Backpacker meals: How you can eat like a king for less than 5 dollars

--Backpacker meals are… well…

Let’s say wee can agree that as a backpacker you travel like a king, but probably eat like a peasant.

True or not?

With a diet consisting of white bread, the cheapest chocolate spread, instant noodles, some cheap sauce and a couple of canned vegetables, the typical backpacker meals aren’t exactly what you call haute cuisine.

Understandable, because when traveling you’d rather spend your time and money on doing fun stuff, than on preparing an expensive 3-course meal.

What if it would be possible to eat like a king on a poor man’s budget…

Could it be possible to eat tasty healthy backpacker meals that’ll give you the energy you need, without destroying your bank account?

Sure you can, and doing it right will not only give you healthy and tasty meals, it will save you a ton of money you can spend on other cool stuff (like traveling the east-coast).

Read on below to find the best meals for backpackers that:

  • You can make in under 15 minutes, even in the most basic hostel kitchens
  • Won’t cost you more than AUD 5,-
  • Will keep you happy and satisfied

The 4 best cheap backpacker meals for breakfast

Start your day with an amazing breakfast that will give you the energy to explore.

Rolled oats

Oats are among the healthiest grains on the planet. They’re full of antioxidants, gluten-free and many studies have shown the health benefits of eating oats.

But the best part is… oats are incredibly cheap.

If you buy the home brand (as you should) you could have a week’s breakfast for less than 2 dollars.

Price per meal: 20-40 cents (depending on if you use milk or tap-water to cook them).
Luxury upgrades: Banana, honey, cinnamon.

Scrambled eggs

Scrambled eggs are easy to make and will keep you satisfied for hours on end. Just chuck as many eggs as you want into a frying pan and start stirring.

Cost per meal: 0,50 – 1 AUD depending on the type of eggs you buy and how many eggs you have.
Luxury upgrade: Throw in some cheese, tomato or spinach.


Get two wraps and put some cheese in between them. Put them in a non-stick pan and fry until crispy. Add some veg if you like and you’ll be set.

Cost per meal: 0,30-0,75 AUD depending on the amount of cheese and how many quesadillas you eat
Luxury upgrade: Put some tomato, capsicum or onion in the quesadilla. If you want to go all out, buy some avocado and make your own guacamole.

backpacker meal: quesadilla

Pancakes are incredibly easy and a cheap backpacker meal, especially if you make them crêpe-style.

Cook them in bulk for 2-3 days and you’ll be fine. Just get some milk, flour and eggs. For 3-4 people use 500 ml milk, 250 grams of flour, 2 eggs and a pinch of salt and a little bit of beer to make the mix even better. Make sure your pan is hot.

Cost per meal: 0,50 – 1 AUD depending on your toppings.
Luxury upgrade: Banana, chocolate spread, onion, bacon, capsicum, spinach, cheese (basically anything you want).

7 Best backpacker meals for lunch and dinner

Breakfast is normally easy, but what can you eat for lunch and dinner besides noodles?

As it turns out: a lot.

Below you’ll find 7 easy and incredibly cheap backpacker meals that even the worst chef on the planet can make.

Jacket potato

Get one large potato from the supermarket and pierce some holes in it with your fork. Stick it in the microwave for 7-10 minutes (depending on the size) and fill it with a topic of your choosing.

Cost per meal: 0,75 AUD.
Luxury toppings: Cheese, cream and chives, beans in tomato sauce, butter.

backpacker meal: jacket potato

Spinach, egg, tomato

Get some frozen or fresh spinach, cut up one tomato and chuck it all into a little saucepan. Add one boiled egg for extra protein and flavour. Eat with toast or pasta.

Cost per meal: 1,50 AUD.
Luxury additions: Cream cheese.

Salad & Wraps

Salads and wraps are easy to make (and take) and can fill you up for a while. Just buy some lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese or other toppings and you’re good to go.

Cost per meal: 1,50- 3 AUD per meal depending on how many toppings you get.
Luxury upgrade: Add some meat like chicken or bacon.

Stuffed portobello with lentils and cheese

Now it’s time to really impress the folks in your hostel. Buy one or two large portobello mushrooms, a little cheese from the deli and one tin of lentils.

Turn the mushroom upside down and scrape all the black stuff out. Throw it into a nonstick pan together with the lentils (½ tin per mushroom), squash together and mix. Add cheese to make it stick together. Now put this mixture back into the hollow mushroom, lay it on it’s back in the frying pan until it goes a bit soft. That’s it, enjoy.

Cost per meal: 1,50-2,00 AUD.
Luxury upgrade: Add some Italian herbs for extra taste.

Pasta and tuna salad

This classic never fails. Just get some pasta, a can of tuna and mix it all together. Add some fresh onion, cucumber, capsicum and/or tomato.

Cost per meal: 1,50-3,50 AUD depending on how many ingredients you put into the salad.

Mushroom and vegetable curry

A meal you could/should make if you’re staying in one place for a longer time and you don’t mind eating the same meal twice. Buy some cheap green chilli paste, add a tin of coconut milk, some mushrooms and some frozen veggies.

Cost per meal: 2-5 AUD depending on if you cook in bulk and keep the leftovers for another day.
Luxury upgrade: Add chicken or go for a seafood mix.

Smashed avo on toast

Smashed avocado on toast just has to be one of the highlights of the day. It might be a little more expensive than a peanut butter & jelly sandwich, but it’s better and tastier.

Cost per meal: 2,00 AUD (depending on how many avocados you want, but one is generally enough).
Luxury additions: Add some bacon rashers or some eggs.

backpacker meal: smashed avo on toast

Noodles and Stir Fried Veg

Alright, we couldn’t leave the noodles out.

They are cheap, easy and tasty. They just need a few extra veggies to make it a bit more healthy. So go on, buy that bag of frozen veggies and cook up that backpacker storm.

Cost per meal: 1-2 AUD depending on how much veg you put in.
Luxury upgrade: Add some meat

Save even more with these 9 tips

Knowing some really simple and nice recipes is a great start to stretch your budget a little further. But with some small extra investments you’ll be able to save even more:

  • Buy some food containers so you can cook in bulk and keep your leftovers. Serious savings mate.
  • Shop at the end of the day for extra discounts on fresh produce.
  • Go vegetarian because meat is expensive and to be honest… you don’t really need it anyway.
  • Shop at the deli if you want to buy expensive things in small quantities. Things like cheese, ham, bacon, etc. They often have amazing deals.
  • Check backpacker meal deals because you don’t always feel like cooking.
  • Check Groupon in case you want to go out for dinner. You might find some amazing deals on there.
  • Invest in a stovetop espresso maker if you really love your coffee. Coffee (good coffee at least) is expensive in Australia. So instead of spending 4 dollars on every cup, just make your own.
  • Check out local markets because this is not only more fun, but you’ll also find very cheap veggies that might look a bit odd, but who cares…
  • ALWAYS check the free food shelf and you’ll be amazed by what other backpackers leave behind. Sometimes you’ll find some really good things.

So that’s that…

You are now a master backpacker chef and the instant noodles no longer have any power over you.

Instead, you’ll be cooking amazingly healthy backpacker meals and you get to keep your money for the cool stuff. Who could’ve imagined that?

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