Author Topic: Frugal family food suggestions while in hotel  (Read 22418 times)

Sunnysof

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Frugal family food suggestions while in hotel
« on: September 25, 2014, 11:46:07 PM »
I am heading to a 5 day conference out of town and am bringing my two kids with me. We are staying at a hotel without kitchenettes, so I am looking for suggestions on how we can eat relatively healthy and frugally without cooking facilities. I have childcare during the day but will have to provide food or have the babysitter buy food. In the evening I will be free so we could eat out. I am planning on stocking up with breakfast and snacks at the grocery and could buy sandwiches from the store too. If it was just me, I might just exist on bread, fruit and cheese, but I do feel a little pressure to get some vegetables into the kids during our week away.

vagon

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Re: Frugal family food suggestions while in hotel
« Reply #1 on: September 26, 2014, 12:10:37 AM »
Good excuse to get creative,

For vegies why not just buy in small batches? Buy enough for one salad.
Throw in a loaf of bread and some peanut butter for some other days.
For dinner you could take a sandwich press, pressure cooker or electric wok (watch for smoke alarms though!) and clean them in the bath/shower.

Would make for a good story!

Sunnysof

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Re: Frugal family food suggestions while in hotel
« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2014, 12:14:06 AM »
The sandwich press is a great idea! We use ours constantly at home. I could probably grill some veggies on it too.

deborah

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Re: Frugal family food suggestions while in hotel
« Reply #3 on: September 26, 2014, 01:27:24 AM »
I'd find out what is in the hotel room. Often they have a minibar. I turf out all the stuff that is in it, get some milk, or whatever I want to have cooled down, and put it in there (at the end, everything goes back into the minibar - or you could just give the whole lot in to reception and make sure they mark it off). They often have a jug and sometimes a microwave.

As you say, a sandwich press is very versitile, and it can be used to make pancakes (just pour a small amount of batter, and squash), Turkish flat bread with fillings (feta and spinach for example)... from scratch.

A slow cooker also works well. With these two implements you can cook an enormous variety of stuff in a hotel room.

ltt

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Re: Frugal family food suggestions while in hotel
« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2014, 04:39:19 AM »
I would definitely find out what the hotel offers in terms of a mini frig and a microwave.  If they don't have a microwave, maybe you could request one.  Breakfast is fairly easy to do because you could buy muffins, bananas, etc. that don't need to be refrigerated.  Snacks typically don't need to be refrigerated either--think pre-packaged fruit cups.  I know they are a little bit more expensive, but they are fairly convenient for this type of situation. But if planning on doing sandwiches with meat or cheese, you will need the refrigerator.  You can also buy the pre-cut vegetables and serve them raw with some dressing.   

DrJohn

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Re: Frugal family food suggestions while in hotel
« Reply #5 on: September 26, 2014, 04:42:50 AM »
We have done picnics in the past- kids love 'em.  Even in the evenings in front of the TV if the weather is not so good or it has gone dark outside.  Half decent supermarket should have all you need.

lakemom

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Re: Frugal family food suggestions while in hotel
« Reply #6 on: September 26, 2014, 05:05:23 AM »
If there is no fridge take a cooler and replenish the ice daily with ice from the ice machine.  Make sure you drain the water before adding more ice as you don't want soggy foods.  In the cooler milk, juice, lunch meat, cheese, cheese sticks, veggies (already cut up) and dip, fruit, etc.  Pack each thing in a large ziplock bag or plastic container (baggies work better because the seal is watertight).  Either enough for the week (if cooler large enough) or stock up at a local grocery every couple of days.

Breakfast, cereal(my kids loved those little boxes that are 1 serving...now they make those single serve bowls) with milk, juice and some fruit.  Or yogurt or instant oatmeal/cream of wheat.  Most of the time the water from the tap is hot enough to make these OR if you have the microwave or a coffee pot that works even better.

Lunch, sandwiches, chips, veggies and dip, and a cookie (or muffin or granola bar whatever are favorites in your house)

Dinner, take out pizza or burgers or chicken as the main dish and veggies, fruit, chips, etc for sides and a cookie

Take along a package of paper plates, foam bowls, disposable silverware, napkins and a roll of paper towels.  No clean up!  Or if you prefer one plate, bowl, and set of utensils for each person but clean up can be a challenge if using a bathroom sink.

This was the ONLY way we could afford to go anywhere when we had all the kids at home.  The big treat would be the one night we went out for a full meal.  Back then we mostly stayed at state/national parks too.

SnackDog

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Re: Frugal family food suggestions while in hotel
« Reply #7 on: September 26, 2014, 05:18:17 AM »
We once stayed at the Grand Hyatt at Pebble Beach (Priceline deal; dog-friendly, by the way) and brought a cooler of food and some electric appliances along so we could cook in the room.  We wondered if the neighbors would complain about the smell, but there was no issue.

crazy jane

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Re: Frugal family food suggestions while in hotel
« Reply #8 on: September 26, 2014, 05:37:04 AM »
Be aware of mini bar policies. At some places removing an item will result in a charge even if you put it back later.

MicroRN

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Re: Frugal family food suggestions while in hotel
« Reply #9 on: September 26, 2014, 11:50:27 AM »
Look for hotels that offer a mini fridge and microwave, and ideally one that includes breakfast.  If no fridge, bring a cooler.  I've been surprised at how many inexpensive hotels offer a free continental breakfast, while the more expensive ones tend to have a nicer breakfast buffet, but you pay for that separately.  Some of the free breakfasts have even included microwaveable breakfast sandwiches.   

If you don't have a microwave, at the very least there should be a coffee maker which will give you hot water.  Sandwiches (PB&J, meat, tuna, cheese, small containers of mustard and mayo), cut up vegetables, hard boiled eggs, instant oatmeal packets, jerky, trail mix, hummus, pickles, bagels, cream cheese, and cooked sausage patties/links are all easy to take along with you.  Quiche can be made ahead of time, packed with vegetables, and served cold.  If there is a microwave, you can get the packets of seasoned microwaveable frozen vegetables.     

hyla

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Re: Frugal family food suggestions while in hotel
« Reply #10 on: September 26, 2014, 11:11:20 PM »
I once had a friend bring their own microwave (hidden in a duffel bag) to our hotel so we could cook during a vacation.  I managed to cook an entire butternut squash in it for dinner, though my friends complained about me monopolizing the microwave for 20 minutes...  I'd avoid potential fire hazards like hot plates, but bringing your own microwave, hotpot, toaster oven etc. might work.

myrax

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Re: Frugal family food suggestions while in hotel
« Reply #11 on: September 27, 2014, 09:51:08 AM »
Cooking in hotel rooms is a great and fun challenge! Last time we went on vacation, I resolved to cook everything in our hotel room- the first two nights we didn't have refrigeration or a coffee pot. We ate bread, fancy vegan cheese (the kind that is actually fermented), salad made with vinaigrette and baby spinach, which will last a couple of days without refrigeration, and shredded carrot salad, also made with vinaigrette. I bought some shelf stable vegan mayo and mustard, and made slaw with broccoli. You could do the same with cabbage.

For the rest of the vacation (it was actually my husband's work trip), I used the coffee pot to make meals using instant rice or pasta. One night I used the coffee pot to warm up white kidney beans with baby spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, and garlic and served it with rice. The next day, the leftover rice went into a rice salad with canned chickpeas, pickled jalapenos, sliced fresh baby spinach, and sliced green onions. Oil packed sun dried tomatoes are great, because you can use the oil to add flavor to anything, and packing pickles or preserved jalapenos eliminates the need for packing vinegar. Nutritional yeast and spirulina can also be used to add more flavor without taking up a lot of space.

We also ate seaweed and rice soup. I heated water in the coffee pot and threw in the seaweed, TVP, and leftover rice, waited a few minutes until the seaweed was soft, and then added  chopped green onions, sesame oil, white pepper, and mushroom broth powder. It wasn't the healthiest thing to eat, but it was good.

Finally, I moved cross country on Amtrak once, and ate instant noodles with seaweed for every meal. It was cheap, and only required adding hot water. I expected someone to complain about the twice-daily seaweed smell, but no one did.




Stlbroke

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Re: Frugal family food suggestions while in hotel
« Reply #12 on: September 27, 2014, 10:06:19 AM »
Are you driving or flying? If driving then Take a crockpot. Throw some meat and vegetables in in the morning and it will be done after work. Don't forget a can opener for vegetables or broth.

I have found foreman grills and similar things don't work well. stinks up the room and all your clothes


highcountry

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Re: Frugal family food suggestions while in hotel
« Reply #13 on: September 27, 2014, 12:23:17 PM »
This only applies if you eat Paleo, or are willing to do so for the week, but if you do....  Whole Foods Salad bar.  Seriously.  Here's how you do it:  You ONLY get to grab meat and salad mix, plus salad dressing, and some butter if the meat is too dry.  Fat is really important if you're not eating heavy starch.  No carrots, corn, berries, or god forbid, carb based foods.  Even a tiny bit of pasta will easily double the cost, so if you must have it, don't buy it from the Whole Foods food bar.  Also avoid any bone-in meats.  If you get meat and salad only, you are getting it for ~8/lb, which means an adult can get a full meal for 4-6 dollars.  The kids might be less cooperative with this, but for myself it got me through building a kitchen last year (pre-mustachian) quite nicely.

bacchi

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Re: Frugal family food suggestions while in hotel
« Reply #14 on: September 27, 2014, 01:02:12 PM »
My family always did this on our summer vacations. We used a hot plate for soup and ate cheese and PB&J. Me and my siblings loved it.

Gerard

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Re: Frugal family food suggestions while in hotel
« Reply #15 on: September 27, 2014, 02:53:38 PM »
Lotsa good stuff already suggested here.

Other things you can make with coffee-maker hot water are couscous and poached fish (google fake salmon sous vide).

Sometimes I bring 100-ml containers of olive oil and soy sauce in my carry-on. They can help to fancy up some simple food. I bet sesame oil would be good, too.

If you don't have a room fridge and don't want to lug a cooler, bring one of those insulated bags that people use to get meat home from the supermarket. Fill it with ice from the ice machine and you can keep milk, cheese, dip, etc.

Also, we're all having fun here with elaborate creative suggestions, but there's nothing wrong with making at least a few meals out of some bags of bulk food, in whole or in part. Or really basic sandwiches, if you can get decent bread. Nobody's getting scurvy in five days.

chasesfish

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Re: Frugal family food suggestions while in hotel
« Reply #16 on: September 27, 2014, 04:24:00 PM »
Ask them in advance if they can have a small fridge in the room.  If they ask why, tell them you have diabetes medicine that needs to stay refrigerated


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mm1970

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Re: Frugal family food suggestions while in hotel
« Reply #17 on: September 27, 2014, 08:52:19 PM »
Ask for a fridge, or bring a cooler.

Food: I'm still figuring this out.  I kind of think of it like camping, or like cooking at work.

Take a rice cooker or electric frying pan.  Or try an electric kettle.  With the kettle you can heat up water for noodles.  I find it easier than using the coffee maker.  Works for tea, "add hot water" noodles, oatmeal.

We eat raw veggies and hummus, fruit, sandwiches.  We sometimes just go to the grocery store if they have a salad bar, or get a roasted chicken, or a salad kit.
Sometimes I just take homemade bread and avocado, cheese and crackers.
PB&j works too.
Oatmeal for breakfast. (using the kettle)
Canned tuna or salmon.

elaine amj

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Re: Frugal family food suggestions while in hotel
« Reply #18 on: September 27, 2014, 09:10:28 PM »
we do veggies that can be eaten raw like carrots, cukes, salads.

Breakfast is cereal/bagels/ toast. Cream cheese is good.

Sandwiches for lunch. Or instant noodles. The cup ones are convenient. You can even do things like chicken noodle soup (the dry ones you add hot water too). Precooked hot dogs from home. Can be warmed up with hot water.

Just avoid $$ fixings. One time I brought a friend with money issues on a business trip with me so she could get away. We stopped in a grocery store to pick up cheap lunch fixings for the hotel room since I was taking us all out for nice dinners. She grabbed expensive fruit, high end lunch fixings and whatever. It was double the cost of just getting food from McDs for lunch. *sigh*

Goldielocks

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Re: Frugal family food suggestions while in hotel
« Reply #19 on: September 28, 2014, 12:33:19 AM »
Deli chicken from grocery, with mini cartots (raw) bread and cheese, butter.

Most hotels will have fridge or microwave on request.  sometimes a small fee, but no one actually charged me yet.  Just be truthful that you need to keep
 Kids milk cold. You can fill a trash can (with clean new liner) with ice to make your own cooler that is cold for 12 hrs...  in a pinch.

Oatmeal, instant rice, ramen noodles, etc using coffee pot.  Bring a couple of condiments from home in small packs. Eat yogurt.

Bicuits in microwave are horrible, but I have made cake mix in paper cups in microwave at the hotel.   Corn on the cob. Cooked a nice salmon too.

I highly recommend bringing two kids bowls, a small knife and one or two sets of cutlery.. if there is no kitchenette, nothing will be provided.  The grocery deli is a good place to grab extra plastic cutlery in a pinch.



mm1970

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Re: Frugal family food suggestions while in hotel
« Reply #20 on: September 28, 2014, 10:00:44 AM »
This is the kettle that we have, or something similar:

http://www.amazon.com/Rival-4071-WN-32-Ounce-Express-White/dp/B00006IUXU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1411919725&sr=8-1&keywords=rival+electric+kettle

We took it to Hawaii on vacation.  Our resort hotel had breakfast included.  There were tons of restaurants on site, all very expensive. Food is also very expensive even in the stores.  Our mini-fridge was truly very mini, too small to buy stuff at Costco.  No microwave.

We ate the buffet breakfast, had one meal out (usually lunch) - tried to keep it to local places that were cheaper - burritos, Hawaiian plate lunch, etc, and used the kettle for dinner.  Veggies, noodles, etc.  This one allows you to cook things other that just heating water.

Nowadays we are more likely to look for a condo or a hotel room with fridge and microwave.  Having a microwave is a big bonus - adds way more food options.

pagoconcheques

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Re: Frugal family food suggestions while in hotel
« Reply #21 on: September 29, 2014, 12:09:17 PM »
Use the coffee maker to heat water, and bring some bowls and spoons.  You can make oatmeal (or other hot cereal) for breakfast and have instant soup for lunch or dinner.  After that, everybody deserves to go out for dinner.

ketchup

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Re: Frugal family food suggestions while in hotel
« Reply #22 on: September 29, 2014, 01:39:47 PM »
We travel a decent amount and these have been our strategies to save time and money on the road while also maintaining healthiness and satisfaction.

No refrigeration required: fruit, nuts (we get the big jar of mixed nuts at Costco), jerky (bacon jerky is pretty tasty, discovered that on our last big trip).

Cold stuff to be eaten cold: yogurt (we like to use plain full-fat and flavor it ourselves with fruit preserves), premade shakes/smoothies (my girlfriend likes this one: http://www.primallyinspired.com/chunky-monkey-breakfast-shake/) in mason jars

As has been said, slow cookers are great.  Prepare everything at home beforehand, and then pile everything into a giant Ziploc bag and freeze it together (sometimes I'll put spices/etc in a separate small baggie if it makes sense).  Then bring it in the cooler and when it's time, just dump it in the slow cooker and dinner will be ready when you get back to the hotel room after a long day of whatever.  Easy.  We've made stews and chili and other similar stuff in this manner and it works great.

Equally great is an induction cooker and an appropriate vessel to use with it.  Presumably a pressure cooker in this scenario would be excellent as well.

An insulated cooler works great for transporting cold things.  Best practice I've found if you have stuff portioned out in pyrex or mason jars or whatever, is to freeze everything beforehand, cover it all with ice, and then latch it up.  If you don't open it, that will last over a day at refrigerator temperatures or below.  Then it can either be refilled with ice, or the stuff can be dumped in a fridge, and reheated at will in a microwave.

On longer trips, bigger ones are wonderful (I have a badass old indestructible metal one my grandpa gave me), but for a day or two trip, a small plastic one works fine and takes up less vehicle real estate.

In a pinch, as someone else said, one of those insulated bags from the grocery store can work too.  I once kept some frozen leftovers cold for nearly 24 hours in three layered insulated bags (but it was a mess because plenty of the ice melted, a hole got poked in the bags, and got my car's back seat all wet; learning experiences...).

We do occasionally eat out on trips, but 95% of the time it's Chipotle.  An extra $2 gets you double meat, which I've found is enough food (it's a LOT, a waste if you're not quite hungry) to power me through up to 18 hours of driving.

guitar_stitch

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Re: Frugal family food suggestions while in hotel
« Reply #23 on: September 29, 2014, 01:46:58 PM »
Rice cookers are useful for a lot more than rice.  I used to make chicken and rice in a 6 cup model here at the office all the time.  I had to stop when people were complaining (no joke...) that the smell of my food was making them too hungry to focus on work.

ketchup

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Re: Frugal family food suggestions while in hotel
« Reply #24 on: September 29, 2014, 01:55:55 PM »
Rice cookers are useful for a lot more than rice.  I used to make chicken and rice in a 6 cup model here at the office all the time.  I had to stop when people were complaining (no joke...) that the smell of my food was making them too hungry to focus on work.
I pan-fried some steaks using my induction cooker in our breakroom once and got a similar reaction.  Guess I should have brought enough for everyone.

Sunnysof

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Re: Frugal family food suggestions while in hotel
« Reply #25 on: October 09, 2014, 10:40:58 PM »
Just returned from the trip. The rice cooker and sandwich press combo worked beautifully and we never used the microwave. There was a mini fridge which was used for milk, cheese, yoghurt, sandwich meat, some veggies. We did end up eating out for two dinners, one planned and the other because of poor planning. Thanks for the tips! My rice cooker is my new best friend.

vagon

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Re: Frugal family food suggestions while in hotel
« Reply #26 on: October 14, 2014, 02:41:29 AM »
Nice work!