Nutrition Corner: Save money on vacation by packing small meals

July 7th, 2016 6:13 pm

Planning vacations can be fun but paying for them can be stressful. My family likes to rent vacation spots that allow you to cook and eat in. Eating out can really rack up the dollars quick and put us behind in other monthly bills. What if cooking in isn’t a possibility? Are there any alternatives?

Remembering my family vacations as a child, with six children, eating out was not an option. I can remember pulling into rest stops, getting out the sandwiches and drink thermos. It was a nice break from the car ride and no waiting for orders to be placed.

Today, food is everywhere — gas stations, discount stores, fast food restaurants and even rest stops now have vending machines. Small children might not like to eat Mom’s sandwiches as all the other options are made to be very attractive. It’s important to communicate the budget for vacation with all family members. For example, make simple statements to the family like, “Because we are going to the beach at this special place, we need to follow a food budget. Eating sandwiches that we packed at home helps us to stay within our budget.”

If possible, choose a hotel that offers breakfast. Even a continental breakfast versus a full hot breakfast saves money when considering that a cup of coffee can cost up to $2.

If you cannot cook in, what low cost options are available? You need to be organized with a plan in hand.

First, to plan a vacation without cooking facilities, it’s important to keep food safe to eat. It’s best to ask for a refrigerator in the room. Even if it’s an extra charge, it might be worth it. If not, take a cooler for drinks, fruit and even yogurt and milk. Most vacation spots have ice machines that will allow you to keep beverages cold.

Second, pack disposable dinner ware. Plates, bowls, silverware, hand wipes and plastic garbage bags need to be readily available.

Third, look for grocery stores and delis that carry hot food items. A rotisserie chicken can feed three or four people and may cost as little as $5. Ready-to-eat raw vegetables are available in the produce aisle. They are washed and cut. There are a large variety of snacks in these stores. Limit the number of chips and cookies that you purchase. Only buy what you can eat for that meal and snack. For lunch, choose lower salt deli meats, a loaf of whole grain bread and cut up fresh fruits.

The good news is that grocery stores have large produce aisles that have ready-to-eat vegetables and fruits. Often these are missed at fast foods restaurants.

Last but not least, seek out green spaces where you can eat outside. Many hotels have tables and chairs in patios with lots of pretty flowers. There may also be a nearby park.

Save money on your vacation this year. Plan it a bit differently and limit the number of times that you frequent restaurants and fast food.

Here is a recipe for an easy-to-make breakfast. Add a glass of milk to finish it off. The protein comes from the peanut butter. To reduce calories, eliminate the honey and granola.

Peanut Butter and Banana Wrap

1 whole wheat tortilla (small)

2 tablespoons peanut butter

1 teaspoon honey

1 tablespoon granola or crunchy cereal

1 banana

Lay tortilla on a paper plate. Mix peanut butter and honey together and spread evenly on the tortilla. Sprinkle cereal over peanut butter.

Peel, chop, and place banana on the tortilla and roll the tortilla. Enjoy!

Nutrition Corner Mary R. Ehret Corner Mary R. Ehret

Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford Counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at