Hostels represent an affordable and often very comfortable form of accommodation for backpackers in New Zealand. When it comes to the ins and outs of daily life, however, they can present challenges.
Hostel kitchens, for example, are notoriously messy, sometimes unhygienic, and often contain fridges and cupboards crammed with other people’s groceries. Backpacking can be expensive, however, so buying your own groceries and cooking at the hostel is still a great way to save money.
So how can you best handle full fridges, messy cupboards, and dirty cooking equipment?
How to keep food cold while backpacking?
We’ve come up with a few tips and tricks to make your hostel cooking experience as hygienic and stress-free as possible:
1. Buy groceries every few days
When you head out to stock up, only buy as much food as you will need for the next few days. By doing so, you will cut down on the amount of storage space you need and avoid creating food waste. As well as saving yourself the hassle of finding free space amongst the busy cupboards, your fellow hostel-dwellers will thank you for it.
2. Buy some Tupperware
Tupperware is an excellent way to store leftovers. If you make too much food for your evening meal, simply put it in a hygienic piece of Tupperware and it will stay fresh for a day or two at least in the fridge. Notable exceptions include rice, which can cause nasty stomach problems if reheated after a day or so.
3. Label your food
Labelling your food may seem a little unfriendly, but it is a good way to remind people that food is costly and will deter them from indulging in some of your hard-earned goods.
4. Make simple meals
A backpacking trip is not a good time to embrace your inner chef. Rather, it is the perfect time to make simple and nutritious meals that will keep your energy levels up. Try to come up with meals that use only a few ingredients to save on time and money.
5. Use versatile ingredients
Try to buy staple ingredients that can be used in a range of dishes. If you’re buying a load of fresh vegetables, for example, try to think of a number of meals you will use them in without any going to waste.
6. Pick up some of your own equipment
If the kitchen utensils provided by the hostel leave a little to be desired, try searching for your own kitchenware. Army & Navy or camping stores, for example, are a great source of versatile kitchenware that is both small and easy to travel with.
7. Try out one-pot cooking
If you don’t want to spend most of your time cleaning up after dinner, try making dishes that only use one pot. Curries, soups, stews, chilli-con-carne, and bolognese sauce are just a few examples of delicious one-pot meals.
8. Plan your leftovers
Be careful about cooking too much food. If you are able to store leftovers safely, this can be a great way to save time and money. If, however, you discover that most of the storage space in the kitchen fridge is already used up before making dinner, try to only make as much food as you need.
9. Share with others
One of the best things about backpacking is the opportunity to make life-long friends. A good way to get to know others in your hostel is to share mealtimes with them. Before planning your meals for the next few days, ask others around you whether they would like to get involved with a cooking rota. As well as helping you to bond, this could end up saving a significant amount of time and money, and free up space in kitchen cupboards.
10. Buy local produce
Fresh local produce is often much cheaper than what can be found in supermarkets, as well as being much more delicious. It also tends to be fresher, meaning it will last longer whilst you’re out on the road.
Keeping food cold while travelling
To ensure that your food stays as fresh as possible, try investing in an insulated cooler. Coolers come in a vast range of shapes and sizes, allowing you to select one that is both portable and big enough to store the provisions you need. To get the most out of your cooler, remember to fill it up as much as possible before you head out, as full coolers keep food colder for longer.
Storing food while backpacking
In the hostel, you should try to store any leftovers or perishable foods in Tupperware boxes to ensure maximum freshness. Try to ensure that any fridges you use are as sanitary as possible and, when heading out with your backpack, transfer your food into clean coolers. If you want food to stay as fresh as possible, you may also wish to invest in some ice packs that can be stored in the backpack. It is also a good idea to consider what kind of food you are putting in your backpack. Food that is likely to go off quickly could leave an unpleasant smell in your bag.
Must-have items for food storage while backpacking
If you’re about to head out on a backpacking trip, try not to leave home without the following items for food storage:
- Tupperware boxes in a variety of sizes
- Ziplock freezer bags
- Mini kitchen utensils for cooking and eating
- An insulated drinks holder
- Cooler box (in a size that suits your needs)