While it is usually cheaper to cook at home, many English teachers live in small apartments with ever smaller kitchens. Unless you get really creative in the kitchen, or are happy to eat a $1 ramen for dinner every night, you’re going to want to eat out from time to time.
Add in a lunch costing around ₩3 000 per day, and you can really start to see the savings you can make in Korea.
1. Monday - kimbap restaurant - ₩ 5 000
These restaurants serve traditional Korean food and a Korean take on foreign food as well. You’ll be able to find all kinds of mouthwatering dishes for around ₩5 000 (~$4.25) including; kimbap, dumplings, kimchi stew and bibimbap.
I ordered a Pork Cutlet for ₩5 000. You could honestly eat here 2 or 3 times a week for a whole year because the menu is so large.
2. Tuesday - Bap Burger - ₩ 4 000
Rice burgers have become quite the trend in Korea over the past couple of years. Stores have popped up all over the place and are particularly popular around Universities due to their cheap food. I went to one of the better known rice burger franchises, Bon Gousse and ordered 2 burgers.
3. WednesDAY - Pizza School - ₩ 6 000
Koreans love pizza. There are so many pizza franchises and restaurants in every town. The two most popular cheap pizza places are Pizza School and Nanta Pizza.
Pizza School is superior to Nanta Pizza and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
There’s a whole range of pizzas to choose from, including Koreanized pizzas such as bulgogi pizza and sweet potato pizza. I stuck to my favorite pizza, Peperoni. I could have saved money and gone with the cheese pizza, but I’m frugal, not an animal.
4. ThursDAY - Yumsem - ₩ 5 500
There are many Korean fast food restaurants that manage to be speedy without serving food loaded with fat. Franchises such a Han’s Deli and Yumsem are examples. You can find them, or a similar one in pretty much an town throughout Korea.
Think of them as a slightly upmarket kimbap restaurant. They are usually only a dollar or two more expensive, but the restaurant interiors are cleaner and nicer and the food is usually presented in a nicer way. The menu is massive too, which around 50 different meals to choose from.
5. FriDAY - Food court - ₩ 6 000
At the basement level of the Shinsegae Department store in Gwangju, there is a really cool food court with a small international section. Here you can get Chinese style steamed pork buns for only ₩2 000 each. After 3 of them I am stuffed. Unlike dumplings, these things are about the size of your fist and as good as the ones I ate in Taiwan.
6. SaturdAY - Dalkgalbi - ₩ 10 250
We ate at a franchise dalkgalbi restaurant, Gosoo Dalkgalbi. There are a few around the city of Gwangju. Dalkgalbi is one of my favourite Korean foods. I went with my girlfriend and we ordered one serving each, with a serving of cheese topping. You could save money and not get the cheese, but it makes dalkgalbi so much better.
The meal was seriously delicious and filling. We struggled to finish it all, but stayed until we had as it was that good. It was ₩20,500 total for two, or ₩10, 250 each.
7. Sunday - Korean BBQ - ₩ 10 000
Having spent way under budget so far, I decided to splurge a little on Sunday to end the week on a high. This is a chain Korean barbecue restaurant, but you could go to pretty much any one and have a similar experience. Korean barbecue is seriously amazing, but it's a meal that you'll need to eat with a friend or two, as solo dining isn't allowed.
I went with a group of friends and we shared two different kinds of BBQ, some rice and also a kimchi stew. As always, a soup and some side dishes like kimchi were provided free of charge.
The food was more than enough and splitting the bill at the end of the night came to around ₩10 000 each (slightly more for those of my friends who were drinking).
It's really not hard to each out each night of the week and still save the majority of your pay check in Korea.