The often unpredictable price of eating out while on vacation can be quite costly. My advice to friends is always the same when choosing a hotel for a family vacation; choose one that offers, at the very least, an efficiency kitchen to cook basic meals for the family while enjoying time away. Sure, it sounds great to spend a week away from the daily grind of preparing meals and cleaning up the kitchen, but a week’s worth of family meals eaten out can be mighty costly. And its always disappointing to find that when my family is ready to eat, the chosen restaurant has a line out the door that seems to be a mile long. Once inside and finally seated, the food never seems to measure up for the cost put out. Don’t get me wrong, we have our favorite restaurants in Disney World and we always make reservations at ‘Ohana, in the Polynesian Resort and the Hollywood Brown Derby. We absolutely wouldn’t miss the Polynesian inspired foods served throughout ‘Ohana’s Dinner Show and the incredible combination of flavors carefully mixed together in the Cobb Salad served at the Brown Derby. But, my oh my, things certainly add up quickly. I remember a time when it was common practice to have a soup or salad accompany a main dish or a basket of bread was given before the meal. Nowadays, everything seems to come with an added cost.
This week, our family spent our spring break vacation in Disney World. We are Disney Vacation Club Members and have ownership in Disney’s Old Key West Resort. Purchasing this property over twenty years ago certainly has been a great vacation savings for us. I thought I would take this opportunity to explain how I manage the food budget while on vacation. While we have a few favorite restaurants that we always visit while in Disney, for the most part, we really try to commit to eating “in” for the majority of our meals throughout the week. The vacation home that we stay in comes equipped with a sizable kitchen so I can prepare anything from the basic peanut-butter and jelly sandwich to a delicious pork roast dinner for the family. As mentioned earlier, finding a hotel room or suite with a small efficiency kitchen can really save money in the long run. You may have to pay a little more for the room up front but the food savings can be incredible for a family.
Here are some of the basic meals that I usually prepare when traveling with the family. They’re often prepared with convenience mixes or prepackaged ingredients but they fit the bill for a week away from home on a budget.
On day one, I usually buy groceries for the week. (I also bring from home lots of commonly used dry spices.)
Spaghetti with meat sauce, crescent rolls and Caesar salad,
It’s a great idea to look at the online weekly sale flyer for the local grocery store where you intend to shop. This way, you can plan ahead to shop for deals. This week, as I grabbed my shopping cart and sale flyer at the front of the store, I noticed pork roast and ground beef were on sale for a great price. I picked up both for separate meals. The ground beef was used for the tacos, spaghetti, and hamburgers. The pork roast was used for the pork roast dinner and pulled pork sandwiches. (I shredded the left over pork and slathered it with barbecue sauce, then topped the extra hamburger buns with the tender shredded meat.)
Now, a vacation wouldn’t be a vacation without some sweet treats…
For Dinners, I purchased:
Ragu- Chunky Garden Style Sauce
Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
Taco Seasoning Packets
Caesar Salad Dressing
Grated Parmesan Cheese
Chocolate Cake Mix
Chocolate Frosting Mix
I paid a little over $150.00 for a week’s worth of food and was really able to stretch my food dollars.
Each of these basic meals can be prepared quickly with very little effort. Convenience mixes and prepackaged food items help to cut down on time spent in the kitchen. Paper plates and disposable tableware can certainly save time on clean up. Thankfully, our vacation kitchen is well equipped with a set of dishes, a full fridge and a dish washer.
I’ve been cooking in Disney World for years and these meal ideas have been long standing family favorites. My crew seems to enjoy staying away from crowded restaurants and having a few home cooked meals while enjoying our time with Mickey Mouse in the bright Florida sunshine.