Hello to All
In planning vacations, vacation food is the second biggest expense next to where you stay. How can you save money on vacation food? I have a few ideas that might help with that!
In my last post, I talked about our recent vacation and how we found places to stay when we went to different places. In planning a vacation, especially since having children, I know I have to start EARLY in planning the vacation food for the trip. When it was just hubby and I (as I shared in a previous post here) we took a cooler of bologna and cheese, white bread, drinks and called that food! Now, with 4 almost grown kiddos, plus usually my mother-in-law and sometimes friends of the kiddos, I am planning for a LOT more appetites. And, let me just tell you, that can get expensive! So what’s a fun-on-the-fugal-ista supposed to do? I’m so glad you asked.
When the kiddos were younger, and their food tastes ran the gamut of peanut butter and crackers to peanut butter and jelly and chicken nuggets, I didn’t ask them a whole lot about what they wanted to take with us. Instead, I would draw up a simple menu plan for vacation food of the days we were staying times the meals and snacks I would need. Then I would make sure I left at least one meal open because we always tried to eat out once as a treat. Then I would start to fill in simple things to make or take to make. This really made my life easier when we arrived because I would take my menu with me.
Now that everyone is older and their tastes are ….. how shall we say it….. eclectic? Interesting? All over the map? 😀 Planning takes a bit more time. I do ask them what they want and try to incorporate at least one idea from each person. When my mother-in-law goes, she always wants to contribute by bringing food. We have to sit and talk and re-talk and re-plan, but eventually we have a workable plan with which to work. And, over the years, we have come up with some ways that help us save money on food for vacation, so we have money to spend on things that are more fun!
How I Save Money On Vacation Food
I know ALL of you have read this when talking about saving money on food regularly at home. It only stands to reason that it would help on vacation too, right? However, when I have talked to friends of mine who have complained about the high cost of eating while on vacation, none of them have ever done a menu plan to decide ahead what to make while away. If you take even 30 minutes to sit and make a rough outline of food, it can help you on the next steps. I have a picture below of my menu plan I concocted on the computer. As you can see, I may be a little OCD 🙂 BUT this helps keep me on track and not feeling so overwhelmed. Although it looks detailed, it really is a rough draft. Had we not gone into Charleston on Wednesday as planned, I would have switched that day with another one – but at least I had an idea of what we were doing.
BUY FOOD AHEAD
I learned a LONG time ago, if I wait to buy food either (A) where we travel or (B) at home but the day before we leave, I ended up spending money I had earmarked for other, more fun and exciting things during vacation. It only took me one time and a week of regrets to not do this any more. So, what I have started doing is trying to make my menu plan (or least a rough outline in my head, if not on paper LOL) ahead, and then look at what I am going to need that is non-perishable. If there are items that I can buy a few at a time ahead, then I do it and sock it away. For me, these are things like peanut butter, crackers, jelly, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, grits, syrup, etc. This way, I have them purchased, marked off my list and packed, ready to go into the back of the Greene-Mobile.
BUY FOOD ON LOCATION
On one of our first major vacations to an exciting destination with children and mother-in-law in tow, I had bought a few things ahead (like I explained above) but hadn’t bought a whole lot. This was due in part to poor planning, and my hubby saying “it’ll be okay – we will just buy when we get there. Besides, the food takes up too much room.” (insert eye roll here, and every just nod along because you know what’s coming, right?). So, we arrived, I took stock of what I did have and the L-O-N-G list of what we needed and away to the grocery store I went. I soon discovered that, while the store layout was similar to home, the prices were NOT. I couldn’t believe how much more I spent in that store. I seemingly remember standing in the middle of the condiment aisle, holding up a bottle of ketchup and saying to the ceiling (in my best Scarlett O’Hara accent) “As God is my witness, I will never leave home without shopping again.” And I haven’t LOL. However, what we DO buy when we arrive is perishables, such as lunch meat, milk, butter, eggs, bread, etc. If it works better for you to buy when you arrive (for example, if you’re flying somewhere rather than driving) then by all means do so – I’m sure you’ll be saving money over eating out every meal.
MAKE FOOD AHEAD
My mother-in-law’s favorite contribution to any trip is to make food ahead. She loves to cook a turkey breast, beef roast, pork loin or even a ham, and have hubby slice them, then freeze the slices in Tupperware containers. She uses these frozen containers as her ice in the cooler and when we arrive the food is close to thawed and ready to eat. We use these for main dishes or sandwiches at lunch. We have also made lasagna, chicken casseroles or baked ziti ahead, in disposable pans, frozen them and taken them with us. This way, supper is ready to pull out and thaw, and then reheat and eat. You aren’t wasting much time in the kitchen – and cooking doesn’t get in the way of the fun – but you also are saving money but not eating out if you want to use the cash for other fun things!
PLAN YOUR TIMES TO EAT OUT
My hubby is always the one, when my mother-in-law and I are menu planning, to say “We are going to eat out once or twice, right?” LOL We always do eat out a couple times, but we try to plan them for the least expensive times. Lunch is always a good time to go to restaurants, as you can get the same food as dinner but at a less expensive price. Also, on our last vakay to Pawley’s Island, we found a wonderful seafood restaurant near our rental house that had Early Bird Specials. If you were willing to eat between 4pm and 6pm, they prices were reduced on their menu between $5 and $10, and in two cases $15, an entree. This saved us a TON of money and we still got the delicious food.
As a side note to this, if you are in a location where you want to eat seafood, you can always buy seafood at a local fish market and make it yourself to save some money. That’s what we did with the low country boil pictured below. We had the corn, potatoes and sausage. All we needed was the shrimp and we were good to go!
Depending on where you are staying, don’t forget to look EVERYWHERE for coupons. The realty company we used this time gave us a coupon book at check-in. This book had coupons for various restaurants that could be used to save money. And always ask the local folks who live there about coupons or where to eat. Who would know better where to eat and what is inexpensive than the people who eat there all the time?
I hope these ideas help you as you plan the food for your vacations. Y’all might not eat in as much as we do (we’ve done it for so long, I’m not sure I’d know another way to travel!), but even if you eat in once or twice, a few of these ideas might save you enough money so you can visit another attraction while on location.
Check back for my next post about saving money on attractions while on vacation. And add your comments below about these ideas, or share ideas of your own that I’ve missed!
Til next time!