5 Simple Meal Hacks to Make the Most of Your Vacation Budget
We all know that when it comes to going on vacation and staying in a suite that serves as your dreamy home away from home, you don’t have access to your stocked pantry filled with food your family is accustomed to. So, you’re bound to have to eat out. Yet, spending money on food can really “eat” into your budget.
And, being a frugal mom with two picky eaters and a husband who LOVES to explore new places to chow down, I’ve found vacations can become very expensive. I mean, who really wants to spend $7.99 per kid for chicken fingers and fries day after day during a getaway?
My kids also LOVE fresh fruit, and I can never seem to find a place on vacation that actually offers a decent amount of strawberries—without spending $5.99 a plate for 4 mushy berries. Yuck. I can buy enough strawberries to last my whole family an entire week at that price!
On the flip side, you are on vacation. That being said, what parent would truly fantasize over spending precious time scouring the grocery store for ingredients to cook up a tedious recipe in their suite’s in-room kitchen that satisfies their entire family? Not me, that’s for sure!
Therefore, I figured I’d pull my frugal mama knowledge to put together a list of my favorite (super simple!) vacation meal ideas and hacks to save you money. Oh, and get you out of that kitchen to enjoy your break from the hustle and bustle!
Ready to hear them? Let’s dig in…
1. Breakfast for Under $5 a Meal
You just woke up and are feeling a little lazy. You definitely don’t want to load up your family and run out the door to grab breakfast at 8 a.m. Instead, you want to sit back, relax, and enjoy your morning coffee—all while saving money.
In order to do that, however, you need to go simple! Our favorite breakfast on vacation is eggs, bacon, toast, orange juice, and a bowl of fruit. This easy breakfast satisfies everyone in my family (including my husband in need of a hearty breakfast). Plus, a dozen eggs will easily last my family 3-4 days, along with a loaf of bread (bonus: you can use the bread for lunches, too).
Those basic ingredients totaled $12 worth of groceries (eggs, bacon, toast, juice, fruit), and should ideally last for at least three breakfast meals on vacation. But, that all depends on the size and appetite of your family, of course.
If we didn’t go that route, we would easily spend $20-$30 for the exact same breakfast for one meal at a restaurant located on resort property or within our resort’s destination. Therefore, over the course of the week, you could save more than $50-$100 just by cooking a no-frills breakfast in your in-suite kitchen.
Tripbound Tip: you can also go for some other easy breakfast ideas, which include pancakes (purchase the mix and just add water), oatmeal, cereal, or yogurt parfaits.
2. Lunch Hacks
Generally, lunch is a tough one because, when you’re on vacation, you’re still “on the go.”
And, let’s face it, it’s much easier to go out for lunch than plan and pack ahead. I get it. I don’t want to pack lunches on my trip, either. I do that every day for school.
But, it’s a money-saver for sure! With that, I bet you can guess what I’m about to say next, right? Well, if not, I highly recommend packing a lunch whenever possible. Or, even opting for items that can easily be shared among the family. Yet, it’ll all depend on your getaway destination.
Ultimately, sack lunches are ideal for theme park fun because that food can be so expensive—like $15 for cold pizza expensive. And, most theme parks will allow guests to bring “snacks” and bottled water into the parks (oftentimes, coolers are not allowed, so plan accordingly).
Disney Parks, however, allow guests to bring sandwiches, drinks, snacks, and even soft sided coolers.. They also offer lockers on-site for storing all your food items so you don’t have to cart all those goodies around all day. Winning!
Ideas for easy and cheap lunches include: PB&Js (a classic), turkey or ham sandwiches, quesadillas, grilled cheeses, soup, salads, and even reheated leftovers from dinner (keep reading to get my recommendations on that one).
3. Dinner by the Pool
My husband enjoys going out to dinner—especially on vacation when he can try out new places. That being said, we generally try to save money throughout the day on breakfast and lunches so we can spluge a little on a great, well-recommended restaurant.
On nights you feel like staying in and saving some money, however, I recommend easy meals with simple ingredients. Think “less is best.” One of my family’s favorite vacation dinners is to grab a Take-and-Bake pizza from the local grocery store (or even Papa Murphy’s if you catch one!). These typically range in price from $6.99-$10.99.
We bake it and take a picnic down to the pool and enjoy pizza poolside. So fun! And, if you don’t have a pool, you can opt to stay in your suite and watch a movie (or even play some card games).
Another favorite is spaghetti, salad, and bread for $10 or less depending on if we add fresh meat to the sauce. Plus, this meal can easily carry over to a reheated lunch the next day. It’s something that would easily cost a family of four at least $40 at a local Italian restaurant. Wowzers! Just making your own Italian dinner saves you almost $30.
Other easy dinnertime ideas include: BBQ chicken, tacos, or soup (again!). Simply remember your go-to meals when you’re not on vacation and improvise a little to make them work for your home away from home.
4. Drinks on a Dime
This is an easy way you can really save some money and not hear anyone “wine” about going over the vacation budget. My husband enjoys a beer at night and I love me a glass of wine. The average glass of wine at a restaurant is $7-$15 per glass, while a beer is easily between $5-$10.
Why spend that money on one drink when you can get an entire bottle or 6-pack for the same price? A bottle and 6-pack will last your entire trip (or a least one or two evenings)—not just one meal!
On my family’s most recent vacation, my husband and I both picked our drinks of choice for the week. He picked a 6-pack for $10 and I picked two bottles of wine for $9 a piece. Instead of spending $38 on one night of drinks, we had adult beverages for the entire length of our stay!
And, when you go that route, grabbing some kid-friendly beverages is a must. For ours, we pack ahead of time or purchase juice boxes at the grocery store for the week. The average kid’s drink (if not included in a kid’s meal) is probably $2. That being said, you can buy a 12-pack of Capri Sun for just $2.99. Seeing dollar signs just yet? Love any chance to save some money!
5. Desserts to Keep Savoring
Who doesn’t LOVE dessert? It’s always nice to treat yourself to a little something sweet while on vacation. When we go out for ice cream, however, we easily spend $15.
But, we recently discovered that if we take our kids into the grocery store and let them each pick out their favorite 1/2 gallon flavor of ice cream, we not only have two happy kids, but ice cream for the entire trip. Instead of just one night!
You see, eating well on vacation doesn’t have to be expensive after all! So, give these hacks a try while staying in your spacious home-away-from-home resort suite. Every little bit will help take the “bite” out of your vacation budget.
And, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the money saved and where you can put those extra bucks! Whether it’s adding on an extra day to those Disney tickets, renting some jet skis at the beach, staying a day or two longer within your destination, or—better yet—going ahead and booking another vacation, you now know how to save some extra “dough.”
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