Guest post by Jenifer.
When we made the long trek from Indiana to Estes Park, Colorado, packing everything we needed for our family of 7 was like an extreme sport. Even still, the thought of all the fast food and snacks that might hinder our tight budget was even more challenging.
I knew that we would not be able to eat “perfectly on budget” (it is a vacation after all), but I wanted to do the best that I could to save money and feed my family well.
So I implemented a “Don’t-Go-Crazy-on-Vacation Challenge” armed with a notebook, a pen, grocery store fliers, and my computer!
Here’s how we managed to save on meals while traveling!
1. Pack Non-Perishable Foods
I knew that we would have a kitchen in our cabin in Colorado, so I planned our meals for each night and gradually filled two paper boxes with the dried goods we needed.
I also stocked what I could for breakfast, lunch, and snacks.
NOTE: I started planning about three weeks ahead of our scheduled departure and watched the sales over those few weeks.
2. Buy Fresh/Perishable Foods in a Non-Tourist Location
After I had our meal plan and non-perishable foods, I made a list of all the fresh or refrigerated items that we would eventually need to buy.
I wanted to avoid any higher costs of shopping in tourist areas, so I researched the grocery stores in the surrounding towns.
I decided on a Walmart (a gift card we had helped) and bought all of our fresh and refrigerated items there before heading into Estes Park.
You could also order your perishable foods online and have them delivered directly to your vacation home via one of the grocery delivery services.
3. Have a Plan for Meals on the Road
With the cabin meals tackled, I still had to consider the meals we’d need to eat on the road.
To help avoid fast food costs, we packed a picnic lunch for our first lunch. It ended up pouring rain, but a picnic in the car makes memories, right?
We visited family for the first night, and they graciously fed us homemade meals.
Our 2nd son had his 10th birthday while we were on the road, so before we left, I had him choose where he wanted to eat. He chose his favorite restaurant, Fazoli’s, so I looked it up online and found one on our route. I also checked out the menu and specials while I was there to help me estimate costs before we got there.
That left us with just a few fast food meals, which worked out fine, and we had mostly happy campers.
A Few More Tips:
- Find a place with your own kitchen.
- Plan meals ahead of time.
- Stock/pack food in the weeks before you leave.
- Watch sales and use that for your vacation stockpile.
- Research restaurant menus and nutrition before you go.
- Avoid tourist area grocery stores if prices are higher.
- Pack picnic lunches for the road.
- Have fun and don’t forget to treat yourself, too. It’s vacation after all!
What are your best tips for saving money on meals while on vacation?
Jen blogs at Fit 4 Miracles. She was a teacher in her “previous life,” but is now a stay-at-home mom of five children. She lives in West Lafayette, IN, where her husband runs a small business. They have always had to be as frugal as possible, but believe they are rich in faith, love, and family.