Welcome back to the 2nd installment of Beach on a Budget! Today, we will be concentrating on menu ideas and how to save money on food.
Trust me when I say I know that no one really wants to go on vacation and cook, but sometimes you have to make a few small sacrifices in order to save a little money. Plus, it saves time on running out to get meals or bringing carry out back to your vacation home/hotel/campsite and you can dedicate that time to the beach!!
As a general rule when we travel, we plan to eat most breakfasts and lunches in the room and eat most of our suppers at a restaurant or get carryout. One of the best meals I’ve ever had on vacation was a pizza we had delivered to the condo parking lot and then ate out on the beach. It was a good pizza, but I think eating it out by the water made it ten times better. (Does anyone else think food just tastes better when you eat it outside?)
During our last vacation, I cooked supper in the room several times and one night we had a “buffet” so that we could use up some of the food. I also made a huge sub sandwich and packed chips for lunch on the trip down. Since it was already prepared, it saved us from waiting around at a restaurant. It also saved money and tasted better than any fast food or gas station fare we could’ve bought!
We do bring as much food from home as we can, especially the non-perishable things. We also stop at a grocery store and a produce stand (if we can find one) when we get to our destination. Obviously, your menu is going to be based on what your family likes, how many meals you want to prepare, and what kind of equipment is in your rental. What you can cook in a hotel room will probably be much different from what you can cook in a condo or cabin! Today’s list is based on the assumption that you at least have a small kitchen area and some sort of cold storage.
Vacation Meal Plan Ideas
Breakfasts for most of the vacation should include things that can be easily prepared and tailored toward the picky person. On days that you will be doing a lot of driving, sight-seeing, or know that you will be eating a very late lunch, a larger breakfast is best. Some breakfast ideas are:
- Bagels, with cream cheese, butter, or other spreads
- Donuts (especially if there is a local store or chain that specializes–consider it a treat)
- Scrambled eggs, sausage, and canned biscuits (canned aren’t the best, but they are easy!)
- Cereal or instant oatmeal
- Poptarts or toaster pastries
- Breakfast burritos
Lunch should be easy. Choose foods that don’t require a ton of prep work and let everyone pick their own thing. Sandwiches are great because they are easily customized, plus you can pack them up and take them down to the beach. Make sure to use up some of those leftovers too. Nobody wants a lot of food waste and the less you have to pack for the trip home, the better! Lunch ideas include:
- Sandwiches of any kind–peanut butter and jelly, ham or chicken salad, cheese, lunchmeat
- Sub sandwiches (the ingredients I buy will make at least two)
- Spicy Veggie Pizza
- Roast Beef Roll Ups
- Sides like chips, pretzels, fresh fruit, veggies, dip, and pasta salad
On our last trip, we budgeted for two dinners out. Before we left, my sweet in-laws gave us some cash and told us to use it for something fun. Since we are pretty content just lazing on the sand, that extra money went toward supper!
If you choose to eat out every evening, that’s wonderful–enjoy yourselves! Otherwise, choose recipes that don’t require a lot of work. I recommend taking a slow cooker! If you have family favorites, include one or two of those. Some simple suppers are:
- BBQ sandwiches, slaw, and chips
- Tacos or taco salad
- Pizza delivery (do this at least once…it’s so much fun!)
- Oven roasted or grilled chicken, veggie packets
- Hot dogs with chili or brats with sauerkraut, chips, and raw veggies with dip
- Buffet night–use what you have and be creative–a breakfast pizza, grilled sandwiches, or a frittata would be a great way to use a lot of leftover ingredients!
- Chips (variety)
- Dips and Salsa
- Something Chocolate (Anything!)
- Watermelon or other fresh fruit
- Trail Mix
- Mixed nuts
How To Save Money On Vacation Meals:
- Always grocery shop with coupons and money-back apps.
- Bring food from home–use up what you have in the cabinets and fridge.
- Freeze food and pack it in the bottom of the cooler. It will help keep your other food cool. It’s okay if it has started thawing by the time you reach your destination–you’ll be cooking with it soon anyway!
- Take a crock pot. It can be used to cook bbq, taco meat, hot dogs, or even overnight eggs or oatmeal.
- Buy restaurant discount coupons online or ask if they offer them at your destination’s Visitors Center/Tourism Commission.
- Buy local–you can often find great deals on local seafood, meat, and produce if you ask around.
One other tip that I would like to offer is to ask around for restaurant recommendations. We often ask people who have been to the area and we always stop and ask the locals. It may not save you any money, but you’ll usually get some really good food!
Obviously, everyone likes different foods, but with a little planning you can save some money and still have a great vacation. Remember: It doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to taste good!