A guide for cooking while traveling

The biggest tip to save money while traveling is to cook. Eating out is usually expensive and unhealthy. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as cooking at home. On this post, I’m sharing with you a few tips for making it easier.

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Before traveling, I was CRAZY about cooking from scratch. I made almost everything, and we bought almost no industrialized product. Not even cheese, tomato sauce, pickles. But I also had all the tools and ingredients I could ever need. If I didn’t have one, I knew where to find it.

I thought it would be easy, you know, I could just wipe up a soup, a pasta, a Chinese fried rice, some roasts and everything would be easy, practical and fast. Of course, it wouldn’t happen that way. We rented houses with filthy kitchens and houses with 4 glasses (or forks, or plates). A lot of the houses had one or 2 super small pots only. Imagine if they’d have a blender or a slow cooker?

We needed to change our mentality to survive.

First of all, we accepted that supermarket food was OK from time to time. I know it’s not super healthy, but it helps a lot. Pies, bread, and some other simple things are great. We’ve been having one ‘ready made’ meal a week.
I also needed to trust people. In NZ’s rentals, people usually left simple stuff that they didn’t finish, like salt, pepper, flour, rice, pasta. I never touched them because I couldn’t know if the person before us washed their hands before touching it, or for how long that’s been opened, or whatever, really. Nowadays, I still have my ‘yuk’ thoughts but some of the things I’ve accepted. They save us money, time and it’s been quite fun to try new flavors and ingredients. Plus, it helps us to carry less stuff.
Other than that, we just needed to accept that we wouldn’t find all we want or have all the tools and ingredients we need.

Oh, we also do use whatever the house has to offer. For instance, if the house has an oven, we use it almost every day. Or a blender. Or a slow cooker. We use as much as we can because we don’t ever know when we’ll have one again.
We can’t even make a weekly menu because we don’t know what’s going to be available at the next house nor what we’ll be able to find at the local supermarket.

But here are the promised tips:

  • Before doing your groceries, check everything that’s available at the house, where’s what and decide, roughly, what’s going to be cooked.
  • Cooking simple stuff, like pasta with olive oil and a leafy salad with nuts, a fried rice, etc.
  • Cooking for more than one meal (if a big enough pan is available) because it’s simpler to warm up something than to make a whole new meal.
  • Make rice (or pasta) at home and buying a roasted chicken, for example, is a lot cheaper than eating out and it’s a lot faster and easier than cooking a whole new meal.
  • Buy enough groceries for the whole duration of the trip only. We started buying the small rice packs, the small vinegar bottle, etc because otherwise, we’d have to leave it or bring it.
  • Try to use the minimum possible of pots and pans. One pot meals are awesome.
  • Buy whatever cooks faster. We try to choose the pasta that cooks in 2 minutes, instead of the ones that take 10 minutes to cook. That way, the first pot won’t get cold before the next one comes up.
  • Have some ingredients that match everything, like potatoes, onion, garlic, pasta, leaf salads, fruits.
  • Take sometime to get to know the kitchen. Find out where things are, change a few places as you wish but don’t forget to put everything back in place before you leave!

And the biggest tip of all…

Have only one cooked meal per day.

It means we have a nice breakfast, with bread, yogurt, fruits, tea and whatever else we have ready, a late lunch and fruits and other small things afterward. We eat fruits, veggie sticks (celery, carrots, capsicum and cucumber – loads of it), sandwiches, but even cookies and cakes (from the supermarket) when we don’t have anything else.
It means we have around 3 meals per day, but only one of them needs to be cooked.
That lowered a lot my stress level. I still have heavy moments when I think we should be eating better but I now accept that what’s possible is enough. I’ve even considered introducing a green juice a day, but we don’t have a blender in most houses anyway, so we do whatever we can.

kids cooking

Coral chopping our broccoli – she hates it, but loves cooking

And, even though our eating habits haven’t been the same after we left home, we’re exercising more, getting more sun and having more fun. We didn’t ave any health issues, for now at least.

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5 replies
  1. Katy
    Katy says:

    Great advice! Hope to be putting it to use soon. Do you take cutlery or any small kitchen things from home when you travel?

    Reply
    • Thais Saito
      Thais Saito says:

      Hi Katy, thanks for your comment! We don’t take anything, just roll with whatever is available! Not always easy, but it’s always doable! Let us know how it goes!

      Reply

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