The $3 Beef, Veggie, and Noodle Dinner: Backpacking Around the World and Still Eating Well on the Cheap

In the middle of March, I packed what I could carry on my back, headed to the airport, and took flight for New Zealand. I’ve never been out of the U.S. before; I could only hope I knew what I was in for. I’m not a wealthy trust fund baby, I’m not a young guy from Europe whose parents are funding a “gap year,” and I still have bills to pay back home. All that being said, traveling on the cheap was my primary objective. I stay in hostels, I use public transportation, and for the most part, I make my own food instead of eating out. The average meal here costs $12-14 NZD (that’s about $10 to $12 USD).


I’ve been in New Zealand for a few weeks now (flew out to Vietnam last night), and wanted to share with you one such quick, easy, and cheap meal many backpackers are familiar with. While the context here is eating cheap while traveling, you could do the same thing at home.

What You’ll Need:

  • Fantastic Noodles / Ramen Noodles / 2 Minute Noodles
  • Cubed beef / chicken / tofu chunks
  • Vegetables of your choice

I went with beef, broccoli, potato, carrots, and fresh green beans. Everything you see in the picture below cost about $12 NZD (about $9 USD), and is easily enough for three meals for one person. At $3 bucks each, you’ll be hard pressed to beat it, especially for a meal as filling as this.


First, I get the vegetables cooking because they take the longest. In another pot, I started water boiling for the noodles. After three minutes or so, I added the meat to the vegetables and dropped the noodles in the boiling water. If you’re cooking beef, cook it long enough for your liking. If chicken, make sure it’s cooked all the way through.


The noodles will get done first; go ahead and strain the excess water and add the seasoning. If it weren’t for the high amount of sodium, these would be completely healthy. I opted for the baked noodles instead of the typical fried noodles.

Not more than three minutes after that, your meat and vegetables will be done; add them to the noodles, throw a dash of salt and pepper on top, and chow down. For the equivalent of $3 USD per meal, this is the way to go.

If you’d like to keep up with my journey backpacking around the world, visit my travel blog at

Also Read:

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Green Tea Power Smoothie is the Ultimate Power Breakfast

Sticky Red Wine Chicken and Veggies Stir Fry is Way Better than Carryout!

All photos courtesy of Mike Beauchamp at

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