I know the title made me do a double take too, but it really is sound advice, especially if you plan on traveling long term. There are numerous benefits to cooking the majority of your own meals while you’re traveling and can be a fun experience all on it’s own.
The first obvious benefit is that you’ll be saving money. There’s a reason financial gurus always recommend cooking meals at home instead of eating out, it can get very expensive. That $5 sandwich at your favorite fast food place may sound cheap and the thought of dropping $50 on groceries doesn’t make sense. But with some careful planning, buying things in moderate bulk, and looking for deals your at home meals could cost you $5 a day, easily beating $5 a meal.
These savings are also scalable the more people you have. Cooking Chinese at home for seven kids is much cheaper than taking them to your local takeout.
Given the low cost of living many people reading this will likely make a third world country their first destination of choice. It’s what my wife and I did and we love it. Unfortunately in many under-developed countries things like local food and water can be dangerous for your health, especially in rural areas. While there are safe areas anywhere you go and most touristy destinations won’t have this problem for those looking to get off the beaten path, it pays to be the one in charge of what goes in your stomach.
Cooking your own food can help you avoid eating food that’s gone bad, wasn’t properly cooked, has been contaminated or even been infested with microscopic critters. Take it from someone who contracted Amoebas while in Central America and lost 80lbs because of it, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
While you shouldn’t let this scare you from ever eating out, cooking your meals by yourself can guarantee proper sanitation, food quality and thorough cooking habits are done with most of what you eat.
For those following diets, either for personal health, fitness, or medical reasons, cooking your own meals while abroad can ensure you keep your diet properly balanced no matter where you are. For those with issues like food allergies this is especially important if traveling to a country where you don’t speak the language.
Just remember that not everywhere has access to the same foods you enjoyed at home, my wife and I had a hard time finding Zucchini while in Mexico and more then once we bought cucumbers by accident. It pays to do a little research and figure out some viable substitutes and learn how to ask about the ingredients your allergic to wherever you’re traveling.
Prepped Meals Are Fast
For those wanting to maximize their time traveling the thought of cooking your own meals everyday may sound counterintuitive. But spending a few hours to cook batches of things and having the meals ready to go in the fridge can wind up saving you more time then waiting for those meals to be cooked and delivered to your table.
Having prepared snacks can also save you problems if places to eat aren’t available where you’re going or it’s prohibitively expensive. There’s nothing worse than spending $2 for a bottle of water when you could’ve bought an entire case for $6 or waiting several hours on a bus ride before you arrive at somewhere to eat.
Cooking New Things Can Be Fun
Probably the best thing about cooking while abroad is being able to try new recipes and experiment with local ingredients you may not have back home. In the United States I was accustomed to having one type of mango, so I was shocked when I got to El Salvador and discovered there are hundreds. There are small sour ones, bitter green ones that need salt, yellow ones that taste like pineapple, large juicy ones that are very sweet called mango de leche, and so many more.
In France my wife and I bought a cheese at random only to discover it’s exclusively used as a sauce to go on potatoes and was absolutely horrendous on anything else. The darn thing stunk up the fridge and made our other foods taste funny for days, but we did discover other cheeses that were great with fruit, good to eat alone, and Brie is absolutely phenomenal to spread on bread.
Asking locals for recipes, grabbing things from the store at random, and learning to substitute home favorites with exotic ingredients can make for a fun experience that you not only enjoy abroad, but when you return home too. My wife and I still take a crack at making pupusas every now and then and have fun when we get closer to how they tasted in Central America and family is always excited to try our latest attempt.
It’s highly recommended you eat out and try the local cuisine at restaurants, but don’t be afraid to dip your toes in the culinary arts while abroad to save some money, guarantee sanitary meals, hold to diets, save some time and have a wonderful experience.
If you had an amazing culinary experience abroad or stumbled across an exotic recipe you think others would love to try for themselves don’t hesitate to tell everyone about it in our experiences section.
Author: Benjamin Baker
After serving abroad in a religious capacity for two years Ben has felt the pull to travel and explore ever since. This desire was further fueled by his wife Maddie and the two have traveled to many places over the last few years. Ben’s hope is that by sharing his knowledge and experiences obtained while traveling that others can improve their lives and the lives of others through travel. Check out additional articles written by Benjamin.