Food is the best part of any vacation, no question. Even for a history nerd and art-lover, meal-time is my favorite part of the day. This can be problematic for the budget traveler, but we've come up with a few ways to save and still savor.
Breakfast -- It's included in your hotel. Don't miss it. Eat heartily, and you can potentially skip lunch (or snack instead), saving $$$ for a big dinner.
Lunch -- Most restaurants offer cheaper lunch prices, so you could choose to splurge here. Overeat and then you can snack (or aperitivo) for dinner.
Dinner -- Aperitivo! Why had I never heard of aperitivo? It is the greatest invention ever, perhaps even topping the printing press and birth control pills. Buy one cocktail, and you have access to a snack buffet. If you are sitting, your server will deliver chips, olives, crackers, cheeses, and other delights to your table. The food choices vary from place to place, so wander around and peek in at the buffet before settling (or ask a local for the best one!). But if you want to save money and still have a drink, the aperitivo is key. Buy a cocktail and eat a light dinner. The cheapest aperitivos are near the universities (2 euro cocktails), but they also have the worst food selection. Spend 4euros elsewhere and get a feast.
Snacks. The grocery store or market. Yesterday, we bought two bottles of wine, two huge cheese wedges (gorgonzola and something else), apples, bananas, a kilogram of clementines, crackers, chocolate wafers, and a baguette ... for less than 13 euros (less than $20). It served as lunch yesterday and again today, and we're still not half-way through. People forget about groceries when they're on vacation, but it's often the cheapest way to eat gourmet foods all day long.
Pizza is also super-cheap if you find the right shop. We had a massive pizza last night for 5euros, and yes, we ate the whole thing. The chef even stretched the dough and made the pizza from scratch in front of our eyes. Mmmmmmmm...
Share. Portions are huge, and you can't save leftovers on vacation. Order one entree and share. If you're still hungry, you can always order more. Or get gelato.
Some food photos so far. I like the colors here, very Christmasy: