One of the easiest ways to save money while on vacation is to not eat.
Anyone vote for that option?
LOL – yeah right. Like THAT’S gonna happen!
At least the second easiest way has a fighting chance. Meal plan!
It sounds boring.
Definitely not spontaneous.
And downright dreary.
And not just a little bit. It works a lot.
And we refuse to spend over $600 on food for the week, so a plan is a must-have. Even if we didn’t follow the plan exactly – having a vague idea of what we’d be eating would help to keep our food spending under control.
Meal Planning for Vacation
When I think of “vacation food,” I think of meals that are tasty, easy, comforting and somewhat quick. Spending a couple of hours making a nice dinner at home isn’t a big deal. I don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen when there’s an ocean only 100 feet away calling my name. Dinner needs to be calculated by minutes. And the less the better.
We started by writing down a few dishes that we liked to eat, and what would be easy to make while cooking in a borrowed kitchen. Dishes requiring odd ingredients (like fish sauce) or uncommon kitchen tools (think nutmeg grater) were a no-no.
Mr. Crumbs thought it would be fun to have themes, so we jotted down American, Italian, Mexican, Pizza (of course), Sandwiches and Asian. Then we chose our favorite meals in those categories.
We arranged them so that the meal hits two birds with one stone – like one big salad covering two meals, dinner rolls for two nights, and using leftover meat for sandwiches. We also balanced “full-blown” meals with “super-easy” nights to give us some breathing room. We’re not sure if we’re visiting any local attractions yet, but if we do, I’m fairly sure we won’t want to spend any more time on our feet than we already had.
Oh yeah, and I think I forgot to mention one very important detail. This meal plan will feed seven.
We’re blessed with some family flying in and staying with us at the beach. Since they’re forking over airline tickets, we wanted to pick up the food.
Feeding nearly twice as many mouths as we’re used to is another reason these meals need to be maximized.
Is it even possible to feed 7 people wholesome food on a frugal budget, while on vacation?
Yes it is. And what’s better is we can cook much of our meals once, and eat them over and over again. Let’s start from the beginning.
Day 1 – choice of either American (steak, potatoes, seasonal veggie, green salad) or Asian (coconut shrimp, rice, broccoli, carrots)
Putting either of these meals at the start of the week allows us to work a little now with a big payoff later.
- Grill steak with leftovers going towards Sandwich night
- Fry shrimp with leftovers going towards Sandwich night
- Cook several ears of corn; eat some and save the remaining for Mexican night
- Prepare half the carrots and saving the remaining for two nights and lunches of green salads
- Wash and chop the lettuce for three dinners and several lunch salads
Day 2 – choice of Italian (spaghetti, garlic rolls, green salad) or the option not chosen from day #1
If the crew chooses Italian, just boil water and open a jar. The salad is already made from the previous day.
If the crew chooses steak or shrimp, just fire up the grill and make some rice. Again, the salad is already made. The corn and carrots (if the night becomes Asian) will get thrown on the grill too.
Day 3 – choice of Mexican (chicken tacos, coconut rice, southwestern corn, chips and homemade salsa) or Pizza
Homemade tacos call for shredded chicken and although it’s easy to let chicken thighs bake in the oven for 45 minutes, it’ll be even easier on sandwich night to have shredded chicken already baked and prepared for sandwiches.
Coconut rice takes about 20 minutes. The corn is already cooked and opening a jar of salsa is just as easy as opening a jar of pasta sauce.
Days 4 & 5 – choice of whatever meal that been offered and not chosen
At this point of the trip, everything we need for the meals is already in the kitchen. There’s even a good chance that it’s already partially prepared. We can simply kick up our heels and enjoy the night.
Day 6 – sandwiches (panini-style) and salads (fruit, pasta and green)
Sandwiches and salads are reserved for the last night for a reason – it’s an easy catch-all for leftovers. Leftover steak, chicken and shrimp – sandwiches. Leftover vegetables – salads. And leftover pasta will become pasta salad and whatever fruit we have left becomes a conglomerate of natural sweetness.
Sometimes meal planning can seem like a barbed wire fence that pricks you when you try to stray from the path. We chose these meals because they offer flexibility.
Steak or shrimp tacos? Sure! Visited a park and don’t feel like cooking? Let’s go Italian for minimalism. In all honesty, days 2-5 can really be in any order we prefer. That’s the beauty of meal planning!
It’s all about training our mind to maximize, to think ahead. To have a purpose for our purchases and our action.
If we meal plan to save money, why put surf & turf on the menu?
Because it’s a treat. Because we’re on vacation. If we were to eat out for every dinner, it’s a safe bet that we won’t be eating at Subway each night. Mr. Crumbs will want meat. I will want seafood.
Our brains are wired to equate vacation with treating ourselves. Both steak and shrimp will certainly increase our grocery bill, but it’s a way to treat ourselves and enjoy the little luxuries of vacation. Besides, it’ll still be WAY cheaper than if we ordered those items off a local restaurant menu.
What about breakfast and lunch?
For the remaining daily meals, we combined a mix of healthy, fun and easy – with a side of frugal.
Kitchen Supplies to Pack
Traveling to a new location, even with a kitchen, can be a hit or miss when it comes to kitchen supplies. There are a few items that I prefer to bring with me to make sure cooking in a different kitchen is simple.
Since we plan on smoothies and pancakes for breakfasts, I want to make sure my high powered blender is with us. Most places will supply knives and cutting boards, but in my experience the knives are never sharp and the cutting boards are small. I bring my own sharp knife and large cutting board to make prepping veggies so much easier!
If you have room to pack a slow cooker that would be a great addition to the list. Slow cooker meals are great for when you have a fun filled day and get back to your lodging with hungry bellies.
So there you have it – our meal plan for the next week and how to make the most of the little time we’re spending in the kitchen.
Oh yeah – and we’ll feed our group of seven for one week on roughly $150.