We leave for sunny Southern California in three days.
Mr. Crumbs and I are giddy with excitement.
This trip has been a long time in the making. For about a year now, we’ve been toggling back and forth about a family vacation…
where to go…
when to go…
where to stay…
how to travel…
If it was just the husband and I, we’d probably not care so much. Give him a surfboard and me a book and we’re kosher.
However, half of our family requires accommodations just a smidge fancier than a towel, sunscreen and umbrella.
And to be honest with you, food played a big factor in our trip planning. In most cases, lodging is the greatest expense of any trip. But the second greatest expense is usually food.
An average meal at a restaurant for our family of four costs $20-$30. Multiply that times three meals a day for seven days and we’re at a minimum of $420.
For one week peeps!
That’s more than my grocery budget for an entire month !
And that’s at the low end. If we averaged closer to $30 each meal we’re topping the scale at $630 ! GASP !
That simply wasn’t going to work.
And of course it didn’t help the cause that we were sorely disappointed the last time we at fast food. We shouldn’t be surprised though – we’ve been making significant changes in our kitchen.
We’re eating (WAY) more produce, (WAY) less processed and very few (if any) boxed foods. Our bodies have been conditioned to enjoy and crave REAL food. It’s no wonder we physically felt bad after that meal (on top of the monetary pain).
So I have six guidelines to follow if you too have been making baby steps towards a healthier eating lifestyle. These not only helped us plan, but also enjoy our trip without being huddled over with stomach and bowel cramps for a week. (I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be thinking about where the closet toilet is when I’m laying in that hammock up there!)
1. Stay Somewhere with a Kitchen.
This ruled out a few vacation spots, but not so many that we only had “leftovers” to choose from. Staying somewhere with a kitchen (or at least a kitchenette) will allow us to cook and eat meals in rather than constantly dining out. We can eat when we’re hungry instead of waiting for a restaurant to open. We can use the ingredients we prefer and prepare the food the way we like it. And we can still make smoothies for breakfast!
2. Cook at Least 80% of Your Meals.
80% feels like a low percentage, but it is vacation after all. We’ve planned to eat every meal at the beach house except for one dinner out. Knowing that we’ll only eat out once makes that meal a big treat. We’ll be more selective and choose someplace that we all really want to go to instead of just “any old place” to stop at.
The remaining 20% still allows for the random deli sandwich while sightseeing, or cup of coffee during a morning walk.
3. Plan the 80% of Meals You Will Cook.
It always seems to go back to planning, doesn’t it? Walking into a grocery store with a blank grocery list is a disaster waiting to happen. And this is when I’m by myself! Can you imagine how much more stressful it would be to have two kids begging for everything that’s within their reach, plus a husband who just wants to “get what we need and leave?”
The only way to keep everyone’s sanity is to meal plan. The bonus of planning the meals you’ll cook is that you can choose to splurge on Coconut Shrimp one night and have salads and sandwiches the next. Odds are you’ll still spend less than if you had dined out for both meals.
4. Prepare and Bake Meals Ahead of Time.
This isn’t a suggestion to cook 21 meals and pack them all up. Oh no no no. Rather it’s the idea of knowing what you can prepare at home in order to save on ingredients and time later.
Take dinner rolls for example. They’re ready in 90 minutes, using ingredients from your own pantry, and don’t have to be stored in a cooler during transit. If you were to make these at your vacation spot, you’ll have to buy at a minimum flour, sugar, yeast, salt, olive oil. And then what are you going to do with all the partially used bags?
(This tip also assumes you’re traveling some place within driving distance. I’m not recommending a baking session before boarding a plane to China. 😉 )
5. Make a Shopping List for There.
Once you’ve planned what you’re going to eat, and you know what you’ll make at home to bring with, make a shopping list of the things you’ll need to buy once you arrive. Spending a couple hours shopping for the week isn’t a big deal. Plus I consider it fun to visit new stores and local markets. However, running to the store every day because you didn’t pick up what you needed for dinner tonight while you were there yesterday is just a pain and a waste of precious vacation time!
6. Research Local Restaurants for the Other 20%.
Building on #2 above, spend some time beforehand researching local restaurants. Choose one that really capitalizes on the local cuisine, plus is friendly to your family, dietary and pocketbook needs.
No one likes overpaying for bad food in a restaurant that smells like trash. Knowing the good places ahead of time helps to keep your vacation memorable. In a good way.