Your kitchen may not always be well-equipped when you’re traveling. You probably won’t have sharp knives, the utensils might be lacking, and pots, pans, and stoves may or may not be available. But those types of issues are expected, and there are plenty of ways to work around them.
Surprisingly, the thing we’ve struggled with the most is having appropriate seasonings to cook anything. We were shocked at how many kitchens don’t even have seasonings as basic as salt and pepper. We even ended up purchasing a pepper shaker and gave up some of our precious space in our backpack to take it with us. You’ll always be able to find a way to cook your ramen noodles or your rice and beans, but rice and beans with no seasoning just sucks.
Of course you can just buy spices, but they will usually be at least a few dollars EACH, and can easily end up costing you more than the rest of the meal combined. And if you’re moving around a lot, you likely will end up with jars of spices that are still mostly full that will need to be thrown away or left behind when you leave, unless you specifically dedicated space in your pack for this.
So we’ve started to get creative to solve the never-ending spice dilemma.
Solution 1: Taco salad. Taco salad is a winner because you can season the whole thing with a packet of taco seasoning that can generally be purchased for about $1 in the Mexican foods section of an average grocery store. Note: any spice blend that comes in a packet is a winner – they’re usually cheap and made to be used up in just a meal or two.
Solution 2: Soup-style ramen noodles, with a little pizzazz. Everyone knows ramen noodles are dirt cheap, but they also are pretty boring and probably not what you envisioned yourself eating while overlooking a beautiful Australian sunset. However, they will have a highly flavorful spice pack included. That got us thinking… why can’t we just use the noodles and spice pack, and then add our own fresh ingredients from the grocery store? You’ll get a meal with fresh veggies, fresh protein, a bit of carbs, and there won’t be any need to buy or otherwise acquire any seasoning! We call it Souped Up Ramen.
Sydney, Australia is expensive, so that’s when we gave it a shot for the first time. Here’s how we did it:
NOTE: Our grocery purchases are always based on what happens to be on sale at that particular moment in time. If you want to eat as cheaply as possible, we highly recommend that you stay flexible with the ingredients you choose. First, we will give you the non-specific list of ingredients. Then, we’ll show you exactly what we bought when we made it in Sydney.
General Overview of Ingredients
- Between 750-1000 g fresh or frozen vegetables (find cheap or on-sale options)
- Around 500 g meat (find cheap or on-sale options)
- 2-3 packs of pre-packaged soup-style ramen noodles (may be most cost effective to buy these in a 5-pack)
Again, instead of a specific grocery list, use the above guidelines and buy whatever is on sale or cheapest at the store you are in. This is going to vary widely based on the season, the country you are in, and potentially even the store you are shopping in. So be willing to be flexible with what you use.
- Flat mushrooms 375 g – $2.37 (on sale)
- Red bell peppers (aka capsicums) 440 g – $2.04
- Chicken thighs 500 g – $2.91 (on sale, and dark meat is almost always cheaper than white meat)
- 2 packs spicy, so
- up-style* ramen noodles ~$0.40 (we actually bought these in Malaysia in a 5-pack for about $2, and had a couple packs leftover that we traveled with)
*We HIGHLY recommend getting the soup-style ramen noodles. By “soup-style” we mean the kind that has lots of broth when it’s prepared. When shopping for ramen, read the packaging and make sure it doesn’t instruct you to drain the noodles during preparation. If the instructions are in a different language, just look at the picture on the front and make your best guess! The soup-style noodles tend to have more seasoning since they are designed to flavor an entire bowl of broth instead of just the noodles – more flavor = more yummy.
- Wash and chop up your veggies first and set them aside
- Chop up your meat next (TIP: chopping veggies before raw meat allows you to use one cutting board and one knife without needing to clean them in between)
- Put your meat into a large pot and turn stove on high (if you have oil or seasoning available, you can add some now)
- Find out how much water is called for in your ramen noodles, and boil that amount in a water boiler
- Cook the meat on high until it is browned – it does NOT need to be cooked all the way through
- Add the veggies to the pot and mix them in with your meat*
- Pour in your boiling water to the pot
- Add the seasoning packets from the noodles
- Bring the pot back to a boil
- Add your noodles and cook for the amount of time instructed on the package
*We actually put our red bell peppers in after adding the noodles. This is because we didn’t want them to be fully boiled and soft – we wanted them to stay crisp. Any veggies that you want to be more crisp and less soft you can add later in the process.
If you make the above recipe for two people with normal appetites, you will definitely have some leftovers. But if you have ridiculous appetites like we do, you MIGHT be able to finish it in one sitting. Enjoy!