cheap and easy meals for travellers - food

From our experience visiting hundreds of supermarkets, small stores, and simple markets all over the world, the meals we can prepare really depend on what ingredients are available.

From South America to the Caribbean, Africa and beyond – there are a bunch of reliable and inexpensive ingredients that you will find available on most continents.

We’ve based these quick, cheap and easy meals on this.

Staple ingredients to create cheap and easy meals for travellers:

The following ingredients are often available all over the world:

  • Tinned tomatoes
  • tinned tuna
  • Eggs
  • bread (either baguettes, sliced or flatbread)
  • pulses – dried or canned (chickpeas, lentils)
  • pasta (spaghetti or penne)
  • fresh garlic, onion & root vegetables such as potatoes and carrots
  • rice or couscous
  • soy sauce
  • coconut milk
  • instant noodles
  • oil, butter or margarine

Believe it or not, we’ve been living this travel lifestyle for so long now that we’ve created a few habits to ensure we always eat well.

Cheap and easy meals for travellers are something that I love to create.

Spice up your travelling life!

One thing we do is travel with a small arsenal of spices in our carry-on backpacks.

The main spices are garam masala, curry powder, ground cumin, paprika, dried Italian herbs, salt, and pepper.

They’re light to carry, and if you enjoy food with flavour, it’s worth throwing them in your bag when you hit the road.

cheap and easy meals for travellers - campervan iceland
Marty enjoying lunch on our road trip in Iceland

These are easy meals that you may need to cook anywhere.

Perhaps you can cook this meal from the back of a campervan using one small gas cooker and one saucepan (like this one below), in a busy shared kitchen at a hostel, or from the kitchen included in your rented apartment.

Disclaimer: Before we share our cheap and easy meals for travellers, these simple recipes are intended to be meals that everybody can cook, generally with limited cooking ingredients and facilities.

Travellers love to have access to a kitchen

As travellers, we don’t usually get to choose the state of the cookware we use. More often than not, we’ve got to make do with a scratched saucepan, a pot without a handle or lid, and blunt knives.

We’re often just happy to have access to a kitchen to cook food we know and enjoy.

These recipes don’t require expert knife skills and are meant to be versatile, so feel free to add your spin to them. All of the cheap and easy meals for travellers we’ve suggested here only require one stove burner to create. How easy is that?

We’ve also created them with the hope of keeping costs down and trying to keep them relatively filling and nutritious. Here goes!  

7 Cheap and Easy Meals for Travellers:

1) Shakshuka (baked eggs)

cheap and easy meals for travellers - shakshuka
Cheap and easy meals for travellers – Shakshuka

This dish requires only one saucepan. It’s quick and easy to cook, and most ingredients are cheap and readily available in many countries. I love this one, and that’s why it is first on my list of cheap and easy meals for travellers.

Finely dice one brown onion and mince three cloves of garlic. Place some oil in a saucepan and cook the onion and garlic on low heat until translucent (about 3-4 mins).

Add 1 tsp of cumin, 2 tsp of smoked paprika, 1/4 tsp of chilli powder (if you want a little heat), to the above mix and cook for another minute.

Pour 1 can of crushed or diced tomatoes and 1 cup of water into the pan. Once the mixture is bubbling and hot, turn down the heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Once it has thickened, add four eggs and some salt and pepper to the pan. Cover the eggs with a little of the hot tomato sauce mix.

Turn to low and cover until the eggs are cooked to your liking. If you like your eggs a little runny, reduce the cooking time.

Once you’re happy with it, remove it from the heat, and you can see that the egg whites have cooked through. Enjoy with some fresh, crusty bread and a spoonful of Greek yogurt (if you have it).

(The recipe above serves two people)

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2) Stir fry with noodles or rice

Use any vegetables on hand to cook this easy stir fry. You can also add a can of chickpeas, lentils or kidney beans to bulk it out.

Vegetables such as onion, carrots, sweet potato, zucchini, broccoli, or any greens, peppers, cabbage, squash, and garlic will be perfect.

cheap and easy meals for travellers - vegetable stir fry

Chop all the vegetables into similar-sized pieces. Cook the root vegetables first, as they’ll take the longest. We usually cook the vegetables in batches so you can keep the pan reasonably hot (or else you may end up with soggy vegetables—no thanks).

Once everything is cooked, add it back to the pan and any canned pulses you want to add to this recipe. Add some soy sauce and stir; I like to add chilli flakes to spice it up a little.

Once it’s heated through, remove it from the heat and serve over some steamed rice.

Alternatively, you can cook a couple of cheap packets of instant noodles (without the flavouring) and stir through your vegetables for something different. You can honestly create this cheap and easy meal for travellers with anything. Don’t be afraid to get creative!

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3) Pasta with vegetable & tomato sauce 

Finely dice one onion (red or brown) and mince three garlic cloves.

Add oil to a saucepan and cook the onion and garlic on medium heat until translucent. Add some simple chopped or grated vegetables, such as carrots, zucchini, or sweet potato, to the saucepan.

If you have any dried Italian herbs (or better yet, some fresh herbs), then add half a tsp to the pan.

Cook for a few minutes.

Add one tin of diced tomatoes and 1/2 cup of water and simmer for 10 mins.

cheap and easy meals for travellers - quick pasta dish

Once the sauce has thickened, take another pot of boiling water and cook some fresh penne or spaghetti.

Drain pasta, add to tomato-based sauce, and mix through. You can mix through a small tin of tuna if you wish. Easy.

**Add ingredients such as sliced olives, sundried tomatoes or fresh spinach to this if you have it on hand**

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4) Omelette or scrambled eggs 

Omelettes or scromelettes (a failed omelette that eventually turns into the scrambled egg) are super easy to cook, and it’s a cheap and filling option.

You can throw almost anything into a saucepan (diced red onion, tomato, peppers, corn, spinach, mushrooms, ham or salami) and cook until browned.

Turn the heat down and add some pre-prepared whisked eggs.

cheap and easy meals for travellers- easy omelette

Keep an eye on the pan. When it’s almost done, you can add some grated cheese or feta to the mixture before it’s done. I like to add some butter, salt, and pepper at the end.

Enjoy on its own with some fresh bread or put it inside a wrap with some salad, tomatoes, beans, and sour cream.

5) Chickpea & lentil curry with rice

Dice 1 brown onion, three cloves of garlic and 1 inch of fresh ginger (if you can’t find ginger, no problem – this is still a tasty recipe).

Heat some oil and cook the above ingredients until translucent.

Add two tablespoons of garam masala, 1 tsp curry powder, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper and cook until fragrant (1 min or so). Add a good pinch of chilli powder or flakes if you like it with a little more heat.

Add two cans of diced/crushed tomatoes plus 1 cup of water to the pan. Bring to a boil, and then turn the heat down. Simmer and cover with a lid.

cheap and easy meals for travellers- easy chickpea curry recipe

After 10 minutes, add 1 can of rinsed chickpeas and 1 can of rinsed lentils to the saucepan. Cook uncovered for a further 5 minutes—if you need to add a little more water, do so.

If possible, I like to add some fresh or frozen spinach to the mix.

Turn off the heat and squeeze in the juice of half a lemon. Add some sour cream or Greek yoghurt if you’d prefer a creamier texture to the curry.

Alternatively, you can add coconut milk to this curry if you wish.

In a separate pot, cook some rice or prepare couscous to accompany the meal. This is a personal favourite of mine. I love to cook it because it is easy, quick, and delicious. It deserves a spot on my list of cheap and easy meals for travellers.

(Recipe above serves four people)

6) Pasta with oil, garlic, lemon and tuna

This wouldn’t be a list of cheap and easy meals for travellers without featuring a pasta dish, would it? It’s one of the easiest dishes to prepare, yet you can make some really tasty pasta meals with just a few ingredients.

Here is an easy pasta dish below: Dice one red onion and a few cloves of garlic.

Heat a saucepan and cook in a little oil on low heat. You can add anything else you have on hand for more flavour (bacon, salami, freshly diced tomato, sun-dried toms, tinned corn, lemon zest or olives).

Once this has cooked, add a cup of tinned tuna, salt & pepper, fresh lemon juice and a little more oil to the pan.

Cook some pasta on the side – around 150g per person. Keep some of the water from the cooked pasta.

Add pasta to the mix in the saucepan, plus a little of the cooking water. Stir and serve.

**If you have any cream available, you could easily turn this meal into a creamy pasta dish. Just add cream to the pan once you’ve cooked off ingredients and then simmer for a few minutes before adding to pasta**

7) Toasted sandwiches or baguettes 

These are always quick, cheap, and easy meals for travellers. Toasties are such a versatile and tasty meal to prepare—you can put almost anything inside them, obviously, depending on what you have in the fridge.

easy toasted sandwich fillings

You can use almost any type of bread, baguette, or wrap for this. Spread butter, margarine, or oil on both sides and fill with ingredients.

Place some oil in a saucepan on medium heat and cook the toastie on both sides until golden brown.

Some easy-filling combinations are mentioned below:

  • Salami, cheese
  • Ham, cheese, tomato
  • Cheese & tomato
  • Ham and egg
  • Egg and sauce
  • Leftover tom/veg sauce and egg
  • Leftover veg curry
  • Tinned tuna and cheese

The list is endless. If you’ve got access to fancier fillings – go for it!

There you have it! A small list of our go-to, cheap and easy meals for travellers.

Naturally, if you wanted to cook any of these meals at home, you’ll probably have more ingredients such as fresh herbs, delicious cheese and a range of proteins to ‘pimp up’ these simple recipes.  

Let us know if you try any of the meals we’ve suggested above. We firmly believe that food brings people together, and we’d love to know what cheap and easy meal for travellers you’d add to this list.