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14 July 2014 / leggypeggy

Could you feed 14 people dinner and breakfast for less than $20?

overland truck

Setting up to cook

Lots of people wonder how we afford to travel so much. Most don’t believe me when I say it’s usually cheaper to travel than it is to stay at home.

So how do we do it? The trick, of course, is to do budget overland trips. We’re currently on our seventh—with trips eight and nine coming soon.

cauliflower and onions

Cauliflower and onions

corn and tomato paste

Cooked corn and tomato paste

potatoes and onions

Chopping potatoes

Over the years, we’ve travelled with five different companies. While the definition of ‘budget’ has varied across them, it’s always meant camping when it’s available (usually bush camping) and cheap hostels or hotels when it’s not.

When we camp, we cook! When we cook, we shop! That means trips to local markets for the ingredients needed to make dinner that night and breakfast the following morning. The truck has a supply of staples and condiments, so we stick to buying mostly fresh.

Our current group of 14 (and just recently 15) is divided into four cook groups. My group’s most recent turn was in Karakol, Kyrgyzstan, home of the huge livestock market every Sunday.

We did our cook shop shortly after ogling all the livestock.

Hmm, what to buy? Hmm, what could we afford? Our team of three had 1000 som to buy enough ingredients to feed 14 people. That’s about $20.

We’d cooked a succession of primarily vegetarian meals (a big batch of lentils was already soaking), but after seeing all that meat on the hoof, our first stop had to be at the butcher’s. All cuts of beef were 330 som a kilo—the mince was coarsely ground and the t-bones were almost two inches thick. Chicken breast was 220. I didn’t ask the price of the solid lumps of fat on offer.

But are those duck breasts on the side of the freezer?


How much?

They’re 140 som.

For one?

No, for a kilo!

Surely he was kidding. I hadn’t seen or heard chickens or ducks in the livestock markets, and here was this fellow telling me that duck breasts were 140 som a kilo. That’s less than $3 a kilo, less than $1.50 a pound.

I could have fainted, instead I bought two kilos. That left me with 680 som (about $13) to buy everything else.

duck breasts

Sixteen duck breasts for about 50 cents each


Carrots and a bag of sultanas


Turnips or summer radishes

We tried hard to squander it all.

It stretched to two kilos of potatoes, a kilo of carrots, a kilo of onions, a kilo of what we thought were turnips but the locals seem to call summer radishes, a largish cauliflower, a half-kilo jar of tomato paste, two ears of cooked corn (pricey at more than a dollar for the two) and finally 250 grams of hugely expensive dried sultanas (raisins) for the equivalent of $1.35.

We weren’t worried about breakfast. The weather was chilly so we’d make porridge (from oats already on the truck) laced with the pricey sultanas soaked in water and cinnamon. Oh for a splash of rum!

When I checked my cook-group shopping pocket and found we still had 157 som to spend, there was only one thing for it—another kilo of duck breasts.

Everybody got roasted vegetables and a duck breast, and there were a couple extra breasts for the big eaters. You can be sure we didn’t waste the duck fat either. I rendered it down for future cook groups.

Oh, and remember those lentils that were soaking. We used some of the veg and made a lentil soup as a starter‚ so two courses for the hungry masses.

No doubt it will be the only time in my life when I buy 16 duck breasts for just over $8. I still can’t believe it. But on a budget trip, you have to swoop on such bargains when they come your way. I wonder what my next find will be?

Got a mega-bargain story? Oh, do share!

P.S. Vodka has been a popular purchase in Kyrgyzstan. It’s never on a cook group’s shopping list, but the vodka drinkers are loving prices that range from $1 to $8 a bottle.

P.P.S. If you’re a food lover, check out my cooking blog. Here’s a Brazilian recipe for the next time you find cheap berries.

cook group

A cook group (not mine) at work with extra assistants and great Kyrgyz scenery



Leave a Comment
  1. Joanne T Ferguson (@mickeydownunder) / Jul 14 2014 3:02 pm

    G’day and well done Peggy! Love your ingenuity! Nothing says where there’s a will, there a way like someone born in the USA! 🙂 Sharing your post today!
    Cheers! Joanne


    • leggypeggy / Jul 14 2014 3:09 pm

      Thanks Joanne. I’m amazed by the ingenuity shown by every cook group. Everyone works with what they can buy!


  2. Derrick / Jul 14 2014 5:02 pm

    Yup, I think everyone that does these overland trips gets a better idea of cooking and it does stretch your imagination when it comes to menus. It don’t take much to feed anyone, but getting a decent menu does

    I know I have tried a lot of stuff I cooked on travels when I get home (not for 24 people though)

    Can’t always find the right ingredients, so the same as on a truck, you make do with what you got 🙂

    But you got a real bargain there with the duck breasts (I think I would have been lucky to get one for that price)

    Even cheaper than India I think


    • leggypeggy / Jul 14 2014 11:11 pm

      I think the duck breasts were the best bargain I’ve ever found on an overland trip. That’s why I had to write about them. And you’re so right—cooking for an overland group really kick starts your cooking and menu imagination.


  3. Derrick / Jul 15 2014 3:47 am

    today, I had to shopping, and guess what, they had duck breasts and they were on sale, £2.44 for 2 (yes they were large as well), in fact these had been reduced from £4.50, so I bought them, not qite the bargain you got, but cheap enough here


    • leggypeggy / Jul 15 2014 11:35 am

      Oh Derrick, thank so much for sharing that. Really brings home what a good bargain we got.


  4. pagedogs / Jul 15 2014 9:55 am

    I enjoy potatoes cooked in duck fat as much as the duck breasts themselves. A doubly good deal for you.


    • leggypeggy / Jul 15 2014 11:39 am

      Good to know someone else appreciates the duck fat as much as I do.


  5. artandkitchen / Aug 7 2014 8:43 pm

    Thanks a lot Peggy for showing us how you travel (transport and food), I’m dreaming the day we will have enough time to do it as well. It’s a wonderful dream!


    • leggypeggy / Aug 7 2014 11:34 pm

      So glad you found it interesting. I’ll do another post soon to explain how the cook groups work.


  6. David / Jan 30 2015 3:41 pm

    Damn! I love duck! Great find! I can see and hear you engaging the seller;o)


  7. Cheryl Wright / Apr 16 2017 12:47 am

    When you have to stretch out a budge the best thing to do is look for bargains. I’ve never had duck before.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. karenstl / Nov 12 2017 1:21 am

    I think being a part of cook groups of trips like this would be part of the adventure. And eating whatever was local and was put in front of you the days you aren’t cooking. I would love to pick your brain sometime on how you afford these trips and what to expect.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Nov 12 2017 4:31 am

      The trips are very affordable—especially because most of the time you are camping and cooking for yourselves. We often find it’s cheaper to travel than to stay at home. You are most welcome to pick my brain. I’m also writing more now about our 11 months of travel in Africa. You may find that useful. Search for Africa.



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