Why You Should Buy Groceries While Traveling Abroad

The “New York” section of a grocery store in Brussels.

The “New York” section of a grocery store in Brussels.

“Grocery shopping?? That sounds like a chore, and I’m on vacation!! You really know how to suck the fun out of adventuring…”

Yes, grocery shopping seems like a chore, especially when traveling or on a holiday vacation. Remember though, grocery shopping leads to yummy food. Eating yummy food is great, so it stands to reason that grocery shopping should not be a chore right? Right?

Well, I’ll concede that sometimes it’s a chore. So why am I asking you to do a chore while traveling, a time when you want to relax? It isn’t because I hate you, I actually want you to have the best adventure possible. Let me make my case for skipping a few restaurant meals and hitting the grocery store while abroad. Before we begin, just know that groceries doesn’t necessarily equal cooking. There’s plenty of food you can buy that doesn’t require pots, pans, utensil, or even a kitchen. Let’s go!


Many people travel with the goal of getting the “authentic” experience of their destination. Some try to get this by purchasing a full guided packaged experience. If you’re reading this blog chances are you want a more down-to-earth trip that isn’t solely spent in an over-air conditioned bus with senior citizens. Why spend a year’s pay on that?

Do locals eat at restaurants for every meal? For most of the world the answer is a strong no, and you shouldn’t either just because you’re on vacation. Explore the store and embrace the challenge. There will be different foods, drinks, and you may even be inspired to cook something or just try an exotic food.


No matter where you go buying groceries is cheaper than going out to eat. Going out to eat is fun when traveling, and you shouldn’t avoid it just to save a few bucks. Not all are prohibitively expensive either- roadside food stalls can be cheap and delicious. Avoiding all cafes and restaurants to save money would be crossing over into “being cheap” territory. However, cutting back even a little bit will give you more money for other cool experiences. Do you really need to go out for every meal?


If you are from the U.S. you probably just assume that meat, cheese, olives, and (good) bread are expensive products. When I first went to Europe I was astounded at the prices of these items at many places, and I ate like royalty.

No matter where you go, there will always be at least one thing that costs a ton back home that is cheaper where you are. Often these can be locally made foods that are hard to find elsewhere. In the Netherlands we found pickled herring sandwich stalls everywhere, definitely not a common sight back home. Something like this may not sound immediately appealing, but you should at least try it once for the sake of adventure. Also, it was delicious.


No matter how healthy a restaurant claims to be, it won’t be healthier than preparing your own meal. A week of eating nothing but restaurant food will add up and you’ll come home with a few extra pounds, even if you’re walking everywhere. There’s no argument that eating healthy will make you happier and more energetic to take on your adventures abroad.

During my honeymoon in Europe I thought I was eating like a pig. When my wife and I returned to work after the 20 day trip we both received comments like “you look so healthy” and “you certainly didn’t gain any weight on your honeymoon”. We still went out to eat quite a bit, but buying groceries was healthier and gave us more energy for our long, full days*.


Outdoor markets are the norm in some parts of the world, and common in most of it. Going to them turns grocery shopping from a chore into an adventure. Think of the farmers markets in your area. Besides food, they are filled with local farmers, artists, crafts and musicians. Going to these abroad is where you can find unique local delicacies and interact with all sorts of people.

Hopefully I convinced you today to at least enter a grocery store while abroad; I promise that it is a fun experience, and not a chore! Have fun traveling!

*One lunch I had in the Netherlands consisted of chorizo, marinated olives, a block of gouda, and fresh baked bread. It sounds simple, even boring, but  I’d rank it as one of the top meals of my life. After eating I was so charged up I felt that I could bike around the country.