the local grocery stores or markets wherever you travel for most of your meals. Madeira has several grocery stores that have a dedicated area where you can eat. This is where we saved most on food. So, not only can you pick up your groceries to take home, but they have an area portioned off where you can serve yourself buffet style and dine in the grocery store for much less than a restaurant. Their food is fresh and tastes like homemade. We found everyday that they usually served a couple of types of fresh fish, beef dishes, lasagna, sausage, and pizzas along with vegetables, fresh salads, drinks and desserts. Some of their hot items changed everyday allowing for more to choose from.
An example of one of our meals, which they charge according to the weight of your plate, was roast chicken with potatoes and vegetables along with rissois de camarao which are shrimp patties (my fave) that came to 6.97 Euros or about $10.44 Canadian. That is for two people. We could always get a glass of wine as well for $0.99. Most days we ended up at the Pingo Doce (one of Madeira’s grocery store chains) to eat either lunch or dinner because it was so cheap. Most of our meals at the Pingo Doce were less than 10.00 Euros for both my husband and myself.
MAKE YOUR OWN
Some days we just didn’t feel like going out to eat. We had a great little kitchenette in our Airbnb, so we made a few of our own meals. Food in Madeira and the Azores was extremely inexpensive. Since it was only the two of us, we kept our groceries to a minimum so nothing would go bad. No matter where you travel, unless you are vacationing at an “all-inclusive resort”, buying groceries and making some of the meals yourself will save you a bundle.
An example of groceries we bought one day included a bag of sugar, a loaf of bread, a honey cake, tomatoes, a bag of pasta, two types of chorizo, Sao Jorge cheese, margarine, two bottles of wine and a 2 litre bottle of laundry detergent came to a total of 21.66 Euros which is about $32.00 Canadian. That provided us with the meal you see pictured above including leftovers, breakfast, and groceries for another day. Just the two bottles of wine here in Canada could come to $32.00.
So, wherever you travel, try to use the grocery stores for a good portion of your meals. It will always be cheaper to buy your groceries and make some of your meals yourself. I know you don’t want to cook all the time when you are on vacation, but if 60 percent of your meals are made by you or if you can eat within the grocery store itself, you will save quite a bit of those vacation dollars, and you will find, that your meals are probably healthier for you too!