Save Money: Ideas for eating at “home” abroad

In our previous post on food, The Joy and Practicality of Grocery Shopping Abroad, we talked about how amazing the grocery shopping experience can be when you’re traveling. It’s an event in itself, and leads to new favorite snacks and gifts. And now that your shopping is done, it’s time to eat.

Nuclear potato chip in Cabo, and the moment my travel eating habits changed forever.

Why should I eat at home!? Sounds boring.

There are many reasons to eat at “home.” (1) Save your money for truly memorable meals instead of blowing money on mediocre tourist trap “hanger” meals out of necessity. (2) Save time. Sure, there’s nothing better than an awesome restaurant meal as part of the traveling experience in and of itself, but I also enjoy being on the go. If you at least eat breakfast at home, you’re saving valuable time in the morning not spent Googling or going out of your way to find standard breakfast fare. Coffee is a different story. Go ahead and spend time looking for that. (3) Build confidence and planning skills. Once you start traveling in this way, it will become second nature. Nothing feels better than keeping some money in your pocket while being proud of your own resourcefulness. (4) It’s fun! Shopping and cooking with your travel companions is the stuff memories and inside jokes are made of.

Ideas for “home cooked meals” at every level

Here are some ideas on how to eat at home whether you’re hosteling or hoteling:

  • Picnicking: This is our favorite option. Hopefully it’s a nice day and you can visit grocery stores, farmers markets, or street vendors, and enjoy your meals outdoors. Find a park, a space in the square, or a spot along a river and people watch while sharing a simple meal of bread, cheese, fruit, and a bottle of local wine or beer.
  • Bare-bones room: Think simple food that’s safe at room temp. Bananas, apples, grapes, hard cheese, dry charcuterie, trail mix, crusty bread, nut butters, crackers, chips, dried fruit, avocado, celery, sugar snap peas, carrots, popcorn (pre-popped), nuts, olives, pickles, honey, red wine, beer (chilled by plugging the sink with cool water), and any food safe at room temp or eaten within a couple hours. 
  • Room with minimal amenities (e.g., hot water kettle/coffee pot, and drinking glasses): See the above food, plus: teas, instant or brewed coffee, hot cocoa, instant ramen, instant soup, dehydrated meals, oatmeal, couscous, rice noodles, miso soup, soft boiled eggs
  • Room with mini fridge and/or microwave: The possibilities are nearly endless, depending on how much space you have. See all the foods above, plus hard-boiled eggs, hummus and dips, orzo, tabbouleh, leftovers, yogurts, perishables, microwave popcorn, baked potatoes, instant rice, white wine and beers, frozen meals
  • Room with electric range, microwave, and minimal cookware: Often the cookware you’ll find is not high quality or is in disrepair, so don’t have high expectations and keep it simple. Make a small batch of pasta and sauce, rice, beans, meal-in-a-box or meal-in-a-bag, sauteed veggies, stir fry, small cuts of meat that cook quickly, eggs, breakfast casseroles for your group, cookies, and whatever is possible with the tools you have. Baked goods like muffins or cookies can be taken with you and can sit at room temperature. 

In our next post on this topic, we’ll cover a packing (or shopping) list that can make eating at home much easier. How are you going to share a bottle of wine by the Seine without a wine key or cups? We’ve got solutions, friends, so stay tuned!

What’s the most creative meal you’ve eaten or cooked at “home” while traveling? Let us know!


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