Being a Non-obsessive eater is not only about being mindful of how and what you eat but also about the mindfulness of the cost of eating. By being “purchase” conscience we can stretch our food budget further and add in some more luxurious food items at times.

Presently I’m winding up a 6 month trip to the UK and the outer islands. Food is the second largest budget item and I’ve had a quick tally up of what I have spent in the food area to see how well I’d stuck to my budget. Now the final amount spent may seem excessive to some, frugal to others, but it is still important to have some budgetary aim in mind. No matter your budget, you still need to enjoy what you eat, ensure that most of the time you are eating healthy, and remember that eating tasty food is an important part of life.

Eating when “on the road”makes up a large portion of the cost of travel. It makes sense to be mindful about what and where you eat, however I am well past the noodle-in-a-cup type of budget traveling. Being an independent, frugal traveler, who lives in hostels and stays at Air BnB’s, I generally eat out once a day and balance this with a second meal back at base for the other. Its all self catering, so I have a few basic tenets that I stick to, to make the budget manageable.

My Rules of Thumb

NEVER throw food out.  Buy enough for the next couple of days only and only cook or prepare what you will eat. I’m rather blase about “Best before dates” and “Use by dates” and use the good old “smell test” to determine its value – if it smells ok, it generally is ok.

Did you know that Kiwi families throw away the equivalent of three trolleys full of food each year according to the Love Food Hate Waste campaign. Those trolleys can add up to hundreds of dollars of waste.

Look for the REDUCED price, need-to-get-them-off-our-shelves items at the supermarket. Yes generally these fall into the “nearly over our use by and best before” category but  follow the previous rule and take it from there! These items can be half the price of an item that is only a day fresher.

Even when traveling I PLAN my meals too. Even though this is generally a mere thought train the night before when dozing off or while actually shopping,  I just think “Yep I’ll get that for lunch tomorrow and that for dinner – that’s the plan locked in”. Pretty basic planning but it is better than grabbing that, and that, putting them in the basket and then wondering when I get home what I’m actually going to do with them.

Do I really NEED that? The very first rule in reducing food intake when cutting back is  “If I don’t buy it I can’t eat it ” right? So the same works if you are keeping to a  budget. Do I really need to buy the top-line yogurt or will the Homebrand do. Hey, at times the answer will be yes I do, but if it becomes yes every time then it is becoming a staple and not a treat. Luxuries are fine at times but make them  a treat not a need. 

There is nothing wrong with budget branded foods either. Sure the packaging looks pretty plain but strip that off two of the same food types, serve them side by side and it will be hard to pick the difference. Ignore the flashy packaging or the latest in boxed cereal with that cute cartoonie character on it. Compare the nutrient label and product weight to score the better deal rather than splashing out on the latest and greatest which may only taste slightly different to your older favourite.

SIZE is not everything. The largest packets are often just that – large packets. When traveling you are also limited in what you can carry and store. You may save 30 cents by buying two, but will you actually eat them or end up leaving them behind?

READ the label to see how much product you are actually getting. Interestingly too, not all the product is edible in some instances. For example, a can of peaches of one particular brand only contains 48% fruit (the rest is juice) while another brand actually contains 65% fruit. The reason? Product number one has large pieces of fruit, so less fits in the can.

When buying QUICK PREPARATION foods, such as 1 minute “rolled oats with honey” in those nice single serve packets, look at how much you are getting for  your dollar. Then check out the cost of a bag of ordinary Rolled Oats. These might take that extra 3 minutes to prepare, and you need to add your own sweetener (often just a handful of raisins), but they are also about a quarter of the price per serve. The 1 minute oats are generally heavily sweetened too – check out the carb ratio!

My cooking is very basic when on the road as often there is only a microwave available. My self catering often only leans to a once a day heat up of veggies, bacon and eggs (all of which can be cooked in the microwave) or raw carrots with hommous with a side of salmon or avocado and a lump of cheese. Porridge is also one of my favourites.

Lastly the biggest saver is really in how much and how often you eat (and snack). There are those whose mainstay is the cafe coffee, the smashed avocado breakfast, and the several daily snacks-between-meals, which all add up. I generally only eat twice a day now, which in its self cuts a third of not only calories, but $$, being consumed too.

Because I follow a Low Carb WOE there is no pasta, rice or potato based products unless it is a once a week treat of Indian or Sushi. If I do eat carbs, I try to eat these only at the first meal of the day and fat/protein at the second.

In Finishing Up

So there you have my basic rules. Sure some of them are really only applicable to me, an older, not too fussy,  single traveling male, but take what is appropriate for you and adapted to suit your lifestyle. The key ingredient is to be a mindful eater when considering not only the food you eat but the value in monetary terms you place on it. Eating healthy does not need to be expensive. I dine well and never feel hungry.

So as far as my traveling food budget for the last 5 months? Being in the UK where eating is not always that cheap (a cup of coffee is usually around the £3 mark) I averaged £12 per day to be a fully feed, satisfied, non-obsessive eating tightwad!