Before I had kids, a great vacation was a nice hotel with room service. Now that we have four kids, room service isn’t a great option if I’m trying to watch our pennies while traveling. I have found some great ways to eat better without breaking the bank and still keep all the hungry tummies happy.
Opt to Stay in a Condo or House
I never thought I would admit this, but having access to a kitchen and a washer and dryer on vacation actually makes the vacation more enjoyable. You don’t have to cook every meal, or cook a big feast. I usually like to buy groceries for breakfast and lunch and then plan to go out for dinner. If we are staying someplace with a pool, my kids are usually happy to take a bit of a break from the sun and go inside for a quick lunch rather than getting dressed to go out. You can even go on line and check out the sales flyers of grocery stores near where you stay. I have found that there are even some grocery stores near resort areas that will either allow you to order in advance and have your order waiting for you, or deliver your groceries so you don’t spend precious vacation time shopping. Of course if you have room in the car, packing a few non-perishables will also make shopping easier when you get to your destination.
Bring a Crock Pot and a Cooler
I have cooked just about everything imaginable out of a hotel room. Bringing a cooler, an electric griddle, an electric skillet, or a crock pot can give you a lot of options for serving an economical meal. If there isn’t a fridge in the room, keeping perishable foods in a cooler and changing out the ice each day works well. In addition to traveling with my family, I often travel with my kid’s sports teams and have chronicled how I cook out of a hotel room. The same concepts and recipes that I use to feed a team on the road would apply to families staying in a hotel room. If you are going to be out of your room all day, you can put pre-made chili or spaghetti sauce that has been brought from home in the slow cooker and it will be hot and ready to eat when you return to your room at night.
Restaurant Portions are Usually Huge, Divide and Conquer
Even if a restaurant doesn’t offer family style meals, you can request to order a few entrees and a large salad and share. Not only will it help your waistline, but it will help your wallet too. I often encourage my kids to skip the “kid’s meal” options; there is more to life than chicken fingers. Often there are great options for kids on the appetizer or side dish portion of the menu that are lot healthier and more interesting than the kids meals.
Take Advantage of Warehouse Store Ready to Eat Foods
Both Sam’s Club and Costco have ready to meals that would make a great picnic lunch or dinner. A rotisserie chicken salad, pre-made sandwiches or a fruit or veggie tray can make a great option to eating out.
Bring Along Basics and Splurge on Treats
At a minimum I like to have bottled water and some granola bars in the car. It saves the aggravation of paying the same amount for two bottles of water as you would for a whole case.
Crystal Maleski is the mom of four kids and shares her love of cooking at http://www.makedinnereasy.com where she provides free weekly dinner plans, recipes, and a printable grocery shopping list to help busy families cook homemade meals with ease.