In college, we lived without a kitchen. Most of our meals were from the dining hall, but this turned out to be an invaluable experience when...

Cooking on the Road

In college, we lived without a kitchen. Most of our meals were from the dining hall, but this turned out to be an invaluable experience when travelling to Australia. With access to a communal fridge, a microwave and a 2-inch knife, my options were limited.

The most important piece was planning my meals. Salad greens and fresh veggies keep out of the fridge for a day, potatoes for a week--so of course I needed to eat the salads first. I also thought of a lot of creative ways to use individual ingredients so my food was interested and I didn't spend a fortune.

There were a few key ingredients that I relied on to make my meals tasty:
- pre-chopped garlic: I bought a jar at the local bargain food store for about $1.50; I added heaping spoonfuls to all of my dinners and most of my lunches. It's all sort of great for you, and the pre-chopped stuff is usually subtle enough to be eaten raw, or just lightly microwaved.
- hummus: I used this as a dip for raw veggies, as a spread on sandwiches and as a sauce for meals. I got the plain variety because my options were limited. There were a lot of other veggie dip options available, but most of them contained dairy products.
- peanut butter: peanut butter is awesome because it is both savory and sweet. I used it in conjunction with garlic as a sauce for dinners, and put it in my breakfast and PB&J lunch sandwiches. It was also a great snack straight from the spoon.
- oatmeal: I bought a large bag of quick oats for 99 cents. Their breakfast merits are obviously--huge portions are pretty low in calories, and they are filling and full of fiber. They also take well to a number of flavors--raisins + PB, apples, pears, bananas, passion fruit, jam, etc. Because they cook in the microwave in 90 seconds, they also make a great base for an on-the-road grain bowl for dinner. I know, savory oatmeal probably still freaks most of you out--I still recommend it.
- potatoes: Potatoes also cook well in the microwave, and sweet potatoes are just heavenly with peanut butter, garlic and spinach.
- canned beans: All of the canned beans had pull-tab tops, but if you can't find that, you can probably find a $2 can opener that you can bring on trips. Chickpeas are my favorite, because they taste the best cold and they tend to hold up best to cooking abuse.
- frozen spinach: I love spinach. They had spinach that came in little 1/3c portions in a bigger box. They were perfect for tossing onto potatoes or into savory oats for a boost of veggie. (There was also a lot more freezer space than fridge space available.)
- instant espresso: They don't have drip coffee in Australia--only espresso drinks. And most places we went, it was $4+ for a cup of coffee. Instead, I made do with instant espresso and hot water. A $7 jar lasted me through the trip, plus leftovers. It was heavenly mixed into oatmeal.. somewhat less tasty in its intended liquid form, but manageable if hot.

I also brought some things with me that proved invaluable:
- a small knife
- two medium plastic leftover containers
- a fork, a spoon and a knife

A toothbrush and toothpaste work wonders for doing dishes if you don't feel like bringing/buying dish soap and a sponge. It might not be perfect, but for me, it did the trick. I do also wish I'd brought one of our small cutting boards--lesson learned for next time. I might also consider bringing a mug--our hotel had styrofoam cups, but it felt so wasteful and they weren't really big enough for a satisfying Americano.

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