Hey hey hey,
In general what is the South American approach to eating arrangements? Is it more like Europe where people generally eat at home and not so often at restaurants, or is it more like parts of Asia where people generally eat out for every meal (even if it's just at a street vendor)? I guess what I'm asking is, as a backpacker on a budget, should I be usually be preparing food at the hostel, or is it no more expensive just to go out and find somewhere? (Please tell me it's the latter as I'm far too lazy to cook.)
Street food stalls and cheap restaurants can be found everywhere in SA. Depending on the country and location, a budget meal costs between US$2-5. In more expensive regions (e.g. Chile), you can cook for yourself in the hostels.
Lunch meal usually consists of a soup, main dish (rice, beans, meat, salad) and a juice. Dinner meal is almost same, but without soup.
Markets also have all sorts of eating arrangements-from street sellers as mentioned to sit down areas of varying luxury.
OK there's rarely any luxury but food is not expensive especially set meals-of-the-day.
Cooking for yourself isn't really all that much cheaper I found buying a few bread rolls and an avocado or fruit /maybe a bit of cheese to about the cheapest around.
I agree with Sam. In Cartagena, where I lived for two years, I found it far FAR cheaper to buy a little two dollar meal every day, rather than buy groceries and start to cook. And it gets you out into the community, which is good for your trip and for the people around you.
....because, though it's cheaper and sometimes worthwhile, who want's to eat a bun and some cheese all the time?
Nice to see you, Sam. Whacha been up to, brah?
A favourite of mine I've had at a few places in South America and on Marguerita is chicken and chips. I ordered some at a cafe in Cuzco, and was just settling down to read a book while I waited when it turned up, hot and looking freshly cooked. Cheap and delicious.