Eating your way through Europe as a vegetarian/vegan
Find here a few learned tips from fellow backpackers!
In today’s current climate more and more people have chosen to opt for a plant-based diet. Being vegetarian or vegan is part and parcel with being more aware and conscious of what you are eating and where what you are eating has come from.
You are already about to be out of your comfort zone and the routine of shopping for vegan meals at your favorite grocery shop and farmers market going might be a challenge to some but you should not relinquish your reasons behind choosing a specific dietary lifestyle like vegetarian or vegan due to cost or availability. We have written some tips to help you on your way!
Modern problems require modern solutions, which in this short read, will hopefully provide or at the least make you feel less guilty about maintaining the effort to consume your fruit and vegetables and get your much needed 5 a day.
1. Go zero waste
If you are staying at a Europe’s Famous Hostel, which based on where you are reading this you probably already are, you can ask at any reception while staying at an EFH property for an EFH tote bag which can be used for a plethora of reasons, the Swiss army knife of luggage if you will. This will also ensure you don’t purchase any more plastic bags!
It packs up small and you can use it not only for food shopping but you can also take it to the beach, around Cities or up in the mountains on day trips instead of lugging around your backpack.
It can be used as a day bag to the beach if needed, the weight can also be shared between 2 people when carrying the bag if you do a large shopping trip to buy all the vegetarian ingredients that your need, have crammed one too many things into it for your picnic at the beach or are packing in a hurry with a travel partner.
2. Go grocery shopping
Ask the reception where the cheapest grocery store is so you can buy all the supply you need for your vegan diet. The closest is not always the cheapest plus the staff that work at hostel reception desks are always on the lookout for bargains or know the cheapest places for food. Most of them have traveled themselves and understand your want and need for a cheap vegetarian meal. For example, in Switzerland, after 6 pm they start discounting food with shorter sell-by dates (big orange stickers) so you know you are getting real discounts.
If you find the right one they will know the dates of farmers markets or local fresh produce markets so use them as a source of information for your vegan dietary and budget needs. It is one of the many reasons they are there after all.
Seasonality and the geographical location you are in can play a major role in what produce is cheapest, a glaring example such as tomatoes and grapes aka wine in Italy, Cloudberries in Finland. If you do a little research with regards to what time of the year you are going to be in a certain place you can save a few cents, pennies, zloty or rappen which quickly add up in the long run over the course of your travels. Stay local (also helps the country economy), avoid imported food and buy fruits and vegetables in season.
3. Spice it on
Bring your own if you can’t do without your favorite chilly flakes or homegrown basil for vegan salads. Ziploc bags (or non-plastic alternatives) and light and pack really well in the nooks and crannies of your backpack. And it feels like you are bringing something from home with you. Ziploc bags remove the need to be carrying around a breakable glass container, awkwardly shaped pasta and rice boxes, even though they are plastic, you can reuse and wash them as many times as you like or until you outlive them, they can be also be used for non-food related storage as well.
With spices, you can add one of many to what would be a bland, not exciting 3-ingredient pasta dish that will transform your meal into something your peers or parents taste buds would be proud of. Just have a look in most guest kitchens and you should be able to find a cookbook of some description for simple local recipes for example Balmers Hostel in Switzerland has traditional recipes printed and framed in their guest kitchen. Try them out!
With being aware of your spending habits purchase 1 or 2 Tupperware containers so if you do get a portion size wrong when cooking you do not have to throw your vegan meal away if you make too much. It can also be used to store premade vegetarian meals if you are going on a hike or a long day of adventuring. If you have an abundance of soft skinned fruit or vegetables and need to depart to the next destination you can precut them, store them in your container so you will not end up with having them squashed into your clothes and bags while traveling and can devour them as a healthy vegan snack while traveling.
The benefits of being vegan or vegetarian while traveling
One of the benefits of being a vegetarian while traveling is that because your body is getting the correct nutrition and vitamins through healthy eating you are less likely to get sick. A lot of travelers at some point get wiped out, this lasts for a few days with being run down due to a compromised immune system and the stress on your body due to a lack of sleep.
You can keep your immune system boosted by consuming a healthy amount of fruits and veggies. A typical travelers diet is comprised of cheap, cheap alcohol and the cheapest kebabs your feet and nose can find while being powered by the cheap alcohol. Stay one step ahead of the game by having your flesh vehicle properly powered. So if you do have a few nights with less than sound sleep and one to many beers you are not going to be paying for it with your most valuable commodity while run down which is your time.
Most lactose intolerant people avoid eating cheese fondue, when in fact it is lactose-free and so delicious!!! For something a bit different, avoid dipping it with bread as this can be very heavy combined with the cheese, and rather use fresh raw vegetables cut up to bite size. You can use raw mushrooms, radishes, red and yellow peppers, cherry, tomatoes and broccoli, all equally divine.