Eating for Cheap on the Road
AKA: chowing down in your hotel room without takeout!
Go on any convention forum or facebook group and there is the constant complaint of food issues: no place to eat, food too expensive, dietary needs not covered, nothing tastes good etc. In this multi-part series we’re going to cover our tips and tricks from living on the road to use not just at conventions, but just about any time you find yourself stuck in a hotel for a while with limited access to food or budget issues. The bare bones basics you’ll need for hotel chowing: covered mug, spork (or spoon and chopsticks), and dental floss. If you do this a lot, I like a covered mug like this basic corningware. I have found cheap covered mugs at my local market but one with a gasket and a vent that stays on comes in handy too. You can cook just about anything in a vented covered mug like this from ramen, to soup packets, to a mug cake…if you’re THAT hard core about prep. Toss this thing in your luggage with some packets of condiments of your choice inside it and you are good to go. Save take out food packets for traveling! With the spork you can eat soup or anything else and with the floss you can cut many things from cake, to cheese, to bread. Your mug also comes in handy at room parties: pour your drink and cap that shit: it’s like an adult sippy cup and at some parties you’re lucky if there ARE cups and many hotel rooms don’t have cups if they do…well they’re shined with pledge.
This part of the series covers foods you can easily make with a microwave only. Next article will be on “so you have a fridge too!” And finally “Ah so you’re in a shit show with no fridge and no mic?!”
Eating In: Hotel Chow Down
Most hotels, even the shitty ones, tend ot have a mini fridge and a microwave. I lived out of an Econolodge in Beckley WV populated by the semi-homeless, kayak instructors, and Frack rig workers on and off for a year and a half, and even THAT place had a microwave and a fridge. This tends to be the norm so we’ll cover this first. Here’s 10 easy things to pack and eat in your room. NOTE: priority given to goodies that don’t need kept in the fridge, don’t take up much space, and are easy to prepare.
RULE 1: If you can, buy your provisions when you get to the site if you can. It’s less stuff to drag along on the trip with you and if you’re flying, obviously you don’t want to drag a bag full of chow with you.
RULE 2: Plan ahead! Depending on how cheap you want to be, plan for at least 2 meals, assuming you get free breakfast. If you’re at a place like The Kalahari at Colossal that doens’t have free breakfast (seriously guys, biker hotels in Detroit at least have instant coffee and stale danish wtf!) it’ easiest to plan for cheap chow for breakfast and lunch, and save your money for a fun dinner.
RULE 3: Keep it clean! Please don’t wreck the room cooking, blow yourself up, or light things on fire. Don’t be THAT hotel guest who bring a hot plate either. Unless you are in a hotel with a suite that has a little kitchen that’s a fast way to get yourself kicked out. Learn from my (almost) fail. Noted: depending on how ghetto the hotel means you can get away with weirder shit. I’ve seen people grill in mini hibachis in the parking lot soooooo….
TOP 10 HOT EATS
All these eats are “Grave yard shift nurses with no access to fresh food and need instant chow that can hang out in a locker for weeks and still be mostly edible and can be cooked in a microwave or with hospital hot water in the time it takes to tell your patient to sit down and shut up.”
10.) Cup ramen/udon; obvious one! Heat up your h20 i the microwave or if you dn’t have that, heat up water with the in room coffee pot. Don’t cook your noodles IN the pot. That’s just rude! Don’t even have that? Most hotels have tea and coffee at the front desk. Still don’t have that and at a summer con? Keep a black bottle of water on the dash board in the sun.
9.) Microwave rice in a bag/pot: they’re cheap, they’re easy and you can eat it right out of the bag! If you have an ethnic market in your area they always have cool “rice in a bag” like 5 treasures rice, or even brown rice in a little pot.
8.) Rice and Beans: Uncle Bens and a couple other brand make a “rice and beans” combo or even an instant quinoa in a bag. Sure it can be a little grim but it’s enough to keep you full and going
7.) Microwave soup in a can: Canned soup is a good option because you have many different options and most of them even have pop top lids! If you have two friends and only one mug, you could split your soup and one person eat out of the rinsed out can but honestly most of those “Ready to eat” soups are really only enough for one person no matter what they say! NOTE: make sure it has a pop top lid unless you want to bring a can opener.
6) Frozen burritos: got access to the mini fridge with the tiny freezer and at a con near a grocery store or bodega? Colossalcon, Tekko, even Ohayocon…most big city cons will have a damn 7 11 nearby! Shove a few of these suckers in the freezer thing and heat up and you are good to go
5) Quesadillas: bring small tortillas and shredded cheese and you can make one of these guys; melt your cheese in your mug and spread it on your tortillas…unless you bring a small microwave safe plate or can find paper towels. NOTE: You will need the mini fridge for your cheese but “american cheese” doesn’t really need to be refrigerated if it’s just a few nights. Even a small bag of cheese isn’t going to go bad in a con weekend and you’ll eat it before it gets funky. If you really worry grab ice at your hotel and let your cheese hang out in the ice bucket.
4) DRY microwave chow: many companies have dry soups, dry grains, and even instant pasta in really light weight paper cups just like ramen but gives you more bang for your buck and more healthy depending on what. Sometimes you just want damn kraft dinner after a day in a crazy costume.
3.) Unfrozen ready to eat meals: not healthy but after running around all day do you really care? I’ve made instant pasta in a microwave pan like this and eaten it with stir stick “chop sticks” that come with the coffee pot set up in the room. Dinti Moore makes some tasty but calorie bombs of chow in a pan. Just eat it in the dark like a bad con hookup har har
2.) Miso soup: Like your ramen all you need is hot water. It comes in instant miso which is easy to find at any large grocery store. It’ll get the job done but not a total taste delight but nothing some soy sauce packets cant’s fix. Some even have dried tofu or sea weed in them. If you have access to miso paste (yeah I’m privileged I live in a big city, can get a tub of miso for 3 bucks right next to the rite aid..) toss that in the fridge and your soup not only will taste better but be better for you.
1.)Bagged soup: Why is this on a different number? Because bagged soup is a ton lighter and packs MUCH better than the canned soup. You have the added bonus of being able to cook it in the bag and then pour it into your cup, sparing yourself from microwave clean up. A couple companies have chili as well in a bag. You won’t have the variety of canned stuff but they are much easier to pack.
TL:dr: Get cup ramen or dry chow in a cup and make with the coffee maker or microwave, or if you want a little class and better taste try other options.