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How to Embrace Food and Culture on a Budget

There is no better way to soak up the culture of a place than through its food. It’s the way we communicate, show affection and try to connect to one another. On every plate, there is so much to be said about a country’s history, it’s story, making food an incredibly useful – and delicious – tool when trying to understand what make’s a country so unique.

And in Hawaii, I made sure to take full advantage of this.

I ate poi, mochiballs and coconuts. I tried local loco moco, drank piña colada from a pineapple and savoured meaty pork at a polynesian lu’ua.

And I did so averaging about US$20 a day.

It’s never easy sticking to a budget while on vacation. We’re much more careful with our spending prior to a trip, but when surrounded by countless temptations with an overwhelming carpe-diem attitude in the middle of our holidays, it’s extremely difficult to be frugal when all you want is take advantage of what’s right in front of you.

Eating out, regardless of where you find yourself, is an expensive endeavour, but for me, I knew food costs were going to be astronomical travelling to a holiday-destination island in the middle of the Pacific ocean with no other options nearby. Supply and demand, after all.

So how can you immerse yourself in food and culture while sticking to a budget?

Making a plan, whether you fully commit to it or not, is always important when trying to cut down on costs. This goes double for food as it is easily one of the most blindly-accumulated expenses on vacation. So I decided to plan for one meal out a day, giving myself a grand total of six meals, while also allotting for three snacks or desserts on the go.

The trick here was making sure what I ate counted.

Instead of wasting money on food I could easily acquire back home, I made sure that every meal I purchased held its roots in Hawaiian culture. I made sure to try a wide variety of Hawaiian food, taking the time to sit, enjoy and appreciate the different flavours and textures I was experiencing.

But of course, this only accounted for a third of the food I needed each day. So, to make sure I wasn’t depriving myself, I packed up the rest.

I loaded up on protein bars, pasta, IsaLean shakes (piña colada flavoured to beautifully match our destination), popcorn and other dry snacks. Anything else I needed when I got there could be purchased at the local grocery store – an option I actually didn’t need to take advantage of during our stay. This planning is what allowed me to stick to my budget, while also having packed enough food to last me for my return flight home.

When travelling, we want want to explore as much as we possibly can in the short amount time that we’re given, so much so that we’re often hesitant to sacrifice any of our time for self-maintenance anyway. By only choosing to eat out a handful of times, not only are you saving money, but you’re allowing yourself more time to be adventurous; combining experiences with food.

This method forces you to explore new options that you wouldn’t have considered before. While eating out at a restaurant can be a wonderful experience, you’ll draw a much more personal connection to the food and the culture by taking a cooking class, visiting a local plantation, finding out-of-the-way local dives, discussing and tasting food with merchants at street markets and even going so far as to be welcomed into someone’s home to have dinner with them.

Breaking bread with the locals and indulging in foods significant to the culture becomes an easy endeavour when you only have few chances to do so. The appreciation and care you give to these meals will heighten your experiences as you become more creative with your nutrition, allowing you to immerse yourself completely into both food and culture without any of the guilt.

And by doing so, the art of eating becomes a lot more meaningful – it becomes an adventure.

About Gina Alward

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2 comments

  1. Pamela Buckingham

    This post is so well thought out, Gina, and written to make perfect sense! Thank you for sharing these ideas and setting up a workable, simple plan!

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