We expected food prices to be higher in the Keys. After all it is a chain of island where everything needs to be trucked in. There are also not a lot of grocery store choices (Winn Dixie or Publix )which always drives prices up. During our first visit to the grocery store in the Keys I noticed that most of the things we normally buy were a bit more expensive. Naturally I assumed that would lead to overall higher food costs. What I didn’t count on were the awesome deals on fresh produce at the weekly Big Pine Flea Market. Giant papayas for $2, mangos & avocados for $.50, a massive bag of oranges for $4, a box of 5 cucumbers for $3, zucchini for $.25 each….and on and on. We were also able to save a bit by signing up for a Winn Dixie card and taking advantage of the deals on some of the things we buy every week (large tubs of plain yogurt, english muffins, bottles of seltzer).
Eating out is where you can really blow the budget in the Keys. There are lots of options and we worked hard to limit ourselves to no more than one meal out per week. This is a practice we try to follow all around the country. It can be difficult when you’re in a place with awesome restaurants and breweries (the latter of which seems to be missing from the Keys), but we’ve gotten good a picking one restaurant a week and sticking to it.
Surprisingly, our per month food cost (grocery store & eating out combined) was a tiny bit lower than average. Not much, it only came out to about $35 less per month. But since we were sure it would be higher, we’re pretty pleased with that number.
» Eat at Home
I know, I know, not everyone is interested in cooking. But the fact is that there’s no way to eat out often in the Florida Keys without spending a boat load of money. Remember, this entire area is built on tourism which leads to high restaurant prices. One of the things we really saved money on by eating at home was seafood. There are fresh seafood markets all over the keys where you can buy your very own fresh fish, lobster, clams, crabs, shrimp and so much more for a fraction of the cost than you would pay in a restaurant.
Key’s Fisheries Market & Marina – Marathon
Mr. Lobster – Islamorada
Key Largo Fisheries – Key Largo
Fanci Seafood – Cudjoe Key
Eaton Street Seafood Market – Key West
» Seek out Farmers Markets
The Keys are not far from Homestead, FL which is undeniably the produce capital of Florida. Every weekend the growers from Homestead bring down trucks of produce and sell them at the local Farmers Markets. The produce at these markets is far cheaper than what you will find at the grocery store, and probably much fresher as well.
Big Pine Flea Market – Weekends 8-2
Key West Green Market – Thursdays 9-2
Islamorada Marketplace on 90 – Friday 12-6
Islamorada Green Market – Monday 9-3
» Eat out for Lunch Instead of Dinner
Unless you’re on an extremely lean budget, then you’re going to want to eat out while in the Keys. There are some really great restaurants serving fresh seafood, Caribbean cuisine, locally inspired dishes. Lunch is always cheaper then dinner, so if you can tear yourself away from the beach for an hour or two go get some lunch.
» Expensive Does Not Always Equal Better
Some of the best places we’ve ever eaten have been the cheapest. We love nothing better then discovering a tiny restaurant with barely any seating, but a fantastic menu of fresh food with a local flair.
Best Cheap Eats in the Florida Keys
Key West Budget Friendly Eateries
Budget Restaurants in the Florida Keys
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