Keeping your Food Budget Low in the Philippines
The cost of living in the Philippines and around Asia is great compared to the West but as a foreigner you are still going to be paying a lot more to live than most locals.
You may be able to cut your spending down in some ways, but you will likely never be comfortable on a local’s budget for essentials like accommodation and food.
The Philippines isn’t known for its great food and that’s because the local food just isn’t that great. I like pork adobo when it is cooked right and would recommend others to try it.
Adobo @ Amsterdam hotel Angeles
I have heard that Sisig is good from jspill and others but I haven’t had it yet.
Outside of those dishes I am not really sure what else there is. Actually I have heard of beef caldaretta but have no clue what it is. And I have lived in the Philippines three years total.
Not sure if that says more about me or the food though 🙂
Sisig via jspill @ Cabin A.Venue Makati
Western Food Prices
You can get a local dish off the street for 25-50 pesos. So when we as westerners are generally paying 150-200 pesos per meal you can see how much more expensive life is for us than for the locals.
But still that is generally under $5 a meal, and just about every restaurant you will go to in either Angeles City or Cebu will be priced in that range. Maybe raise it to 250 for some places.
Manila certainly has quite a few more expensive restaurants, the place I have noticed them is in Greenbelt but everything is more expensive in Greenbelt so that is no surprise.
If like me and always looking for ways to reduce your spending then I’ve got some nice tips for you. Sorry to those staying in a hotel, you will need a refrigerator and either a microwave or stove to pull them off.
Now some of these exact pro tips may not work for you. I will just be using the meals I’ve used as an example. Like when I say go and get lasagna if you don’t like lasagna…… well that is a bad example because everyone loves lasagna. But you get the idea.
McDonald’s opposite Soi Nana Bangkok
Angeles City Food Pro Tips
I think I had only had Indian food once or twice before I came to Asia. Now chicken curry is one of my favorite dishes. Rasoi in Angeles City has one of the two best I have ever had (read more on the other best soon.)
On the menu it is called chicken madras, I don’t know the difference, but its basically yellow chicken curry. I think it costs about 165 pesos, and you can get 3 naan for around 45 pesos. Sorry I haven’t been in Angeles in over a year so exact prices might be a few pesos off but not much.
On your way home stop at any Filipino restaurant and buy a few cups of cooked rice (never buy rice at a nice western restaurant if getting take out.) Cooked rice should be anywhere from 6-10 pesos a cup.
You can cook your own rice I suppose, but at under a quarter for a cup of it I don’t see the point. When you do your grocery shopping buy 20-30 pesos worth of chicken breast strips at SM and 2 corn on the cob for 30ish pesos.
The first time you eat the chicken madras eat all of the chicken from the restaurant, with 1 and a half naan, a cup or two of rice, and an ear of corn. They give you so much of the yellow curry sauce (madras?) that you should only need half of it.
The second time you just cook up the chicken breasts and pour the remaining sauce over it. It won’t be quite as good as the original meal, but it will be like 90% as good.
Now you are getting one great meal and another very good meal for a total cost of 290ish pesos or about $6. If you are a tourist saving a couple bucks on a vacation is no big deal. If you live here it adds up real quick.
Lasagna at Salvatore’s is another great one for this. 240 pesos for one meal is kind of expensive, and any time I eat Italian I want some bread with it and they don’t give free bread (at least not with take out.)
Once again I get some corn, and stop by Angel’s Bakery and get a Ciabatta for 20ish pesos. Now for under 300 pesos you have two really good meals. If you are a big eater this may not be enough for a big meal, the madras tip above should be as you can buy as much chicken at SM as you need to make it a bigger meal.
Tequila Reef serves HUGE portions for all of their meals. A burrito there is easily two meals from me. Get some chips at SM and eat some of the beans/meat like nachos.
If you go sit down at Tequila Reef and pay 300 pesos for 1 meal that isn’t good value imo. If you bring it home and get 2 out of it then its very good value. Don’t forget to ask for the Philippines Addicts discount card for an additional 10% off.
Cebu City Food Pro Tips
For the longest time I walked by Spice Fusion at SM Mall or Banilad Town Center thinking it was an overpriced place I would never try. Then one day I decided to give it a shot.
The first thing I ordered was ‘honey fruits and chicken’ and it was awesome. Not only was it delicious but it was a massive portion that easily got me 2 full meals. I had already bought my chicken breasts from the grocery store so I was able to stretch it to 3 meals.
It is about 320 pesos, the chicken was 25 pesos, and 5 cups of rice was 40ish pesos (depending on which route I walked home it may be 6 pesos or 10 pesos a cup.) So we are looking at under 400 pesos, or around $2.50 per meal. Not just any meal, but one of my favorites in Cebu.
The Sweet n Sour Fish at Spice Fusion was 300 pesos and if you bought 25ish pesos of chicken breasts and some rice you can get two meals out of it. Not quite as cheap as the first, but it is one of the better ‘sweet n sour’ dishes I have ever had.
The Golden Pork Floss also can be great value but it was so greasy…… I have never noticed rice soaked in grease before I ate this. You get the idea though, this place has massive portions and is good food.
I mentioned another chicken curry was coming, well the Malaayan Chicken Curry at Banana Leaf on the ground floor of the Ayala Terraces is probably the best one I have ever had. I don’t believe they have naan but that’s OK because upstairs at Persian Palate you can get 3 naan for 60 pesos.
Once again get some chicken breasts, get some rice on the way home and eat all of the original Banana Leaf chicken the first time you have it and half the potatoes. The next time cook up your own chicken.
Persian Palate also has a pretty good chicken vegetable curry that is good value (2 meals on its own, 3 if you stretch it out with your own chicken) but even though it is good it doesn’t compare to the Malaayan at Banana Leaf.
Bigby’s has some pretty good Carbonara that you can stretch to two meals by buying some chicken and some ciabatta’s at Rustan’s at Ayala. Rustan’s has a really good bakery and the ciabatta’s are really cheap.
Be on the lookout for the Australian beef at Rustan’s. When they have the ‘Australian Beef Strips’ you can get them along with some cheese from the deli and a ciabatta and make a great (and cheap!) cheese steak.
They don’t have the strips often and when I tried it with other cuts (like the stroganoff and cubes) they were always to fatty.
Hopefully This Gives You Some Ideas
As mentioned these exact meal combos may not work for you. The main things to remember are look for meals that give you plenty of sauce/veggies that you can add your own meat to and don’t buy rice at the restaurants.
Over a small sample size it doesn’t save you much. But if you knock a dollar or two off of most of your meals for a year you can save $1,000ish dollars. That is like 10% of the total money I spent in 2015. Do it for 10 years and your 11th year is free.