The best part of traveling may be trying new restaurants and local food treasures. But if you’re visiting a small town and have already exhausted the one and only neighborhood restaurant — or just want to save some cash on never-ending restaurant bills — cooking can be an easy, tasty, and cheap way to make the most of your vacation budget. Assuming your hotel room is equipped with a fridge and a microwave, you can prep breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the comfort of your travel accommodations, saving time and funds for what’s really important: Exploring.
Pack a mixing bowl and some Mason Jars (or just wing it with whatever cups and utensils your rental has available) and create your own room service for your next cook-cation.
While granola bars and maybe a piece of fruit are an easy vacation breakfast, if you crave a homemade, heartier option, go for overnight oats, which soak in your fridge while you sleep! Consider adding some local fruits or condiments (locally sourced jam or honey) to add some travel flair to your homemade breakfast.
If eggs are what it takes to get you going in the morning, try these microwave eggs in a cup. Add minced vegetables and meat, and top with shredded cheese if you wish. Did you find locally made hot sauce or salsa? Bring it on!
Can’t deal with more subpar complimentary hotel coffee? Pack your French press, or just rely on whatever vessel you can find in your room (assuming you have coffee filters) to turn your room into a café. Twelve to 24 hours before you anticipate wanting to drink your cold brew, add half a cup of ground coffee into your 4-cup French press (or use this ratio in another vessel), add water, stir and let sit. When you’re ready for a cuppa joe, push down the press (or strain out the coffee grounds). Serve on ice for a quick chill, if you’d like. So easy!
Guac can be crazy expensive at restaurants, and too many times, it’s not that good. Grab an avocado for a $1 and your favorite jar of salsa to make a quick and tasty guac to be enjoyed in the privacy of your room. Bonus points if you have a balcony. Of course, you could go the chopped onion and garlic route to spice up your guacamole, but you’re on vacation — relax and embrace the guac hack!
Ham and Cheese Baguette
This classic French lunch can be assembled hours before you’re ready to eat it — just have some aluminum foil or paper ready to wrap it up. Grab a large baguette from a nearby supermarket or bakery, a package of thinly sliced ham or other deli meat, sliced cheese and some butter, if you’re feeling super French. Cut the baguette in half, slick with butter, layer on the ham and cheese, and you’re ready to go. A large baguette split into several sandwiches can easily feed a family for less than the price of a single sandwich at a tourist trap lunch spot. Be sure to keep the sandwich chilled until lunchtime.
For speedy prep and plenty of protein and vegetables to keep you satiated during an active day of exploring, roll up some wraps in your hotel room before heading out, or pack the ingredients on ice to roll together when you’re ready for lunch. If you dined out the night before, consider saving a little leftover protein like steak or chicken to use in the wrap.
Find more recipes for wraps and roll-ups.
A box of prewashed greens, a can of beans, a package of beets, and some cheese is all you need to make this restaurant-quality salad while you’re on the road — no chopping required! Buy a dressing or mix together oil and vinegar for homemade flavor.
Find more bean salad recipes.
Save money on restaurant dessert and whip up a mug cake in your hotel/motel microwave while you kick back in your fluffy robe. Just a few ingredients and a mashed banana make a healthy-ish cake for one.