Backpacking Food Cheap Healthy Recipes Options

Backpacking Food Cheap Healthy Options: Spending money on food while traveling in Europe, or backpacking, is probably one of the most difficult things to handle when it comes to budgeting. You always spend more than you had planned, and yet, it’s hard to cut down since you need it to live. However, just because you need to cut down on your food budget, doesn’t mean you should have to cut down on your health. Cooking your own food is the cheapest way to get around when traveling, especially in western countries. It’s easy to just fall back on the typical student food with pasta and tomato sauce, which is fine, but if you want to eat a little healthier and have a more varied diet, check out these alternatives:

Backpacking Food Cheap Healthy Options

Backpacking Food Cheap Healthy

Backpacking Food Cheap Healthy

Healthy Lentils

Lentils are my favorite food. I used to absolutely hate them, but once I found out their possibilities I’ve made some amazing meals with them. A very simple and cheap meal to make is Faki Lentil Soup. Lentils are high in fiber and helps to prevent heart disease. The magnesium content found in lentils contributes to blood flow and the passage of oxygen through the body. But best of all, lentils are high in iron, and are also suprisingly filling.

Canned Corn

Fry it, boil it or eat it raw, no matter how you eat it it’s always tasty. Corn is high in Vitamin B, which gives you some good energy – mix in with rice and tuna, or have it in your bean wrap, tortilla or couscous salad.

Chick peas

Chick peas (also known as Garbanzo beans) are fat free and packed with protein. Since they’re so high in fiber they help your digestion, which can be very helpful when traveling. They also keep blood sugar levels stabilized making you feel full longer. One of my favorite snacks is hummous (an Arabic dip), great as a spread, in hot meals, to the salad or as a side dish, where the main ingredient is chickpeas. They’re also great in salads, pots and curries.

Black Beans

I’ve already talked about couscous and all the amazing recipes you can make with it. Well, couscous (or Quinoa, quite similar type of food), can make a great meal with black beans. And why not add some of that canned corn to it as well. Spice it with some cayenne pepper, garlic, onion and vegetable broth – and you have a hearty meal in front of you. Health in a can, black beans contain a compound that significantly reduce pre-cancerous cells. Black beans are also loaded with anthocyanins, specifically ten times more when compared to other dark colored fruits and vegetables. You can also use the black beans in the bean wrap recipe, it works great.


It’s filling, cheap and among other minerals and vitamins it’s a very good source of fiber. It’s a great food to have for breakfast, either dry, soaked (together with raisins in hot water) or cooked as porridge. Oats helps to relieve constipation, a pretty common problem for travelers. Add some prunes in the breakfast and you double the effect!

Canned Tuna

Tuna is also a food that easily can be mixed in countless of variations; On the sandwich, in the rice, in the salad etc. Protein, omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, potassium, selenium, vitamin B12, niacin and phosphorus – the list of the great nutrients you get from canned Tuna is long. Plus, it’s easy to carry along for a backpacker since it doesn’t need to be in a cool environment, and it’s in a good packanble size.

Backpacking Food Cheap Healthy Recipes

When backpacking and traveling around Europe on a budget, having the ability to cook cheap but tasty meals with as few ingredients as possible is a great way to save money and stay on the road longer.

Backpacking Food Recipe – Greek Lentil Soup

The recipes we share is one of our best and most enjoyable and is something we like to make often while traveling – it’s a simplified travel version of Greek Faki (Lentil) Soup.

Makes enough for 2 people.

What You Need:

  • 1 Cup of Green Lentils (red works fine too, but gives a different flavor)
  • 2 Garlic cloves (crushed)
  • 1 Small onion
  • Salt
  • 2 cans of crushed tomatoes
  • Water (depending on how thick you like it)


  1. Cover the lentils with water and bring to the boil – then pour out the water.
  2. Add chopped onion, garlic, crushed tomatoes and a pinch of salt (and any other spice you have) into the pot.
  3. Cover everything with fresh water, then re-heat and bring it to the boil again.
  4. Let it boil until the lentils are soft and slightly over cooked so the soup gets thicker.
  5. Serve into bowls, let it cool down sightly, and then enjoy your meal!

Serve with a few slices of bread. If you happen to have a bit of stale bread left over from the day before, use it for dipping in soup instead of just throwing it away!

TravelKnowit: If the hostel happens to have some Oregano/Basil or similar then add a little of that too, although it works just fine without. It’s also really tasty with some sour cream on top.

Backpacking Food Recipes – The Spicy Bean Wrap

We tend to use a lot of canned food when we cook while traveling – canned food is cheap, it lasts for a longer time, and it is also easier to bring with you in your backpack. Using canned beans is ideal for backpacker meals. They’re cheap, healthy and also can be used in many different combinations. Here is one of our favorites – The Spicy Bean Wrap.

– makes enough for 2 people.
– prep & cooking duration: around 15-20 mins

What You Need:

  • 1 Can of  Kidney beans (or Mixed beans)
  • 1 Can of Crushed Tomatoes
  • Salt
  • Hot Spice (like chili, Cayenne pepper or similar)
  • 1 Onion
  • 1-2 Garlic cloves
  • Tortilla bread or any other wheat or corn wrap
  • Oil / Butter (if you don’t have any oil)


  1. Heat a frying pan with oil
  2. Chop the onions and garlic. By first crushing the garlic with the flat wide side of the knife you bring out more flavor.
  3. Fry the onion and garlic until golden brown.
  4. Add the beans into the frying pan, and mix.
  5. Pour in the crushed tomatoes, add spice and salt and let it cook for about 5 more minutes.

Serve on a plate by filling your tortilla wrap(s) with the spicy bean mix.

Tip: What I love about this meal is that it can be remixed in so many ways. If you have some left overs for the next day you can just add some fresh veggies in the wrap, frozen veggies in the pan or some sour cream on top.

This is a really healthy meal in every way, especially if you use a full grain tortilla – we hope you test it out and enjoy! 😉

Backpacking Food Recipe – Quick and Tasty Couscous Salad

For me one of the most versatile foods ever is probably couscous, you can eat it with practically anything. What makes it such a great backpacking food is the fact it’s super quick, easy and cheap. A box of couscous lasts for a long time (for one person you only need half a cup of couscous per meal!) – combine that with an easy salad and you can’t go wrong. Here is a quick and very simple recipe, which is one of my favorites for hot days. It’s a little luxurious, but the vegetables used are generally quite cheap, and pesto is something we always have since we use it for so many things (pasta, sandwiches, gnocchi etc). Enjoy!

Quick & Tasty Couscous Salad

– Serves 2
– Estimated prep. time: 10 min

  • 100 g or 1 cup Couscous
  • 200 ml (or 3/4 of a cup) of vegetable stock
  • 1 large onion (or 2 spring onions if you have them)
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 1 red pepper
  • (optional: any other vege you like and want to add to the salad)
  • 2 tbsp pesto
  • 50 gram feta cheese


Put the couscous in a bowl and add the stock (200 ml of boiled water mixed with vegetable stock, cubicles is fine). Cover and let it sit for 10 minutes until it’s fluffy and has absorbed the water/stock. Meanwhile, dice the cucumber and slice the onion and pepper. Add this to the couscous, mix with some pesto and crumble in the feta cheese. Plate it and then EAT! 😉

Tip! – If you can afford splurging out, the salad is even nicer with some pine nuts sprinkled on top, it really adds that extra flavor!

( photo credits: perspicaciousstep1networkveganfeast wordriddenroland )

16 Responses to Backpacking Food Cheap Healthy Recipes Options

  1. Kris December 3, 2010 at 9:11 am #

    great list of cheap food options. really helpful to find the right kinds of food when backpacking in Europe, since eating out is so expensive!

    • Nathan Schacherer December 3, 2010 at 12:39 pm #

      thanks Kris – yeah I personally think all these taste great as well, and better than eating out or fast food while traveling…

  2. Joshua Johnson December 3, 2010 at 9:25 pm #

    Chick peas are so tasty an can be used for so many dishes. All of these foods are good choices for travelers, a can of tuna goes a long way ( although that stuff can be dry! ) but for a protein/sodium fix that is easy to carry ( and eat with your grubbing fingers! ) it is great.

    • Sofiavonporat December 5, 2010 at 6:44 am #

      Hey Joshua!
      Yeah Tuna can be dry, but if you buy the ones in oil it’s usually fine I think :)
      Thanks for sharing your tips!

  3. Clara December 3, 2010 at 2:46 pm #

    Good list! I like all of those foods, so I’m looking forward to trying them on the road!

    • Sofia December 5, 2010 at 6:41 am #

      Hi Clara!
      Good you like it, you can make some really yummy meals with them even when you’re backpacking.

  4. Theodora December 5, 2010 at 1:04 am #

    I tend to buy a lot of fruit from street markets in terms of keeping up the “five a day” easily (in the UK, there’s a rule that you should eat five portions of different fruit and veg each day).

    Easy at this time of year in Europe? Leek and potato soup. Baked potatoes. Bean salad. In areas where there’s a Turkish community, look for the flatbreads and other dips as well as hummus, and eat picnic style…

    But street markets are great for food shopping, as it’s an insight into how the locals live, too.

    • Sofia December 5, 2010 at 6:40 am #

      Hi Theodora!
      I love those Turkish flat breads, they’re so tasty, not to mention hummus!

      Yes, street markets are often a great place to get your veggies a little cheaper, and there are also quite a few budget supermarkets to look out for in Europe, like Lidl and Netto.

  5. enrolled agent cpe December 6, 2010 at 2:38 am #

    Chick peas and canned tuna can possibly keep me full for at least a week. I really tried and forced myself to like lentils but no I don’t why it just doesn’t go well with me.

  6. Brenna [fabuleuxdestin] December 6, 2010 at 3:31 pm #

    I am still looking for black beans in France…

  7. Randy Kalp December 6, 2010 at 6:42 pm #

    For years I had been a spaghetti-o addict, but I am proud to say that after traveling for only a few months in Europe I have kicked the habit by switching to many of the food options you have listed above. Aside from being great budget options, the thing I love most about your list is the versatility of each food.

  8. Travel Turkey December 8, 2010 at 12:27 pm #

    Very nice text, thank you.

  9. Sarah Wu December 9, 2010 at 5:23 am #

    I love Black beans!~ Yumm.

  10. Gemma January 24, 2011 at 2:50 pm #

    I love all these options you listed! And most of them are easy to find cross-culturally when traveling. They’re very inexpensive, too!

  11. New York City Hotels March 18, 2011 at 5:22 am #

    Hummus is very tasty and can use a lot of dishes to do so. All these foods are good choices for travelers, and can of tuna go a long way (although things that can be dry!), but to reform the protein sodium / that are easy to carry (and eat with fingers grubbing your!) It’s great.

  12. Anonymous March 29, 2011 at 8:14 pm #

    I personally think all these taste great as well, and better than eating out or quick food while traveling.

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