Although I'm quite happy to stay home during time off, my family loves vacations. So, here are a few thoughts on saving money on vacation meals:
Take a cooler. If nothing else, pack soft drinks for the road. Watch for Tupperware breadboxes at the next rummage sale you visit. Ours cost 25-cents, but we have probably saved $25 by using it on vacations. When the kids were little, it would hold half of a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, and a knife. (Jelly went in the cooler.) Now that the kids have bigger appetites, we take a full loaf of bread with cheese, lunchmeat, and condiments in the cooler.
Organize a picnic pack that includes a caddy or tote that contains plastic dishes, utensils, and a can opener. Ours contains sturdy plastic plates, bowls, and glasses. We added in mismatched flatware, a knife, a cutting board, a can opener, a dish brush, hand sanitizer, and a small container of dish soap.
A lot of hotel rooms have mini-fridges and microwaves. On our Denver vacation, we ate supper at a restaurant the first night in town. On the way home, we stopped by the grocery store and got Marie Calendar frozen dinners to stash in the hotel fridge. Several nights, we ate dinner in the hotel room. It was cheaper and actually easier at the end of a full day.
Outdoor picnic areas offer a lot of scope for imagination. Of course, you can have sandwiches or a pre-packed salad. Or you could take it further. My husband's family used to stop at rest stops and fire up the propane stove for a hot lunch. On our Yellowstone vacation, we used those meals-in-a-box, cooked over a propane stove. One day at lunchtime, a young couple set up their picnic on a nearby table. Their meal was impressive! It included a beautiful Asian noodle salad from their cooler with hot tea made on a propane stove. By the way, Yellowstone has a lot of areas without facilities for buying food. It makes very good sense to have snacks or lunch with you as you drive around sightseeing.
I am still experimenting with this one, but my first trial worked great. For our Grand Canyon vacation, we set up a slow cooker in the Mountaineer. Hubby braced it so that it wouldn't tip or spill and connected it using an inverter. When we arrived at Grand Canyon, after a long day of driving, dinner was ready. We even used one of those slow cooker liners so that cleanup wasn't difficult either. By the way, Grand Canyon hotels don't allow cooking in the rooms. So, the slow cooker was packed away during our stay. We did, however, have a fridge in the room, so we were able to easily fix sandwiches, cereal, and salads.
So, next time you're discouraged by spending $25 for fast food, think of ways that you could feed your family a healthier and cheaper meal on the road.
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