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If the idea of cooking in hostels sounds less than pleasant to you, you’re not alone! Here are some tips that help us survive the hostel kitchen including some healthy, budget-friendly, and easy meal ideas.
Tips for Cooking in Hostels
After travelling in Southeast Asia where hostel kitchens are non-existent thanks to super affordable street food, it was somewhat of a shock to find kitchens in nearly every hostel in South America when we arrived.
We like to cook normally at home, but cooking in hostels poses a whole new list of challenges. Usually, the equipment is limited, you are sharing the area with a ton of other people, not to mention the availability of ingredients in other parts of the world can be limited. When cooking in hostels, you usually want to get in and out quickly, but at the same time, cook something delicious and healthy.
It is all so complicated!
1. Cook at unusual times
If you are looking to cook dinner at the peak dinner time of 7 pm, you will be sharing the kitchen with everybody else. My best advice is to eat early or late in order to avoid peak kitchen times. This will save your patience and make the overall experience a lot less chaotic.
If you eat early, the kitchen will likely to be cleaner as well!
2. Carry some of your own equipment
You can’t go wrong with a good non-stick pot or pan. Unfortunately, many hostels have limited cook utensils and what they do have is often in dire condition.
If you have room in your backpack, carry a small non-stick frying pan with you. You will be thankful you did when you don’t have to scrub the pan for hours just to get it clean. If that sounds like too much to carry a sharp fold up knife will save hours of frustration!
3. Make one-pot dishes
The secret to cooking in hostels is to cook meals that are made in one pot or pan. This limits the number of dishes you need to use and will keep things simple. Your hostel-mates would not be very happy to discover you cooking broccoli in one pot, potatoes in the oven, and chicken in the frying pan all at once. Be curtious and keep it simple!
So what do I recommend for dishes to cook in hostels? Here are my go-tos.
Pasta and veggies
Cook up a pasta, add some veggies and then a sauce. But get creatuve! Do a penne and broccoli in a cream sauce, or you can’t beat red sauce pasta with egg plant and onion. Load the oasta up with veggies to keep it healthy, and even add a meat if you are feeling fancy.
Making little thin-crust pizzas on tortillas are some of my favourites. Tortillas or wraps can be found easily almost everywhere in the world (and certainly in Latin America.) All you need is a collection of your favourite ingredients or whatever you can find, some tomato paste and cheese. Put them on the wrap and bake in the oven. Super easy and tasty!
Two-minute noodles are a staple for backpackers no matter where in the world you are. But take those two-minute noodles up a notch, add a proper stir-fry sauce and veggies and fry those noodles up. Cheap, simple, and actually has some nutritional value.
Instead of using noodles, you can always use rice too!
Salad with Eggs
In many places around the world fruit and vegetables are quite cheap, so take advantage and make a salad which actually requires no cooking at all!
If you still want some protein, hard boil a couple of eggs and add them to the salad!
Lots of hostels have BBQ’s or outdoor grills that are a great way to get out of the hostel kitchen! Take advantage of these BBQ’s and make some skewers, hot dogs, burgers, grilled veggies, or anything else you can think of! BBQ also means there will a lot fewer dishes afterwards!
4. Eat local ingredients
All of the dishes I recommend making are great because you can really put anything in them!
The secret to eating on a budget is to eat what is in season and available locally. Go to the markets and take notice of what seems to be abundant, those items will be the cheapest and freshest. In some places, we went potatoes cost practically nothing, and in others, they were super expensive! Sometimes avocados were only $0.25 and some places we couldn’t find them at all. You need to eat what the locals do and be flexible!
Always cook more than you need! If you are staying in one hostel for a couple of days, save yourself the effort of having to cook all your meals and make enough for leftovers.
6. Carry Staple Cooking Ingredients with you
We always have a bag of cooking essentials that go with us everywhere. In there, we keep things like cooking oil, salt and pepper, some other spices we like such as oregano, rice, pasta, pasta sauce, peanut butter, bread and then some fruits and veggies we always eat and cook with such as tomatoes, onions, bananas. It good to always have some essentials with you, this will prevent you from starving or having to eat an expensive meal out because you can’t be bothered to go find ingredients first.
Last but not least…
While these six tips for cooking in hostels will help you, the most important thing is to book the right hostel! Some hostels hold too many people for the size of the kitchen, some have terrible facilities and equipment, and some don’t have a kitchen at all! It is important to look at hostel reviews and facilities available before booking.
If you are booking on the spot, you can ask to have a look around before agreeing to stay and this way you can see the state of the kitchen!
No matter what you do, cooking in hostels will never be as good as using your kitchen at home – but while on the road it will have to do! Cooking in hostels is a great way to keep your travels on budget as well as to try and eat as healthy as possible!
Do you have meals you always make in hostels? Let us know in the comments!
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