A sticking point for me while on vacation, is how to maintain my grocery budget. Inevitably, it's more expensive to eat on vacation. Why is that?
- If you are camping, then you generally are purchasing more "shelf stable" foods like canned chili, oatmeal packages, etc. Or at least, I do. Because otherwise, you have to pack ALLL your own food, pre-made. I know some people can do this, but our car + Thule box barely fits our camping gear.
- If you are on a driving vacation, then food planning stems around things that are easy to eat on the run and can be eaten cold. For us, this means sandwiches, veggies and hummus, string cheese, apples, instead of salads or stir-fries.
- If you are flying, then your food choices are limited even more, though my niece over at Mrs. Petri Dish travels with all her food pre-frozen. That becomes a lot more difficult when you have a family of four.
- If you are staying at hotels, then cooking options are limited to: nothing, or microwave/fridge, or whatever you brought with you (hot pot?) I have been known to feed my family noodle bowls where we heated the water in the hot pot. With raw veggies. I have to tell you, while the resort on the Big Island of Hawaii was fabulous, that was the world's smallest refrigerator. And cooking for three in a hotel room is hard, and expensive.
- If you are staying at a house/ condo/ Air-BnB, then you might lack staples. Some of them may have coffee filters, cooking oil, ketchup. Some will not. There's a bit of a start up cost.
I almost always aim to stay at a condo or house for any vacation longer than 2 days. Eating out is expensive, not healthy, and a PITA with a toddler who cannot sit still.
This means that you will likely be grocery shopping wherever you are staying. In a resort town, prices are more expensive. You also cannot take advantage of bulk buying.
Which brings me to the question: do you count grocery stops on vacation as vacation budget or grocery budget??
On our recent/ current vacation to the beautiful state of Utah - here's a sample of our eats for the week:
Day 1: travel. We ate dinner at home and drove 3 hours to the wonderful town of Victorville, CA. Sadly, we booked the hotel too fast and didn't realize that it didn't come with breakfast (a must with our family). The purpose of traveling a bit the first day is to break up the 8.5 hour drive. Honestly, with a toddler's small bladder, the 8.5 drive would take 11. That's too long.
Also sadly, there's no place "half way". Victorville is 3 hours from home and 5.5 from Utah. Las Vegas is 5.5 hours from home and 3 hours from Utah.
Speaking of small bladders, we stopped at McD's to pee and for fries and burgers. Because my 10 year old needed a second dinner.
Day 2: travel day from hell. I mean, just a long day. This was Easter. We ate bagels and smoothies in the hotel room (see: no free breakfast). We headed out at 10 am and probably didn't get in until 5:30 pm. In lieu of lunch, we snacked in the car - veggies, fruit, cheese, chips. We stopped at a Walmart and got mac and cheese for that 10 year old with the hollow leg (and some hummus).
Dinner was stuff that we brought, figuring that grocery stores in a small town in Utah would not be open (we were right). We had Madras lentils, chicken tikka masala with rice (from TJs), and sliced cucumbers. And chips and guacamole.
Day 3: Bryce Canyon national park:
Breakfast: bagels and eggs
Lunch/snacks: apples, veggies and hummus, string cheese, sandwiches, water, granola bars
Dinner: rotisserie chicken and stir-fried asparagus
Day 4: Errands, hanging our near the townhome:
Breakfast: bagels and eggs and smoothies
Lunch: Sandwiches, hummus and veggies, salami
Dinner: leftover chicken and stir-fried broccoli
- but then the 10 year old kept eating...apple, eggs, chips...
Day 5: Zion national park
Breakfast: bagels and smoothies
Lunch/snacks: Sandwiches, hummus and veggies, apples, chips, granola bars
Pre-dinner, we hiked a lot snack: yogurt
Dinner: pizza and stir-fried zucchini (Bought 2 "take and bake" pizzas. Had to slice them in half to fit on the baking pans. Ice cream for dessert!
Day 6: Coral Sand Dunes state park:
Breakfast: scrambled eggs with leftover broccoli and zucchini and cheese, bagels, apple
Snack: yogurt and smoothies
Lunch: Lunch out, veggies and hummus
Dinner: Leftover pizza, leftover broccoli and zucchini
Day 7: Long travel day
Breakfast: cinnamon rolls, smoothies
Lunch: sandwiches, veggies, apples (on the road)
Dinner: In-n-out in Barstow
Day 8: short travel day
Breakfast: at the hotel (free! Didn't make that mistake again)