One of the best ways to save money in Japan is to eat like the Japanese do. Supermarket and convenience stores are packed with healthy nutritious and relatively cheap meal options, which are a real lifesaver if you have fussy kids or are on a really tight budget. Convenience stores appear on just about every corner in Japan, and some of the most commons chains are Lawsons and Family Mart. Here you will find fantastically fresh bento boxes, perfect for a lunch on the go. You will also find cooked, chilled Soba noodles with dipping sauce, plain white rice balls (sometimes with sesame seeds), boiled eggs, and even Western-style sandwiches (egg and mayo are very popular). Convenience stores also stock a wide range of bakery items – some familiar (such as white bread, brioche and Danish) and others not so familiar – which means that a quick and cheap breakfast is easily found.
All you can eat
How to celebrate when you’re on a budget? It might be a special occasion such as a birthday or anniversary. The best way – and most cost effective way – to do this in Japan is to visit one of the many all you can eat restaurants. All you can eat menus are available for a wide range of styles of Japanese foods including the fun do-it-yourself grills called yakiniku as well as regular buffet-style restaurants offering assorted Japanese meals. Even some restaurants offering Western food such as pizza may offer an all you can eat option, especially in the bigger cities. The catch? You usually have one hour to order and must be completed your meal within 90 minutes. If you are planning a really big night, some venues also offer all you can drink plans, that are very cost effective if you are planning on drinking more than say three drinks with your meal. Check menus at individual restaurants for details of all your can eat offers.
Taste test in Department Stores
Try interesting food ingredients for free! Japanese department stores are famous for their food halls, usually found in the basement of these multistorey buildings. Here you will find all kinds of ingredients, prepared meals and snacks, many of which are available to sample. Walk the aisles of the depachika and you might be offered taste tests of bread, octopus balls, fruit, candy, pickles and more. Don’t forget to use you manners and only take a single serve of what’s being offered. You will more than likely be offered the sample on a toothpick or handed a sample in your hand by an assistant using tongs. Don’t ask for seconds, it’s considered bad manners. If you liked the sample, and it’s in your budget, consider purchasing a small size of the food item. Department store food halls are also a great spot to pick up and inexpensive bento box featuring sushi, rice, grilled chicken, salad and more.