Cooking on the road: Cheap eats

By: Anita Pavey, Photography by: Anita Pavey

How to travel and still eat like royalty.

Cooking on the road: Cheap eats
Always keep some emergency packets on hand, and make the most of any fresh produce you can find, as well as leftovers

Cooking on the road is quite different from cooking at home. Nearly everything is accessible and convenient at home; it’s either in your pantry or you can pop down to the shop and pick something up. While on the road, you will need to pre-plan most of your meals ahead of time.

Ten dollars can go a long way in a meal, and I’m not referring to a burger and a fix of fries at the local fast food shop. Rather, something tasty and nutritious that’s a lot of fun to put together.

While there are plenty of camp oven and camping cook books to stimulate creative meal ideas, how do you pre-plan your meals? If you are travelling remotely for a few weeks, you will need to start fully stocked and top up where you can. Vacuum sealers are a great way to make meat last longer if you don’t have access to a freezer, and with models offering both 12V and/or 240V power supplies, there is no reason not to have one on hand.


Chicken is the cheap, tasty, white meat and there are plenty of options for cooking it. Either roast the whole bird, barbecue the cuts, or make a stew. We often cook the chicken thighs, which are much tastier than breast meat, usually thinner, and fry up relatively quickly on the barbecue.

Chicken thighs can be sprinkled with any number of spices for an additional tasty treat – pre-packaged harissa, bush, Tuscan, Portuguese and Moroccan spice all work well, or simply hold the spice, barbecue the meat and enjoy with a tasty relish such as mango ginger.

Sides of fresh green vegetables such as asparagus, zucchini, fennel or mushrooms, partnered with some sliced sweet or standard potatoes, all barbecued on the hotplate, make a wonderful meal.

An omelette or frittata is a great way to use up leftovers. Just add them to a few eggs and cook it in a frypan with the lid on.

Another good one for leftovers is pizza. An easy base can be made from one cup of self-raising flour and one cup of natural yoghurt. Mix in a bowl then knead it for 5-8 minutes, roll it out (use the tomato can) and add whatever you like as a topping, not forgetting the cheese. These are great in the camp oven, too. Remember to place it all on a tray or trivet before cooking and add hot coals on both the top and bottom of the oven if using the campfire. Cook for 15 to 20 mins.

Shepherd’s pie can go a long way. I use a mix of mince, beef and lamb, and heaps of veggies like carrot, zucchini, celery and onion, and a can of tomatoes, then the mash for the top. This will feed a family of six, or two people for three days.

Sausages are very versatile, and there are so many varieties in the supermarkets these days, from your everyday barbecue pork to kangaroo and Angus beef with shiraz. Spaghetti and meatballs is an interesting variation to a bolognaise sauce. Chop the sausages into small pieces and roll them in the palm of your hands to make balls, add veggies and tomato passata and voila!

The good old egg and bacon sandwich, or campfire jaffle, is always a winner and a hearty meal to keep you energised until dinner. We make the ‘great Australian breakfast’ – crack two eggs into the hole in a piece of bread and cook on a flat grill plate with bacon. Enjoy with tomato sauce.

The best bet is to never stress about meals, always keep some emergency packets on hand, and make the most of any fresh produce you can find, as well as leftovers.

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The full feature appeared in Caravan World #528, August 2014. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!