When travelling you usually set yourself a budget. One of the fastest ways to burn through that travel budget is by eating your meals out all the time. Yes, it is great to try the local cuisines but it isn’t always good for your bank balance or your health. This is why I am a firm believer in cooking while travelling. Don’t get me wrong, not all of the time, but a lot of the time. In this article, I share my 10 best tips for cooking while travelling that I have picked up along the way. Hopefully they will make cooking on the road as easy as possible on your next journey. Let’s get to it.
Stay in Accommodation that Has a Kitchen
If you want to cook to save money while travelling you will need cooking facilities. Before you go and book your accommodation check firstly if there are kitchen facilities available. Because you cannot cook without a kitchen. Having access to a kitchen, even if it is only basic will help save you money. Many types of accommodation ranging from campervans, caravans, apartments, houses to hostels all have cooking facilities available. Knowing your accommodation has kitchen facilities available, even if you don’t always use them, gives you the flexibility to decide whether or not you will cook your meals to save blowing out your budget. You don’t need a full kitchen either to cook great meals while backpacking and travelling. Cooking in a hotel room is very doable as most will have a toaster, kettle and fridge. Some may have a stove and a microwave.
If you are thinking of staying in hostels during your travels check out HostelWorld before your book. This website will let you see what services, including kitchen facilities individual hostels have. If you are looking for other accommodation such as a hotel that offers kitchen facilities check out Booking.com. I have found they have the largest range of accommodation with cooking facilities available. Use the kitchen filter on the left to get a list of properties with kitchens. Simply read the description of each place to find out what facilities they have available to you. And then you have other options like Airbnb and Trusted Housesitters.
Ask a new found Room-mate to Share a Cooked Meal
If you decide to stay in a hostel but are worried or embarrassed about cooking a meal on your own, then why not ask your new room-mate/s to share a cooked meal. Shopping and cooking together is a great way to form new friendships, even if they are just for one night. It can also save you money because you will share the costs of the ingredients. There is no harm asking other hostellers, all they can say is no!
Find out what Cooking Utensils You have Available to You
Before heading to the grocery store, check out your kitchen and what cooking utensils you’ve got to work with. Keep a mental note of the appliances and utensils you have access to. Do you have an oven, cooktop or microwave? Are there pots and pans? What about a chopping board and sharp knife? Are there plates, bowls and cutlery to use? Once you know what cooking utensils are available to you can decide on a meal and how to cook it. Some accommodation also supply you with the bare minimum of ingredients such as salt, pepper and oil, or these may have been left behind by other travellers. By checking the place out first, it saves you from having to make another trip to the grocery store.
Plan Your Meals and Buy the Basics
Thinking about what you would like to cook, planning your meals and buying the basics will help you save money while travelling. When you know how long you are staying in each place you can work out how many, and which meals you will cook. If you are just staying one night you might want to enjoy a meal out but if staying longer in the one place then I suggest you cook. Work out how many breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks you will need? If needing some inspiration, check out some suggested easy to make meals I suggest further on in this post.
You don’t necessarily want to be carrying around large amounts of food with you as you travel so it will be wise to locate where your nearest supermarket or market is as soon as possible. By shopping in the local markets and supermarkets you may find yourself eating some of the freshest seasonal local ingredients around. Foreign grocery stores and markets can be confusing places but can also be fascinating and provide you with interesting tales to tell, plus great food to cook! I suggest you have a translation app on your phone in case you need to ask for help!
Once you’ve decided on some meals, make a list of the ingredients you will need. Write it on a piece of paper or on your phone. Either way, having a list will make shopping a whole lot easier. There is nothing worse than wandering around a supermarket aimlessly looking at the different aisles and then having to go back because you’ve had some inspiration.
Buy the Right Amount
Armed with your shopping list, keep in mind how long you are staying in this one location. If you are only staying a couple of nights you won’t need to buy large items, like a bottle of oil. If you are staying at least a week you could. Remember, you may need to throw it away at the end of your stay, unless you can carry it to your next destination or leave it for the next traveller! But think of alternatives as well, what I mean is, instead of cooking in oil, shallow fry in a little butter!
Keep Meals Simple
Making meals while travelling can be difficult, particularly making meals with loads of ingredients. I find it best to stick with simple recipes. There are plenty of easy recipes, that require few ingredients and limited utensils to make and are tasty and nutritious. Here are some of my suggested easy to make meals.
My easy peasy Spaghetti Bolognaise is one of my favourite meals to make while working abroad and travelling the world.
One trick to cooking while travelling is to stick with easy-to-make meals that don’t require a lot of ingredients and utensils to make. One of my favourite meals is Spaghetti Bolognaise and Curry Sausage Risotto. You can find plenty more easy to make meals on my recipe blog Travellers Fare or in my ebook Travellers Fare – Fast and Fabulous Meals for Travellers.
I suggest you think about your favourite meals, the ones you know you can cook and work out how you can cook them with limited utensils and ingredients. My suggestions for easy meals include omelet’s, stir fries, noodles, rice and pasta dishes. I also throw together some mean salads from the fresh supplies from the local markets. The top 5 most eaten foods in the world are:
Travel With Some Ingredients You Use Regularly
One thing you can do is travel with easy to prepare dried foods like rice, noodles and pasta. Then all you need is some hot water and bit of flavouring and voila!. They may not be the most nutritious meals around but will be a lot cheaper than going out for a meal, particularly if you are on a tight budget. When I can, I collect dry ingredients such as salt, pepper and sugar sachets. They can be extremely useful to add to ingredients to add flavour. Some food I often travel with is pasta, noodles and rice. They are easy to cook as I can usually find some hot water and some flavouring to add to them. Add some salad or veggies and voila, a nutritious and cheap meal. Everyone’s list will be different, that being said, things on my list I consider a necessity in every kitchen. Here’s a rough list of basic items I always buy at the beginning of my trip, and travel with.
- Salt & Pepper (I do prefer black, but whichever you like)
- Favourite spices and herbs (mixed herbs, curry). I carry them in this great spice jar set which is the perfect size for travelling. I can take 6 different spices with me.
- Oil (I prefer olive oil)
- Vinegar (balsamic – great for salads)
- Sweetener (sugar, honey)
- Tea and coffee
Travel With Cooking Utensils
If you have the room in your luggage I would suggest you travel with some basic cooking utensils. Why? Because you just don’t know what will be available in the place you will be unless you have done loads of research. To be honest, in some places you will be lucky to have a sharp knife or a kettle. Some of my favourite cooking essentials I travel with are (but not limited to as I adjust them to what travel I will be doing and where I am going. For instance a camping holiday will be different to staying in a 5 star unit with a full kitchen. Maintaining sustainability and eco-friendliness is a concern for me while on the road. I do everything I can to lessen my greenhouse gas footprint, and one of those things is to reuse cooking products. I travel with:
- Spork and travel cutlery set
- Collapsable bowl
- Silicone tongs
- Tupperware, Reusable lunch bags and food wrap
- Coffee maker – I take my Wacaco Espresso Maker on all my travels.
- Rice cooker – my 2 cup Rice cooker is perfect to make rice dishes for one.
- Small stove and frypan
- Can opener and bottle opener and corkscrew
- Mini grater and vegetable peeler
What to do with Leftovers
I often find leftovers taste even better the next day – particularly pizza for breakfast! Having leftovers from your meal can be a problem however, hopefully the leftovers can be eaten the next day, like pizza, or will be able to travel with you. Think about the food before you cook it. If you are making an egg dish and won’t be using all the eggs, maybe consider boiling the leftover eggs and taking them to eat as a hard boiled egg the next day! Travelling with some collapsable Tupperware or sealable lunch bags will be a great idea and come in very handy here. Or you if you have leftovers can you turn them into other recipes. It is easy to be creative and frugal when you have to be!
Don’t Cook Every Meal – Eat Like the Locals
What’s this you say? This post is about cooking while travelling and then you say, don’t cook every meal! That’s right cooking while travelling can be time consuming. You need to see what cooking utensils you have, shop for ingredients, then cook it. Yes, it saves you money, but it is also great to immerse yourself in the local culture and enjoy the cuisines. From these local cuisines, you can get inspiration to cook some ‘world faves’ as you travel or when at home. I would suggest make your own breakfast, lunch for the day, then cook or go out for dinner.
When you go out, you know the saying – when in Rome, do as the Romans do. So eat like the locals do. There are plenty of cheap places to eat while travelling. Don’t get into the mindset that eating out is bad – because its not, it can just be expensive. Street food stalls offer tasty morsels and is usually cheap. Maybe do a cooking class in the country you are in to learn to cook a local dish – plus get to eat it. I have found some great cooking classes through GetYourGuide. Simply search for a cooking class in the city you are in. There are some great classes in Europe and Asia. Don’t be deterred from experiencing the food culture of where you are by saving a few dollars by cooking!
Are You Ready to Cook While Travelling?
I hope this information on cooking while travelling will help you on your next trip to save you some money while you travel. If you are in need of some recipe inspiration check out my ebook Traveller’s Fare—Fast and Fabulous Meals for Travellers. I wrote it for the times I am travelling and want to cook my meals. All meals have been created using limited utensils and only a few ingredients – but are still nutritious – perfect when you work abroad and travel or travel full-time. Bon appetite!