If you’ve ever stayed in a hostel, then you will learn that their kitchens can vary hugely. One hostel’s ‘cooking facilities’ may mean a microwave and a fridge, whereas another might mean 10 rows of hobs, a Master Chef-worthy range of cooking implements and six fridges (my advice is to check pictures first). Your first time cooking in a hostel can be pretty stressful, so I’m going to share my recommended recipes and cooking advice!
I tend to focus on food that doesn’t need to be kept in the fridge, and instead can be stored on a shelf. This means dried foods like pasta and rice, and plenty of tins. It’s very unlikely that your hostel will have a freezer so don’t buy frozen food unless you plan on eating it immediately! I love to eat fruit and vegetables but to avoid wasting of gone off food I try to buy tinned or dried fruit and veg. I’ll buy fresh if I plan on eating it immediately, or if it doesn’t need any special storage such as bananas.
I try to balance convenience with the environmental impact of my purchases, This means that although buying mini cartons of soya milk may be really convenient, the amount of packaging this produces doesn’t seem worth it to me. However if something would have to remain open in the fridge (for example a tin of beans or sweetcorn) then I would rather opt for multiple single serving tins to keep things hygienic and also they can be recycled!
If possible, check out some local markets where you are staying! These are a great option for buying local, seasonal foods. They are often cheaper as well and you can just buy as much as you need which is great for staying in hostels.
When cooking in a hostel you want to focus on quick meals that don’t require a huge amount of ingredients or garnishes such as seasoning. I also like to keep my meals cheap as I travel on a typical backpacker budget! All of these recipe ideas will contain at least one of your five a day to make sure you don’t shrivel up whilst travelling 😉
- Porridge with dried fruit
Porridge is a lifesaver breakfast for me when travelling! Oats are super cheap and easy to store, in an emergency it can be made up just with water and it is filling and healthy. I simply add my oats and soya milk (or water) together in a bowl and microwave them until they get to the consistency I like. Then top with dried fruit (raisins are cheap and easy to find) and voila! Only using one bowl makes it easy to wash up but if you’re feeling fancy then feel free to make this in a saucepan. If you want your porridge sweet then hostels will normally have sugar on a free food shelf.
- Cereal bar and a banana
A good cereal bar (I love Belvita soft bakes, mmm) will normally contain enough calories to keep you going until your next snack or meal, and will hopefully be nutritionally balanced. Don’t be afraid to check supermarket labels to check you’re actually buying something worth replacing breakfast with! I like to have these with a banana as well for some extra calories and nutrients. This breakfast is perfect for busy days where you need something quick you can eat on the go.
- Toast and nut butter
Bread products are cheap to buy, although think carefully about how much time you have before buying a family-sized bag of bread! If you want to change it up then muffins, bagels or crumpets are all good for breakfast! Toast them and then top with protein filled nut butter and some sliced banana, yum!
If you’ve already bought bread for breakfast, then making a sandwich for lunch is easy. I like to be inventive with my fillings based on what food is available to me. Hummus and a small bag of salad is good, or more nut butter is a very quick option! If you fancy a change, then regular bread can be swapped for wraps. This lunch can be packed in your bag and taken with you.
- Beans on toast
Ah, a British classic. A couple of slices of toast, a tin of microwaved beans and Bob’s your uncle. This lunch option is quick, filling, warming and contains both protein and one of your five a day! Add a side of avocado for some more fats and calories if you want. This option also works great for a filling breakfast or quick dinner.
- Instant noodles and veg
It had to be on this list somewhere… Some instant noodles combined with tinned vegetables (sweetcorn or mixed veg would be my recommendation) makes a super fast lunch that will fill you up and leave you ready to explore again ASAP! Make the noodles in the microwave or buy the ‘just add boiling water’ variety to minimise clean up time.
- Pasta with sauce and veg
Pasta is definitely my hostel staple, it’s cheap, easy to cook and goes with everything. Cook your pasta and any veg you want, stir through a sauce (tomato based is my favourite) and eat up! If you want some more protein then add some beans (I like chickpeas) or a meat replacement such as tofu.
- Rice, beans and veg
Rice is another hostel essential. If you’re staying for more than a night or two then buy a proper bag of rice (leave your leftovers to the free food shelf) but if you’re just on a flying visit then microwave in a bag rice is a great option. Add beans of your choice, I like the mixed beans in a spicy tomato sauce for some variety and then finish off with any vegetables available to you. I like to have this meal with sweetcorn and some avocado. Swap the rice for tortillas for some variety.
- Stir fry
I love the pre-mixed bags of stir fry veg that you can buy in most supermarkets, as it is quick and saves you from spending money on buying all the vegetables separately. This can be made with rice, dried noodles or instant noodles! Instant noodles work great here as they include the seasoning to keep this meal full of flavour. Simply cook up your vegetables and carbs and throw them together.
I normally like a quick breakfast in the morning that will keep me full, and then find somewhere new to eat for lunch so I can try the food on offer in the area. I then opt for dinner in the hostel. This works well for me as I’m not that interested in exploring nightlife so don’t mind being in my hostel in the evening, and I find places are emptier and often cheaper when dining at lunchtime.
What is your go-to meal when travelling? Do you prefer to eat out or self cater?