This one’s for all you Pastafarians out there:
We all know traveling is expensive, and I’ll be the first to tell you that I love to splurge on a quality steak and expensive bottle of wine. But for the other 20 meals of the week, I’ve found some incredible ways to fill my belly and avoid the loan sharks. You can even get your well-deserved glass of wine for much, much less than you ever expected.
The first key to almost any of my cheap travel dishes is a pasta of some sort. This usually means ramen noodles, because they’re cheap, pretty flavorful, and are sold almost everywhere around the world. Ramen is incredibly versatile. It can be prepared as a soup, stir fry, or with pasta sauce and meatballs, just to name a few. The most expensive I’ve ever seen a pack was for $.40 at a 7-11 in Honolulu, the cheapest, around $.10 bought in bulk from Costco.
As for the wine, I usually go with the cheapest Merlot or Cabernet I can find. I’m not a stickler and am pretty easy to please, so, depending on what part of the world you’re in, it’s usually pretty easy to find a palatable, less expensive wine that will complement a ramen dish just fine.
So here are a few ideas I’ve come up with myself:
1. RASTA Pasta (Ramen, Avocado, Sauce of Tomatoes, and Artichoke)
I know, I kind of stretched the wording to make a cool acronym! But this is one I cooked while living in a cave in Honolulu, literally just throwing a few things I had together in a pot and hoping for the best. I cooked two packets of ramen with one flavor packet (it was chicken, I believe), and threw in some chopped artichoke until it was soft. After that, I strained the water and added a generous amount of cheap, Wal-Mart purchased Prego sauce. Looking around, I saw an avocado and thought, hey, why not? I sliced it up, threw it on top, and chowed down. Much to my surprise, the dish was actually quite tasty, and I can only imagine how much more I could’ve done with it given a proper array of spices and an actual kitchen to cook in.
Total Cost: $2.80
2. Chicken. Stir. Fry!
I think of all the ramen dishes I’ve concocted, this one was my favorite. I sauteed a chicken breast in soy sauce and olive oil until it was golden brown, and dabbed a bit of brown sugar on top. I started the ramen when I estimated the chicken was about halfway through, finished the chicken while the ramen cooked, and put the chicken on low while straining. I was out of money and most veggies when cooking this, so I chopped an onion and sauteed it with the chicken. Then, add a dab more of olive oil, and throw the strained ramen in the pan with the chicken and onions, stirring vigorously for about two minutes. You don’t even need to add the flavor packet and its ridiculous amount of sodium. And, viola, you have a tasty stir fry that’s filling and cheap.
Total Cost: $3.25
3. Veggie Soup-a-Loop!
If I ever found myself unable to purchase two packets of ramen, or just wanted a bit of a lighter meal for lunch that was still quite filling, I cooked up this tasty ramen dish. This was my staple at hostels all throughout Central America. I just chopped up some onion, tomato, green beans, and corn, sauteed them with a bit of olive oil, and cooked the ramen with the flavor packet. Instead of straining, this time I just threw the veggies in and made a nice bowl of ramen soup. It is probably my quickest, easiest ramen dish to date, and the extra water gives you a nice sense of fullness even though you’re only consuming one pack of noodles.
Total Cost: $1.50
Add a cheap bottle of wine to any of these dishes and you’ve got a traveler’s delight: a cost-effective, (somewhat) healthy meal and a little vino to cap it off. Of course, now you’ll have enough money to go to Benihana’s on Friday night, and out for drinks afterwards. Sounds like a win-win to almost anyone on a budget!