I love to cook my own meals. The cost of dining out in restaurants in the USA is a wasteful overspend most Americans make rather than cooking their own meals. That is a realization I made in the 1980s when I used my first computer to keep track of all our expenses. Shifting nearly all meals to home cooking saves thousands of dollars each year to spend on travel. We eat loads of fresh seafood I prepare at home in Monterey.
Grocery store dining is my normal operating procedure in many places I travel frequently in Europe like Amsterdam, London and Stockholm.
My dining attitude changes when I am in places like Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia. In these countries a good meal at a basic restaurant is available for $5 to $10 per person, including beer.
Both Kelley and I have foods and ingredients we avoid, so it is easier to make our own meals at the hotel from grocery store food and eat one or two meals a day in restaurants when out and about.
We tend to eat simple foods like fish meals, burgers and pizza for restaurant and pub dining.
Here are some examples of meals and prices for dining in Poland on our two week trip last month.
Typical beer prices in Poland are 8 to 10 zloty per 500ml glass, about $2.25 – $2.80. We drank 5 zloty pints and paid as much as 14 zloty in big tourist pubs.
In Prague pubs, the typical price of a beer is even less at 30 CZK to 50 CZK or about $1.20 to $2.00 per beer.
In London pubs, a pint of beer is about $6 to $7.
Whole trout is a common menu item in central Europe for $7 to $10. This trout cost 32 PLN ($9 USD) in a nice courtyard cafe of the Hotel Wawel Black Duck Restaurant in Old Town Krakow.
Kelley took a liking this trip to potato pancakes, placki ziemniaczane. I ate those a few times too with a vegetarian goulash.
We ate at Pyra potato bar in Gdansk, where Kelley had a potato casserole with salmon for 17 PLN, less than $5. No photo. The place was packed as probably the best value in Gdansk Old Town for cheap food with beer. Two meals and 3 Lech beers cost 56 PLN, about $15.
Try as we might, we never found a place in Krakow with a potato casserole. I know we will seek out Pyra Bar again when we are back in Gdansk or Gydnia, or if we ever get to Poznan.
Huki Muki, Krakow is an Old Town Krakow favorite of ours for cheap big hamburgers at 10 zloty to 14 zloty, depending on toppings ($2.75), cheeseburger 11 zloty ($3), fries 6 zloty ($1.70) and 10 zloty liters of beer.
A $4 burger at http://www.novarestobar.pl/ in the Kazimierz pub crawl square around Plac Nowy, Krakow.
Whole pizza is a common item in Poland for about 20 PLN or $5 to $6. Pizza slices seem less common in Poland than in Czechia or Slovakia. My two weeks in Slovakia last year impressed upon me that pizza slice shops are the national fast food.
One of the interesting things we found is a prime tourist location in Krakow or Gdansk did not necessarily mean higher food and drink prices. I chose Sukiennice Restaurant at the Cloth Hall on Rynek Glowny, Krakow’s main market square based upon a recommendation from the local Krakow In Your Pocket Krakow tourist guide.
For 80 zloty ($22), Kelley ate salmon.
I ate an oversize pork schnitzel with mushroom gravy and we drank four pints of beer, all the while with a view to the Old Town Hall.
Sukiennice Restaurant at Krakow Cloth Hall on Rynek Glowny.
Sukiennice outdoor table view of Krakow 13th c. Town Hall Tower on Rynek Glowny.
Zapiekanki is another local dish in Poland, kind of like pizza on a half loaf of French Bread.
Plac Nowy in Krakow has a dozen places for zapiekanki in the center rotunda building of the historic Kazimierz Jewish Quarter market square. The rotunda building was the Jewish Quarter slaughter house until World War II.
These fast food places are convenient quick and cheap eats on Plac Nowy when the alcohol from the 20 pubs surrounding the square creates a need to eat.
Carrefour SuperMarket Food
Hamburgers, pizza and potatoes are not a particularly healthy travel diet. I primarily eat fresh vegetables and fruits for my diet. Cherries were in season in June for about $4 to $5 per pound. Other fruits were less expensive.
I generally send out tweets during my international travels to share what the cost of food is in different places.
My standard purchase is a hot grilled chicken, baguette, bunch of broccoli, hummus, brie, other cheese for Kelley, some kind of fruit and beer.
Restaurant meals were supplemental to store and market bought veggies and fruits.
28 PLN ($7.70 USD) at Carrefour supermarket Krakow purchased a hot whole grilled chicken on sale for 5 PLN ($1.35 USD), but normally priced 9 PLN ($2.43 USD).
150g Jarlsberg cheese 2.77 PLN ($o.75 USD), baguette 2.20 PLN ($0.60), Brie 40g. 1.20 PLN ($0.33) and 200g hummus 7.50 PLN ($2.03 USD).
3 nectarines 3 PLN ($0.81), and
2 Zywiec beers (500ml) 5.40PLN ($1.46 USD) + 1.00 PLN bottle deposits ($0.27 USD) .
An EU report I read while in Poland stated the country has the lowest average food prices in Europe.
In Stockholm, a few days later, I spent 170 SEK ($20.20 USD) to buy food at Central Station Coop supermarket. Prices were whole grilled chicken 53 SEK ($6.30), baguette 20 SEK ($2.38), hummus 28 SEK ($3.32), broccoli 17 SEK ($2.02), smoked salmon 52 SEK ($6.17).
I enjoy travels through Central Europe where the beer flows cheaply and dining out is not a travel budget buster.