The number one perk from renting a house or an apartment (vs. most hotels) while vacationing is that it will come with a kitchen. Having a meal plan and preparing your own meals can save big bucks when you travel! For us, our family’s vacation home is in the mountains and eating out isn’t even an option without driving 40+ minutes!
Because of this, I decided to make a solid, healthy meal plan before we left and therefore streamline the grocery shopping and plans for the week. I even thought I’d make a casserole or two before we left!
So… none of that happened. We still had a great trip and ate well, but the whole thing would have been more seamless if I’d made the plan. I’ve documented what we ended up eating for each meal and next time we might just duplicate it!
All the way at the bottom I have a downloadable PDF of our meal plan, feel free to snag it and customize it to your heart’s content!
Why Make a Plan?
# 1 Few things are more frustrating then group decision making.
Either everyone has an opinion or no one does, but it’s hard to get things moving.
# 2 Eating out (with kids) isn’t as fun as it used to be.
I remember when Chris and I were new parents lugging our sleeping baby to breweries and bars and thinking that we were winning at parenting and would never have to give anything up. Then came reality. I love to eat out, but it’s never as relaxing as I imagine.
# 3 Spread the load.
If you have multiple families vacationing together, splitting up meals is a great way to make sure everyone gets to relax at some point. If not everyone is willing to prepare a meal or two, you can assign them to buy the groceries and do the shopping. You can’t ask them to shop if you don’t have a list in hand!
You can either split the week by meals or split each meal into salad, side, entree, dessert, etc.
# 4 Control costs.
Knowing exactly what you need really cuts down on grocery bills. If I only have a vague idea what I’m looking for, I’ll end up with extra stuff. When you make your plan, you can choose to utilize the same ingredients for multiple meals, enabling you to buy in bulk and save money.
# 5 Make healthy meals.
When you control what goes into the meals, you can feel better eating them. If someone in your group has allergies this is a huge plus, but even “cheat” meals are often healthier at home.
# 6 Reduce trips to the store.
When you figure it out as you go, you often forget key details. A couple extra trips to the store aren’t that big a deal, except when they’re taking away from your vacation time!
How to Make the Plan
#1 Build around the must-haves
Does your Grandma always make lasagna and garlic bread? Go ahead and fill those special requests in first. Space them out throughout your stay to make them more special.
#2 Choose an “off” meal
Most people don’t need to eat 3 hot meals a day, even on vacation. For us, breakfast was self-serve every morning. We had cereal, oatmeal, eggs, bacon, etc. on hand for whoever wanted it. If someone was making eggs they would take a quick straw poll on how many to make, but they wouldn’t try to factor in anyone who was still sleeping.
Some people may prefer to make lunch the “off” meal if the group typically splits up during the day. Lunch is easy to grab on the go and then you don’t have to worry about getting everyone together at the same time midday.
#3 Factor in eating out
Whether you have a favorite seafood spot in town or you like to order pizza, go ahead and put this on the schedule. For me, if I try to completely eliminate eating out I’m likely to go out on an impulse and then have leftover groceries for the meal I had planned to make.
#4 Include healthy options
Vacation can be a time to cheat on your diet, but you don’t want to go overboard. For us, this mostly meant serving a salad with every meal. We also tried to make some veggies but we didn’t stress if we had a meal with just salads.
# 5 Keep it simple, don’t spend all day in the kitchen.
I tend to be a fairly competitive chef when I’m cooking for a crowd. This means I reach for the most complicated recipes with the most moving pieces and then I get bent out of shape if the level of praise doesn’t match the effort. On vacation, it’s really not worth it. There are plenty of crowd pleasers that can be prepared in an hour or so max.
#6 Make it special, you’re on vacation!
Make food you really like! Our special night was grilling steak, shrimp, and veggies Friday evening, but we had good food every night. The key is not to look at your weekly rotation for ideas, think about meals that are really a treat. Maybe something you usually only usually have at the holidays?
Our vacation home meal plan
I’ve already admitted we didn’t plan this in advance, but here’s what we ended up eating for the week. There’s also a downloadable plan so you can customize it to meet your needs.
Remember, breakfast was our “off” meal, so it’s not included.
- Travelling, fast food on the road.
- Summer salads loaded with fruit and topped with grilled chicken.
- Ice Cream Sundaes
- Picnic, Pasta with veggies and homemade pesto.
- Taco night!
- Picnic, Sandwiches made on the go with roast beef, ham, and salami. Sides of chips, fruit snacks, cookies, and pudding cups.
- Macaroni & Cheese with hot dogs. Large salads with watermelon and peaches.
- BBQ lunch in town for half the group, the other half ate leftovers.
- Steak, shrimp, and veggies on the grill.
- Blackberry cobbler
- Sandwiches from the local gas station/ deli.
- Fresh caught trout and grilled chicken. Plenty of salad on the side.
- Home-made ice cream.
- Burgers and hot dogs on the grill, baked beans, salad, and chips.
- Shrimp Jambalaya
- Ice-cream bars.