10 Essential Items in Our Mobile Travel Kitchen

We get a lot of questions about how we travel. How do you do it for so long? How can you afford it? Don’t you get tired of eating out?

Actually, we rarely tire of eating out because we do it much less than we prepare food ourselves, no matter where we are. Sometimes it’s a kitchen in a house we are house sitting at, sometimes it’s a campground while we are road tripping.

Self-catering is key to slow traveling, as it keeps costs down. Sheer will and ingenuity can help, but what you can prepare to eat ultimately comes down to the gear on hand.

One would think every kitchen comes equipped with the same basic thing. But if there’s anything we’ve learned, it’s that not one single home is ever alike. Whether you travel via house sitting, Airbnb, hosteling, or Couchsurfing, these items can help you maintain mainstays and keep food interesting.

Here’s what we usually pack for our mobile travel kitchen.

1. Collapsible Salad Spinner

Our Mobile Travel Kitchen - 10 essential items to have in your bag as a Long-term and self-catering traveler.

Whether it’s leafy greens or veggies that need washing, we (mostly Veren) find this indispensable. Often, the cheapest option is buying whole heads of lettuce, not pre washed or pre-chopped. Not being able to wash and properly dry your greens  is one reason (other than the required effort) why so many people aren’t in the habit of making salad. Don’t make excuses – make salad.

Bonus: doubles as a mixing bowl and the basket as a strainer.

Our Mobile Travel Kitchen - 10 essential items to have in your bag as a Long-term and self-catering traveler.
Shown collapsed next to our coffee cup for size.

2. Reusable Mesh Produce Bags

A friend of mine gave me two of these bags, one large, one small, almost 7 years ago. I still use them today.

Produce bags are a great alternative to all the plastic bags you’d normally use grocery shopping. Although my favorite use is for them is – you guessed it – storing lettuce. These bags will keep your leafy greens from rotting by allowing them to breathe. The worst that happens is that they wilt over time – but don’t toss them greens away yet. All that means is that they have lost water content and are still perfectly edible.  Just put them in cold water (iced even better) for a bit and they’ll crisp back up.

3. Bella Blender/Immersion Blender

We try to incorporate as much raw food into our diet as possible. Every morning we have a smoothie. And not a half a banana, handful of acai berries, wheatgrass, plant milk and powder additive smoothie. We’re talking about 3 – 4 bananas per person with just enough fruit to flavor (or just spinach with 5 – 6 bananas in Veren’s case) and enough liquid to blend. Not every meal can be a 3 course, nuanced culinary delight – 80 to 90 percent of the time we just need to fuel up.

Hands down the easiest way to keep this habit is to always have a blender. In the States, the Bella Rocket Pro was our favorite. Spain has the best immersion blenders, so that’s what we use when we are there. While the personal blender is more powerful, it’s hard to beat the portability of a hand stick blender. They’re not as affordable in the U.S. (we got an 800-watt immersion blender in Spain for 30 euros, while one with the same power will cost you about three times as much in the U.S.).

**Keep in mind that blenders are checked baggage only!**

4. Steel mesh coffee filter

We (Sam mostly) like coffee every morning. The ritual makes us feel at home. However, buying filters is hardly practical while traveling and a wasteful habit to boot. There may be portable French presses out there, but this steel basket coffee filter is perfectly tiny and fits easily into any mug. Not only is it super durable, but this size can easily accommodate up to 2 – 3 servings of coffee grounds.

5. Reusable and Collapsible Coffee Cup

On the subject of coffee, if you’re an avid coffee drinker that travels a lot, chances are you’ll be getting your coffee to go on many occasions. Takeaway cups are extremely wasteful and unnecessary when you can bring your own cup! We use a 12 oz collapsible silicone coffee cup that packs into nothing when we’re not using it.  There are also non-collapsible ones like the stylish glass KeepCup.

Bonus: sometimes you’ll get a discount of 10-20 cents off for bringing your own cup. While it doesn’t seem like that much, it adds up and eventually pays off the cost of the cup.

Collapsed on the left.

6. Vegetable Peelers

If you’re a vegan that actually eats vegetables, you’ll need to skin those bad boys while they’re supple and fresh. Also great if you want to make long thin slices – very often I chop off the top of a crisp bell pepper and peel along the circumference to go along with noodles.

This veggie peeler is super small, entirely stainless steel, and hardly takes up any space. This set comes with a julienne peeler, as it allows you to get those great matchstick strips without the precision knife work. I’ve had it for years and still works great.

7. Garlic Press

The most important thing I did when moving out on my own? Abscond with the greatest garlic press that I still use today.

Garlic presses are more uncommon than you’d think. And if you do find one in the home you’re house sitting in, it’s some flimsy shit that auto disassembles during use. I use it for more than garlic – any fresh roots like ginger or turmeric, also with herbs, when you can’t be bothered to finely mince. I’ll press lemon peels in place of a zester. Get a lightweight aluminum one. I suggest the one piece, 3 movable parts, design by Zyliss, as mine still works great over 10 years later.

8. Chopsticks

Not only do they double as weapons, chopsticks are lightweight and super reusable. While we are home we use utensils but we like to travel with chopsticks to reduce our take out utensil usage. Also wood means lightweight.

9. Flat grater

What for you say? So many veggies are grate-able. Some veggies, once grated, are undetectable when mixed into other things like rice and couscous. A great way to sneak in some extra fiber.

Not only is it practically a few millimeters thick, it weighs hardly anything and has last us many years. Aluminum and flat, it’s super travel-friendly.

10. Spatula (flexible bowl scraper kind)

Again, not as common as you’d think. And if you like preparing creams and sauces like we do, then you want to scrape every last drop. Get one where the end and the stick can separate so that you can pack it better. Rubber and wood are super light.

Our Mobile Travel Kitchen - 10 essential items to have in your bag as a Long-term and self-catering traveler.

So that’s the list – everything in our mobile travel kitchen. Budget slow sustainable travel in a nutshell.

We make travel affordable. Otherwise, we couldn’t do it. Eating out every meal just isn’t an option for us, as much as we do enjoy trying all the vegan food wherever we end up. Also, we enjoy establishing a routine. For us, home is very much rooted in routine. Being able to make that smoothie and a morning cup of a coffee gives more than satiation, but a feeling of being grounded (pun intended).

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Veren is a filmmaker and creative pursuit enthusiast. Reared in California and cultivated in New York City, this blustering blogger is a formidable information source. In between bouts of substitute teaching, tutoring, mentoring and philosophizing, he house and pet sits while cooking for the Sam aka the girlfriend.
  • Liesbet

    We only travel with a wooden spatula and a decent chef’s knife. Everything else does not seem necessary to us or is present at the houses we sit. Like you, we rarely eat out and have a plant-based (not vegan) diet. Healthy and tasty – especially when the home owners have their own vegetable garden. 🙂

    • Yes! We love the being able to scrape bowls clean with a flexible spatula. We don’t usually check a bag, so no knives. :-/

      We have had access to home owners gardens, which is great!

  • Interesting – we are not yet in the slow travel lane, and so spend most vacations in restaurants. (While Rob is quite at home in the kitchen, he feels the cook deserves a vacation too.) But as we start considering longer term travel, kitchen gear is not something we’d thought about yet. Thanks for the insight!

    • You’re welcome! Slowing down is harder at first, but we find it ultimately more rewarding.