Budget Your Appetite on the Road

As a couple aiming for a year long trip through South America, we are on a tight budget. We are constantly looking for ways to save an extra dollar or two. Knowing eating out always costs more no matter what country you are in, we decided to find out just how much more. We spent five days recording all of our food costs cooking in hostels and compared it to just a few days eating out.

All of the following prices are in USD. Here is a breakdown of our five days eating in.


Coffee, pita bread, and guacamole. 

Day 1:

We decided to start our recording on a day of travel. When you are traveling and taking buses or planes you usually splurge on snack foods. On our first day this is exactly what we did. Each bus station we got snacks instead of meals that progressively got less healthy. 

Breakfast – Overnight oats $1.40

• Oats

• Banana (2)

• Cinnamon

• Mango (2)

• Milk

Lunch – Bus Station – $3.30

• Yogurt

• Nuts

• Crackers

Dinner – Bus station –  $1.60

• Arepas (thick corn tortillas)

• Cookies

Day 2:

For those of you who’ve never been to Colombia it’s relatively cheap. When it comes to food, legumberias (produce markets) are the cheapest option. In terms of savings, this is where you’ll find the best of it.

We stopped by a grocery store on our way home to grab some dinner supplies and were shocked at the results. After comparing receipts from the legumberia and the grocery store we realized what was breaking the bank….snickers bars. Not really but the cost of items like candy, nuts, and granola add up.

Breakfast – Legumberia – $2.60

• 4 eggs

• 2 Onions

• 3 Carrots

• 3 Tomatoes

• 1 Pumpkin

• 1 Pineapple

• 2 Bell Pepper

Lunch – Groceries – $3.50

• 1 (large) Arepa

• 1 Avocado

    •       Garbanzo beans (for hummus)
    •       Bread

Dinner – Grocery Store – $10.30

• Coffee

• Tomato Sauce

• Ahi (hot sauce)

• Granola

• 2 Yogurts

• Peanuts

• Snickers

Legumberia – (Prep for the following day) – $1.60

• 4 Bananas

• 2 Beets

• 2 Onions

• 1 Cucumber

• 6 Litres of Water


Homemade beet, carrot, avocado, hummus, quinoa and sesame seed salad.

Day 3:

While recording cost of food, we were in San Gil which has a large farmers market everyday from 7am-1pm. Every morning we had breakfast at the market and got our produce for the day.

Breakfast – San Gil Market – $4.20

• Fruit Bowl

• Smoothie

• Arepa (large)

• Empanada

Lunch & Dinner & Snacks for 2 weeks – Groceries – $22.46

• Almond Milk

• Bag of



sesame seeds

sunflower seeds



• Spices –



• Large bag of grapes

• Broccoli

• 4 Onions

• 2 Carrots

• Pineapple

• Eggplant

Day 4:

Breakfast at the market usually cost between $3-4 USD, for both our meals. Being Californians we have so much access to good food. Every grocery store is packed with international sauces, spices, and yummy varieties of food. One of the most difficult aspects of cooking while abroad is getting creative with what is available.

Breakfast – San Gil Market – $3.25

• Arepa

• Fruit Bowl

• 2 Empanadas

Lunch – Overnight Oats – $3.00

• Oats

• Cinnamon

• 2 Bananas

• Almonds

Dinner – Homemade Avocado & Arepas – $3.60

• 2 Avocados

• 4 Arepas


Typical Colombian meal: Lentils, rice, and platano.

Day 5:

Leftovers become extremely handy when you’re trying to save money. Our large shopping spree two days before had left us with plenty of food for the following days. But of course, we had to have breakfast at the market.

Breakfast – San Gil Market – $3.75

• 2 Large Smoothies

• 1 Empanada

• 1 Medium Fruit Bowl 

Lunch – Grilled Vegetables – $2.25

• Broccoli 

• Onion

• Carrot 

• Quinoa 

Dinner – Pre-made for the road – $3.00

• Pasta

• Tomatos 

• Onion

• Broccoli 

We started eating out more in the small town of Salento which is very similar to San Gil. The popular backpacker restaurant Brunch de Salento became our go-to spot. For the two of us, Brunch de Salento cost approximately $15.  A typical backpacker restaurant costs between $4-7. In comparison, a typical Colombian meal in a restaurant is between $2-4. We concluded from our  experiment that a healthy meal cooked at the hostel for two people costs approximately $4.

Even though its the cheapest option, we still encourage experiencing new cultures by having a meal out. Every country has a unique taste and you don’t want to miss it.