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How to Eat in New York on a Budget?

How to Eat in New York on a Budget?

Want to know how to eat in New York on a budget? We share money-saving tips, so you can eat and visit NYC on a budget.

Everyone around says that food in New York City is outrageously expensive. Well, I guess some people just end up in fancy restaurants without even meaning to. This can truly make you think that eating out in NYC is too much.

Sure, there are places where dinner can cost hundreds of dollars, and even a simple meal with wine might set you back over $100. But let’s be honest, dropping a hundred bucks on dinner isn’t something most of us can do.

Well, I feel you. When you’re a tourist, you just can’t know where to find some budget-friendly spots among the thousands of restaurants in the city. That’s the exact reason I’m here at your service! I’ve lived in New York City for more than 8 years, and I’m ready to tell all the secrets of eating out without going broke. 

How to Eat in New York on a Budget

Try the New York Slice

If you’re visiting the city for the first time, you’ve gotta try a classic New York slice. And you don’t have to spend a ton on it! There’s a pizza joint on practically every block, so you’re bound to find a cheap option nearby, no matter where you’re staying in NYC.

Everyone loves how big and thin New York-style pizzas are, and in Brooklyn, they’re even bigger. They usually sell single slices, perfect for grabbing on the go. It used to be you could snag a slice for a buck, but nowadays they might run you two or three dollars. 

Pack Some Dry Foods

Quite unexpected, but… make sure to pack some dry foods when you travel. Depending on how long you’re staying, you can either put them in your backpack, or bring along a separate container just for them. 

Granola bars, peanut butter, nuts, trail mix, and dry cereal are quite a healthy choice, handy for a fast breakfast or a snack. You’ll find these items are much pricier at a local store in NYC.

Chinatown in NYC

Go to Chinatown

If you’re looking for hearty, tasty food, head to Chinatown. Just take the subway to Lower Manhattan, below Canal Street, and you’ll find yourself in a Chinatown known for its diverse food scene.

There you’ll find all sorts of cuisines like Cantonese, Malaysian, Hunan, and more. 

Get a Hot Dog

Well, everything in New York City has hot dog stands. That’s probably not the healthiest option, but it’s just the perfect fast meal for only a couple bucks!

The hot dog has been a favorite for ages, but it really took off thanks to Nathan Handwerker, who came to live in NYC from Poland.

Back in 1915, he worked at a Coney Island hot dog stand.That’s when he had the idea to open his own stand and charge even less for hot dogs than his old boss. So, that’s how hot dogs became a cultural phenomenon in the city.

If you are spending 4 days in NYC, you are bound to pass and try a hot dog!

Self Guided Walking Tour things to do in Times Square

Ask the Locals

Looking for a way to eat out in New York City without fighting the tides of crowds for an expensive meal? Everyone else is using Google to find restaurant suggestions, so don’t be the only one! When I first moved here, I kept ending up at packed tourist spots, spending way too much and waiting forever for my food.

Instead, try asking locals for their favorite spots. There are more authentic and cheaper ways to eat if you ask the people who live here for advice – they just won’t leave you broke, or standing in line.

Yes, it’s tempting to plan every meal ahead of time, but the best way to make your food adventure in the city unforgettable is to leave some time to talk to locals.

Try Bagels

Have you ever tried a colorful rainbow bagel in New York City? Honestly? I’m really enjoying it! Bagels and the famous pizza slices are all very popular here.

New Yorkers take their bagels really seriously – if you ask someone who used to live in New York but now lives in Los Angeles about bagels, they’ll probably say they miss them in New York a lot.

In New York City, most bagels with cream cheese usually cost between $3 to $5. If you want lox with it (which is highly recommended), it might cost a bit more. And if you’re thinking of a bagel sandwich, you’re looking at around $5 to $7. 

Cook Your Own Meals

This one should be a no-brainer, but… Instead of going out to eat, you could make your own breakfast in the kitchen. Putting eggs in a bowl and frying them is all it takes. Yeah, I know, New York City has a lot of great places to eat out. But if you really want to save money and still have a good time, just pick a nearby grocery store. 

There you can choose between a ready-made meal and the products you’ll need to make your own. Next, either find a nice spot in one of the parks to eat outside or go back to your Airbnb to make your dish. For your convenience, many supermarkets even have places to sit inside.

Eat Deli Sandwiches

Now let’s talk about splitting those big deli sandwiches in NYC! If you’ve ever been there, you’ll know those sandwiches are massive! A neat trick I love is grabbing one sandwich, a big bag of chips, and finding a nice spot in a park to chow it down together with my partner.  Trust me, it’s enough for two! 

Really, why not just sit on a park bench and play a good arcade, like Jelly Reels Demo? And if it’s chilly out, just head back to your hotel or find a cozy indoor spot to enjoy your deli feast. 

Try Dumplings

Dumplings from China are one of the best affordable meals in town. You can grab a big plate of them for just a few bucks, and they’re even cheaper if you buy them frozen. They’ll keep you full for lunch, with some left for dinner. Plus, since there are lots of Chinese restaurants in the city, these dumplings are as authentic as they come. 

FAMOUS SKYSCRAPERS IN NEW YORK CITY

Eat Outside Times Square

Don’t stick to eating in Times Square or other places filled with tourists. It’s a big deal! Food there is super expensive and honestly not even that great. You’ll find a bunch of chain restaurants, the same ones you can find anywhere else in the country. 

Instead, why not wander a bit and try something more authentic? Hop on the Subway and head to Greenwich Village or Brooklyn. You’ll get a real taste of New York and save a bunch of money too.

Food Trucks

Ever noticed those colorful food trucks buzzing around the city? They’re like mobile kitchens dishing out quick and budget-friendly meals: shawarma, hot dogs, gyros, or halal food. 

They’re often parked near popular spots like Central Park, Union Square, Midtown, or the financial district. People love them just because it’s something of a quick breakfast or lunch. And the best of it? Most meals won’t set you back more than $5-7.


New York City is absolutely gorgeous! Really, though, worrying about money can ruin any trip, even to such a beautiful place. But guess what? You don’t have to spend a lot of money to eat great food. So, relax, have fun, and enjoy every bite of the Big Apple without worrying about your wallet! 

Stay Creative!

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