A Backpacker's Grocery List
As a backpacker, finding food that can be prepared on the road, is relatively healthy and can be transported sans refrigeration can be a challenge; especially if you're trying to cook for 1 and a kitchen isn't always available. I've compiled a grocery list of foods that I've stuck to during my travels to keep me feeling confident about my health and my bank account. They cover all the major food groups and can be eaten without cooking facilities. Oh, and they don't involve PASTA or TOAST, which you will quickly learn is a backpacker rotation that will leave you feeling sluggish VERY quickly.
1. Apples, Bananas, Oranges - These are some staple fruits that seem to maintain a reasonable price across the globe. It's important to remember that you are what you eat, even on the road - and getting in as much cheap vitamins and nutrients as you can is always beneficial! Both apples and oranges are fairly durable and stay fresh for a decent amount of time. Bananas are of course a little bit more fragile BUT you can purchase on an as-needed basis. Keep an eye out for markets in the area you're travelling to, as there is usually produce available for CHEAP!
2. Peanut Butter - MMMMMMM… who doesn’t love some good old PB&A. You heard me right! Peanut butter and apples is one of my go-to’s when I’m in hostel-mode. There’s no cooking involved, you’re getting both fruit and a bit of protein, and it’s delicious! Now, lugging a jar of peanut butter around in your backpack does take up a bit of valuable space, but it can also be a life-saver. It can also be used for a ton of different things; on rice-cakes (which we’ll get to later), on a banana, put a scoop in your oatmeal etc. Which brings me to my next item.
3. Instant Oatmeal - Okay, so instant-anything is probably never the best, but given the circumstances this is a cheap, easy and very transportable meal. Every backpacker's dream! You can buy a whole box, usually for under $3 and it will last you 6-10 breakfast meals (depending on how hungry you are). All you need is a kettle and some water. Add peanut butter for extra protein, and some banana or apple in the mix for a well-rounded breakfast (or lunch… or dinner… There are no rules in backpacker country).
4. Baby Carrots, Snap Peas, Cherry Tomatoes - I’ve specifically listed these vegetables because, again, they’re affordable, durable and require absolutely no prep, which is ideal again if you’re moving around or camper van-ing it. The baby carrots will probably last best with some refrigeration, so if you’re lacking a fridge consider purchasing a smaller bag. Mini cucumbers can be a good option as well.
5. Hummus - Again, a welcomed source of protein for very little $$. Dip your vegetables in it, spread it on your rice cakes, or treat yourself to a whole-wheat roll and hummus! Again, it’s durable, requires little refrigeration and can be multi-purpose.
6. Pre-cooked Chicken - If you’re feeling like all of this vegetable protein just isn’t enough, grocery stores usually sell a pre-cooked half chicken or even quarter chicken at a reasonable price. Of course, this will probably be a bit more expensive than cooking your own BUT it’s less expensive than eating out and if you’re lucky enough to have access to a fridge, it can last you for a couple of meals.
7. Rice-cakes - A small loaf of whole wheat bread or some buns would suffice as well, but I’ve found that during my travels I begin relying a little too heavily on bread, SO for the sake of variety I’ve added rice cakes into the mix. You can get plain flavoured, popcorn flavoured, caramel flavoured etc. They can be a welcomed sweet or savoury treat; or a base for your peanut butter, hummus, tuna etc. They’re diverse and can serve more than one purpose.
8. Trail Mix - This is where things can get a bit more expensive, but if you’re willing to invest in some nuts and seeds it can be a great way to keep your energy up and if you toss some dried fruit in there it can also be a sweet treat. You can buy pre-made trail mix or even mix up your own if you have access to a bulk food store or section of the grocery store.
9. Canned Tuna or Salmon- In this case, if you’re settling down for a couple of days, it may be worth investing in a jar of mayo for taste. However, you can buy individual flavoured tuna cans that are ready-to-eat OR just have it plain on some crackers.
10. Energy Bars - If you can find a bulk package of energy bars made with healthy ingredients like dried fruit, oats, nuts and honey at a decent price then go for it. You can easily keep them in your backpack and they are perfect snacks for when you’re going overnight on the train/bus.
That’s it! Your ultimate Backpacker’s Grocery List.
Keep in mind, that these options have been chosen based on cost and convenience. Things like salad dressings, cooking oils, cooking utensils etc. are not always easily transported and therefore meals that require these things have been left out. If there is room for a splurge or you find yourself at a place with full cooking facilities, take advantage of them! And remember, you’re traveling to experience culture right? So don’t forget to sample some local dishes once in a while too!