Before arriving in Chiang Mai we read a lot of articles on eating incredibly cheap and how amazing street food is. However, like most things, this was only partially true. While there is certainly a lot of good street food, the really cheap stuff is cheap for a reason. In sit down restaurants you pay for cleanliness with the cheapest of places having dirt visible on the walls.
Meat skewers will usually cost around ฿15 ($0.41 USD) each, while a good pad thai meal will cost around ฿40 ($1.1). While pad thai is great, if you are staying here for an extended duration of time, it can get old. Good restaurants with western style food will usually be anywhere from ฿150-350 ($4.13-9.66) If you are not on a strict budget and have a regular income you could find yourself spending quite a bit on food and at the end of the month you might find that cheap living in Thailand isn’t quite as cheap as you thought it was.
We generally found that eating high quality food at clean restaurants is almost exactly 50% of the cost back home (Toronto, Canada). When you look at your bill you will quickly realize how much you are saving but you also really need to take into account how often you are doing it.
Recently we figured out that we were spending nearly ฿50,000 ($1379) per month on food. However, we eat really well. If you ate as much as us in North America you would easily spend 2-3x this much. Having debt we want to pay off, we started asking ourselves how we could cut this number down without giving up quality and the answer was pretty simple, eat at home.
To cook penne at home with pasta sauce and parmesan cost us ฿176 ($4.90), that is $2.45 each. A similar meal back home would be pushing $5.00 and so again the 50% rule seems to holds true. The meal was simple to make and because we made it ourselves, we knew exactly what we were getting.
One place you can also save a lot of money is with fruit vendors. A bunch of bananas costs ฿25 ($0.69) or a large carton of large strawberries costs ฿150 ($4.14) and a carton of small strawberries is half the cost.
When it comes to eating in Chiang Mai you don’t really need to make large compromises and still eat very well both in and out.