Need ideas: Self-prepared meals for vacation?
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  1. #1
    Registered User Early Bird's Avatar
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    Default Need ideas: Self-prepared meals for vacation?

    I need ideas:
    How do you keep food costs down on vacation?

    We'll be going on a National Parks vacation this summer. 9 days.

    Since hotels are so expensive in National Parks, I'm trying to figure out ways to cut food expenses.

    The hotels don't allow crockpots.

    Most of our hotels don't provide free breakfast.

    We have an electric cooler, and a propane stove. We'll be driving, so we have room for cooking utensils and supplies. We can carry the cooler into the hotel room and plug it in to act as a fridge.

    What kind of meals would you make with this setup?

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    Registered User Liane's Avatar
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    Breakfast and lunches are easy.
    Breakfast-
    fruit
    cereal
    yogurt
    bagels and cream cheese
    Lunch-
    sandwiches
    peanutbutter
    tunafish
    eggsalad-make ahead
    lunchmeat
    Dinners-
    salads
    boneless skinless chicken breasts-precook or cook there-use for dinners or sandwiches
    chili-precook
    blt's-precook bacon
    pasta and sauce
    shop on the road for things you run out of
    bring snacks and drinks-they can be your biggest expense
    Have a great trip

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    Registered User sabrelvssammy's Avatar
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    you could always take a little electric skillet (i know-no crockpots)..but you can make alot on a skillet...(just don't tell them and put it away when not in the room...then there is no question whether it was 'allowed' or not)...

    b-fast you can make pancakes, eggs, sausages, toast....all on the skillet (and any other things you would normally make on a skillet....and take cereal and milk in the cooler (divide the milk into a couple of containers and pre-freeze...then let them start to thaw out in the cooler)....bagels, jelly....doughnuts.....freeze oj for thawing out too...fruits (both fresh & canned)....

    lunch can be sandwiches made from deli lunchmeat, cheese, condiments....tuna or chicken salad you make up that day... or if you are in the room use the skillet for grilled cheese, fried bologna, etc....

    dinner you could get frozen pre-made burger patties or chicken, fish, tenderloins...(any of these items can be 'fried' in a little olive oil on the skillet...add buns and you have 'hot meals'....

    we have also taken an electric burner (the single burners that you can get at wally world or anywhere for about $10).... take a saucepan and you can make soup, mac & cheese, ravioli's, or warm up items brought from home...if you don't want to take a burner & a skillet...just take the burner and a skillet pan...

    if you have a skillet, burner & a pan you can make just about every meal you would need....add in the chips, crackers, candy, junkfood, etc.....don't forget to take some dishwashing liquid for washing up the pan & skillet and heavy duty utensils (spatula, lg spoons, knives, etc) in the hotel sinks...we also bring our own dishtowels for drying....

    i have a big plastic tub that i stock up a little 'kitchen'...then when you get to the hotel...grab the whole tub and you are ready to go.... fill with disp plates, cups, utensils, paper towels (take off the roll to save space & fold), napkins, i use small plastic bowls for the room for the cereal/soups/messy foods, salt/pepper, spices, condiments that don't need refrig, drink mixes....and on and on....

    we also take powdered drink mixes like crystal lt, lemonaid, etc for making our own drinks...and i bring tea bags for the morning...if you do coffee you might not have a coffee pot either so throw in some instant coffee (i know...yuk...but it's better than no coffee at all says dh)....

    hope that gives you a few ideas to run with.... have a great time on your trip!

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    Registered User Domestic Gal's Avatar
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    Does the room have a microwave and fridge??

    If you can bring an electric skillet or 2 you can cook a lot of stuff.
    Hamb. Helper
    Casserole type dishes
    taco's
    fajita
    grilled sandwiches
    eggs and bacon
    steaks, baked pot in micro.
    pancakes (get the add just water mix)
    fried pot.
    Ham steaks (boxed pot. in micro.)Not healthy but conv.
    BBQ pork or beef
    Sloppy joes
    cook up some chicken breast and chop and freeze warm them up on a salad.
    soup


    Cook up some spaghetti at home and put it in a container and freeze it.
    Cook up some ground beef for some spaghetti sauce and other dishes and freeze.
    Reheat the noodles by making a pot of hot water from the coffee pot and adding it to a pan with the noodles
    Cook the sauce in the electric skillet.
    Make some casseroles at home and cook them and freeze so all you have to do is reheat them in microwave.

    Just think outside the box.
    We always get a room with a full kitchen or at least a kitchette and we save lots that way.

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    Have you looked for any hotel/motels in the area that have rooms with a kitchenette? Or vacation rentals like cottages or condos? That would be the optimal solution if you can find something like that within your price range.

    Hope you have a great time!

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    Registered User Early Bird's Avatar
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    No, no kitchenette or microwave. We got the very last hotel room available at two of the parks. (At around $200/night :eek!: ).

    But no kitchenette or microwave.

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    Registered User sabrelvssammy's Avatar
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    if you take your 'kitchen in a box' don't forget to take a tablecloth to throw over the table (or dresser if no table) and set up shop... there have been alot of good suggestions here already....it sounds like you are staying at the same place the whole time so maybe you could take a small toaster oven...you can do alot with that too...or maybe even a small size micro if you have one....i know it sounds like a pain 'dragging' all this stuff in but think of the money saved long term...'specially the more mouths you have to feed....

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    When we evacuated for Hurricane Rita, it before payday. We had 9 foster kids and 4 adults. I brought an electric skillet and 2 electric burners. We brought a tub full of things to fix. Eating out for all of us was out of the question. We were having to pay for 3 rooms. As good as a hot meal was, I kept blowing out the circuits. So you may want to watch that if they don't allow crock pots .... I finally had to have one appliance in each of our rooms and everyone had a portion of the meal to cook.

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    Registered User sunshine's Avatar
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    You'd be amazed at what you can cook in just the "coffee pot" in the room.

    Check this out How to Cook Food in a Hotel Room: 11 steps (with video) - wikiHow

    Coffee Pot Culinary School : COED Magazine

    I did simple stuff - like running the hot water over frozen veggies - and ramen noodles. . . served with canned meats, made a meal.

    We also have an inverter for the car - so we cooked in the car, and ate at picnic tables. . I used the crockpot in the car, with crockpot or roasting bags - very little clean up, easy to use.

    How about solar cooking if you have a balcony or something similar?

    A Solar Cooker You Can Make .................................

    Also, may parks have charcoal grills and fire rings that you can use. . . so do some packet meals. . . grilled meats, etc.

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    Registered User Early Bird's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sabrelvssammy View Post
    if you take your 'kitchen in a box' don't forget to take a tablecloth to throw over the table (or dresser if no table) and set up shop... there have been alot of good suggestions here already....it sounds like you are staying at the same place the whole time so maybe you could take a small toaster oven...you can do alot with that too...or maybe even a small size micro if you have one....i know it sounds like a pain 'dragging' all this stuff in but think of the money saved long term...'specially the more mouths you have to feed....
    Nope, not staying at the same place the whole time. It's roughly 2 days @ Zion; 2 days @ Bryce; 2 days @ North Rim. The rest is travel time.

    And there are 4 of us traveling.

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    Registered User MaryCarney's Avatar
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    When we go on vacation, I buy all the stuff I'm too cheap to buy the rest of the year - poptarts, cereal, pre-made pbj etc. While it's expensive @ home, it's cheap on the road. My kids always looked forward to all the 'goodies' they'd get on vacation, and never minded not eating in restaurants. We would eat out a couple of times on the trip, but NEVER at McDonald's or somewhere we could eat at home - always something unusual.

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    Registered User frugrrl's Avatar
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    and take cereal and milk in the cooler (divide the milk into a couple of containers and pre-freeze...then let them start to thaw out in the cooler)
    The last time we traveled, we brought cereal in the car. I brought powdered milk and mixed it up with water as needed. That way I didn't have to worry about keeping it cold or keeping it from going bad.

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    Registered User Libby's Avatar
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    Great ideas! I'm not too keen on cooking in the hotel room perse but if its a motel...then thats another story.

    Having said that - we do travel with a wide topped kettle, the lid comes off and it turns into an instant 'pot' which is great for cooking instant noodles as my mom used to do. Now we just bring instant food that needs hot/boiling water added to them - soup cups, noodle cups, oatmeal, tea & instant coffee. We'd bring our own canned goods as well and open as needed - fruits, meats etc. And one last staple we'd bring would be crackers, bagels (b/c they don't get squished as easily) and pb, sometimes pkg'ed milk - soy milk in a 1L carton. I like the idea of the powdered milk if you have a fridge for it.

    You could also pick up deli meat/cheeses and fresh fruits/veggies at the local groc store and or hot meal combos if offered as a treat one night. We used to have groc store hotel room picnics. Dad had pizza, sis had huge salad and I had sushi lol.

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    I'd be leery of taking an electric skillet if they don't allow crockpots. It sounds to me as if they do not want cooking going on in the rooms, and they don't want food smells that could linger and annoy other guests.

    Breakfast is easy, as you can take cold/ room temp things like muffins, granola bars and fruit, and have juice and milk in the fridge.

    Most hotel rooms have coffeepots these days and those can be used to heat water for tea, cocoa, instant oatmeal, instant soup, noodles, etc for quick hot meals. I get the big box of instant oats and portion it out into little zip bags, with brown sugar and dried fruit.

    Do any of the places you are staying or visiting have grills for cooking out? I would expect that in park lands they would have some picnic areas. You may have to reserve a spot,though.

    Don't forget room temp snacks that are healthy and can be eaten any time. Hard fruit like apples and oranges, nuts, cheese-and-cracker packs, applesauce cups, peanut butter....
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    I would never ever use a hotel room coffee maker.

    Reason 1-they are not cleaned regularly. Reason 2-they can be used to make meth. (Lots of meth gets made in hotels. Hubby has busted 3 hotel meth labs in the fast few months). Think twice before using hotel room coffee pots - WAFF.com: North Alabama News, Radar, Weather, Sports and Jobs- It's easily noticeable, but still eeks me out. Reason 3-a friend of mine tells me that airline stewardesses use them to wash their underpants. She saw it on some dateline-type special. SCARY. All those combined make me very leary.

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