Budget versus healthy food

While on a long trip, whether it is you like to travel there is often the problem of a limited budget. At some point, you will run out of money and you need to stop traveling or work for a moment. Of course, everyone wants to travel as long as possible and be healthy at the same time. So how do you that? Is it possible? To eat healthily and travel light at the same time be on a budget?
Yes, you can!

Now that we are almost a year on the road we have a good idea of what the expenses can be. We know how you can try to lower your budget on food and still be able to eat healthily and good. Especially when you are in more expensive countries (in our case, Norway and Finland) you need to be a bit more careful with your budget. I hope I can give you some insights. In our case, it is based on a long-distance cycling trip which can be very demanding. This means that you need nutritious food. Some tips and tricks I already knew beforehand and some I learned when we were on the road.

Our requirements

I am trained and work in the health and natural remedies field. For me, the nutritional value was a necessity. Besides that, this was a trip that was going to be long and demanding. I understand that if the trip is for a week or two you can be more relaxed, knowing that soon you will be at home eating your delicious food, we had a low budget and we wanted the trip as long as we could.

10 Tips

1. Bring your own kitchen supplies.

It might seem obvious but the best is having your own kitchen supplies and be able to cook in any place the food that you like. The trip is long and you don’t want to feel miserable. You need your camping gas, a pot, a pan, a fork-spoon, and knife. Sometimes you are lucky and can use fire pits and firewood (in Finland shelters are quite easy to find). Or take advantage of the kitchens of your hosts if you use Couchsurfing or Warmshowers to delight them with your exquisite cooking skills.

healthy food

6. Treat yourself.

Creativity is a must because food is not only a physical need, also an emotional one. Sometimes unhealthy food can be very useful and make you feel nourished (Belgium fries is something that sometimes we missed). Unhealthy versus healthy is a personal choice, but, remember, eventually you are going to need some minerals, vitamins, and proteins to push that bicycle on.

9. Bring superfoods.

Chia, flaxseeds, nori, hemp seeds, sesame seeds. You can find them almost everywhere.

2. Always buy food in the (super)markets.

If you travel to different countries you need to be open and flexible. You cannot go every day to a restaurant or bar. Try to find the cheaper supermarkets. Cheaper doesn’t mean bad. Often the products are exactly the same as in the more expensive supermarkets.

3. Try the local food.

Usually, it is more nutritious, cheaper, and sustainable. Sometimes enjoyable and even in most of the cases, you can adjust it to your diet (vegetarian/vegan/paleo/gluten-free). Buy your fruits and vegetables from the local market. They are often more fresh and cheaper.

7. Brew your own coffee, tea or yerba mate.

The French press, the mate, bombilla, and a thermos is not heavy enough if you compare it with the feeling of home when you wake up.

10. Have a backup plan.

Sometimes it is good to have some life-saviors just in case you finish very late, you are tired and hungry. You just want a very quick meal. For example, one-minute noodles. The value is zero and it is processed food but sometimes you are just happy with something warm and that fills your stomach. Besides they are very cheap and always you can toss away the powder envelope and make your own creation with herbs, spices, onions, and garlic. We also discovered prepared hiking food from a Norwegian brand, but it was super expensive and limited too, especially if your diet is vegetarian.

4. Check the promotions.

Often markets have products that are going close to the expiry date with a discount. Try to adapt to that. Or sometimes they just promote any product. With a little bit of flexibility, you can save some money.

5. Dumpster dive.

In some places, you can also check the app TooGoodToGo (in Finland Resq), and finding very cheap deals. Lastly try to rescue food by yourself, doing dumpster diving which in some countries is not illegal.

8. Bring herbs and spices with you.

They are not heavy and can be real medicine and make your food alive. I always travel with oregano, thyme, turmeric, nettle, cinnamon, and my polarity herbal tea. When I feel sick they help me out to come back to balance. And for the kitchen are delicious besides my “pimentón de la Vera”.

Examples

We felt that summer and winter were very different in our routine. In summer we started without breakfast and ate in the first break after a good while of cycling. In winter it was different. We needed to eat before we started to ride and we realized we needed more fat than in summer. Here are some examples of what we usually eat on a cycling day.

Breakfast

  • Muesli with nuts and fruit. Easy to prepare and powerful for your body.
  • Toast with anything you can imagine: pepper and cheese, cured meat with butter, peanut butter and jam, avocados, fried eggs, olive oil, coconut oil. All can be replaced by vegan and/or vegetarian alternatives like vegan cheese made with oats or tofu and plant-based spread as margarine.
  • For the special days, you can try pancakes. You just need a bowl and an egg beater.

Lunch

You don’t want your lunch to be too heavy when you are cycling (or other physical activities).

  • Quick broth with spices and herbs or a nice powder soup that you can find adjustable to any diet too.
  • Toast as in the breakfast or just nuts, rice bread, or cookies with chocolate bars.
  • Fried eggs with toast.

Dinner

The most delightful meal because you can have more time to prepare it and to enjoy it. For us, dinner is the most important meal of the day.

  • Onion and thyme soup, a Mediterranean classic that you can complement with some bread toast and cheese.
  • Rice soup with garlic and thyme. This is a simple but effective meal.
  • Beans stew. You can buy them already cooked beans and make a quick and delicious stew. Add some onion, garlic, and maybe rice or potatoes if you want. You also can add any kind of meat if you like. Spice it up and it is a dinner for champions.
  • Find any meat, fish, or vegetables that you love and stir fry them. Delicious with your favorite spices too.

Conclusion

Our experience tells us that the best is to listen to your body and honor it. Being flexible is important even on a budget.
Even if you think that the options are limited, try to be creative and you will be surprised at how good can you eat and be ready for the next ride on your bike. I promise you no meal is as good as the meal that you eat after a long and hard ride. You can count on it.