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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Cooking up a storm before a vacation

It's winter vacation time!!! I began planning this last summer in August, and have been counting down the days since!

Having fun! Wish you were here! And all that jazz!

Okay, so my daughters and I are out chasing the sun this week. But before we left, I had a lot of work to take care of. Oh yes, the usual, laundry, checking on schedules, going by the bank, packing suitcases. But what really kept me busy was all the pre-vacation cooking to be done. Yep, I said pre-vacation cooking.

I had all the usual cooking to take care of. Then because this was just a girls' trip (guys staying home), I had meals to prepare for my husband and son, so they wouldn't starve. And of course, I had some things to make, for us to take with us, to keep our eating out limited to meals that we really wanted from a restaurant. I don't enjoy eating out in mediocre restaurants. If I'm going to eat out, I want it to taste great.

And then, I wanted to prepare some things to have in the house for when we returned. A dinner in the freezer to heat that night, and some lunch things for to-go lunches the next day. You know how it is after a trip. You come in the door and just want to drop your bag and lie down. The last thing you want to do (but everyone expects you to do) is jump back into the kitchen and make dinner.

So, as much as I could, I doubled up everything I made for a week, plus had a couple of cooking sessions on three of the days last week.

In total, for the trip, to be eaten here, there, and after, I made 7 loaves of bread, a double batch of granola, a batch of cookies (and after half of those disappeared, a batch of brownies), a mac and cheese casserole to heat, a rice and beans casserole, a pasta and Italian sausage casserole, a large pot of turkey-noodle soup, some cranberry-orange muffins, a quiche, some beef stew, 2 pizzas, a container of refried beans (with the rest of the fixings for burritos), and a large container of egg salad. Believe it or not, the majority of this will be left behind for the guys to eat up. They're the big eaters in our house, not surprisingly. I am hoping this will hold them for a few days. I've also left them a huge container of carrot sticks, some frozen spinach and frozen mixed veggies. Maybe they'll think to try some of those?

To take with us on the trip, we've packed cocoa mix, koolaid drink mix (some places the tap water tastes terrible), crackers, string cheese, microwave popcorn, some candy from Christmas, cookies, a couple of sandwiches, bananas, nuts, a bag of carrot sticks, and raisins.

I like to bring a bunch of snacky things with us. We can stretch the time between formal meals with a good snack. Our motel has a breakfast provided, which we always enjoy fully. I can always find something healthy to eat. Most of the places we stay have at least fresh fruit, juice, oatmeal, whole wheat toast, hard boiled eggs, and yogurt.

We'll have a fridge and microwave in our room. The three of us will walk down to a market and buy some sandwich stuff to last a few days. We actually fare pretty well with our dining-out budget when we travel. I'll give you more details when we return.

I hope you're having a splendid week! I'll be back in just a couple of days.

Do you take food with you when you travel, too? Making sandwiches in the hotel room, to take to a park or the beach, can save quite a bit on the travel budget.


  1. Whew! You need a vacation after all of that cooking. When we're out, we usually try to eat breakfast in the hotel and carry something with us for lunch in our backpacks. That gives us the flexibility with our schedule to not have to find somewhere for lunch. We then treat ourselves for dinner in a restaurant.
    (BTW, I'm not letting my family read this post. They might expect me to cook for them before I go somewhere.)

    1. Hi live and learn,
      I agree, it is nice to not have to stop and think about where to have lunch, midday, while you're out and about. We typically bring a snack back for each person, with crackers, nuts, cheese, dried fruit and/or sandwiches, plus juice and water. Some nights we'll eat dinner out, some nights we'll bring a pizza in or make microwave hotdogs in the room.

  2. Wow, that is a lot of food :) I pack quite a bit of food when we go away for weekends, and like staying in places with a fridge so we can store it. I also prefer splurging on one or two good restaurant meals and self-catering the rest of the meals. I hate spending money on a meal I could make better for cheaper.

    Have a wonderful trip :)

    1. Hi Economies,
      the great thing with all this cooking is that there's actually a few things left in the freezer. So for the next couple of days, cooking will be easier while I get myself back to a regular routine.

      You know, I know some friends who prepare casseroles, freeze them, then pack in an ice chest for the drive to their destination. Then they heat and eat for the first couple of nights while on vacation.

      While we were away, we'd pop into a bakery here and there and look at the treats, but most of the time I just thought, "I make cookies that are pretty good, so why buy them here?" It's so hard to spend money on food when I know I do a decent job at home on the exact same thing. So we tend to choose items/meals that I just don't ever prepare.

  3. I have used the breakfast bar to make my lunch. PB&J sandwich, fruit, yogurt. I always take zip lock bags with me when I travel

    1. Hi frugal spinster,
      Some of the places we stay are very welcoming to us taking a little something for later in the day. My husband even stayed in one place where they made up bags of take away breakfast, obviously too big to be just a breakfast, and intended to be a snack or lunch later as well.

      But even if the policy is "this is just breakfast, please don't take anything out of the breakfast room", I tell you, my petite little teenage girls can put away the food for breakfast! And I, myself, can eat a hearty enough breakfast to not be hungry for hours and hours. Now I have to adjust back to normal portions again.

  4. How fun! Have a great time! :)

    We take full advantage of breakfast supplied by a motel/hotel. I always bring snacky stuff, similar to what you bring. I have been packing almonds lately as they are a big hit and healthy, too. Most of our trips in a hotel (since having children) have been 1- to 2-nighters, so we opt to eat meals out--we usually go simple (Subway, pizza) since that's what the kids like, but I agree with you, I hate mediocre restaurant food. I anticipate longer trips in a hotel as the kids get older, so I'm interested in your money-managing techniques!

    1. Hi Kris,
      As it turned out, breakfast was quite substantial at this motel. We had waffles, croissants, eggs, sausage, potatoes, bagels, toast, donuts, muffins, apples, bananas, oranges, oatmeal, cold cereal, cocoa, coffee, juices, and milk to choose from. The first couple of days, I think I went a bit overboard on breakfast. I was so full I couldn't eat the rest of the day! The snack bags of almonds, sunflower seeds, raisins, crackers, cheese, fresh fruit and some juice kept us going until late for dinners.

      Traveling gets fun, as your kids get older. They begin to appreciate some of the same experiences as you, so the options for what to do for the day expand tremendously! And they begin to enjoy good food, not just chicken nuggets, bland pizzas and mac and cheese, so restaurant choices expand as well. My kids have just now reached the point of enjoying small ethnic, hole in the wall restaurants, which are usually very tasty, and a good restaurant bargain.

  5. Hope you have a great time, Lili! Sounds like you've been super busy. Love, love, love the photo of the loaves of bread. :)

    1. Hi Belinda,
      Cooking before the trip did indeed keep me very busy. I needed the vacation just from that!

      Isn't homemade bread one of the most beautiful of foods? Whether it's loaf bread or artisan bread, I think it is lovely in its own right.

      When I read the Little House books, I loved reading about Saturday baking day. I always thought how wonderful that would be to bake the entire week's worth of bread, pies, cookies and donuts all in one day.

  6. Hope you're having a good trip! When I travel I also like to have a fridge and microwave in my room. I like to have breakfast and lunch out because they are affordable, and have a light supper back at the hotel room - sandwiches, salads, soup etc. And always bring snacks wherever I go!

    1. Hi anexacting,
      I grew up with a grandmother who always had snacks in her purse. It might just be a packet of crackers, or a piece of fruit, but with her, if we said we were hungry, she had something for us. I'm sure it saved her quite a bit of money, when she would be looking after us, to always carry snacks. And now, I really appreciate the idea of always having snacks along.

      A fridge and microwave in the room is an incredible value. One of my favorite snacks is popcorn, so I'll usually pack some microwave popcorn for an afternoon snack. I also pack cocoa packets, oatmeal packets, and instant soup. Then if by evening we're too tired to go out and get some dinner, we can always fix something to keep us till morning.

  7. I grew up with family that packed food for every trip, even a trip to the movie theater when it was permitted, so yes it was natural that I too pack for every trip I take. The biggest addition is to always carry my own water where ever I go even for short trips around town. On longer trips yep, we have entire boxes of food ready to eat.

    I would have to say packing food was ingrained in me as much as extra blankets in a car for winter driving.

    1. Hi Lois,
      It's really a modern idea (meaning 2nd half of the 20th century) to not pack your own food for a trip. It would've been considered foolish to not pack your own food, and rely on finding something to eat when you did become hungry. And there's so much that's very portable for travel. I also just like being able to shop in my own stores, find the deals on items that we like, and bring familiar foods with us.

      I noticed a few years ago, that many movie theaters no longer post a sign requesting no outside food to be brought in. So I pop my own corn, and bring that. I use a healthier fat for popping, and way less salt. And I bring my own water to drink. I've stopped sodas altogether. That was a hard one for me to give up. But I know its better for me not to drink them.

  8. Enjoy your vacation! We do pack some food when we travel and then we allow some cash for eating out as well. I love it when the room has a few mini appliances because it makes it so much easier to keep costs in check.

    1. Hi Shara,
      I was just thinking about my favorite in room appliance, and it has to be the coffee maker. I love a good cup of coffee, a few times per day. If I had to spend a few dollars 3 times a day for coffee, that would add up quickly! Plus, I know just how I like my coffee and can make it "my way". We will sometimes bring our own coffee, plus some small filters, just so we can have good coffee while on vacation.

      I agree that it is nice to have a couple of meals out, while on vacation. We always try to budget for that. But in years' past, when it just wasn't in the budget, we found so many ways to make meals fun, while on vacation, without eating out. We've taken trips where we picnicked breakfast, taken lunch to a town park or beach, and made microwave hot dogs in the room for dinner.


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