cheaply in Las Vegas
tips for cheap eats
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 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. As I'm
writing this in my Vegas room, I'm eating organic
broccoli and organic beans, go me!
Now, promise me you will keep your hot plate
far away from hanging towels and that you'll
unplug it completely every time you leave the
room. I don't want one of my readers burning down a
hotel by accident. Hot plates are dangerous, so
please be extra, extra safe with them.
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. Here's what we've got:
(Mandalay Bay, Luxor, Excalibur, NY/NY,
- Walgreens (drugstore) [Just north of
MGM, across from NY/NY] They have lots of
food, including a frozen section, and fresh bananas,
apples, and oranges. There's also a CVS next to
the Monte Carlo, but their food selection is much
weaker (and no fresh fruit).
- Albertsons (large grocery) [3 miles
east of the Strip on Tropicana & Eastern]
Get on the #201 bus on Tropicana (between
Excalibur and NY/NY, or between Tropicana & MGM).
It runs about every 15 minutes and the trip takes less
than 20. See the bus page for fare
info. and Albertson's
(Planet Hollywood, Paris, Bally's,
Bellagio, Caesar's, Flamingo, Imperial Palace, Mirage,
Venetian, Treasure Island, Wynn)
- Albertsons (large grocery) [2 miles
east of the Strip on Flamingo & Maryland
Parkway] Get on the #202 bus on
Flamingo (between Caesar's & Bellagio, or between
Bill's & Bally's). It runs about every 15 minutes
and the trip takes about 15.
(Riviera, Circus Circus, Sahara,
- Smith's (large grocery) [1 mile east
of the Strip on Sahara & Maryland Parkway]
It's only a 20-minute walk, but you can also get on
the #204 bus on Sahara Ave. (on the north side
of the former Sahara hotel). It runs about every 25 minutes
and the trip takes about 5.
SPECIAL BUS & GROCERY
- If you already got a Day Pass for the Strip Deuce or SDX
bus, it works on all the other buses too, so you can
ride for free.
- See our bus page for
more about the buses.
- You could take a cab (~$10 each way) but that
would obviate the point of trying to save money on
- For each bus listed above, the bus goes
straight from the Strip to the grocery store.
- At Albertson's and Smith's, get a free shopper's
card when you're there because that gives you big
discounts on many of the products.
4. Buy food instead of gambling
Most people lose when they gamble.
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
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
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.
- Slot machines
- Video poker
(unless you're an
- Modern/Novelty table games
- Craps (Pass Line and
Odds Bets only)
- Blackjack (using our
- Baccarat (bet on
banker or player, not on Tie)
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. For example, for
four hours of play:
Slots, 25˘ x3
Est. Comps earned
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.
For more on this topic check out my page on how
to get casino comps.
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. Here's
a partial list of 2-for-1's
from an earlier version of that book, on or close to the
- Tamba Indian Cuisine
(in the Hawaiian Marketplace
across from the Monte Carlo)
- La Italian Kitchen
- Great Wraps (in
Fashion Show Mall)
- Nestle Toll House Café
(2-for-1 smoothie; in the
Miracle Mile Shops inside Planet
- Auntie Anne's Pretzels
(in Fashion Show Mall, Planet
Hollywood's Miracle Mile shops, and the
- Boston Pizza (They
deliver to downtown and the Strip, but not to
the Wynn; or dine in: 1507 Las Vegas Blvd S.;
1/2 mile North of Stratosphere)
- Rainbow's End Natural Foods
(1100 E. Sahara; 1.5 miles E.
of the Strip; grocery store with an attached
- India Palace (505
E. Twain [same as Sands Ave.]; 1 mile
E. of Strip)
- Shalimar Indian
(3900 Paradise; 1 mile East
of the Strip)
- Gandhi India's Cuisine
(4080 Paradise; 1 mile East
of the Strip)
Paradise; 1 mile E. of Strip; open until
midnight; Ethiopian; Vegetarian Combo has
about seven different items and is a
lot of food!)
7. Food Courts
There are several mall-type food courts on
the Strip with budget-priced eats in these places:
*The Cypress Street Marketplace is more
of a cross between a cafeteria & a buffet than a food
court: You choose your items from a variiety of different
stations, and pay for each item you take at the
- Fashion Show Mall
- Monte Carlo
- New York, NY
- Showcase Mall
(across from NY NY, next to GameWorks)
8. Cheapest Buffets
On the Strip, the cheapest dinner buffets are Circus Circus ($15) and Riveria ($17). The Las Vegas Advisor has 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.
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 selections I make from discarded
room service trays. Plus, foraging is a kind of
recycling! I hate seeing food go to waste. Which brings
me to the next item...
A nod to "777 Cheap Eats in Vegas"
In 2003 Wendy Tucker published the book "777 Cheap Eats in Vegas".
Unfortunately she never came out with a new edition, so by now it's
pretty dated. Before she retired it, she did post the entire contents online. Interestingly, Ms. Tucker and I
enjoyed a free dinner together courtesy of a comp that I
got, allowing both of us to live up to our reputations
for being cheapskates.
Last Update: January 2012
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