Groceries on-the-go: my 'Two Bags' strategy

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conwy
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Groceries on-the-go: my 'Two Bags' strategy

Post by conwy » Mon Sep 30, 2019 11:44 pm

Over the past several weeks I've gotten into the habit of relying almost exclusively on cheap groceries to cover all my food needs.

In order to do this on-the-go, whilst travelling, without a fixed location, I had to be a little more organised.

I've settled on a 'Two Bags' strategy: I simply carry two plastic bags full of food wherever I go.

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Bag 1: Dry Foods aka. 'Pantry'

* Oats
* Cocoa powder
* Spices/seasonings
* Dry fruit
* Peanuts
* Bread
* Coffee
* Anything else dry

I was able to take this bag with me on several domestic and international flights. Had no trouble, as it's considered 'extra hand baggage' and generally allowed, as long as it's small enough to be stowable. And I breezed through border security with it, because it's all dry goods, and no liquids.

This has saved me significant money. I no longer have to purchase any of the overpriced, unhealthy crap they sell at airports, etc.

Bag 2: Cold/Wet Foods aka. 'Fridge'

* Veggies
* Fruit
* Sauces/dips
* Peanut butter

Because all the 'wet foods' are in one bag, it's quick and easy to just throw it in the refrigerator wherever I am (whether at a hostel, hotel or AirBnB).

Next time I have to fly somewhere, I can just use up the contents of this bag and dispose of them. Then I can just buy new contents wherever I settle.

(If I ever get into a situation where there's no refrigeration, I guess I'd just keep the contents small and use them up within 1-2 days before they go off.)

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This strategy seems to be working for me. I now have a regularly-replenished store of food items with me wherever I go, and I can easily get something to eat whenever I'm hungry, so the temptation to spend money at cafes/restaurants/take-away has plummeted to almost zero.

(I still eat out, but now I feel more in control of when/where I eat out. I'll save it for a special occasion with a friend/family rather than out of desperation/hunger and having no food with me.)

These two bags form my 'portable pantry' and 'portable fridge'.

* Breakfast is as easy as throwing oats, peanuts and fruit together in a bowl with some water, letting it sit for a few minutes then eating.
* Lunch is as easy as buying a can of tuna or sardines and putting it between two slices of bread.
* Dinner is as easy as buying fresh veggies from the supermarket, throwing them in the steamer with some seasonings and topping with sauce.
* Dessert is as easy as throwing some combination of frozen berries, yogurt, cocoa powder, cinnamon, peanuts, etc into a bowl and consuming cold.

I can easily replenish these bags whenever I visit a supermarket and I can shop around for the cheapest and best quality versions of every kind of item.

This is fun stuff!

slowtraveler
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Re: Groceries on-the-go: my 'Two Bags' strategy

Post by slowtraveler » Wed Oct 02, 2019 6:26 am

This inspires me to look into it for myself, even though the local food is often cheaper than cooking.

So you don't cook often? This is a stable rotation of food making up the bulk of your diet? I cannot do peanuts because they're too delicious for me and I'd stuff my face with them but most else seems replicable for me. Got any more details?

Like to travel, how much weight do you bring? Im guessing the whole set up comes in at least than a kg for the dry bag.

2Birds1Stone
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Re: Groceries on-the-go: my 'Two Bags' strategy

Post by 2Birds1Stone » Wed Oct 02, 2019 8:10 am

What type of bag do you use for the wet/cold foods? Insulated?

Taking a 12 month (shoestring budget) walkabout the world next year, so this is very timely.

Frita
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Re: Groceries on-the-go: my 'Two Bags' strategy

Post by Frita » Wed Oct 02, 2019 8:43 am

On car road trips we use a similar strategy with a soft-sided cooler bag and box of pantry box for a family of three.

Your strategy is smart for travel. I am doing a long layover in Houston with a box of protein bars, walnuts, Craisins, and my water bottle. I ended up buying takeout dinner, a Wendy’s frosty (chemical, nondairy “ice cream”), a couple pieces of overpriced fruit, and coffee. On the return, I am going to do it your way. Thanks!

Scott 2
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Re: Groceries on-the-go: my 'Two Bags' strategy

Post by Scott 2 » Wed Oct 02, 2019 6:25 pm

I can fit 48 hours of food in this cooler:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004BNQTMK

It's held up for me over 9 years and roughly 200 trips.

conwy
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Re: Groceries on-the-go: my 'Two Bags' strategy

Post by conwy » Fri Oct 04, 2019 11:27 pm

slowtraveler wrote:
Wed Oct 02, 2019 6:26 am
This inspires me to look into it for myself, even though the local food is often cheaper than cooking.
Awesome!
slowtraveler wrote:
Wed Oct 02, 2019 6:26 am
So you don't cook often? This is a stable rotation of food making up the bulk of your diet?
I generally cook once per day - dinner and dessert. I have both bags with me in the kitchen, and I simply cook whatever I need.

Dinner is pretty quick and simple - I just steam up some fresh veggies (whatever I happen to have) and top with whatever I feel like and whatever is around - salt, parmesan, olive oil. Hostels can be surprisingly well equipped with condiments, but I'm not averse to buying them too if needed.

Dessert is also pretty simple; these days I've been enjoying me "oatmeal cake" recipe a lot. Just mix oats, cinnamon and cocoa powder, add boiling water, spread a carefully controlled layer of peanut butter over the top, top with frozen berries, then stick it in the microwave oven for 5 minutes. Serve with freshly opened, cold, vanilla-flavoured yogurt.

This sounds complicated, but once you get into a routine, it becomes easy and kinda fun. You can listen to a podcast or chat with a housemate while cooking.

I should mention that I don't have much if any protein with dinner. I prefer to space out my protein in small servings throughout the day, because A) the body can only absorb about 30 grams within a 3-hour span, and B) it keeps me full and satiated throughout the day. Typically it's a sardine sandwich or maybe a cheap piece of chicken from the supermarket or 7-Eleven.
slowtraveler wrote:
Wed Oct 02, 2019 6:26 am
I cannot do peanuts because they're too delicious for me and I'd stuff my face with them but most else seems replicable for me. Got any more details?
Yeah I had this problem for a long time with anything nutty. It's the salt-fat combination that the human body craves like nothing else.

Somehow I have been able to limit my habit of over-consuming. I've got it to the point that most days I can limit myself to 1/6th of a jar of peanut butter per day (about 2-3 tablespoons).

I think a lot of it comes down to having a specific meal plan that's easy to stick to and filling your day with activities so that you're out and about and not just sitting around at home and tempted to indulge.

First thing in the morning I'll have a tablespoon of peanut butter with some bread, along with a cup of very strong black coffee. The combination of sunlight, caffein and a hearty breakfast seems to fill me up very quickly, so I don't tend to overindulge. I also leave the house almost immediately after that, leaving the peanut butter in the fridge, so I simply don't have access to it for most of the day.

During the day I'll have light, high-protein snacks, typically sardines on bread, small chicken pieces or similar.

In the evening I'll get back home and have a massive plate of steamed veggies with a tasty topping. That already is enough to make me full. After that I'll have my dessert, which includes another tablespoon or two of peanut butter. That's extra-filling. By the end of all that (and it takes me a full 20 minutes to eat it all) I'm well and truly satiated.

Combining the above with walking as much as possible (30-60 minutes per day), I seem to be able to maintain a stable weight.
slowtraveler wrote:
Wed Oct 02, 2019 6:26 am
Like to travel, how much weight do you bring? Im guessing the whole set up comes in at least than a kg for the dry bag.
If I'm changing location then, yes, I have to carry all the bags.

They don't weigh that much though - about 1 kg at most. I can carry both bags in one hand, and the rest of my belongings in my backpack on my back.

I keep it pretty minimal. I literally only carry what I will almost definitely consume within the next 7 days or so.

For example, I don't eat rice/beans much, so I don't carry them. If I do want them, I'll just buy one packet of rice and one can of beans from the supermarket and eat it the same day.

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However, if I'm out-and-about, I leave the two bags at my accommodation (wet bag goes in the fridge) and I only carry a small backpack on my back.

That backpack is tiny and only fits my laptop, charging cables, sweater, maybe a few cans of sardines (or other protein), water bottle and a few other bits and pieces. I can easily walk/commute/work with just that backpack and have a few high-protein, filling snacks throughout the day.

conwy
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Re: Groceries on-the-go: my 'Two Bags' strategy

Post by conwy » Sat Oct 05, 2019 12:45 am

2Birds1Stone wrote:
Wed Oct 02, 2019 8:10 am
What type of bag do you use for the wet/cold foods? Insulated?
Good question. Right now it's just a simple plastic bag.

I do have a nice cylindrical box for the oats. The dried fruit, coffee, etc. already comes in its own food packaging, so I just tie up the end with a rubber band to keep the contents sealed.

I considered investing in some decent containers but I've gone back on that and thought that the minimalist approach is better. Instead of adding extra complication and bulk, I can just use the packaging the food came with and tied it up with a rubber band. I usually buy small portions anyway and use them up within a few days, so it's not important to keep the food heavily sealed.

For example, I just buy one packet of ground coffee, roll the end up and seal the whole bundle with a rubber band. That seems to keep the coffee fresh without the extra hassle of pouring it into a separate container. So I save time/hassle as well as money.
2Birds1Stone wrote:
Wed Oct 02, 2019 8:10 am
Taking a 12 month (shoestring budget) walkabout the world next year, so this is very timely.
Nice!

Yeah the thing I love about this strategy is how consistent and easy it makes food selection and preparation.

When I'm travelling I don't want the discomfort of constantly trying to figure out how to eat. I'd rather just have a consistent plan for food and stick to it.

That frees me up to focus on the parts of the trip that are interesting and fun, like sight-seeing, meeting strangers, breathtaking views, etc.

And hey, I don't want to be religious about the food plan. If some really nice local cuisine is on offer, I'll still take advantage of it. E.g. when I was visiting Miami, I often ate delicious cuban food for dinner. I figured $8 for a take-away container wouldn't kill my budget. And it's reasonably healthy, nutritional food - rice, beans, chicken stew, roast plaintains.

slowtraveler
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Re: Groceries on-the-go: my 'Two Bags' strategy

Post by slowtraveler » Sun Oct 06, 2019 2:14 am

I've started applying this strategy more now as I travel more again.

Dry bag:
Sunflower seeds
Dried fruits
Coffee for gf
Salt

Wet bag (no fridge so replaced every 1-2 days)
Apples, all fruits
Eggs -hardboil daily

I'm okay with this so far. It's cheaper and healthier than always eating at restaurants since restaurants are more expensive and less delicious in the city I'm in at the moment. I want bread again but all I have is a water boiler and knife to prepare food. I can't cook here beyond boiling so I can't really prepare vegetables to make a vegetable sandwhich...

Any ideas?

Maybe I could boil kale, cucumbers, zuchinis, and carrots, then season with some lemon, salt, olive oil, tomatoes and put inside bread for my breakfast.

Jean
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Re: Groceries on-the-go: my 'Two Bags' strategy

Post by Jean » Sun Oct 06, 2019 5:45 am

How do you carry those, in your hands, in your backpack with your tent and sleeping bag, or in your car? It looks like a lot of food to carry around.
My minimalist version was to just carry a 2ibs bag of peanuts.

Gilberto de Piento
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Re: Groceries on-the-go: my 'Two Bags' strategy

Post by Gilberto de Piento » Sun Oct 06, 2019 6:34 am

You mentioned free condiments at hostels. Also be sure to check the free bin of food. It's food that people didn't want to bring with them on the next leg of their journey. Obviously make sure it is still good to use.

If the hostel includes breakfast you can take items from that for later in the day but don't abuse it.

JuliusFC
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Re: Groceries on-the-go: my 'Two Bags' strategy

Post by JuliusFC » Mon Oct 07, 2019 2:23 pm

Something to keep in mind is that you can fly with frozen liquids in your carry on. They have to be 100% frozen solid. I just did this recently with freezer packs, but I've also frozen actual food like soup, peanut butter, etc. and flown with them in my carry on.

Of course this only works if you have access to a freezer and you head straight to airport security so things don't start melting, but it's an option and something some people might not know about, so I'm putting it out there.

slowtraveler
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Re: Groceries on-the-go: my 'Two Bags' strategy

Post by slowtraveler » Tue Oct 15, 2019 7:43 am

Conwy
I gotta thank you for this thread. It's transformed my diet. I have been steadily building up a dry bag. Bread, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, Himalayan rock salt, fine iodized salt, roasted nuts, sunflower seeds, oatmeal, sugar, and cocoa. The olive oil, vinegar, and salt are so versatile for cooking and flavors. The bread, while amazing when toasted, can be eaten untoasted if no stove is available. I feel healthier.

We actually got a place with a solid stove and fridge for the week so we are blessed and happily cooking every day.

Spending less on food and feeling better than I have abiut food in so long.

The wet bag is highly intermittent, just vegetables, fruits, yogurt, or eggs we'll cook soon. And avocados... the staple of my diet.

Cooked some beets, potatoes, and corn today. Feels so good cooking again.

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