When traveling there are ways to get around paying for a lot of things. You can work for accommodation, crash with people you know or meet…I spend much of my time walking rather than taking transportation, etc. But the thing that is hardest to get for free is food. And obviously we all have to eat. So how do you eat healthy on a backpackers budget? It’s easier than you think.
Eat out as little as possible. Yes, there will be some days where you’re out and about exploring and will need to stop for a bite to eat, but definitely do not make this an everyday thing. It will break your budget. Save eating out for those times when there is a restaurant that you’re dying to try (for me it’s almost ever vegan restaurant ever but I still have to limit it).
Take advantage of the food wherever you are staying. Hostels and hotels generally offer free breakfast. Usually it’s not the healthiest breakfast but take what you can. If fruit is available, take advantage of it. Take advantage of the free tea and coffee offered rather than going to the closest coffee shop. Check your hostel to see if they have a “Free Food” spot. This is common because people will leave behind food that they didn’t use and couldn’t take with them. I found gluten-free brown rice spaghetti..jackpot! But this could also be a good place to find spices to add to foods if you’re lucky! When I did volunteer travel, most meals were included. However, if I was out of the house for a meal, I wouldn’t get it. If you are doing something like this, try to plan to be there for meal times. Sometimes you can talk to your host family or whoever you are staying with and ask them to set it aside, but this is not always possible. Hostels will also sometimes have events that involve food, so go for it! Even if it’s not the healthiest choice, it may be best for your budget and then you can balance it out with other healthy choices. Just remember balance is always key.
Buy food that can be made in different ways. You can make so many different meals with the same ingredients. Use your imagination. I generally don’t eat tofu, but I bought some my first week in Australia and was able to use it so many different ways. Tofu scramble for breakfast, spicy tofu sandwich with kale for lunch, tofu and veggie spaghetti for dinner. I’m not saying to eat tofu every meal (because you should not), but find something to be the base of your meals for a couple days and add other ingredients around that, such as beans or tofu. With beans you can make chili, tacos, rice and beans, etc. Add a lot of veggies and some grains in with your base and you have a meal.
Set a budget and plan. Know how much you can spend on food for the week. Don’t go to the grocery store and grab whatever you see. Plan what you are going to make. This will help you to minimize the amount of ingredients you need to buy, therefore saving money. For example, I made tofu taco salad, chili and veggie soup one week. I bought quinoa in bulk and used it in all of these recipes, I bought two cans of beans and split them between the recipes, I used similar spices for all of them, and the same veggies were put into most them. This also eliminates wasting food and again, that means saving money.
Here are some ideas for meals. They can be put together in so many different ways.
Chia pudding (with fruit)
Tofu/Bean Taco Salad
Pasta with veggies and tofu/beans
Tofu veggie sandwich
Buffalo Caulifower Veggiewich
Tip: Keep some lemons and Greens Powder on hand to add to hot water in the morning to help detox and get your servings of greens in.