How we eat healthy and cheap while traveling
A lot of bike tourists and backpackers eat instant, prepackaged and/or processed food, to save on the weight they are carrying. It is a bit different for us though, and not just because we want to avoid plastic or packaging in general. In this post, I will tell you about our buying and cooking habits, and how we solve healthy eating while camping.
What we eat
Eating healthy is a much debated topic nowadays, with people having good results from seemingly opposite diets. We believe in a varied diet, with an emphasis on quality and moderation. There is a huge difference between eating grass fed beef or factory products, white bread or whole grain, etc. The lion’s share of our food consists of fresh produce, whole grains, nuts, and some eggs, dairy and fish. Eating only a small amount of meat is easier on the body, and we feel more energized. There are also ethical and environmental reasons to consider, regarding factory farming especially. It’s not to say we never buy ramen, but we think of it as an emergency food, like when it was a risk if we could find an open shop in the Italian Alps.
So what does our daily food consists of exactly? Breakfast is almost always porridge, either made from oatflakes or muesli, to which we add a multitude of things like fresh fruits, nuts, seeds and cinnamon. We don’t use milk, but occasionally buy yoghurt, especially as we are in Greece right now, where it’s hard to resist the exceptional taste. Porridge is cheap, easy, convenient and quick to make. For us, it is also very tasty and filling, enabling us to cycle for a long time before lunch. Will see if it will be possible to get it in Asia, but I’m afraid we will probably have to resort to making rice porridge instead, which is also ok, although not the best.
Lunch either consists of yesterday’s leftover dinner, or a combination of bread, cheese, boiled eggs and raw veggies, making it more interesting with mustard, olives or pesto. You may think that cooked food without a fridge wouldn’t survive a whole night and half a day, but even in the high heat of the Balkans, we didn’t have any problems eating it. We also snack a lot during the day on cycling days, mostly on nuts, fruits and dark chocolate.
Dinner varies the most, and it is a greatly awaited time of day. The content depends on our mood, the produce available in the shop, and of course on how much time we have in the evening, while keeping nutritional variety in mind. Going for the cheapest veggie options also means eating more local and seasonal stuff, and we make certain types of meals, according to what we have at hand.
These meals are mostly the combination of the following:
– some kind of fresh salad
– legumes, either mixed into another meal, or eaten separately as a porridge or soup
– stir fry made from veggies
– vegetable stew
– red sauce
– rice, pasta or potato is added for calories (bulgur will come later, when it becomes easier to get)
For extra protein (and because it is yummy) we also either eat eggs, cheese, or a fish can.
On the topic of food acquisition
In regards to how much we spend on food, we had a budget in mind when we set out on the tour. Many people would say that an amount of 10 euro per day for two persons is too low, but we encountered several long term travelers who operate around that, and I think it’s actually quite doable. So far, our food spending stayed under it, in some cheap countries, like Macedonia for example, it was only around 6 euro without any struggle. You just have to be willing to cook almost every day and avoid restaurant visits, limiting it to rare treats or occasional fast food. The main reason we do it is to have some wifi and charge the laptop (and upload the blogposts of course), while trying to find the cheapest option available. Sadly in the Balkans and in the countryside in Greece, the diet is quite meat heavy. Before coming to Athens, we found one falafel place in 4 months, otherwise we could either choose to eat a salad or some pasta with tomato sauce, and we were extra happy if we came across a pizza place. In Greece, we resorted to eating chicken gyros, as nothing can beat the price.
I want to add one more thing here about the way we get our food, which affects our budget too. When we cycle through some areas in the right season, we can find a ton of different fruits and some nuts, free for anyone to take. Berries of all kinds and mushrooms in the forest are a given, but I’m talking about all kinds of things normally found in supermarkets. Walnut trees in the Greek mountains, where barely anyone lives are so abundant on the side of the road for instance, that you could pick hundreds of kilos in September-October, without making a dent. This also holds true for figs, growing everywhere like a weed in the southern Balkan area.
On top of this, the way agriculture works, no one is gonna say anything if you pick a few oranges or pomegranates from the ground at a plantation (and mostly we see them wild actually), because they would just leave them to rot. The food waste seems staggering in some cases, all the while people are starving and claiming that there is not enough production to feed the world. The hell there is, you just have to connect the waste with the ones in need, it would satisfy everyone with plenty to spare. It may have to do with how we evolved, but there is something about picking edibles in nature which makes us feel good about it, all the wile having tremendous fun. So far, we foraged more than 20 different plants, from fruits to nuts and herbs, saving us a fair bit of money.