Vacation Meal Planning

Hi guys!

So I totally thought I had scheduled this post to go up at 7:00am like I normally have them scheduled for, but I’m just realizing now it never posted today.  My b.

Yes, it has been that kind of week.

But I don’t wanna talk about it.

Instead, I’m going to talk about something I’ve gotten a few emails from readers on.

How did you meal plan on vacation and stay on a budget?

If you read my vacation recap post, you probably noticed that Tim and I cooked many meals in.  Some of you are probably thinking, “Ew, why would you want to cook while you are away?  Isn’t it your vacation?”, but going out for every meal was simply just not in the cards for us.  We definitely couldn’t afford financially to do that, especially after going out for so many delicious meals in Colorado.

Plus, we love cooking together. So here’s how we planned.

Meal Planning Tips

First, we decided that we were only going to go out to one nice dinner.  This may not seem like a lot, but going out to eat was not the main focus of our vacation.  We knew that there would be afternoons that we would be at places like The Summer Shanty or The Beachcomber where we’d be ordering seafood appetizers.  It all adds up, and money doesn’t grow on trees!  Knowing we had one night out, that left the rest of the nights to plan for.

Before we even got to the Cape, we looked through recipes!  We browsed through some of the recipes we’ve bookmarked or emailed to each other over the past couple of months to decide what we wanted to make.  And if we didn’t plan for a specific
recipe, we at least had a general idea of the type of food we wanted to make.  We ended up planning for:

  • Monday:  Chickpea Burgers
  • Tuesday:  Shrimp & Steak Skewers + Quinoa side
  • Wednesday:  Taco night with friends
  • Thursday:  Leftovers
  • Friday:  Night out
  • Saturday:  Whatever is left on the grill
  • Sunday:  Leftovers OR stop for quick sandwich on way home

Aside from dinner, we planned for breakfast and lunch too.  Those are actually the “small” meals that end up costing you an arm and a leg if you go out for too many of them.  For breakfast we planned on protein pancakes one day, and eggs another day, but knew we’d probably just do quick small breakfasts of yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit on most other days.

For lunches, we planned on grilling a bunch of chicken at the beginning of the week and packing grilled chicken sandwiches with fruit, veggies, and munchies for our day trips.  Grilling the chicken ahead of time definitely saved us a lot of time during the week, and we felt it was a better choice than cold cuts.  Nothing like a yummy grilled chicken sandwich on wheat with tomato, lettuce, and avocado!  We did end up doing one lunch out at the end of the week — we were out of chicken by the time our day trip to P-Town came around!  But it’s okay because I got to eat the most delish swordfish salad.  🙂

With all this in mind, on our first day down the Cape we went on a huge grocery shopping spree to stock up for the week.  And we spent a lot of money.  But it was okay because that money spent was money saved elsewhere.  Aside from the essentials for the above food, we stocked up on fruits like nectarines, grapes, and bananas.  And also veggies like carrots for snacks, and things like mushrooms, peppers, and zucchini that we could roast or grill as sides.  We tried to keep our chippy type snacks to a minimum, but did get a few favorites.

We also planned for leftovers.  We almost always cook too much food, so we knew we’d be able to put it to good use.  The quinoa salad I made on the first night there made for a nice packed lunch for the beach on day 2, we were able to throw together a salad on Thursday out of leftovers from taco night, and we had a few extra skewers to enjoy throughout the week too.  Planning for leftovers helps keep you on a budget and not over buy.  Plus it forces you to get creative!

Another part of meal planning on vacation is to buy food that’s versatile.  Those nectarines we bought for snacks could also be used to make nectarine vodka collins drinks (another recipe I pinpointed ahead of time that I wanted to try).  The bananas we had for snacks and in our yogurt could also be used in peanut butter banana smoothies.  See where I’m going with that?  Sometimes if we can’t potentially see ourselves using it for more than one thing, we won’t buy it.  

Something that’s also helped us meal plan and budget effectively is that we are on the same page.  Make sure whomever you are traveling with shares the same feelings as you do about the meal plan for the week.  It made it a lot easier knowing that Tim was up for helping me pack a cooler each morning with food (and drinks) to have on hand for our long days at the beach and our day trips!  Teamwork!

I hope this helps you guys and answers your questions!  Having some sort of plan prevents the need to scramble at the last minute for food and spending more than you need to.  Plus, it also helps at keeping things healthy when you prepare your snacks and meals on your own!   Lastly, the couple of times you DO end up splurging and going out to eat — all that meal planning makes it so much more worth it!!

Do any of you meal plan while on vacation?  What are your tips and tricks?

P.S.  My upper body is already feeling it from this morning’s workout!!  Anyone else?

3 thoughts on “Vacation Meal Planning

  1. My biggest problem with planning vacation meals is when I travel internationally. Its hard to find the foods you are used to having and food is so much more expensive! When I was in Stockholm recently it was hard to pick good food from the menu because alot of it I have never heard of before! I tried to stick with fish and chicken, but I will admit that some meals I ordered I had no idea what I was getting! I did keep water with me at all times and stole some fruit from the hotel breakfast to have during the day.


  2. We plan a budget and stick to it as well. However we are definitely not as creative! Planning on one or two breakfasts out is our splurge. It is our favorite meal. Loved those pancakes you made! Also brought a couple of gift cards with us that could be used on our vacation so that helped the budget. I always plan on bringing some groceries from home that I know will be cheaper here and lots of water bottles, soda, coffee, etc. It is easy to do if staying in a cottage/house.


  3. We did the same thing on our vacation in Maine and loved it! My boyfriend and I love to cook together so it was enjoyable and fun. We didn’t have TV at our place so it gave us something to do at night as well. Packing lunches for day trips and finding a great place to picnic was so fun and something we never do at home either. I loved eating outside in a park or by the ocean instead of a restaurant. It really added to our trip and didn’t take away from it. We’ve continued that trend since we got home too! I moved in about a week before we left for vacation so it was a great way to start some good habits. We plan our weekly meals and look for fun recipes we’ll both enjoy every weekend. We try to grocery shop together but work as a team if someone is busy or not around to do. Prepping things liked grilled veggies, chicken, smoothies and iced coffee on Sunday helps us to get healthy meals in our bodies quickly. When you know you can have dinner together in 20 minutes you tend to avoid takeout! We ate our once on our vacation as well and try to do the same each week now! Ok, sorry for the long comment but loved the post!


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