11 Kitchen Hacks for Cooking at a Hostel

12 October 2018

By Christine Emhardt

Read Christine's 9 Tips for Staying in a Hostel at her blog, And the Story Goes.

Staying at hostels can save travelers a ton of money, and cooking your own meals there instead of eating out can save you even more! Even if you don’t cook often at home, don’t worry: with a few tricks, it’s super easy to make the most of a hostel kitchen. Here are some of my favorite hostel cooking hacks to help you save money without having to spend your whole vacation living off of top ramen.

See What the Kitchen has to Offer

Not all hostel kitchens are created equal, so when you arrive, give the kitchen a quick once over. See what equipment and supplies they offer guests to use: look for ovens, stove tops, cooking trays, and pots and pans, then check to see if they supply basic ingredients like oil, salt, and pepper.

Check the Free Bin Before Going Shopping

a free food bin at a hostel kitchen

This is the #1 hostel food hack! While you’re checking out the kitchen, keep an eye out for the “free bin.” Every hostel has one: it’s where you’ll find groceries that past guests haven’t been able to bring with them when they checked out. You may find anything from left over dry spaghetti, to bread, veggies, or seasonings in free bins. Depending what’s inside, you might just need to purchase one or two more items to complete a meal!

Buy Eggs for Breakfast

If you have a long day of sight seeing ahead, eggs are a great breakfast to keep you going. If you don’t feel like cooking eggs first thing in the morning, hard boil several the night before. If you’ve never hard-boiled eggs, it’s as easy as spaghetti: just bring water to a boil, then bring it down to a simmer, place eggs in for 13 minutes, remove, and put them in some cold water.

Mix it Up with Yogurt

some breakfast items in a hostel kitchen

If you’re tired of cereal for breakfast, get some yogurt at the grocery store when you first arrive. If your hostel provides free breakfast, upgrade your yogurt with free goodies. Mix yogurt, fruit, and peanut butter or fruit jam for a yogurt parfait. Add some cereal on top for an extra crunch!

Buy Versatile Items for Longer Stays

If you’re going to be staying at a hostel for a few days, buy versatile items that you can cook multiple ways. Potatoes can be used for any meal during the day; from hash browns, to French fries, to baked potatoes. Rice and noodles are also great picks, as can be cooked in a variety of ways as well.&

Keep it Simple with Spaghetti

two women preparing a meal in a hostel kitchen

The go-to for many hostel dinners is pasta. All you need is a pot of water and your noodles of choice. Plus, pasta is a great way to ensure you have enough energy for the next day if you have a lot of walking to do. It’s also very easy to make, and if you make too much, just offer it to someone else and make a new friend while you share a meal!&nsbp;

Carry Non-Perishable Dry Items with You

When you check out of your hostel, you can throw dry items like pasta, rice, and oats in your bag and take them to your next destination. If you’re traveling solo, this can also save you money as even a small bag of rice can last several meals

Carry Your Favorite Seasoning

a range of seasonings in a hostel kitchen

While many hostels will have basic seasonings like salt and pepper, not all offer extras like garlic or red chili flakes. If you don’t want to eat bland food, bring some seasonings with you.&

Make Simple Recipes

Whatever you decide to cook, you’ll need to buy all the ingredients (unless you find some in the free bin of course). Keeping your recipes simple can keep costs and cooking times down.

For Ripe Fruit and Vegetables, Head to a Farmers Market

Buying fresh produce can be hard since grocery stores often sell under-ripe items. Instead, ask the front desk staff at your hostel if there’s a nearby farmers market where you can buy fresh fruit and vegetables that are ready to be eaten.&nsbp;

Join Hostel Dinners

a group of travelers sharing a meal at a hostel

What better way to enjoy a meal than by not having to cook it? If you’re hostel is hosting a dinner night, join in! Not only will it be a nice meal that will save you money, but you’ll also get to meet other guests.


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