Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Alaska Road Trip Food Less than $20/Day

Split lunch at Fast Eddy's in Tok, AK
$13.49 + $5 tip = $18.49
When planning our 2015 trip to Alaska, we budgeted $3,000 for food. We’d heard that prices were much higher there and knew we’d be gone at least three weeks, so figured $100/day for both of us for 30 days would be sufficient.

As we thought we’d likely eat in a restaurant once or twice each day and didn’t want to waste food or deal with leftovers, we decided we’d share one meal instead of ordering two. We also wanted to avoid the weight gain so common when traveling – and saving money would be like the icing on a cake! We didn't want to scrimp on tipping, however, so we figured we'd make the math easy and always tip $5. We arrived at this amount based on at least 20% of a maximum bill of $25 if we ordered separately (yes, we're both cheap dates!).

For our non-restaurant meals, we envisioned relaxing around camp in the evening, grilling steaks and slicing avocados and experimenting with the Jet Boil. Breakfast would sometimes be included with our lodging or be a simple affair in camp. Other than that, we’d have fresh fruit, string cheese and other nutritious snack foods handy. 

Frying steak for our first car-camping dinner
What really happened? Well, we did share restaurant meals and it was great! We usually had plenty of food, but not too much. And if we’d still been hungry, we reasoned we’d have us an excuse to order dessert – but that never happened. (Note: Dessert temptation overpowered us a couple of times, but not because we were still hungry.) With very few exceptions, our restaurant meals in Alaska were a good value, providing plenty of food for two with just one dish, and no more expensive than what we’d expect here in the lower 48.

In contrast to comparable pricing in restaurants, grocery store prices in Alaska and Canada were higher than at home, especially in smaller towns. Considering what it costs to transport goods clear up there, however, I was pleasantly surprised the prices weren’t higher. Not knowing what food prices and availability would be, we spent about $100 on non-perishables and fresh fruit before we boarded the ferry, which got us nicely through to our first grocery store stop in Whitehorse, YT.

As for how our visions meshed with reality, we did enjoy many simple breakfasts and wholesome snacks (peanut M&Ms are good for you, right?) just like we’d planned but never had one single relaxing evening meal around camp as we envisioned. We did prepare many evening meals, just the relaxing part was missing – but that’s another story.

All together, we spent $888 on food for and during our Alaska/Canada trip, starting with groceries and meals out en route to the ferry in Bellingham, WA and ending with afternoon snacks in the car before we crossed the Idaho border 24 days later. So our daily food cost averaged just $37 for two, which comes to less than $20/day each. Spending less than 40% of our food budget, I’d say we done good!

  • Food budget = $3,000 
  • Actual food cost = $888 
  • Money left for another trip = $2,112! 

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