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Tips for eating on the cheap

Cheri Sicard is the author of The Low Carb Restaurant Guide -- Eat Out at America's Favorite Restaurants and Stay on Your Diet (2004, M. Evans) and two other books.

Traveling on a budget but want to enjoy some of the local flavor without spending a fortune? Learn some tips on how to enjoy food on your next trip without settling for fast food!

Tips for eating on the road

Bon appetit!

Good food doesn't have to be expensive, nor do you have to settle for fast food while traveling. I firmly believe food is a MAJOR part of the travel experience, so we'd never expect you to skimp on quality. You can save a substantial amount on your food budget and still have a great time by keeping these handy tips in mind.

If you're going to splurge at an expensive restaurant, lunch is a good time to do so. You can often get the same famous food at a significantly lower cost. Since most health experts agree that eating the largest meal of the day in the afternoon is a good idea, you'll be doing more than your pocketbook a favor.

Many hotels in countries other than the US, and all B& B's include breakfast as part of the room price. Take full advantage of this and fill up so you won't have to buy food until lunch (or depending on your personal metabolism, dinner).

Eat where the locals do

Casual restaurants with a large local clientele are likely to be high quality and low cost. Eat in ethnic neighborhoods (this tip works in the US or abroad). You can get some first class feasts for very little money in ethnic neighborhoods. Using my hometown of Los Angeles as an example, travel to Korea Town, Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Thai Town or in nearby Orange County, Little Saigon for incredible food at coffee shop prices. Do I detect an Asian theme here? Don't worry, there are Mexican neighborhoods all over the City of Angels serving dirt-cheap but delicious authentic South-of-the-Border cuisine. There are also plenty of Ethiopian, Cuban, Argentinean and Moroccan eateries along with just about every other ethnic group under the sun. That's one of the things about living in a large city that's so wonderful. Take advantage of the ethnic neighborhoods in whatever cities you visit for great food at bargain prices.

Carry snacks. Having some snacks like granola bars, trail mix or even fresh fruit along can help save a lot over buying them from street vendors and convenience stores.

If you're traveling by car, stock up on bottled water and other drinks at the supermarket or discount store. A six-pack here will often cost the equivalent or even less than the price of a single bottle from a convenience store or street vendor.

Drink water with meals. Even without alcohol, soft drinks, coffees and teas can add a substantial amount to your check (especially in countries like Japan). Drink free water with the meal (as long as you're in a country that it's safe to do so). Buy soft drinks at markets instead.

Carrying along an immersion heater is great for making coffee, tea or instant hot chocolate in your hotel room. It can also heat instant soup or boil water for other purposes. This inexpensive travel accessory is sold at anywhere travel good are sold.

Have picnics!

You can save a bundle by having impromptu picnics. Whether they are a late night snack in your hotel room or a full romantic meal against a spectacular backdrop like the Grand Canyon or the Eiffel Tower, picnics are a boon to the budget conscious traveler. Follow this link for instructions on how to make a Portable Picnic pack to keep in your suitcase or backpack. It's light and takes up hardy any space. This way you can take advantage of local delicacies from the markets, bakeries and wine shops, without paying restaurant prices.

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