Friday, October 11, 2013

Vacation on the Cheap: Orlando 2013 - Tips for Saving on Food

Welcome back to my series Vacation on the Cheap! Links to the preceding installments can be found at the bottom of this post!

Saving money on food when you're at home can be difficult. Saving money when you're on vacation can seem downright impossible! For as long as I can remember, we've been packing sandwich fixings whenever we go roadtripping, whether for one day or one week. This is a great money saver & one I highly recommend! Unless of course you're like me and don't really enjoy sandwiches. I'm not really sure why it took me so dang long to realize that if I was not happy eating sandwiches at home, I would never be truly happy and satisfied eating them while away from home! This holds especially true when you are somewhere like a theme park where delicious food is in your face every hundred yards. This is the vacation where I decided to change that.

Enjoying our ham & cream cheese bagels!
If you studied my menu at all, you'll notice that sandwiches make an appearance a grand total of three times in eight days. Only one of those is a boring old pb&j or lunchmeat sandwich. In reality, I think we only ate two. The day we left home (pb&j or lunchmeat) and the day we went to Downtown Disney (ham & cream cheese on bagels).

I was determined to have delicious food whilst on vacation without spending a ton of money! I know some of you are thinking, "Yes, but you had a KITCHEN in your hotel room! What about those of us who stay at regular hotels?"

Good question. I've yet to try it, but the next weekend we vacation I will let you know how it goes. The hotel that we will be staying at from now on when we only go for weekends is a super cheap, no-frills hotel. It's run-down and old on the outside, but the rooms are clean and in good shape. The mattress is sagging, but it's comfortable. (Always bring your own pillow!) There is no fridge or microwave. There may be a single-serve coffee maker in the room, but I'm not sure. There is an unadvertised free breakfast consisting of instant oatmeal, bagels, danishes, fruit, cereals, and beverages. It's super-duper close to one of the Disney gates. Oh, and it's cheap!

Here are some tips that should help you save money on food no matter where you stay:

Tip #1: Find a hotel that offers a FREE breakfast! Plain instant oatmeal, a glass of milk & a piece of fruit is a great breakfast! (Avoid the flavored oatmeal! Sweeten with good old sugar, jelly, maple syrup or honey, if they have it.)

If you can't get a free breakfast, make sure your hotel room has a fridge and a microwave. Some hotels don't put them in all their rooms, so make sure you ask!

If you can't find a hotel that offers any of that (although you should be with some dedicated research), pretend like you are going camping! At least food wise. Plan foods that are non-perishable, portable, are easy to prepare without a kitchen, and/or made at home and brought with you.

Tip #2: Don't be embarrassed by bringing your own food! No, really. People will probably stare at you as you enjoy your delicious & nutritious homemade meal packed with love, but I like to imagine that they're just jealous. I'm pretty sure those people were watching with envy the day we ate Black & Blue Salad (steak with blue cheese) and fresh strawberries with Nutella dip!

There is no rule that says you can't bring your own food into a theme park. Disney has restrictions on type & size of cooler, plus no glass containers. Whatever your destination, check the rules for what you are and are not allowed to bring.

Tip #3: Plan Ahead! Remember the itinerary we discussed? If you want to take your own food with you on vacation, you'll need to have a basic idea of what you'll be doing around each meal time. Some days I planned for us to still be at the hotel for lunch, and other days where we'd need to pack our food. I needed to know this before we left home.

Also, do not pack your food and leave it in the big cooler in the car with the idea that you will retrieve it come meal time. Your family will be starving, you'll be at the back of the park, and NO ONE will want to walk all the way back out to the car. Ask me how I know. LOL See our set up for packing it all with us here.

Tip #4: Be Creative! No boring sandwiches unless your entire family REALLY loves them! I spent large amounts of time scouring Pinterest for portable foods. I found some really great ones under lunch ideas or camping boards!

I didn't want anyone to feel like they were deprived of some fantastic meal just because we made it ourselves. This led to meal ideas like steaks, Dinosaur (hard-boiled) eggs, orange cake, and bananas with minion faces! Don't forget to include your family's favorite foods and snacks.

If you really want to get creative, you could try making those cool bento lunches that look like someone spent hours making them. In this house, "ain't nobody got time for that!"

Tip #5: Pack more snacks than you think you'll need! When your kid passes 7 other kids with Mickey bars dripping down their brand-new $80 Cinderella costumes, they're going to want one too. Probably the Mickey bar AND the costume! If you want your kid to have a Cinderella costume, or any other Disney memorabilia for that matter, make a stop at the nearest Wal-Mart where the same costume will only set you back $20. It's still official Disney merchandise.

As for the Mickey bars, have an alternative on hand at all times! We don't skip the Dole Whips in our family, and you shouldn't skip something that you really want & have planned ahead to spend the money on. For all the other times, I have snacks. They may not be super nutritious because I chose ease and portability, but they're probably healthier than the theme park snacks.

I plan for two snacks a day. It takes a lot of energy to walk around theme parks, stand on line in the boiling hot sun and humidity, and push your children through the themed store that you have to walk through at the end of every ride.

Us, successfully navigating the shops. (Meaning we didn't buy anything! LOL)
Transformers in Training
Include some protein and (healthy)carbohydrates for a more satisfying snack. Make sure you pack enough to help everyone get through the day, plus a little extra. If you end up with leftovers at the end of the day it's okay. I'm sure they will get eaten eventually!

Tip #6: Invest in quality containers! The only two items I can confidently recommend are the Ziploc Divided Containers and the Ziploc Round Screw-top Containers. I have not encountered any problems with these two items that weren't user caused. All of the refillable bottles, coolers, lunch bags, and other plastic containers we have used have either not stood the test of time and abuse use, or are just adequate. I don't want to recommend anything that doesn't work!

Both of these containers are reasonably priced, so you should be able to stock up on however many your family needs. We bought 12 of the divided containers so we could pack 2 meals per day. Buy whatever you need & will fit into your coolers with room for extra ice. BTW, we ended up buying two of the clearanced (70%off, so $3.98 each)lunch bags from Target that I mentioned before. They will fit two of the Ziploc Divided containers, with plenty of room for ice packs. They also came with little water bottles that fit into an outside pocket! BONUS!

Here is the meal we enjoyed on the beach of Disney's Polynesian Resort.
(Look! No leaking between compartments!)
Teriyaki Pork & Pineapple Kebabs over brown rice (with soy sauce), grapes & banana pudding!

Tip #7: Bring your own water! Each person should have their own refillable water container. On this vacation they received lanyards from which they carried their own bottles. There are plenty of water fountains from which to refill, or you can ask for free ice water from a food vendor. Keep frozen water bottles in your cooler to keep your food cold and to drink later in the day. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

I really hope that the tips I've shared with you will be helpful in saving you money on your next vacation or even a day away from the house!

Next Up: Meal & Snack Ideas

My adorable family in the shops. We have a thing for hats!
Vacation on the Cheap Posts:
Part One - Itinerary & Menu
Part Two - Tips & FREE Things to Do at Disney

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...