Our Healthy Menu on Vacation, and What Frugal Things We Did

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So last week we went on vacation, and we're still sort of recovering from it, unpacking, catching up on sleep, etc... Sorry this post didn't get up before now...
But I wanted to talk to you about being frugal on vacation.
Because other than groceries being more expensive on vacation, and transportation there and back not exactly being free (but we did what we could to lower their costs, at least), our vacation was actually super frugal. (The fact that we stayed at a relative's apartment free of charge certainly helped, because then we had no lodging fees.)
We spent nothing on entertainment, nothing on admission fees, etc...
For fun, mainly we went to the beach (free, and walkable from where we were staying), a splash pad, and playgrounds. We were considering doing some other things, so we looked at the municipality's website of events, but there wasn't anything that spoke to us that week...  However, we did go to the sound and light show one evening at the splash pad, which was really enjoyable.

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I had considered going out to a restaurant one time, but I decided against it, figured I could cook something healthier for myself, that would be just as tasty, and be much cheaper. So that saved money.

To be honest, one of the best ways we saved money this trip was by being prepared. I knew I wouldn't be able to go bargain shopping for groceries, and the one store I would be able to get to for grocery shopping would be overpriced. I also knew that I wouldn't have the same cooking facilities there, so I needed some quick to prepare foods that made minimal mess. And there was the added aspect of wanting foods that were Paleo appropriate, which certainly aren't easy to find, let alone at a decent price, when on vacation. I decided to bring things along from home that would help save money on groceries.
Mike didn't want me to bring these many things, because we had to lug it all by bus, but I don't regret bringing anything that I did, because, had I not, things would have cost so much more, if we could even find what we needed at all.
I brought alone 3 chickens, chicken breast, and ground beef that I'd bought on sale (since the store on vacation would have meat and poultry at least twice what I pay for them not on sale, and 3-5 times what I pay for it on sale).
I brought homemade cashew butter and homemade almond butter, which made for quick dairy free milks to use (I just needed to add water and voila- almond or cashew milk).
I bought cashews, walnuts, almonds, and dates very cheaply at the market before I left home- these are at least 33% cheaper than my local grocery store, and the vacation grocery store even more.
I brought along gluten free and garbage free corn flakes and rice crispies (ingredients: corn/rice only) to trial for our reintroduction, and to make breakfast time easier, and I specifically brought ones that I bought from a cheap outlet store.
I also brought tuna in water that I got cheaply, plus sardines in olive oil, coconut oil that I bought in bulk, and coconut sugar that I bought in bulk.
And lastly- right before we went, I stuck all the groceries that hadn't been finished (I'd tried to finish my groceries first) and were freezable- in the freezer. And the ones that weren't, like some lettuce, cucumbers, apples, some cooked butternut squash, and a mango, I stuck in my bag and we used them for supper that night when we first got there, before we had a chance to go shopping. So that also was convenient, and also stopped food from being wasted.

Other than groceries, I also brought along things to entertain the kids cheaply- all from the 25 cent store- sand toys, straw copter toys (2 for 25 cents), shoots and ladders, and light up toys. When we went to the light show, I remember from previous years that they sell super expensive light up toys- necklaces, bracelets, etc... so when I saw them for 25 cents each at the store before we went, I bought one for each kid, then gave them out at the light show. They loved it.
I also brought playdough, which was a big hit. Though not 25 cents- the pack was $2.50 and we only brought some of the pack.
When the kids were getting restless inside, and we didn't have the energy to take them to the beach, I took them out to a grassy area and we played with the straw copter toys for a while- they had so much fun, and it was super cheap as well, which was perfection- and probably more enjoyable for the kids than the expensive attractions.

Other frugal things we did:
I found a reduced rack at the overpriced grocery store and bought as much of my produce from the reduced rack as possible.
I did a lot of foraging- did you expect anything else of me? I foraged lots and lots of purslane (I haven't seen purslane at all this year locally, so I was really excited to have it there, since it is one of my favorite forageable items), lots and lots of num nums (and even got some people who saw me picking them, interested in them, and foraging, and they even tried them and liked them!), some samphire, and some lantana berries.
I heard about an incredible sale on good quality and name brand clothing at an outlet store, and came home with 3 shirts for Anneliese and 3 shirts for Mike, for a total of 15 dollars. I also bought myself a bathing suit from a bargain store, and some cheap inflatables from the once a week cheap outdoor market.
I made some gazpacho from salad that had frozen accidentally.
A friend who lived nearby and knew about my love of bargains gave me a bag of overripe mangos that she wasn't going to use, which I then used to make into a mango lassee type drink.
I made homemade larabars and homemade num num jello.
And I got two hand me down bathing suits for myself, and some hand me down clothes for my girls.

And since menu plays a big part in frugality, here's what we ate over the week. (I might have missed a few things, but this is the general gist of it.)

Breakfast (before we left)- butternut squash, leftover veggies, hard boiled eggs.
Lunch- salad with lettuce, cucumbers, butternut squash, almonds, tuna, cashew butter
Supper- pressure cooker steamed chicken, brown rice, and purslane/cucumber and num num salad

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Breakfast- corn flakes and cashew/almond butter milk
Lunch- hard boiled eggs, walnuts, cucumber sticks, chicken, dates, apples, olives
Supper- leftover rice, chicken breast, sliced sweet potatoes/potatoes, purslane/tomato/cucumber/tahini salad, steamed green beans

Breakfast- corn flakes and cashew/almond butter milk for some, brie cheese and melon for others
Lunch- hard boiled eggs, mashed potatoes, tomato/cucumber salad for some, steamed samphire/purslane with tuna and butternut squash and tahini dressing for me.
Supper- mashed potatoes/zoodles (with grater) with meaty tomato sauce (was supposed to be meatballs with leftover sweet potatoes in it, but they fell apart), roasted beet and walnut salad, leftover purslane/cucumber/num num salad, mango lassee

Breakfast- butternut squash, hard boiled eggs, melon, cashews, and grapes for the kids, butternut squash, sardines, cashews, and green beans for me.
Lunch- hard boiled eggs, butternut squash, cucumber sticks, carrot sticks. Butternut squash, cucumber/onion salad, sardines, topped with tahini butternut squash dressing and tabasco sauce.
Supper- rice paper wraps with beets, chicken, tomatoes, cucumbers, and green beans for supper.

Breakfast- butternut squash, hard boiled eggs, apples for the kids.
Lunch- Potato salad, hard boiled eggs, carrot sticks for lunch
Supper- BBQ chicken (wings, whole chickens), homemade hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled zucchini, grilled tomatoes, potato salad, cucumber salad, watermelon

Breakfast- pancakes from leftover butternut squash, eggs, and leftover rice for the kids, tuna fish, cantaloupe. For myself zucchini, tomato, mushroom saute.
Lunch- pancakes, chicken breast, carrot sticks.
Supper- balsamic onion flowers. curried brown rice with onions and mushrooms. Curried onions mushrooms and 'zoodles' for me. Grilled chicken, grilled tomatoes, baked butternut squash, green beans. Dessert- chocolate larabars and num num jello.

Breakfast- butternut squash, hard boiled eggs, watermelon
Lunch- potato salad, cucumber salad, lettuce, sunflower shoots and turkey breast salad with amba honey dressing. Numnum jello for dessert.
Supper- potatoes, sweet potatoes, tuna, beet salad, leftovers, carrots and tahini.

Snacks: cantaloupe, apples, watermelon, cashews, almonds, dried mango, dates, walnuts

When you go on vacation, do you throw frugality out the window and say "Let's just live a little, it's vacation" or do you try to be as frugal as possible on vacation? How do you try to be frugal on vacation?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. Major props to you for lugging all that animal protein - it takes a lot of dedication and planning. Did you take it in an ice chest or did you pre-cook all the meat?

  2. Thanks! Actually, all the meat was frozen when I brought it, and i stuck it in a suitcase, tripped bagged, surrounded by a ton of clothes as insulation. Our traveling time was approximately 3 hours, and when we arrived it was still frozen solid as a rock. :-D

    1. That's pretty awesome. We recently traveled for 2 weeks, and our flight days were 18 hours and 24 hours long (with driving, delays, etc.) It was hard for me to pack for even just the 18 hours on the plane!

    2. What wonderful memories for your children! Some of my fondest memories from childhood are the times we went on vacation (almost always to stay with relatives). I think what made the times most memorable was that my parents actually relaxed and spent time with us (as opposed to always working on the house/yard or working for pay). Of course, your children have your attention always, but I'll bet that they care more about time with you and Mike than any paid attractions!

  3. We always bring along food. Prepared and frozen on vacation. We once took a beach trip and the only food we bought was eggs and avocados after we got there and never ate out. I once took a cross country trip for 3 weeks and planned all our meals out in advance so we bought nothing on our way out. On our way back I cooked up lots of trader joes chicken legs and we ate those with veggies on the way home. The trip back took 5 days and we ended up running out and the best thing I found was the rotisserie chickens at grocery stores. They lasted us 2 meals and were cheaper than eating out.
    Growing up my parents never took us anywhere but the beach on vacation. There view was if we spent all this money to come to the beach we are spending all our time there. They only spent money on food and the campground. Back in the 80s and early 90s camping was very cheap. A poor mans sport. Nowadays that same campground is 80 plus a night! Really not frugal once you figure out all the extra gas to pull a camper. Last minute cancellations on condos make much more sense.

  4. We also vacation in the home of a relative ( in a super expensive area). We drive the 8 hours but pack a cooler with our food. In warmer months, there is an Amish farmer's market we stop by en route for amazing produce and eggs/ butter. We do plan to buy a few things at the local expensive grocery store but not much. There is lots of free entertainment like hiking there and we always pack a lunch for ourselves to enjoy partway through the day and then eat breakfast and dinner at the home.

  5. How about eat one once or twice and give your kids a treat instead of your repulsive "recipes"? It is vacation... treats are allowed. Being frugal is one thing, but being outright cheap to the point of not even buying the kids an ice cream cone once a year is way overboard.

    1. If you think my "recipes" are repulsive, why bother reading my site? Just to troll? Fortunately I don't need the approval of a random anonymous internet person, when I know my family and guests and friends and thousands of blog readers enjoy my recipes and tell me how great they come out.
      But anyhow, why not just "splurge" and get them an ice cream cone?
      It's not a matter of frugality. I do splurge and get my kids treats often- whenever we go grocery shopping in town together, we stop in a discount place and get slurpies/slushies, muffins, or anything that they want there. And I buy them treats all the time. But no ice cream cones from most stores because quite a few of my kids cant tolerate, and the cones are gluten, so 3/4 of my kids can't eat them. I do take them at least a few times a year to an ice cream shop that has dairy free delicious ice cream. :-D My kids aren't deprived by any means.
      I dont think "an ice cream cone" (by which I assume you mean bought instead of homemade treats) needs to be specifically on vacation when we already spent a heckload of money on getting there, and grocery shopping there. My kids get "ice cream cones" very frequently.

    2. Troll.

      Most of Penny's recipes are excellent, the others aren't bad. And I live with an extremely picky eater.

      Our family was extremely frugal while our daughter was growing up (working min wage jobs) and what does she have happy memories of? Homemade desserts. Homemade toys. Time spent with parents. And our trips across the country, where our only splurge was cave tours.

    3. Honestly, these recipes sound gourmet compared to more expensive 'vacation foods'. Frugality doesn't have to affect the quality of food. Only the price.

      Personally, most of my recent vacation memories include having the same meal every day: sandwiches. Before that, we were staying with relatives so we ate exactly the same thing we always ate, just cooked in a different kitchen. Chicken drumsticks and rice with green beans. Veggie omlettes. Green bean casserole. Goulash. Cabbage rolls. The only thing different was breakfast; we would have those breakfast corn dogs, of maple sausage wrapped in pancakes. They were a special treat that we only had on vacation, and we only had them one of the mornings.

      Penny, your recipes seem divine. I can tell you put a lot of effort into giving your family good, nourishing, and delicious food.

  6. one comment did not realise the rubbish served as ice cream cones are good for you really admre the way you look after those kids catering to their specific allergies & needs

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