Hostel breakfasts are usually very basic and might not be worth the extra euro per night you pay for them. A bowl of cereal or some bread with juice is the common standard. While there’s usually nothing particularly great about these meals, I believe that one can use them to his/her advantage, if you employ the proper strategy.
On my journey across Europe, I developed what I call the “Pei Wei Strategy.” Pei Wei is a Chinese Restaurant chain you can find across America, and I once heard it described as a fast food version of P. F. Chang’s. It has the typical food selection you would expect from a Chinese restaurant, but it also has (or at least the Boulder outlet has) a large basket full of fortune cookies, from which you can take as much as you like. I only go to Pei Wei a few times a year, but whenever I do, I always order something small and cheap, and then gorge myself on twenty or so fortune cookies (my current record in a single sitting is 35). So, while the order I paid for was small, I always leave full, and thus for very little money I got a very filling meal. I knew business school would pay off one day.
About midway through my journey across Europe, I began employing a strategy loosely based off my habits at Pei Wei, and thus the Pei Wei Strategy was born. Whenever the hostel I was staying at served a free breakfast, I would eat as much as possible, which would allow me to skip lunch (and possibly dinner) and thus save some money. If the hostel charged for breakfast I would usually skip it, unless it was an all-you-can-eat breakfast. In that case (unless I thought it cost too much) the Pei Wei Strategy would be executed and sometimes I would be set for the rest of the day. The most memorable instance of this was in Salzburg, Austria, where I remember eating until I got to the point of just staring at a bowl of cereal. Needless to say, a two Euro meal supplied my body with sufficient fuel to operate for 24 hours.
The Pei Wei strategy is not for everyone, but if you’re like me and you are concerned with efficiency and maximizing value on your travels you might consider giving it a try. The main weakness of the Pei Wei Strategy is that it may leave you with a badly imbalanced diet, as hostel breakfasts are normally heavily based on grains. I was able to avoid any health issues by taking multivitamins, so it certainly is a problem that can be overcome. I also drank the Elixir of Life (aka orange juice) whenever possible.