My household is pretty frugal, but we enjoy taking road trips. That means that we have had to learn how to save money on food when traveling. And let’s face it – food expenditure can be one of the more costly things on a vacation or trip.
Think about it – When you are traveling you typically do not have a kitchen. Sure, sometimes you can get a good deal on one of those rooms that is a studio suite with a kitchen. But most of the time the cheapest room is not one with a full kitchen. So, what do you do? Well, here’s my suggestions based on how we have managed to lower our food costs when traveling.
Look for a room that has a mini-fridge and a microwave. You would be surprised where you can find these without paying extra. Look for a Holiday Inn Express, Hampton Inn or even a LaQuinta Inn. I have had success in each of those chains. And if you book a room that lists one or both of these amenities – make sure you get them! There is a pretty good chance that you will arrive and your room will be microwave/fridge free. Apparently the hotels move these amenities around. If you are missing something just ring the front desk and ask for it to be sent to your room.
Remember to look over your bill when you leave to make sure you did not get charged extra for it if you were not supposed to!
You can also opt for the hotel chains that have a mini-kitchen in them as well. I’ve found cheap stays at Hyatt House and Candlewood Suites where you get a stove and microwave in the room with a fridge.
Look for a hotel that has free breakfast. Now, as a healthy eater I can honestly say that most hotels do not have much food that is redeeming for their free breakfast. At Holiday Inn Express for instance you can usually get some yogurt, some oatmeal, some toast or a bagel or english muffin. They also have pastries, eggs, bacon, biscuits and gravy and cold cereal. Fruit is usually pretty scarce. So, you can try to eat what you can at this. What I like to do is to take some sandwich baggies and snag some bread from the toast area, assuming that I did not bring my own. Then I grab some of the peanut butter and some of the jelly. And that will be lunch later! You can also get a bagel or something else to snack on later if you want. And the oatmeal can be made in your room later thanks to your coffee pot.
Pack some food before you leave! It is super easy to toss in some road snacks and such before you leave home. You can even grab some bread and peanut butter from the pantry. I also like to grab any food that will go bad before I return, like fruit. And if you have the space, I suggest packing a cooler with drinks. You will be amazed how much this can save you on a road trip.
Bring something to cook in. Sure, you can cook in a microwave. You can also cook in a crock pot or rice steamer if you have one. And that really saves you money! You can even cook in the car if you have one of those things that plugs into your car and converts to a power outlet. Just be careful if you do that.
I recently took a rice steamer on a trip and ate dinner in the hotel room. I did this by going across the street to a super Wal-Mart and buying the following:
- brown rice – $1.64
- veggie marinade – $1.98
- bag of mixed broccoli and cauliflower – $2.36
- mushrooms – $3.48
So, my total food expenditure was $9.46. We ate this two nights in a row – so that is a total of four meals. AND – we threw some out as we did not want to heat it up again! (even though I really hate wasting food) That means that one meal’s cost was only $2.37! You can’t beat that! The best part is that I had grabbed some paper plates and plastic forks from the breakfast area, so that was totally free! And there is still a lot of leftover rice in the bag to be made up at the next hotel stay, where the only expenditure will be the veggies as there is also marinade leftover.
What I think is interesting here is that clearly these meals could have cost even less if I had skipped the mushrooms! And it still would have been just as filling.
Your next steps,
If you do not already have one, I highly suggest getting a small crock pot or rice cooker. I got my Black & Decker 16-Cup Rice Cooker at a Big Lots for only $15.00! It also has a veggie steamer tray in it. If you are looking for a rice cooker or small crock pot check out Amazon as they seem to have decent prices on some of them. Or look for a Big Lots near you!
Also, if you do end up traveling with something like a rice cooker or mini crockpot, remember to bring some tupperware or something to store your leftovers in. Opt for something that is microwave-safe for easy reheating.