8 Smart Tips for Cheap Hostel Cooking
Cooking Your Own Food Is a Great Way to Save Money
One of the many myths about hostels is that the only perk they provide is a cheap place to lay your head at night. But besides being a great place to meet people while traveling, another major advantage of hostels is that they have a kitchen, allowing you to save even more money.
Staying at a hostel with a kitchen gives you the opportunity to prepare your own food rather than having to dine out in expensive restaurants every day. Not only is cooking your own food cheaper and healthier, it can also be a great way to interact with other hostel guests.
Here are some tips to keep in mind for hostel cooking:
1. Look in the “Free Food” Bin
Almost every hostel I have ever been in has had a “free food” bin, basket or shelf that is a treasure trove just waiting to be discovered. When other backpackers have leftover items like half a bag of rice, a few onions or the rest of a bottle of hot sauce that they cannot bring with them in their bags, they leave them on the communal shelf for others to use.
Before you hit the supermarket, make sure that you check out the spices and food in the “free food” section so that you know what you already have to work with.
2. Check What The Kitchen Has
Hostel kitchens are unpredictable. Some of them will be fully equipped with brand new pots and pans, a blender, an oven, a toaster and a microwave. Some will only have a meager hot plate, a spatula and a few old pans.
It’s important to check out the kitchen before you go to the supermarket to shop for supplies, so that you know how you will be able to prepare food. For example, if you buy a lot of fruit because you plan to make smoothies, make sure you have checked the hostel has a blender first.
3. Cook What’s Local
When you are deciding what to cook, take a look at the local markets and see what foods are abundant and cheap. For example, don’t try to buy tropical fruits in Scandinavia as they will be extremely expensive and not very good.
If you are in somewhere like Mexico or Brazil you will find pineapples, mangoes and other fruits are cheap and delicious. Take your cues from the local cuisine; the people who live there will know what foods are the most plentiful and affordable.
Also, make sure that you check out the local farmers markets, not just the big name supermarkets. Usually you will find fruits and vegetables straight from the local farmers for a lot cheaper.
4. Buy Versatile Ingredients
Look for simple ingredients that can be used in a lot of ways. For example, if you pick up some tomatoes at the market then you can use them alongside your scrambled eggs at breakfast, on a sandwich with avocado, chicken and lettuce at lunch and in a tomato-based spicy pasta at dinner.
Be creative and see how many different dishes you can prepare with the simple ingredients that you find at your location.
5. Bring Your Own Containers
If there is room in your backpack, bring a few small plastic containers with you on your travels. When you make a meal in the hostel, you will be able to package up the leftovers and save them for the next day.
This makes your food stretch further so that you will be saving even more money.
6. Carry Some Essentials
In my backpack right now there is a food bag that contains a few essentials, including Nutella, hot sauce, instant coffee, tea bags and other spices and condiments. This means that whenever we move to a new location we don’t have to buy all of these items again.
It’s very handy and it has saved us a lot of money.
7. Share With Others
It’s cheaper to buy food in larger packages, so why not team up with a few other people from your hostel and chip in for a meal together. Not only will you save money, but cooking up a feast together will be a lot of fun.
You can share your favorite recipes and make some new friends in the process.
8. Keep it Simple, Fresh and Healthy
Your cooking budget will start to get expensive if you are buying too many ready-made meals and junk food. The cheapest food will be fruits, vegetables, meat, potatoes, rice and other basics — which are also a lot healthier!
Of course, you can always indulge in your favorite convenience foods now and then for a treat, but keeping your meals simple and healthy will ensure that you keep your food budget down.
These are just a few great tips to keep in mind when you are cooking in a hostel. Bon appetit!