Picture of Oranges Showing Food Prices in Spain

Fiona

By:

Expat Life

Apr 29, 2021

Expat Life on the Cheap, Part 1: How to Hack Food Prices in Spain

As a teacher and expat in Spain, I know the value of stretching my cash. So, how can you save without sacrifice? Learn to take advantage of the super accessible food prices in Spain! Even food prices in Barcelona, Spain (one of the country’s priciest cities) are lower compared to similar cities in Europe.

As part of our Saving Money Series, this first article will break down the average price of Spanish foods to help you budget better. And I’ll also share some of my tips for eating well on the cheap in Spain!

What Are The Food Prices in Spain Supermarkets?

You may be planning your budget and wondering what are some examples of food prices in Spain supermarkets? While this is by no means an exhaustive list, here are prices for some food staples:

  • Rice: 1-2 euros per bag
  • Pasta: 1 euro per bag
  • Tuna can: under 1 euro
  • Fresh bread: .40 euro
  • Deli meat and cheese: 1-5 euros per package
  • Milk: 1.15 euro
  • Yogurt: 2 euros
  • Eggs: 2 euros per dozen
  • Spices: 1-3 euros

Spaniards (and Europeans in general) don’t do a huge supermarket haul every week. Instead, they’ll go to the store everyday or every few days to pick up fresh items. In Madrid, many chain supermarkets are now open around the clock. This makes shopping easier for working professionals and also for you!

While there are always sales and promotions on specific items, basic food prices in Spain’s supermarkets tend to stay pretty stable. So, you can usually find your favorite items at the same cost weekly. Also, many supermarkets in Spain offer customer reward cards that offer cash back or bonus discounts. It’s definitely worth signing up for those if your neighborhood store offers them.

Start Meal Planning

Meal planning can help you eat more healthily and avoid waste, which of course also saves you money! I mean, how many times has that bag of greens gone bad because you didn’t get around to making a salad that week? Trust me. Been there.

But don’t worry. Meal planning does not need to be difficult. If you’re busy teaching, working, or studying in Spain, you only need to set aside 15 minutes a day to create an easy-to-follow meal plan. Assess your weekly meal budget by factoring in the average price of food in Spain.

Next, plan your go-to recipes or research something new. Feeling stuck? Check out our story, 5 Simple Spanish Dishes Anyone Can Make…Even You! for meal planning inspiration.

And, don’t forget your shopping list next time you hit the supermarket! The list helps you stick to the plan and avoid extras that can drive up your budget.

La Frutería is Your Friend

A Spanish Fruit Shop Showing Food Prices

When buying fruits and vegetables in Spain, there is no better place than your local frutería. A frutería is a small, independent shop that stocks fresh fruit and vegetables. Some fruterías sell staples like spices, eggs, or milk. For the budget shopper, you’ll usually find a better price at the frutería.

Besides cost benefits, fruterías offer improved quality and seasonal produce.

Here are some discount prices you can expect at a frutería in Spain:

  • Cauliflower: 1-2 euros per head
  • A fresh bag of mint: 1 euro
  • Loose onions: 1 euro
  • Seasonal kiwi or persimmons: 2.99 euro/kilo

Shop Around and Shop Local

Unlike countries where grocery shopping means hitting one big box store to buy everything you need, shopping frugally in Spain can take some leg work. But once you know where to go, the runaround becomes second nature.

For example, many meat-eaters in Spain prefer shopping at their local butcher. Spanish butchers are true professionals. They can help you choose the perfect meat cut and offer reasonable prices and dependable quality.

Local cheese shops are also fantastic if you’re looking for great quality. You can meet proud owners who will recommend different options for you. And because you can ask for the exact amount of cheese you want, you can buy smaller portions and not have to spend a ton on larger packages.

And, to suffice a sweet tooth, Spanish bakeries have high quality treats and fresh bread. The prices can also be lower than the supermarket depending on what you select. 

And maybe most importantly, sourcing your food locally helps support the businesses you love… so it’s a win-win!

Menú del Día Food Prices in Spain: Eat Out and Save 

I could write an aria to the Spanish menú del día. It’s one of my favorite, favorite things about eating in Spain!

The menú del día is a famous “all inclusive” lunch-time concept found across the country. It started back in the mid-1960’s as a way to promote Spanish cuisine to tourists. Soon, it’s popularity spread among Spaniards, too.

Traditionally, workers would go home to eat lunch, considered to be the most important meal of the day in Spain. But by the 1970’s, habits had changed and workers couldn’t always go home midday. So, the inexpensive (and extensive) menú del día became the perfect solution.

So what is it exactly? Typically, a menú del día will include your choice of appetizer, main, and dessert or coffee. Often, the deal will come with a choice of drink and bread, too.

So, for a reasonable price (anywhere from 10-18 euros per person in cities), you can enjoy 2-3 courses of delicious, well-prepared food! And in smaller towns, expect to pay anywhere from 7-12 euros per person. What could be better? Nothing!

Some restaurants have a fixed price menu for dinner or weekends, but those are not as common. The best bet for a quality menú del día is Monday-Friday between 1-4 pm.

If you want to try new restaurants or explore Spanish towns, menú del días are the way to go! From large city fusion restaurants to local tavernas, the options are truly endless.

Food Prices in Spain Bars? Possibly Free! 

Okay, so here’s a little tip for the hungry, struggling student. Or heck, even for those who love to eat on the cheap!

You know those authentic-looking little neighborhood bars? Well, many of them serve a little tapa for free with your drink order. This is especially true down in the south where tapas are said to have originated.

Before tapas evolved into a bonafide dining option, bar patrons used the small dishes to cover their glasses of sweet sherry wine. This ensured the fruit flies wouldn’t get inside. And since the most common tapa served was salty jamón, patrons would get very thirsty and order more drinks! So, the restaurant owners didn’t mind giving a little bit of food away if it meant more alcohol sales.

In many areas this tradition continues. So technically, you can grab a few beers with some friends and eat a light dinner for free. Depending on the bar, some of the tapas may even be a decent size. I’ve known people who go out of their way to actually find these bars!

And if you don’t get a free tapa, food prices in Spain bars are usually pretty low anyway. Beer prices vary, so here are some tips to consider:

  1. Caña (a little beer) vs. doble (a larger beer). Many bars will give you a doble without asking. This is a tactic to charge you more money, beware.
  2. Price of caña. Less than 1.50 euro is excellent. But the price can vary from less than 1 euro to about 2 euros, depending on the area.
  3. Quality of tapa. Warm vs cold. If you find a bar that gives you a free warm tapa… stake your place at the bar and never leave. You’ve struck gold! 

Having a reliable and reasonably priced bar that serves a good tapa eliminates a lot of stress when the bill comes. And even better, a lot of these local bars are run by kind older men who will look out for you once you’ve dropped by often enough. This is a great way to not only stretch your budget but feel like a local!

Wine! Get the Glass

I’ve often had this debate with friends: should we order our own glasses of wine or share a bottle?

If you are ordering house wine, you can expect to pay about 2.50 euros for a good glass of Rioja. That same glass could be $15 in the United States!

Here’s my support for ordering a glass of wine instead of a bottle:

  1. The glass will be only cost you 2-3 euros. A bottle might be more costly, upwards of 16 euros.  
  2. Bottles will get you about four glasses of standard pours. But many times when you order a glass, the servers are heavy-handed. This means more vino in your copa!
  3. A bar or cafe may give you another round of tapas with each glass you order. This can help you save money on food.

However, if you try to order five glasses of the same wine at once, the bar or cafe may want you to buy a bottle.

If you want to try a nicer wine, then getting a bottle makes more sense (budget-wise) as the price increases. But remember, glasses will usually be a better option for the house wine.

The Food Prices in Spain Can Help You Save Money

Luckily for all of us living in Spain, the food prices here can help us save some serious money. Just remember to meal plan, shop locally when possible, and don’t forget to take advantage of deals like customer reward cards, free tapas and the menú del día.

Looking for more hacks on how to save money in Spain? Stay tuned for Part 2. It’s going to be all about travel!

xo,
Fiona

*Please note the prices listed in this article are based on Madrid averages. These prices do not reflect the entirety of Spain. The lists/examples below are not exhaustive and are subject to change.

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