Traveling isn’t just about seeing new places. It’s also about being immersed in a different culture. And because food is a big part of what makes a culture unique, many travelers make it a point to try local fare wherever they go.
At this point, meal sharing is not as popular as other ways travelers take advantage of the sharing economy—like cheap travel accommodations or sharing transportation, for example. (Be sure to check out my previous guest posts on each!)
However, it’s a great way to experience authentic, local dishes—and sometimes an opportunity to mingle with the locals over a meal. So while the sharing economy doesn’t offer as many quick ways to save a buck on food, it can allow you to find more unique, memorable dining experiences, thus offering you the utmost bang for your buck in the long run.
Each meal hosting platform handles the specifics differently, but basically a local will cook a meal and a host a group of people in his/her home. The diners, who may be travelers or just locals who want to try something new, pay a fee for the meal. This fee is often comparable to the price of a meal at local restaurants, but it’s a completely different experience. There are many things you can learn about a culture by sharing a meal with a local family.
Some hosts also include a cooking class in the session, so this could be a nice way to learn local ingredients and cooking methods to enrich your own meals at home.
Meal hosting platforms:
- Feastly: Available in a few cities in the U.S., this website markets itself specifically to travelers. On Feastly, you can find opportunities to try anything from cheap mac-and-cheese dinners to multi-course meals.
- EatWith: The two co-founders of EatWith decided to build a solution when the tourist-friendly restaurants in Greece couldn’t satisfy their craving for an authentic family meal. They now operate in more than 30 countries.
- Cookening: This platform mainly operates in France, but there are plans to expand globally in the future.
When you dine in restaurants, you know that there are basic standards of food hygiene that are enforced. Therein lies one glaring flaw in the meal hosting model. As a guest, there’s no assurance of those same standards of cleanliness Meal sharing is a new concept and there are no guidelines that hosts are required to follow.
If you love the idea of eating a local meal but you’re unsure about the notion of dining in someone’s home, you can instead eat food that has been handled by professional chefs in commercial kitchens. Because these chefs prepare many meals at the same time and package them for easy reheating, you can enjoy low prices for healthy, high-quality food.
You won’t get to eat at a local’s home, but this is a great option when you’ve spent the entire day exploring the city, and you’re splayed out on the couch in your hotel room, too worn up to dress up and dine out. You don’t have to settle for pizza.
If you’re in San Fransisco or Seattle, Munchery can deliver food that you only have to reheat in the microwave or the oven. (If you’re staying at a hotel, you can usually ask to use the hotel’s appliances for a few minutes if they’re not available in-room.)
Alternatively, if you live in California and Nevada and you’re often too lazy to cook, you can get a subscription with Gobble to get weekly food deliveries. The meals comes in kits that contain ingredients and simple instructions to prepare the food within 10 minutes.
Always wanted to be the kind of person who hosts dinner parties but can’t exactly handle yourself in the kitchen? Well, you don’t have to worry about any of the prep work if you invite a chef to cook in your home. You can choose a chef based on his online profile and reviews. Then, the chef will come to your house, whip up a meal for you and your friends—and even clean up afterward.
With this model, a chef has many opportunities to interact with his diners and may even develop a following as he garners more reviews. Each individual chef plans their own meals and has the freedom to change the menus whenever preferable. This is why the dishes on these websites vary depending on the ingredients that are locally available.
With Kitchensurfing, you can see each chef’s menus and request personalizations if you want. Kitchensurfing is available in several major U.S. cities. Kitchit, another popular even hosting platform, mainly serves California, New York and Illinois. However, if you love a chef enough to pay for his travel expenses, he may be able to come and cook for you.
So while the sharing economy doesn’t offer as many quick ways to save a buck on food as it might when it comes to other expenses like accommodation or transportation, it can allow you to find more unique, memorable dining experiences, thus offering you the utmost bang for your buck in the long run.
Interested in more ways to save money and travel cheaply? Visit NomadWallet.com and follow along as Deia B offers regular advice and resources for ways to do just that.