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This week’s menu plan (and simple and inexpensive vacation food ideas wanted!)


I'm excited that this week is the Fourth of July! We're heading to Kansas City for a few days for a family vacation and very much looking forward to that.

Since our family is still small and eating out is still fairly economical, we usually "splurge" on vacations and bring very little of our own food. Instead, we eat out or get quick-fix foods at the grocery store while we're gone. It makes it much more relaxing for me to not have to worry about planning, packing, and fixing food for a few days and it truly makes it more of a vacation for me!

Because of this, I'm only planning four days' worth of meals for this week:

Strawberry smoothies, toast
Waffles, cantaloupe, yogurt
Banana bread, scrambled eggs, fresh carrot/apple juice
Oatmeal, fruit

Homemade pigs in a blanket, cucumber slices, apple slices
Homemade Pita Pockets with melted cheese, peas, fruit
PB&J, carrots
Tossed salad with hard-boiled eggs, crackers and cheese

French Toast with fresh-whipped cream and homemade strawberry syrup, cantaloupe
Chicken Tetrazinni, homemade bread, green beans, grapefruit
Meatballs, homemade bread, sliced cucumbers, baked potatoes, green beans
Homemade BBQ Chicken Pizza, fruit

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
Blueberry Streusel Muffins
Crackers and cheese
Carrot sticks
Granola bars

For those who may have missed it, you can see what we purchased at the store this past week here. However, do remember that that is not all we're using to make the above food and meals since we shop using the "Buy-Ahead Principle".

Do you bring your own food when you go on vacation or do you splurge and eat out/buy quick-fix foods or a little of both? If you bring your own food, I'd love to hear what you bring and how you pull it off. It seems like a lot of work to me, but I'm guessing that as our children grow older, eating out is going to be much less feasible and much more expensive so I'd love to hear your ideas and suggestions!

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  1. Jaime G says

    Ooooh! I know of a GREAT restuarant near KC in Overland Park, if you guys like indian food… it’s called Korma Sutra…. it’s my fave in the world!!!! We live near Chicago, and I would be willing to travel all the way back to KC just to eat there again!!!!

  2. says

    We spend a week at Lincoln City, Oregon each summer in a rented house. So we cook 100% of our breakfasts, 90% of lunches, and about 75% of our dinners. We like do make use of the charcoal grill that most of the homes have. We do burgers and dogs or fancy sausages. Then one night we always go buy fresh caught and cooked Dungeness crab and serve that with grilled steaks, fresh corn on the cob and salad. I cannot wait until August!

  3. says

    I usually fill a bag or plastic tote with some items from my stockpile to help fill in the gaps (cereal, snacks, pasta, sauce, PB&J, etc), then we purchase food at our destination and eat out some, too. I figure whatever I can bring from our stockpile will save some money since I bought it on sale.

  4. says

    With a small child, we find it easier to eat breakfast (and usually dinner) in the room. We try to get a room with a microwave and fridge, and bring an electric skillet, if needed, for toast/eggs/bacon.

    We usually eat lunch out while we enjoy vacation activities.

    Dinners are easy enough: sandwiches & chips, quesadillas, lunch time leftovers, Easy Mac for my son. Vacations are the perfect time to enjoy packaged convenience foods!

    I also make sure to have plenty of snacks and treats like fruit and ice cream in the fridge.

  5. jennifer says

    I only brings snacks for us and the kids for mid morning and late afternoon. Half the fun of a vacation is not having to cook! It is a great time to splurge – after all, why do we bother saving money on groceries…to have extra cash for the fun things in life!!

  6. Kelly says

    Just got back from vacation. We rented a house on Lake Michigan and brought food to grill out every night. We only ate at a restaurant once!

  7. Rhonda says

    Thanks. I’ve enjoyed this thread!

    My husband and 13yo son are off on a 10-day adventure to the east coast (we live in IN). When I talked to my son last night he said he misses my food and put in his order for what I should cook the first night he’s home! We rarely eat out (and almost never fast food) and I’m grateful that it didn’t take long for them to be “over it.” They spent the first 5 days in a condo with extended family (who sort of cook) so it’s only been the past 3 days eating at restaurants.

    I’ll certainly include some of these ideas when the entire family goes on vacation next year.

  8. says

    The place where we usually go for our anniversary has a kitchen so this past year, I planned out a few meals to make instead of eating out each meal. We planned to eat out once a day and breakfast was provided for the first 2 days. I planned a few meals/snacks using what I had on hand then stopped at a grocery store there to buy the rest. We got a rotisserie chicken, salad fixings and some rolls. The chicken stretched for several meals for the 2 of us–plain chicken the first day, then a simple chicken casserole that took canned soup and sour cream which was easy to pack, then chicken salad the last day. I prepped some of the foods I took from home like dicing celery,chopping tomatoes and such so that it was really easy to throw meals together.

    This is the first time we’ve eaten in more than just sandwiches or breakfast and we loved it! Very cost effective, too! We definitely will do this again!

  9. Amy Stricklin says

    We normally stay at a hotel with breakfast also, and eat out for dinners. I do love bringing loads of snacks for the day though. With 3 kids someone is always hungry and the kids meal choices are not always there favorites. Here is our favorite snacks to get us through the day- Couple sleeves of Ritz, pepperoni, and a block of cheese presliced and put back in the bag. PB sandwiches, Premade caramel popcorn, capri suns or kool aide bursts. Bag of Ring Pops (from CVS). Grapes- This way we have enough variety for protein and good snacks, but also fun junk when you are staring at all these treats going by. This really saves us during the time when we could be spending alot of money on food, and we can find something cheaper at night. Have a great vacation!

  10. Denise says

    When we travel, we usually stay in a timeshare for a week. Most of the time they have a full kitchen. We almost always eat breakfast in. We bring cereal (from our “stock”, bought when they were on sale). They also have a place to BBQ, so we do hamburgers, hot dogs, and/or chicken. We bring small amounts of condiments with us so that we don’t have to buy (or lug home) a whole bottle of ketchup, mustard, pickles, etc. We always bring snacks too. It’s a little easier if you’re driving rather than flying. We make menus ahead of time for the whole week (which you already do anyway) and do a grocery shopping trip the day we arrive in town for things we didn’t bring with us like meat, bread and milk. If we are around the timeshare for lunch, we will make sandwiches or something simple. Sometimes we also pack them so we can have them for wherever we are for the day. We save so much money by planning ahead and bringing some things with us. Have a great trip.

  11. April says

    We take cooler in the car that fits between the front seat and the back seat. We then stock it with snack foods, juice boxes and pop. That way we don’t ever buy snacks on the trip. It actually works out because I know what my girls like and buy it on sale a few weeks before.

  12. Anna says

    I would prefer to eat out more on vacation, but we are eating out less as our kids get older, because the fast food and new/different/greasy/sweet foods make them sick. Not nice when you are traveling.

    We pack a box with:
    paper towels (for napkins or plates),
    cutting board (I have a small one)
    sharp knife (for bread, cheese, sausage, veggies, etc.)
    paper plates

    Everyone has their own water bottle or sippy cup.

    One thing that’s fun is to stop at produce markets along the way and get fresh, local fruit and veggies (GA peaches, anyone?? :))

  13. Meg says

    We do a little of both. For my family, part of the fun of traveling is trying new foods so we eat out at least once a day, usually at dinnertime.

    I usually reserve a hotel room with a refrigerator and microwave. I pack a toaster either pack or buy at my destination lots of fresh fruit and veggies, frozen waffles, muffins, cereal, milk, juice, bread, peanut butter and jelly, sandwich meat, crackers, and cheese. We have breakfast of cereal and fruit, waffles and fruit, etc in the room (if breakfast isn’t included). Lunchtime we have leftovers from the prior day’s dinner or sandwiches and veggies (easily portable). Cheese and crackers, peanut butter crackers, fruit, and muffins are taken with us as an easy, very portable snack options which also helps keep costs down.

    Have a nice trip!

  14. still*learning says

    We bring food with us when we vacation. We eat dinner out at a restaurant and eat breakfast and lunch in. We keep it simple. Muffins, bagels or cereal for breakfast with fruit. Mostly pb&j and fruit and snack type food for lunch. Simple, easy and then we are ready for a nice dinner that evening.

    Bringing a small cooler can keep everything you need (we are a family of 4) for a smaller family. I buy smaller sizes of milk and put the fruit, cream cheese etc. in the cooler. All other drinks, we don’t refrigerate until we need to.

    I can’t imagine how much it would cost us if we were to eat all meals out! It is not the optimum of health but it does cut down on expenses and we are on vacation so it is a time to splurge.

  15. says

    When we travel, I’ll either bring my brita filter and reusable bottles, or buy a case of water when we get to our destination. We’re always doing car trips, though, and I keep several bottles of water in a cooler for just that. If you’re staying in a hotel, then having a brita filter is invaluable! Water is one of those things that has a huge markup, and most hotels have less-than-desirable tap water.

    I also bring snacks- usually the stuff that is “special” for long road trips- like the cereal that the kids see but never get at the store!

    We always have a big, semi-late breakfast, and a light, late lunch when we’re on the road. I prefer to sit in a restaurant for breakfast rather than sit in traffic!

    Another great tip is in restaurants- order off the adult menu for the kids. My kids are 7, 2, and 1, and I just order one adult meal to split among the three of them (well, plus they all want to try what I’m having!). Kids’ meals (x2 or 3 kiddos) are generally more expensive than a single adult’s meal.

  16. heather hadley says

    We almost always stay at a suite that has a kitchen. We plan meals that require little to no cooking, and bring lots of fresh fruits and veggies for sides. We also make lunch our big meal of the day. Just got back from Disneyland for a week, and spent very little on food. Our usual routine was simple breakfast, then load our mini backpacks with string cheese, granola bars and water bottles to snack on in the park. Then we head back to the hotel for our main meal (at 3pm, when the park is busiest and the hottest). Then we resupply our backpacks and go until the park closes.

  17. says

    Hi! We usually try to bring as much of our own food as possible, like previous commenters have said. We have a TimeShare and normally we try to buy seasonings to take with us (I got a great deal on those 3 spices in one container type things) and oil (Nalgene containers are great for liquids).

    If the vacation place is within driving distance, we take a cooler and pack it with mostly breakfast items (eggs that have been cracked, mixed and frozen, sausage, etc.) Once we get to the location, we try to find a grocery store and get fruits, some snacks.

    If the place is not within driving distance, we take the spices, oil, and most of the snacks. When we get to the location, we then get breakfast stuff and fruits. Occasionally we’ll get something easy to make and just use the dishwasher.

    I find it easier while we’re away to find the energy to cook and clean up after cooking, because we don’t have anything else to distract us. I also bring all my coupons when we travel (I just use a small accordion binder intended for used checks) and most places will take manufacturer’s coupon as long as the product matches.

    Have fun!!! 😀

  18. Kim S. says

    For me it’s not a vacation unless I’m in a hotel and all my meals are in a restaurant. I meal plan and cook myself the other 50 weeks out of the year, I want a vacation too.

  19. says

    We usually pack things for breakfast and lunches and we splurge on dinner. All those free samples of cereal come in handy on vacation. I usually buy some lunchn’meat, a loaf of bread, mustard,etc , a bag of chips,some fruit and you have lunch. It doesn’t take up to much space in the car and you always have a snack handy if the kids want something. Stopping at the gas stations for a quick snack can add up. Happy 4th !!!!

  20. says

    We’ve done quite a bit of traveling and a lot of it in Europe, so eating out every meal isn’t really an option for us. We try to budget for eating out one meal a day and try to eat a late lunch, so that we can get by on snacks for lunch and later that evening. Since we usually travel by train or air we tend to find a grocery store where we go. Breakfasts usually consist of bread and jam, or cereal, crackers, fruit, cheese, and yogurt make great snacks on the go. We try to get a room with a refridgerator and if we do our possiblities have increased. When we’ve traveled during the winter months and stayed at places with no refridgerators we just put things that needed to stay cold in a plastic bag and put it on the balcony or hang it out the window. It’s helped to stay in non touristy areas but close the the metro lines. It seems like there are more grocery stores/fruit stands available.

  21. Lisa A says

    When traveling, a loaf of bread, a jar of p.b. and a jar of jam are essentials for our family. We eat out a bit also. I recommend Wendy’s $1 menu and water for everyone. My growing family of 5 can enjoy a hearty meal and dessert for under $20. We also visit Little Caesars for their $5 Hot and Ready pizzas. Don’t forget to ask for paper plates and napkins! They will provide them for you. When my kids were young, I would buy $ .99 double cheeseburgers from various locations and give my oldest the sandwich minus one burger patty which I would cut up for my middle child. We would all share a side salad and a drink. Enjoy your trip!

  22. becky t says

    I try to cook as much of the food I take ahead of time and freeze it then reheat in the microwave which is usually there because we get a suite for our family to fit:) We eat breakfast at the hotel and bring lots of veggies & dip and fruit and muffins and some junk food to keep the teenage boys happy. One thing we like to do is order out pizza. We did this when kids were younger and they were thrilled to be able to eat pizza AND watch tv at the same time! We try to eat out once during our trips someplace nice and buy food at the grocery in between.

  23. says

    When we go on vacation, we rent a house or get a motel with a kitchen, and then scope out the cheap grocery stores in the area. When we went to Niagara Falls, we found a great store, the Canadian equivalent of Aldi (but even better). We bought all of our food cheaper than back home, way cheaper than eating out, and came home with the leftover non-perishables. Plus, my family is picky because I am a good cook, so we are often disappointed by eating out (plus the huge cost). I actually find it more relaxing to cook in “our” room/rented house than having to eat out with kids.

  24. Allison says

    If we are staying in a hotel, my husband usually tries to find one that serves a decent breakfast, free of charge (Holiday Inn Express, Fairfield Inn, Springhill Suites). Our family of 5 just returned from a trip to Florida and I packed dry cereal in smaller bags for us to eat in the car on the way down, so we would not have to stop for breakfast (we left at 5:00 am) and I also packed some individual applesauces, pudding cups and juice boxes so that at lunch all we had to buy was chicken, instead of fries and drinks as well. We did eat out most of the time while in Florida, but having some snacks in the car and free breakfast did make it more economical.

  25. says

    We normally take or purchase cereal and milk for breakfast and bread and sandwich items for lunch. Then we splurge by going out to eat most nights.

  26. Elizabeth says

    I meant to post this on your last question about meals while on vacation. I am leaving next week for a week and have made all the meals for my family while we are at the beach. I started about a month ago and began cooking in double batches. I have made lasagna, enchiladas, chicken & rice and a few other dishes. I use the same glass pan and line it w/ heavy duty reynolds wrap. I then freeze the meal w/ a label describing it and its cooking requirements. The next day I pop the meal out of the pyrex and put it into a large ziploc bag. The night before serving the meal I simply pull it out of the freezer, remove it from the reynolds wrap and then defrost it in the pyrex. So this way I have the meals ready and only have to bring 1 glass pan. In years past this has worked great and w/ a family of 6 (3 hungry boys) it has saved a ton of money and tantrums at restaurants.

  27. Quintana says


    Just getting used to the site and saw this. We recently returned from an 8-day trip from IL to SC and home through TN.

    Before we left, I vowed not to spend $12-$15 everytime we stopped at a gas station for gas in just snacks. I spent about $60 in drinks and snacks before leaving and packed a cooler. We supplemented ice from the hotel when we stopped.

    We would eat the continental breakfast at the hotel, eat a “big/fancy” late lunch and then snack later at the hotel. This worked so well!

    I spent $1.20 on laffy taffy in the gas station the whole time we were gone! Another plus was I packed the cooler and snack bag in the trunk, so if we wanted anything we had to wait till our next stop. This kept everyone from mindless snacking in the car.

  28. Jenifer says

    I am pretty frugal, but we eat out on vacations. We usually stay at a Comfort Inn or some place with free breakfast. We load up there, then eat a light picnic cheese and crackers and fruit type lunch or go to a local hot dog stand. For dinner, we eat out. Mommy cooking, even if it’s a simple crock pot style dish, is no vacation for me! I also like getting out of the room.

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