Many of us choose to cook on vacation for various reasons. It is almost always healthier to cook than to eat out. Cooking on vacation is also significantly cheaper, especially if you have children. It can actually be less stressful too, if you have taken some steps before you leave to make your work easier. Here are 8 ways to help make cooking on vacation a bit easier.
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8 ways to make cooking on vacation easier
1. Meal Plan-I can not stress this enough. Have at least a general idea of some meals to cook on vacation. Sit down with your family and brainstorm some easy meals and assign them to each specific night on vacation. This doesn’t mean you can’t change the plan, but having a plan will ease your mind when supper rolls around and the kids are hungry.
2. Choose easy meals on vacation-Vacation is not the time for gourmet cooking (unless that is something you truly enjoy)! Even if you normally make everything from scratch, now is the time to make some compromises. Buy the pre-cut fruit instead of chopping it all yourself. Pick up a pack of hamburger buns instead of making your own.
3. Grill if possible-Grilling minimizes clean up and sometimes you can assign your spouse to do the cooking! You can grill steaks and chicken, or hot dogs and burgers. (This is the grill we have and love.) You can even use the grill to make foil packets. If you aren’t able to grill but have a stove and oven, you can bake chicken or pan fry burgers and the foil packets will work just as well in the oven. As a bonus, the foil packets are a meal in one and require no clean up!
4. Use paper products-We rarely use paper products in our home. However, the time it saves me on vacation is immeasurable. I was beginning to resent washing dishes while the family was out having fun so we picked up some paper plates and it made a huge difference. I realize that this is not the most economical choice, but since you are eating at home, you are still probably saving money.
5. Prep some meals ahead-See #1. Remember that meal plan you made? Use it to prep some of the food before you leave, if you can take a cooler. (Obviously this won’t work if you are flying!) Marinate some chicken (see my recipe for the BEST chicken marinade) and freeze it in the marinade. Once you arrive at your destination, all you will have to do is thaw and cook the chicken. And choose to grill it (see #3) if possible. You can pick up a bag of salad mix and some dressing from a grocery store and you have an easy and healthy meal.
6. Mix up a bag or two of the dry ingredients for muffins (see my recipe here). Then you only have to add the wet ingredients and bake the muffins. This makes a quick breakfast. You can usually find the foil muffin cups in most grocery stores so even if your destination doesn’t have a muffin tin, you can still bake them. Worst case, dump the muffin batter into a disposable 9×13 pan and bake it like a cake. You will have to bake it a little longer, but it works and sure beats an expensive restaurant breakfast.
7. Cook extra-On the nights you do cook, cook extra. Grill some extra chicken and use the leftovers for wraps at lunch the next day. Subscribe to my weekly newsletter and I will send you the link and password to my Resource Library. In there, you will find my printable-5 Easy Meals Using Grilled Chicken that will give you some ideas of ways to use up the extra chicken you cooked. We used several of these recipes on our most recent vacation and it was a lifesaver.
Or cook some steaks and a london broil beside it. Tomorrow, turn the london broil into fajitas by sauteing some peppers and onions and putting it in tortillas. It’s easy and you spend a minimal amount of time slaving over a hot stove. Check out my post on batch cooking for some more ideas.
8. Finally, plan for a few vacation splurges. It is vacation after all! If you can, have a nice lunch or dinner out so you don’t have to cook EVERY meal. Give the kids pop-tarts or cereal one morning for breakfast. (We don’t normally eat those kinds of foods for breakfast so my kids think they are getting a treat and I get a morning off from cooking.) Go out for ice cream one evening instead of going out for a whole meal.
Saving money by cooking on vacation
By implementing these strategies when we go on vacation, we save hundreds and hundreds of dollars on our food costs. Since we go camping for most of our vacations, we are usually able to stay several days extra because we save so much money! After explaining it to our kids, they don’t mind not eating out as much. A few extra days at the beach or mountains is worth the sacrifice of cooking on vacation.
Do you cook on vacation? If so, what are some of your favorite meals to cook?