Splurging for the hotel, but eating on the cheap while traveling
September 29, 2011 8:16 AM   Subscribe

What are some healthy foods that one can take traveling abroad, to minimize the costs of eating out?

I'm going to the Caribbean for 5-6 days in November, and staying at a fairly isolated hotel. I'll have access to an in-room electric hot water kettle, fridge, and basic utensils. What foods can I take with me from the US that will still be at least moderately healthy and nutritious, will be hassle free through customs, and don't need refrigeration? I'd like to not check a bag - but I may end up doing so if needed.

I will have breakfast included, and will probably splurge for dinner a night or two, but don't want to have to spend $20+ for every meal and would like to eat what I bring, and healthily. There are no grocery stores or small markets within walking distance of the hotel. I'd like to take a bunch of stuff with me, if possible. Brands suggestions would be great - have access to Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Wegmans, generic grocery stores, international markets, and my own kitchen for prep at home.
posted by raztaj to Food & Drink (20 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Boil-in-bag Indian sounds ideal for this; "Tastybite" is good as that stuff goes.
posted by kmennie at 8:21 AM on September 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Dried fruit and nuts comes immediately to mind, although you can't make a meal out of it by itself. Also beef jerky (although some is healthier than others).
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:22 AM on September 29, 2011

Dried pasta, sun dried tomatoes that are not packed in oil, rice, lentils, dried beans (kidney, garbanzo, ...), dried mushrooms, curry powder.

You could easily fix a few meals with these ingredients.

If you end up taking a bag, you could also take canned tuna, canned mushrooms, etc. to supplement the above.
posted by hariya at 8:22 AM on September 29, 2011

If you feel adventurous, you can buy army rations, which is created for ease of portability, and from what I've heard, isn't always too bad these days.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:25 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

A jar of peanut butter is crucial in these situations.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:30 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Today I purchased for an upcoming trip cup noodles, instant soups, preferred crackers, assortment of cheeses like the tiny baby bels in wax (they come in a net bag), a flip top can of liver paste/pate/ spread.

Tuna is good - I don't know if premixed versions in flat foil packs are available in the US.
posted by infini at 8:36 AM on September 29, 2011

I just realized you said healthy...but then I'm going into rural third world so its a tradeoff on hygiene
posted by infini at 8:37 AM on September 29, 2011

I'm a big fan of taking a load of Luna or Clif Bars on vacation. One of those and I'm stuffed, usually. They're not exactly healthy, but they're filling and cheap compared to a full meal.
posted by theraflu at 8:45 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I only do carry-on luggage, and I always bring along protein bars- don't take up too much space and easy to take along during the day. I also bring a few tea bags and some kind of drink mix (I like the less-artificial Crystal Light) packets. If you've got the kettle, you could probably make some lentils, so I'd bring a bag of those and a spice blend.

If you check a bag it opens up a lot more options, I am thinking of what I would bring as carry on. I don't mind five days of different varieties of meal bars for lunch and some dinners.

Before you go, get in touch with the tourism board and see if there are any restrictions on what you're allowed to bring into the country.
posted by mrs. taters at 9:31 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

A kettle is for boiling water to make tea (or possibly coffee, if you like that sort of thing). It may also be used to boil water for the purposes of cooking, but it is not a saucepan and should not be used as such. So you can have pot noodles and couscous, but not pasta and lentils. Many kettles have an exposed heating element, so even if you did want to try using the kettle to boil some kind of plastic bag meal, you would risk melting the bag and contaminating the kettle for ever more. Please don't do this.
posted by Lebannen at 9:53 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

A friend of mine who loves to travel but hates foreign food (I know, I know...) lives entirely on Luna and Cliff bars out of her suitcase.
posted by The otter lady at 10:06 AM on September 29, 2011

I should have clarified how I thought of using the kettle for lentils - you'd have to boil water, let them soak, then drain and repeat. Not ideal, but seemed possible.
posted by mrs. taters at 10:10 AM on September 29, 2011

Response by poster: "A kettle is for boiling water to make tea [...] it is not a saucepan"

Yes, of course. Things you can add hot water to, or use to heat (in a separate bowl or mug or something) are definitely the right idea, but maybe looking for additional ideas on what kinds of nifty, healthy "just add hot water" things are available and easily transportable. I do a lot of my own cooking, so not sure what's out there (I'm also not that creative! :P)
posted by raztaj at 10:13 AM on September 29, 2011

"A jar of peanut butter is crucial in these situations. "

Apparently, peanut butter will not make it through security in a carry-on bag. If I believe what the TSA guy told me this morning when I gave him a weird look as he was talking about 'no peanut butter and jelly' - peanut butter is the weapon of choice for smugglers.
It was pretty early this morning, but I'm pretty sure I heard that right.
posted by msamye at 10:40 AM on September 29, 2011

Frontier Natural dehydrated bean flakes. Boil water, pour over flakes, let sit a few minutes, it's ready. I carry this stuff and a spoon whenever I travel. Refried Pinto. Fiesta Black Bean. Plain pinto and plain black bean flakes are cheaper since they're just beans and salt.

Caveat: They are serious fart fuel. We find it's less of a problem after eating it for a few days straight. Presumably our guts adapt to it or something. YMMV.

I've found similar products in the bulk bins at some health food stores.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 11:15 AM on September 29, 2011

Instant oatmeal and dried fruit for a relatively hearty breakfast.

Summer sausage (not the kind with cheese) is by definition a sausage that does not require refrigeration.

Some kinds of cakes will travel well. Also, oatmeal cookies can be loaded with all kinds of healthy things.

My advice, because I don't know where you're preparing to go in the Caribbean, is to be prepared for upset stomachs in as many ways as you can. If you find Gatorade to be helpful to you in those situations, you might consider bringing some gatorade powder. Not only is it cheaper than the bottled stuff, but if you're certain you can get potable water in your location, it's much lighter to pack. Pepto Bismol comes in chewable tablets, bring those instead of a bottle of the goo. Etc.
posted by bilabial at 11:15 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Army rations, or at least MRE, will also not make it through security. Nor would tasty bites, I think. Too much liquid, and sometimes MREs have those instant heater packs.

I've used Luna bars as backup meals when traveling. Also, since you have boiling water, you could get a packet or two of the freeze-dried meals at the camping store. Mountain House Chili Mac is a particular favorite of ours, but there are other flavors. Most have an awful lot of salt, but would be more nutritious than cup noodles.
posted by cabingirl at 11:18 AM on September 29, 2011

If you want anything liquidy that isn't in 100ml containers, you'll need to check a bag or have it confiscated. (US airports are super strict about this.)

Here is a useful looking website about food importing to various Carribean locations.
(example: to the Bahamas, no fresh fruit/veg.)

see if you can sequester a bread roll from breakfast to do for lunch? This may or may not be frowned upon.
posted by titanium_geek at 4:07 PM on September 29, 2011

I'd go with Luna and Clif bars. Personally, I like Lara bars a fair bit, as their primarily fruit and nut. I also travel with black tea bags, and a small chocolate bar or two as a treat. Sometimes, you just have to indulge yourself.

If you do end up taking something like beef jerky, be aware that US Customs may give you a hassle bringing it back into the country. They ban the importation of meat products, among other things. And even though you took it out of the US originally, bringing it back into the US may count as 'importation'.
posted by spinifex23 at 9:35 PM on September 29, 2011

Assuming you are flying into a reasonably metropolitan area, maybe you could buy groceries when you land and then take them to the hotel with you.

Be advised that groceries are expensive in the Caribbean, however--almost everything is imported. Still less expensive than resort dinners, though, and it means you can have some fresh produce (which you cannot import).
posted by thinkingwoman at 12:57 PM on October 2, 2011

« Older Baby it's cold outside...   |   dumb people need health insurance too Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.