Enter your email address

10 Steps For Eating Healthy & Cheap at Hostels

by Meg · 32 comments

You would not believe the amount of “wow you must be rich!” comments I got from people back in the states when I told them about our RTW trip.

Well, I hate to disappoint people but Tony and I are anything but.

We have been able to afford this trip because we were diligent with our savings over the past couple of years and we have established a strict budget to follow when we are on the road. Some of our greatest expenses include flights, medical insurance, accommodations, and of course (this is me we are talking about afterall), food.

Early into our trip, we discovered that eating out three meals a day adds up quick. We also noticed that food seems to be  the easiest expense to control… and to get out of hand.

Sure, we love to occasionally splurge on a nice dinner out to sample the local global cuisines, but eating out every meal was taking its toll on our wallet and, quite frankly, it was getting a little boring.

We decided to spice things up and bust out our cooking skills in hostels and soon learned that the cheapest way to keep costs down in the food department is to cook meals as often as possible when on the road.

Most hostels abroad offer fully equipped kitchens for their guests, so why not take advantage of this? Trust me, your wallet (and waistline) will thank you.

A hostel kitchen that you are unfamiliar with might be intimidating and daunting, but with these 10 simple rules, you can turn any foreign kitchen into a Mecca for cheap, balanced meals while at a hostel.

10 Simple Rules for Cooking at Hostels


Eat healthy cheap meals at hostels

  1. Inspect the Kitchen: When you first arrive at a hostel, see what kitchen utensils are available to use, how much space is available in the  fridge, etc.  The last thing you want is to come to a hostel with a full arm of groceries to make a gourmet pasta dish, only to discover there is no pasta pot to cook with – or room in the fridge to store your yummy leftovers. Epic fail.
  2. Check For Shared Goodies: Also seek out what condiments are for shared use. Hostels often have communal olive oil, butter, and spices for guests to use, which is a huge perk and will save you from buying these at the store (and the hassle of packing them later when you move to your next destination).
  3. Buy Local: When you grocery shop, try and sample the local markets for produce and meat.  They often have fresher ingredients for a fraction of the price you would find in supermarkets.
  4. Think Small: Only buy groceries to last you for the next meal or two.  Don’t be that guy in the hostel taking up the entire shared fridge with a week’s worth of groceries.  Plus, doing it this way will allow you to shop for what you are particularly craving on a given day!
  5. Balance Your Day: Remember that eating on the road is a balancing act for both your body and wallet. Has your complementary hostel breakfast been heavy on the breads and pastries?  Shop for some protein like chicken or fish for lunch. Had a big meal out for lunch?  Make a light, simple, and inexpensive meal in the hostel kitchen for dinner. You get the point.
  6. Respect Time And Space: Cook meals that require little time to make with the fewest amount of kitchen utensils, such as pots and pans. There are other people that need to use the kitchen too, so you don’t want to take an hour using three of the four stove-top burners to make your famous paella.
  7. Keep It Simple: Going along with that, cook with the fewest amount of ingredients possible.  If you buy from local markets, your food is already incredibly fresh and doesn’t need a whole lot of additions to make it delicious.  Keep it simple and you will save a ton of money – and time in the kitchen.
  8. Cook During “Off Hours”:  In South America, everyone in our hostel wanted to start cooking dinner around 9:00PM. If you’re wise, you should be eating by 8:30… Unless you find pure enjoyment in duking it out in the kitchen with 20 other guests for the next available burner or waiting an hour plus for the kitchen frenzy to die down.
  9. Be A Neat Freak: I hope you are already doing this at home, but clean up after yourself once you are done using the kitchen.  Your hostel friends coming in after you will greatly appreciate it.
  10. Eat Balanced And Healthy Meals When You Can: Most importantly, when you have the opportunity to cook, eat balanced, healthy meals. When on the road, you often have to suck it up and eat whatever the airlines, bus companies, tour groups, and restaurants are feeding you. If you can eat a proper meal most of the time, then your body can handle the mystery meals every now and then. Remember, it’s all about balance.

To inspire our fellow road warriors, Tony and I will post a new recipe each week. Starting this Saturday, you fill find some of our favorite meals that are quick, easy, balanced, and most importantly, cheap for our readers to utilize. 

We hope you will leverage these tips and recipes on your adventures (and even at home) and we hope you can share some of your favorites with LandingStanding as well… Stay tuned!

Preparing healthy cheap food at hostels

What a great Sous-Chef!



About Meg
Exhausted from traveling every week as a Business Management Consultant early in my career, I took a year off in 2012 to travel at my own pace. I am a high-energy girl that loves being active, eating food, drinking wine, and exploring the world with my partner-in-crime (and husband), Tony! I now reside in Portland, Oregon and continue to write about travel, food, wine, and the awesome adventures we have in the Pacific NW!

Barb February 2, 2012 at 12:37 am

I LOVE THIS SITE!!!! Great recommendations.

Meg February 2, 2012 at 6:28 pm

Thanks! I look forward to beginning the food recipe series as there are so many delicious (and easy) dishes Tony and I have experimented with since being down in South America. Be sure to keep reading and please share any recipes you come across!

Caroline @ Traveling 9 to 5 February 2, 2012 at 5:50 am

Totally support cooking at home! We are only a couple weeks new on the road and I am already craving home cooked meals! We have gone in with a couple of people to help split the cost of groceries and all eat together, since it is harder cooking for only two.

Meg February 2, 2012 at 6:32 pm

Hi Caroline. What a great tip! It is nice to meet people in the hostels and make dinner together to cut down on costs and leftovers. We haven’t done it yet, but we did swap some of our wine in exchange for meat & cheese from some guests the other night – it was a win/win for both parties! Food at the restaurants is delicious but after awhile I start craving veggies!

Jen February 2, 2012 at 12:56 pm

LOVE this!! As people can eat healthy and cheap ANYWHERE – if they truly want too!! So fun to follow you two!!

Meg February 2, 2012 at 6:34 pm

Thanks Jen! Foreign grocery stores can be intimidating at first but once you learn the lay of the land, its an incredibly fun experience to cook abroad. As a sidenote, I just read through Ellie’s website – very impressive for such a young girl! Tony says hi too :-)

Blake February 2, 2012 at 1:56 pm

great article. great pic of Tony, but he better pay attention to what he is doing. like the wiffle, TR.

Meg February 2, 2012 at 6:38 pm

He makes an incredibly studly chef – even with a finger or two missing!

Kipp February 2, 2012 at 3:34 pm

It’s amazing how much of a perfect opposite this list is of Luis’s top 10 steps for eating/sharing the kitchen

Meg February 2, 2012 at 6:36 pm

hahaha oh how I would love to see his list! #1: Eat half of whatever you make/buy and leave it in the kitchen for 7 days (says Tony)

Andrew S February 2, 2012 at 9:11 pm

I’m sure you’re cooking some great food, since you are a CRL Iron Chef Champion.

Thanks for the tips on cooking in a hostel. I’m already planning sabbatical #2.

Meg February 3, 2012 at 11:28 am

Haha we all know who carried the CRL Iron Chef team! We have learned a lot from cooking on the road but it would be great to have some Alaskan Salmon to spice things up. I can’t wait to hear all about sabbatical #2 – Do South America!

Magz February 3, 2012 at 1:03 am

Here is your RTW iron chef challenge… Hostel Truffle Popcorn!!! GO.

Meg February 3, 2012 at 4:45 pm

Challenge accepted.

Jackie February 3, 2012 at 2:41 pm

dont eat too many beans or should i say FRIJOLES!!!!

Eating-in saves so much money.But it definitely takes organization and pre-planning. I bought this the other week and it works really well to map out our weeks meals.


Tofu with veggies, pasta with chicken,turkey or ham paninis are some great money savers…also breakfast for dinner is fun and cheap..

Meg February 3, 2012 at 4:44 pm

haha Tony would appreciate your “no frijoles” wisdom! That magnet is awesome. We have just been shopping for meals each day at a time since there isn’t much space in the shared fridges, so we have just been winging it at the stores as opposed to writing out grocery lists – But I gotta get me one of those when I am back in the states! All those meals you mentioned are so delicious and easy – One question though: Has Matt turned you into a meat eater? Wasn’t sure with the chicken pasta and ham panini recommendations! haha

Jackie February 3, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Yes i eat meat now. can you believe this! After 8years I love me some CARNE

Meg February 5, 2012 at 10:29 am

Yes! You and Matt should try to make Chilaquiles sometime – just had it the other night and I fell in LOVE!

Barry February 5, 2012 at 2:16 am

We need to get Magz a similar list for dining in NYC

Meg February 5, 2012 at 10:29 am


Jonathan February 6, 2012 at 7:53 pm

Hey that’s my hostel in those photos. I’ll be expecting a check in the mail. Just kidding. I finally had a chance to take a look and this is a really cool site you guys have here!

Meg February 9, 2012 at 10:08 pm

Hi Jonathan! The check has been sent! haha In all seriousness though, your kitchen at Surfista was awesome and inspired us to get cooking. We miss it! It definitely makes or breaks a hostel. Thanks for checking out our site and I hope all is going well getting Castillo Surfista off the ground. We actually met some folks down in Pucon that heard about your hostel from other backpackers – all good things of course! Take care and keep in touch :-)

Megan February 9, 2012 at 5:36 am

this is such an excellent idea! i have spent many days in hostels and never once considered cooking as an option!??? :) but i am completely with you that when traveling you can’t possibly eat three meals out a day (well, on our budgets that is!) i usually just buy a box of flatbread (knekkebrød they call it here in norway) and presliced cheese and eat that on my journey. but it’s not fun! cooking at the hostels has way more appeal for me!

enjoy yalls blog (found you through adventurous kate’s newsletter). excited to follow your journey through the world <3

Meg February 9, 2012 at 10:17 pm

Thanks Megan! Cooking at hostels seriously makes such a difference in quality of life on the road. Tony and I have actually had more fun (and in many situations, better meals) when cooking in as opposed to dining out. And there is often leftover money to buy a bottle of vino to accompany your meal! But of course, it’s always good to treat yourself to a nice dinner out on the town every now and then to sample the local cuisine!

I checked out your blog and love it! We are heading to Europe in April so I may be picking your brain about Norway. We will continue to follow your journeys and keep in touch!

Jessica November 9, 2012 at 6:22 pm

We are about to head out on our year sabbatical trip and this is GREAT advice to help us! Thank you!

Meg November 11, 2012 at 4:03 pm

You’re welcome Jessica and best of luck on your adventures!

Shannon November 6, 2014 at 4:54 pm

Hi Meg,

This is a great post, and some VERY helpful tops for anyone planning on making a meal, or two, or more during their travels. I think the key points here are #1 (knowing what tools you have to work with) and #7 (keep it simple), because cooking in an unfamiliar kitchen is challenging enough. While I didn’t start this comment intending to shamelessly plug (eek, sorry!), this ties in really nicely with a post I just made in a series I’m planning for “Traveler Friendly Recipes” (http://www.cameraandcarryon.com/2014/11/traveler-friendly-recipes-sausage-and-potatoes/). If you have any ideas and wish to share, I’d love if you’d get in touch! You guys seem great – glad I came across your site! Looking forward to connecting more and following your stories. :)

Meg November 7, 2014 at 10:48 am

It’s great to connect Shannon! I looked at your post and the recipe for sausage and potatoes looks delicious….I may have to make that in my home kitchen! The apple addition is inspired! Looking forward to staying in touch…

Dylan December 7, 2015 at 10:17 am

The9re8se GilbertOn January 14, 2011 at 8:24 pm I never lived near a beach of my life So what is like to live where you are? Where I was raised it was not usuunal in January to have -40 degrees during a week or two with a warm -25 degrees during the day Under -35C the kids have no school during mornings What is it like in winter where you live Meg? What does the beach looks like in winter? Can you go sea glass hunting?My questions are may be simple but I’m living in another up north and I know more about woods than beach!Thanks!The9re8se

Christina April 8, 2017 at 2:14 am

hope you make it home before Christmas- if you are stuck with your sister could be fun thLvuh?oOge the hairbraid and feather- so cool and old school. Stunning scarf I have regretted leaving on the shelf in Palma back in September arghhhhhh! Katie.xx

Comments on this entry are closed.

{ 2 trackbacks }

Older post:

Newer post: