It’s been a long time coming with this one, I know, but it’s not something I actually do a lot – generally eating out is cheap for me anyway. But I used to cook my own food all the time, and I started doing it again on my latest adventure. Cooking your own food is such a simple and easy way to save money on your travels. OK so it takes longer, more effort and is usually less tasty than eating out, but it has to be done. All budget backpackers have been through it before.
I admit I’m a terrible chef. Yes, despite having worked in hotel and pub kitchens, cheeseburger and hot dog stands, I still suck at cooking. But I know how to do the basics – pasta, noodles, toast, rice, soup etc.
Most hostels have kitchens and while the busy kitchens tend to annoy me, those with quiet, homely kitchens and fridges that are fresh are what I tend to like. The important thing about cooking your own food on your travels is to make sure that the food is cheaper than any local restaurant. If you buy steak, potatoes, peas, carrots, sauce etc. and add it all up – you’d probably be spending more money than ordering it out. But cooking your own food isn’t for a luxury budget. You need to stick to a price and stay cheap.
– Mixed Vegetables
– Cooked Meat in packets
– Processed Cheese
– Tins of beans and spaghetti
Just say you want to have beans on toast with meat. Here’s all you need to buy:
– 1 tin of cheap beans
– a small loaf of bread (you’ll eat the rest of it over the next few days)
– some processed cheese
– some cooked ham
(That will cost less than $3 US on average in countries and you’ve got a meal – yes I know that in some countries – like Iran or China it will be cheaper to eat out – but for sure in Australia and Thailand – this tactic is cheaper)
Cooking your own food while camping
Camping is also an easy way to save money on food. When I camped in Tasmania a few years back I had my own gas cooker. I’d boil water using it – for tea, rice, noodles, pasta. I’d be really cheap in those days and just buy some cheap pasta sauce to go with it and maybe some bread to dip in and that would do me.
Cooking your own food in hostels
Recently in Iran and Iraq we have been going really cheap by cooking noodles in our hostels and hotels. Basically that’s it. Just a packet of noodles! I made a quick video from our hotel in Gazor Khan for you below.
A few more tips:
1. Share your food and split the costs: Sharing Food
2. Join in food nights in hostels: Food Night in Tasmania
3. Check the “free food” shelf in your hostel for the possibility of some free food that other backpackers have left.
4. Don’t buy things in bulk – you’re trying to save money on a one off purchase, not spend more than you bargained for: Don’t buy food in bulk.
5. Shop at Night Markets: Taiwan and other Night Markets.
6. Always have some random food or drink on you – in your backpack. Cheap and easy way to snack as you go: Always carry food and drink.
And on a final note, don’t become too cheap that you’re cooking and eating noodles every night. Trying the local food in countries is important so look at the cheapest ways to try the local stuff when you’re there too. I normally mix it up a bit – sometimes cook, sometimes eat out.
Don’t forget to check out my delicious series called Friday’s Featured Food! On selected Fridays I bring you world cuisines from my travels!
Here’s my video for this week’s Monday’s Money Saving Tips: