While travelling, there could be nothing more ideal then eating culturally rich foods, handcrafted by the countries finest grandmothers, for every meal. But a lot of the time, unless you’ve got a personal invitation into someone’s home (or go through an old ladies trash), it’s just way too expensive (and maybe a tad unrealistic). If you’re backpacking on a budget, eating out is one of the quickest ways to drain your money. While trying new foods is one of the best parts of travelling, you can save your pennies by making some of your food yourself. If you’re staying at a hostel, chances are you’ve got access to a kitchen. And, unless you are hundreds of miles away from civilization, access to food to cook in it. Here are a few tips for cooking and eating at hostels:
Carry around basics. Keep light food that wont go off in your backpack. Keyword- light. This isn’t a food drive- don’t even think about carrying around cans unless you’ve got shoulders of steel. So loaf of bread- yes. Cans of soup- no. This is (foolishly?) assuming you actually have space to spare (and haven’t overpacked or over-shopped for souvenirs).
Watch out for freebies. Check out the kitchen facilities, before you go and buy any food. Most often you can find all sorts of spices, cooking oil, and if you’re lucky some other dried goods that people have left behind. Sometimes you’ll find some ominous plate with an ‘eat me!’ label in the fridge-try at your own risk.
Hostel in Inverness, Scotland
Attend the collective dinners. Many hostels will have nights (often once a week) where a big meal is made for all the guests, for a small fee. This is a good way to meet other travellers, eat cheap food, and if you’re lucky, try some regional specialties.
Keep it simple…or embrace an empty kitchen!
Obey fridge etiquette. Often hostels will have a fridge (or two or three) for the guests, in which you can keep your perishable food during your stay. Make sure you label it, and throw out (or give away) any extras when you leave. Nothing is worse then a fridge full of rotting food (especially when the cleaning staff are left to clean it out).
Hostel in Edinburgh
Be aware of your fellow guests. Chances are, there are a lot of other people using the kitchen at the same time. Don’t hog the stove/oven/counter. If you can, only use one pot or pan (at least at a time). Or just make a big dinner for everyone to share. And don’t forget to clean up after yourself!
Never eat alone. For all the reasons above- meet new people, try new food, save money, and save space. You’ll probably come across a whole lot of subtle cultural differences that you would have never otherwise noticed (like my Dutch friends who found it very strange that I toasted my bread for breakfast).
Dinner with Aussie and Indonesian friends in Athens, Greece
Always eat the continental breakfast. If you’re lucky, your hostel may have a free continental breakfast. Or charge a small fee for something simple. This is one of the easiest ways to save money. Now there’s probably a sign forbidding you from taking extra food….but you wouldn’t want anything to go to waste. Especially if the breakfast food looks more like your lunch food. There might have been some extra bread and meat and cheese that somehow ended up in my bag that may have been enjoyed over a few afternoons in Amsterdam….just use your discretion.
Free breakfast in Barcelona….better then nothing!
Contribute your leftovers. Just like those before you, contribute any non-perishables to the collective food shelf or cupboard when it’s time to go home.
Outdoor kitchen in Costa Rica
Embrace your new kitchens quirks. Like the lizards crawling all over the counter. Or the shifty looking propane tank you have to hook up for the stove to work. It’s all part of the experience.
Gnocchi bought from (supposedly) the best deli in Rome…cooked in the microwave…in tupperware. We got back to the owner casually telling us the stove was ‘dangerous’….