How to Save Money On Food (to Spend on Travel!)

(Last Updated On: May 25, 2021)

Budget travelers prioritize saving money whenever possible to travel, but we all have to eat! In this post, I share my top tips to save money on food without sacrificing quality – so you can eat well and travel more!.

Eating healthy doesn’t have to break the bank. If you prefer to eat organic and natural foods (or would like to but think you can’t afford it), there are several ways to eat exceptionally well without spending an arm and a leg.

How to Save Money On Food (So You Can Travel More)

Avoid Packaged Foods

The first step is to focus on whole foods before packaged and prepared goods. Skipping the premade meals and packaged snack foods will jumpstart your journey towards saving money on groceries. While this will require a little more time and energy from you, it will also save you money.

Related: 21 Budget Travel Tips That WILL Save You Money On the Road

Garden at home to save money for travel.
A flourishing home garden. © Kristen Martinek

Diversify Where You Shop

If you’re like me and prioritize organic foods, it pays to diversify where you’re shopping. For instance, I love shopping at my local food co-op, but if I were to shop there exclusively, I’d easily be spending $100-$200 more per month than necessary. 

Some alternatives to the pricier stores like your local food co-ops, Whole Foods Market, and other natural markets include: 

Larger Conventional Stores: Now that organic, gluten-free, natural brands are much more common, it’s not difficult to find some of those items at larger chains such as Walmart, Target, or other local stores that are predominately conventional foods. 

Shop Online: Thrive Market, iHerb, and Vitacost are excellent online resources for non-perishable food at a discount. In addition to their built-in discounts, there are often additional sales for specific brands or coupons for an extra 10-20% to apply to your entire order. 

I’ve saved well over $20 on orders by comparing prices on websites and stores before ordering online. Not to mention, it can save me way more than $20 compared to buying those same items at my co-op or local grocery store.

Shop at Home, Grow Your Food: If you can grow your own, do so! It costs next to nothing to purchase seed packets that will produce a season’s worth of vegetables. Even if your space only allows you to grow some herbs and tomato plants, it’s worth it. Herbs and tomatoes can quickly add up at the store, so why not grow food yourself and enjoy the extra benefits of nourishing your soul with greenery and plants.

Related: How to Not Travel and Still Stay Sane: Ideas For Being Stuck at Home

Buying produce at farmers markets is a great way to save money on food.
Fresh, organic produce at a farmer’s market. © Shelley Pauls / Unsplash

Get to Know Your Farmer

If you’re not sure how to find local farmers, visit localharvest.org, ask for a list of local farmers from your closest food co-op, visit the farmers market, or do a quick google search.

Once you know your local farmers, ask them about: 

Work Trade: Ask if they have a work trade available. Work trade is common on CSA farms where the program is known as a worker share position.

If you have the time and interest, working a few hours a week (or whatever the terms are!) in exchange for a week’s worth of produce helps keep money in your pocket. 

Seconds: Don’t be shy about asking your farmer(s) if they have any seconds of produce. Seconds are the less-than-perfect produce that farmers cannot sell to grocery stores or other wholesale outlets. 

Purchasing seconds from local farmers for half the cost saves me A LOT of money. For instance, I purchase cases of seconds potatoes and sweet potatoes from my local farmer for less than half the cost of what I’d spend at a store.

Related: How to Save Money on Clothes (to Spend on Travel!)

Find a Local Buying Club

Years ago, I joined a local buying club (for free!) that allows me access to purchase organic/natural foods at wholesale cost. The catch is that I have to buy in bulk quantities, but this isn’t a problem for certain staple foods like beans, rice, my favorite frozen fruits, and other items I frequently use as long as I have room in my pantry and freezer.

Instead of paying close to $3 per pound for garbanzo beans at my food co-op, I pay roughly $1 per pound through my buying club. Some clubs allow you to split cases with other members. Or round up some friends (non-members) to join in to buy cases of food together. 

If done right, making dairy-free milk at home can save lots of cash and waste.
Homemade dairy-free milk. © Kristen Martinek

Learn Some DIY Recipes

Some staple kitchen foods are effortless to make from scratch, and doing so will save you a lot of money (and waste). Some of the easiest swaps are homemade dairy-free milk, hummus, yogurt, granola, bread, and sauerkraut. 

One example is swapping out fancy almond milk for DIY sunflower seed, hemp, or sesame seed milk at home saves a TON of money and packaging. Unfortunately, swapping store-bought almond milk for DIY almond milk will save you packaging but not necessarily money since nuts can be expensive. The key to making DIY dairy-free milk is knowing what nuts and seeds are cheaper in bulk. 

If you can source ingredients for yogurt and sauerkraut directly from a farmer (or snag a great deal somewhere!), making your own can save money in the long run. Making sauerkraut in the fall with a case of seconds cabbage, for instance, is an excellent way to spend less than $20 and provide you with kraut for an entire year. 

Know the Dirty Dozen

Knowing what fruits and vegetables are most important to consume organic is incredibly helpful to lower your food budget. You don’t need to buy organic for everything, just the worst offenders.

For example, fruits that I keep in my house that I’m happy to purchase non-organic or conventional (since I’m not eating the skin) include lemons, limes, avocados, pineapples, and other citrus fruits.

Here are guides to 2021’s Dirty Dozen and 2021’s Clean Fifteen.

Meal Prep Like a Champ

Preparing your meals ahead of time can prevent food waste, aka save you money. Plus, cooking large batches to have leftovers is super helpful for the next day (or two) lunches or dinners. 

If you’re someone who gets tired of leftovers, be realistic and only make what you know you’ll eat before it goes bad! Or opt to freeze the large batches of food you make in portions, so you don’t have to eat the same meal for several days.

Adopting these money-saving tips at home will surely pad your bank account between travels, and you’ll be well on your way to your next adventure in no time.


My name is Kristen Martinek, a born & raised Midwesterner who is deeply passionate about sharing the message of local & sustainable foods. Follow along at Enjoy This Organic Life and @enjoy_this_organic_life.