Eating Cheaply in Las Vegas

Vegas is designed to get your money, even when you're eating.  The easily-to-find food is expensive, and the cheaper food is often hidden away.  So here are some tips compiled by to take the pain out of Vegas food prices.

1. Bring snack food with you: Even if you prefer to eat out when in Vegas, you can still save by bringing your own snacks. Like everything else, snacks are pricey in Vegas.  At some gift shops a banana costs over $2.00.  A freakin' banana!  So pack your suitcase full of bananas, oranges, apples, dried fruit, cereal, bread, peanut butter, energy bars, baby carrots, and any other kind of snack food you like.

2. Cook your own food: I always travel with a $15 hot plate and a small pot.  I can easily make rice, cook potatoes and other vegetables, or heat up any canned food or frozen vegetables.  I've saved several hundred dollars this way in my travels.  You probably don't want to do this all the time, but saving money on any meal means it's easier to eat out the next time you do.

This has other advantages for me.  I prefer to eat healthy, organic, and vegetarian. Those concepts are pretty alien on the Las Vegas Strip.  Any bread or rice you find on the strip is gonna be white.  I don't like paying more for inferior food.  So cooking my own lets me eat exactly what I want.

3. Buy groceries There aren't any grocery stores really close to the strip, but there are some pretty big drugstores with food sections, and real grocery stores are a short (and cheap) bus ride away.  Conveniently, everything listed below is open 24/7 unless otherwise noted.

View Nearby Grocery Stores

4. Buy food instead of gambling: Most people lose when they gamble.  That's not surprising, because the odds are stacked against you.  So if you don't gamble, you'll have a lot more money for food, even at expensive Strip prices.

5. Use comp credit: I know I probably didn't talk you out of gambling, because gambling is why most people come to Vegas.  Luckily, if you do gamble, the casino will rebate some of your losses back to you in the form of meals, show tickets, and discounted rooms.  These are known as comps. Now, do not play just to get comps!  That's like spending a dollar to save a quarter.  It's cheaper to pay your own way on your meals than to lose a lot of money just to get a "free" meal.  Comps make sense only when you're gambling anyway.  And if you are gambling anyway, you should definitely ask for the rebates you've earned.

If you do gamble, it's important to play the games with the best odds so you lose less money. The less money you lose, the more you have to spend on food and everything else.

View Games to Play

You get less comps by playing the better games because you lose less money, but that's to your advantage.  Again, you don't want to lose more than necessary just to get a "free" meal. 

Slots get you more comps for sure, but only because you're losing more.   If you play craps instead you'll save $51/hr. on average. In fact, your savings from playing craps instead of slots could let you buy a couple of buffets and not even have to worry about comps.

View Estimated Comp per Game

6. Use coupons: Coupons abound in Las Vegas, especially 2-for-1 coupons. Unfortunately they change frequently so I can't give you a big list here, but I can give you some general tips.

First, most casinos give you a coupon book when you sign up for a Player's Card.  The Player's Card is free, so there's no reason not get it.  Also, just by signing up for the card, you may get offers in the mail later for free or discounted rooms.  Just look for the Player's Club desk in any casino to sign up.

Second, you can get the Pocketbook of Values coupon book from the Las Vegas Advisor.  You'll have to pay $37 for it, but it's well worth it. It has a fistful of formidable coupons for dining, lodging, and entertainment.

Finally, there's the big Entertainment coupon book.  It's aimed at locals, not tourists, so most of the offerings aren't near the Strip, but there's still enough to easily make it worth the cost.  The cover price is $35 but it comes out around November each year and by February it can be had for $15 or so on their website, or at stores like Barnes & Noble. 

View Partial List of 2 for 1 Offers

7. Food Courts: There are several mall-type food courts on the Strip with budget-priced eats.

View Lis of Food Courts on the Strip

8. Cheapest Buffets On the Strip, the cheapest dinner buffets are Circus Circus ($15) and Riveria ($17). 

View a list of all Hotels' Buffet Prices

9. CheapoVegas list: CheapoVegas was one of the inspirations for Vegas Click, and they're still going strong. They have a pretty extensive list of all the casino restaurants and how much they cost.

View CheapoVegas Restaurant List

10. Forage from Room Service Trays Put your hunter-gatherer skills to use! On the way to and from my room I frequently find leftover food trays in the hallways with items that are nearly completely unmolested. Last night I found some toast, hash browns, ketchup bottles, celery sticks (still completely encased in plastic wrap), 95% of a waffle, and a completely full, huge carafe of orange juice. Staff doesn't care at all -- while I was scoring the waffle, the woman who had come to take the cart away said, "Don't forget the syrup!" and handed me a couple small bottles that I'd overlooked. I'm not worried about germs because I would be willing to kiss most attractive random strangers I ran into, which is probably 10,000 times riskier than the careful elections I make from discarded room service trays. Plus, foraging is a kind of recycling! I hate seeing food go to waste.