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4 Moms Eat Inexpensively While Traveling

This week, The 4 Moms are giving our best tips for eating inexpensively while traveling.

When The Smockity Bunch travels, whether it is to go on our annual dude ranch vacation or when we are traveling out of town to a funeral, we try to pinch our pennies just as we would every other day of the year.

This means we won't be eating out much, because have you ever seen the bill when 10 people eat out? Even at a drive through, it's a hefty chunk of change! And since we like to keep our change in our pockets, we try to avoid eating out as much as possible.

If our whole family DOES eat out at bona  fide restaurant, it is because 1) we have a gift card 2) someone is treating us or 3) it is a VERY rare treat and special occasion.

That means we usually pack an ice chest with sandwiches, drinks, snacks, and frozen casseroles in disposable foil containers when we are going on a trip.

If we know we will be gone for more than a couple of days, like when we take our ranch trip, I also pack a box of kitchen staples,  like cooking oil (for our fish fries), my homemade Bisquick mix, homemade pancake syrup, crackers, canned tuna, loaves of bread, any other foods we want, and of course, ingredients for s'mores.

Since we always stay in a cabin with a fully furnished kitchen, we eat IN while we are there, and save a bundle in the process.

If we find it necessary to go through a drive through, we shop from the dollar menu and the little ones share since they don't eat a whole burger. (Will anyone else admit to paying for one of those kids' meal bags and finding an ENTIRE uneaten hamburger in the bottom after the kiddies have run off to play with their junky toy?!)

Now, be sure to check out how my frugal friends eat inexpensively when they travel:

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  1. In our ice chest, we always use a frozen gallon of water for our ice – so that we have nice cold water for a long trip. This is beside the 5 gallon water cooler that we fill up before we leave either way. Oh, and if we have things in the cooler for the ride home, we also freeze a gallon in the cabin’s freezer partway through the week!

  2. If we are traveling through a town with a farmer’s market, we will stop and load up on fresh fruit. It’s always really good since it’s fresh and in season, too.

  3. I don’t like spending money on eating out either when I know we could do it cheaper at home. We buy most of our food ahead of time and bring it with us, but we usually allow ourselves one meal out per day. We always drink water too! But now with the daily deal sites like Groupon and Living Social, I start watching the city we are visiting and buying up discounted meal vouchers ahead of time. We have 2 trips coming up and I already have several meals paid for by doing this!

  4. On the UNhappy meals, I always take out the prize before passing the bag back IF I even buy them.

  5. I only have two kids, but my kids always ate the food! They were semi-interested in the toy, but I never had issues with them not eating because they were interested in the toy. Of course, I never had had issues with my kid not eating under any circumstances, so maybe that’s the difference. :) Even with our smaller sized family, we almost always choose a condo or house rental, usually through VRBO. The price is about the same as a hotel, and we have a full kitchen to cook with (and more than one bedroom and sometimes even two bathrooms!). We normally eat out one meal a day, and I frequently buy ‘special’ type foods for our meals in. I’m not talking lobster/steak special, but maybe a bakery treat for breakfast or a premade salad with toppings I don’t normally have (that we share) or something like that. Things to make it ‘vacation’, even when we are eating in.

  6. Actually my 4 year old eats her whole happmeal and then asks if anyone had any leftovers she can eat. My 2 year old doesn’t really like to eat much at all so we’re lucky to get 2 little chicken nuggets down him. I have found that for about $10 cheaper we can Dollar Menu it instead of ordering happymeals and individual adult meals. We split a 20-pc McNugget and then the bigger eaters pick one more thing from the dollar menu.

  7. I don’t do Happy Meals, but Blynken and Nod’s mother does. She’s always dropping the boys off with Happy Meals, and they don’t eat any of it.

  8. Since my husband and I heard from our doctor and another nutritionist that the caloric intake in a kids meal is actually more appropriate for an adult, we always order our food off the kids menu. Our kids are too little to be interested in eating fast food (6 months and 19 months), but when they get older we’ll just split one meal in 1/2 for them or we share part of our meal.

  9. I never buy happy meals either. One of the hardest things for me to buy is the fries. For that price, I can nearly buy a bag of potatoes! However I love fries and only have them “out” so sharing one large fry between me and our four girls makes me feel better. I get my fix, but none of us eats an unhealthy serving that we have paid an arm and leg for. Many times we order ice water and after they finish the water, I will let them have a portion of soda (from a 2-liter bottle we brought with us) since it is a treat we all love. I think of it as dessert. They don’t get it until the water and food is finished! Thanks for the great ideas from all the Moms! :)

  10. Whenever we go on vacation, we always rent a place that has a kitchen. We eat breakfast in our rental. We eat lunch out, and we eat dinner back at our rental. We do this because we do like dining out, but lunch is cheaper than dinner. Also, I plan each days dinners before we leave. I try to do a number of crock-pot type dinners, or other simple things. I do all the prepwork I can ahead of time, and take everything in ziplock bags. Then, in the morning, while we’re eating breakfast, I open the necessary bags and dump them in the crock pot, and by the time we get back in the evening, we have dinner waiting for us!


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