A lot of us have different priorities when traveling. Some people choose to splurge on accommodations. Some might splurge on shopping or experiences. And then there are those people that choose to splurge on food. Regardless of what your priorities are, it doesn’t hurt to be a little thrifty. Especially as a backpacker, I’ve found that one place you can really save money is food. I travel primarily to explore new towns and immerse myself as a local. Of course, food is a big part of people’s cultures but I try to still live within my means. After all, I am on a backpacker’s budget.
The first bonus tip that will already save you a lot of pocket money is carrying your own water bottle and reusable container. While the water bottle is a staple on any backpacker’s packing list, other travelers still overlook it. I know you think it may be troublesome to carry a water bottle but water is one of the number one things we need on a day to day basis. Purchasing single-use bottles of water in foreign countries can add up pretty quickly. I also included a reusable container because there may be times when you’ve over-ordered. Why let that food go to waste? Whether you’re staying in a hotel or hostel, chances are they have a fridge available for your use. Easy way to save on one meal!
This one is a super easy meal that is filling and healthy. If you are staying in one place for longer than three days then it’s definitely worth it to consider purchasing a few essential groceries for the times when you don’t want to go out. In some countries, you can buy rolled oats by their weight. Just bring your container in and fill it up with the amount you think you’ll use up. The easiest combination when on the go is: oats, fruit, and almond or coconut milk. Fruits can easily be bought in small batches and even if you don’t finish them all up, they make good snacks. You can buy single-serving cartons of milk as well. You pour your oats, fruit of choice, and milk in a jar (or any container) and then refrigerate it overnight. In the morning you’ll have a filling and delicious breakfast! A foolproof alternative to this recipe is buying a bag of granola or muesli and putting it in a jar with milk to set overnight. Just as filling but you only need to purchase two things.
This is probably not the healthiest meal on the list but life is about balance, right? Packets of instant ramen are very budget-friendly but there are ways you can make it a more well-rounded meal! An easy way is to mix in some egg when you cook your noodles in a pot on the stove. They’ll quickly cook in the hot water and will make your ramen more filling.
Spam & Cheese Bagel
This is a dupe for one of my favorite sandwiches from Starbucks back home in the Philippines. All you need is a can of SPAM, bagels, and cheese. The great thing about this recipe is that you can make sandwiches for up to 3 days if you don’t mind repeating meals. Did you know that you can actually eat SPAM straight from the can? But it’s a lot more pleasant when it has been heated up. So cut the spam into slices and put together the bagel sandwich. Heat it up in the microwave for an easy, cheesy sandwich!
This is something my mom used to cook for us growing up. Especially when our fridge wasn’t fully stocked. It’s a common Mexican breakfast dish made up of tortillas and eggs. You use the real Mexican corn tortillas and cut or tear them up into smaller pieces. Then you mix the pieces in with the egg. You cook it on a frying pan the same way you would cook scrambled eggs. Add a little salt, hot sauce, and voila! If you have some hotdogs or ham, you can chop them up into little pieces and add them to the mix. That’s my favorite way to have chilaquiles. They’re easy to make and don’t require much!
This one is another childhood favorite, especially from the days when I didn’t know how to use the stove or oven. All you need are your ingredients and a microwave. The main ingredient as you can probably tell from the title is a potato. You don’t need to peel it, just wash it. Using a fork, you poke a few holes in it from the top. Then you place the potato in the microwave for about 3 minutes. Once the time finishes the potato will be steaming a little bit. Be cautious when handling it. Then you cut it down the middle. Now is your chance to add in salt, butter, and cheese if you like! The potato should be soft enough for you to mash it. If not, place it back into the microwave with all the condiments on and heat it up for an extra minute. By now it will be soft and the cheese will have melted in. This is so easy to make and I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t like an easy potato dish. Be careful, baked potato’s can quickly become addicting comfort food. If you are looking for a healthy switch, sweet potatoes can be cooked the same way! You don’t need to add butter or cheese to them because they are already pretty flavorful.
These meal ideas are proof that you don’t have to get too fancy when traveling. There are days when I am perfectly content to stay in the Airbnb or hostel and cook my own meal. What better way to bond with fellow hostel guests than in the kitchen? Just a note: I would recommend these recipes more for people who are doing long term trips. If you are only visiting a place for a short time, definitely treat yourself! But if you know you’re going to stay in a place for quite some time don’t be afraid to pick up some groceries. Do shop in smaller quantities, it’s better to run out of something than to have too much of it. It will be more of a hassle for you to carry perishables to your next destination. Last but not least, I wanted to share the basic meals as an introduction. There is so much room for experimentation and flourishes. If you’re up for it you can buy more ingredients like vegetables and fruits! Sometimes it just helps to have a home-cooked meal, even when you’re on the road!