One of 5 ways to increase your travel fund is to spend fewer nights out. As I mentioned on Dan’s post, knowing how to throw together a meal can help you do just that. In my travels I’ve noticed some common themes among the peasant foods (many of which I grew up on) around the world – they are cheap, hearty, and easy to cook and expand upon.
Cooking your own meals is one of the best ways to save money whether you’re at home saving for your next trip or on the road already. You can learn a lot from the locals in any country by taking notice of the staple foods and how they’re prepared, while at the same time learning about the culture around you.
1. Grains: Quinoa
This South American grain was known to the Incas as “the mother of all grains” and has a high complete protein content (~15%). Quinoa can be prepared much like rice (1 part water to 1 part quinoa), mixed with an assortment of spices, and goes great with chopped onions, tomatoes, next to a plate of beans.
Using whole grains you can even make no-knead bread or go with the always-easy grain to cook, rice.
2. Beans: Chickpeas
Hummus, falafel, chana masala, the list goes on and on. Also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas are high in protein and fiber, like quinoa. Chickpeas are cheap and can be cooked and mashed in almost an endless number of ways.
Chickpeas are legumes like beans, lentils, and peanuts – all of which have a high protein content and are very easy to prepare (boil and and add to it).
3. Fruit: Guacamole
The basic ingredient of guacamole, the avocado, is high in fiber and unsaturated fats making it a filling and healthy meal. The nice thing about guacamole is that it doesn’t require cooking and all you need other than avocados are onions, tomatoes, chilies, and cilantro. You can try adding lemon or lime based on your tastes and get creative with your own recipe.
Grab some chips or bread and you’ve just gotten your grains and 3 fruits in one sitting.
Add Some Spice
I once heard a world-famous chef (don’t recall which one) say the only difference between him and everyone else was he knew what spices to use and how much to add to a given dish. There is one common feature you’ll find to many international staples – spices, and lots of them. Most spices are cheap and can pack a punch of flavor to many of these peasant dishes which tend to be bland on their own (especially grains and beans).
Start from the bottom up and build your meals on the foundation of most peasant meals around the world – grains, legumes, and spices. (I could also add soups based on staples to the list as well.) Eating out all the time is one of the worst things to do on your staycation and a fast way to go through your money when traveling. It turns out that these and the other 5 easiest foods to cook are also some of the cheapest and can generally be bought in bulk.
You can combine these foods with countless spices to create unique flavors and save a substantial amount of money so can save money for traveling and show off your cooking skills on your next trip.
[photos by: massdistraction, bricolage.108, Seitti, Oberazzi]
I feel like I eat pasta almost everyday because it’s cheap, but mainly because I lack creativity in the kitchen – thanks for the tips!
So much you can do with the foods mentioned above and they’re cheap too 🙂
It’s easy to start with – most Turkish foods for example are made with the same base of butter (or olive oil), sauteed onions, tomato paste and then add beans, rice, or vegetables…any of those will do with some water on top and let it boil until it gets thick. Then some spice and then you’re set.
now that’s a lot of spice. I need to take a course in how to use herbs and spices 101!
you know what’s funny, Quinoa is sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo expensive here and actually you can maybe, if you’re lucky, find it in one store in all of Guatemala and the same for Costa Rica.
However, i can literally survive on good bread and butter!!!!!!! i’ll be fine once we go to europe. I actally prefer it over other food:)
Every time I think I’ve pretty much heard about all the spices I discover so many more.
Surprising quinoa is so expensive and hard to find in both Guatemala and Costa Rica. Wish I could do just bread and butter, think I’m spoiled by the Mediterranean diet where every meal has lots of dishes…of course though, with lots and lots of bread 🙂
Hmmm. This is interesting. I wonder if I should do a series of recipes that are cheap and easy to make — that is, perfect hostel recipes. We have a bunch of recipes that we regularly make when we are traveling because they require minimal ingredients and are inexpensive. My very favorite is mujahdrah consisting of rice, lentils, and onions. How much cheaper can you get?
Ok you got my mouth watering! Rice, lentils and onions three of my favourite foods. Can I have the recipe? Thanks 🙂
See Akila, now you have two votes to post the recipe 🙂
Yes Akila, you should! I thought about doing it myself but don’t think it would be my forte. I’d be interested in checking out some of your recipes. Be sure to add pictures too 😉
I should have added onion to this list in it’s own category. Cheap, healthy, easy…and perfect for many dishes with lentils and rice!
Done and done. I am out of town this week but will get the post up in the next couple of weeks. And there will be lots of pics, of course!
Fran, I’ll let you know when the link is up, but it is so simple that I almost feel silly giving directions. Bring about 4-5 cups of water (I start with 4 and then check halfway through to see if the lentils need to be cooked longer) to a boil and dump in 1 cup of (preferably black) lentils and 1 cup of brown rice. In the meantime, slice a large onion thinly and cook it in a saute pan over low heat with a tablespoon of oil or butter. You want the onion to caramelize slowly and be almost blackened. It should take you about 40 minutes to caramelize the onion and cook the rice and lentils. Once the rice and lentils are cooked, season with salt and pepper and top with the caramelized onions. Super fast, cheap, and delicious.
Thought you might be interested in Wanderlust Wednesday where you can add links for your foodie posts.
By the way, I always eat like a peasant, except when I fall for a chocolate bar of course. Nice colourful photos.
Thanks Heather, that gives me some good ideas for a food-related post next Wednesday. I also eat like a peasant too but have a soft spot for chocolate myself 🙂
Peasant foods! I never heard of it put that way. Very interesting. Anyway, I won’t have any problems eating these foods, since I grew up with them anyway. This is such a good post! I wish I’d thought of it first 🙂 Bravo! I thoroughly enjoyed it. It makes me absolutely guilty to have a cone of Haagen Dazs vanilla bean ice cream on my hand right now…
haha, well you’ve got to have luxury from time to time and I can’t think of a better way than ice cream!
i wonder if this will come in handy outside of back packing like can a reasonable college student afford too make this see ya bye
It most definitely will, budget food is budget food 🙂