How to eat on budget in Amsterdam?
Updated: Jun 22
When I first arrived here, in Amsterdam, I was amazed by the rich history, picturesque canals, and vibrant culture. However, I quickly realised that the cost of living, especially when it comes to eating out, can be quite high. That's why I'd like to share my experience and tips on how to eat on a budget in Amsterdam.
1. Embrace the street food culture
Amsterdam has a thriving street food scene that offers a variety of delicious and affordable options. One of my favourites is the "broodje kroket," a Dutch sandwich made with a kroket (a croquette) in a bun. Not only is it a local favourite, but it's also budget friendly. Don't miss out on trying other street food staples like kibbeling (fried fish), frikandel (a deep-fried sausage), or the classic Dutch stroopwafel (a caramel-filled waffle).
2. Visit local markets
There's no better way to immerse yourself in the local culture and save money on food than by visiting Amsterdam's many outdoor markets. The Albert Cuyp Market, which is open six days a week, offers a wide variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and other delicacies at reasonable prices. Be sure to try some poffertjes (mini Dutch pancakes) or a freshly made stroopwafel while you're there.
"Albert Cuypmarkt", source: IAmsterdam
3. Remember about ethnic cuisine
Amsterdam is a melting pot of cultures, and this is well-reflected in its culinary scene. To eat cheaply, look for small ethnic eateries offering dishes from Turkey, Suriname, or Indonesia. For instance, try a Turkish dürüm or a Surinamese roti, both of which are filling and budget-friendly. Indonesian restaurants, in particular, offer a delicious and affordable option called "rijsttafel," a meal consisting of small portions of various dishes served with rice.
4. Make use of discounts and daily specials
Many restaurants and cafes in Amsterdam offer daily specials or student discounts, so keep an eye out for those deals. Websites like Groupon and Social Deal offer discounted vouchers for restaurants, helping you save even more. There is also an app called KNAEK for students which includes, mostly fixed, special offers. And if you're planning to eat out during the week, consider going during lunchtime, when many places offer cheaper set menus or lunch deals. Remember also to take advantage of the promo cards offered by popular markets such as Jumbo with its Jumbo Extra’s or Albert Heijn's Bonus program.
5. Cook your own meals
One of the easiest ways to save money on food is by preparing your own meals. Make use of the kitchen facilities in your accommodation. Stock up on groceries at budget supermarkets like Lidl, Aldi, or Jumbo, where you can find affordable ingredients for simple yet tasty meals.
6. Don't forget about snacking
For a quick and cheap snack, visit one of Amsterdam's many "automatieks" where you can find hot snacks like kroketten (croquettes) or kaassoufflés (cheese-filled pastries) in coin-operated vending machines (in most, however, you can pay by card). For instance, FEBO is a unique Dutch fast-food chain that offers a variety of snacks and meals through vending machine-style windows. With locations all around the city, it's an easy and affordable option when you're on the go. Some popular items include mentioned kroketten, frikandellen (Dutch-style sausages), and burgers. Prices range from €1.50 to €4.00 per item, making it a perfect option for those on a budget.
7. Share meals with friends
Another great way to save money and enjoy a variety of dishes is to share meals with friends. This not only allows you to taste different dishes, but also helps you split the bill, making it more affordable for everyone involved. Consider ordering a few appetisers or main courses to share, or go for a family-style meal at an Indonesian or Chinese restaurant. It’s also a great opportunity for better integration with your Uni mates!
8. Take advantage of happy hours
Many bars and cafes in Amsterdam offer happy hour deals, where you can enjoy discounted drinks and snacks. Keep an eye out for these promotions, usually taking place in the late afternoon or early evening and enjoy some budget-friendly bites alongside your favourite beverage.
"Westerpark", source: Gemeente Amsterdam
9. Pack a picnic
Amsterdam is known for its beautiful parks and green spaces, which are perfect for a relaxing picnic. Save money by picking up some bread, cheese, fruits, and other snacks at a local market or supermarket, and enjoy a leisurely meal outdoors. This is not only a budget-friendly option, but it also allows you to experience the city's picturesque scenery while you dine.
10. Don't waste food - Too Good to Go app
Finally, the other fantastic way to save money on food in Amsterdam is by using the Too Good To Go app. This app helps combat food waste by offering "Magic Bags" filled with surplus food from restaurants, bakeries, and supermarkets at a significantly discounted price. These bags are usually sold towards the end of the day and can include a variety of food items like pastries, sandwiches, salads, or even full meals. Not only does the app help you save money, but it also supports local businesses and promotes sustainability by reducing food waste.