Author Topic: Help! Living out of a hotel on Per Diem  (Read 16291 times)

windman

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Help! Living out of a hotel on Per Diem
« on: July 29, 2012, 05:23:58 PM »
Hello! I am in an interesting situation that has some big positives, but also negatives.

For work I am living out of a hotel for 2 months at a time. The positive is that while I travel, I recieve a per diem payment of $44 to cover food and 'incidental expenses'. EVERY DAY! Thats $308 PER WEEK or $2464 for 8 weeks, on top of my paycheck. This is obviously way more than even a non-mustachian might spend. The problem is, I am in a tiny town with a wal-mart, a mediocre selection of fast food and a couple local restaurants. My hotel room has a small sink and a microwave.

HOW do I eat healthy and cheap? I already eat breakfast at the complimentary continental breakfast, and take a PB sandwhich for lunch with some trail mix and a banana from the breakfast bar. But I can only eat microwavable pasta dishes for dinner so much. Unfortunately when I do go out its not much better! Am I justified in spending $6-$10 a day on a chicken sandwhich combo or a burrito or quesadilla or EVEN the occasional burger?

A slight offset to the usually unhealthy food is that my job is physically demanding, so at least i get exercise. I spend most of my day outside wrenching on 100+ degree heat and climbing wind turbines (much more difficult than you might think!), so I work up quite an appetite. My biggest concern is that I am not getting my veggies. What do you think?


englyn

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Re: Help! Living out of a hotel on Per Diem
« Reply #1 on: July 29, 2012, 07:16:15 PM »
I have been known to book one hotel room over another based on the kitchenette.
If you at least have a sink, electric frypan, microwave and fridge you could try:
- microwave (seperately!): potato, salmon and frozen peas
- fry capsicum (sweet pepper) and onion, add can tomatoes, heat, crack eggs onto it (do not stir), put lid on until eggs poached
- could make your own burrito by frying minced beef, onion, capsicum, chilli, spices. serve with tortilla and lettuce.

If you can't get a fridge you would have to go to the supermarket every day, or every second day (eggs will keep out of fridge). If you can't get an electric frypan maybe you could buy a cheap one and ask if the hotel will store it for you while you're home? or even carry the thing in your luggage. It would be worth it for me as I travel light and get tired of eating out very quickly.

windman

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Re: Help! Living out of a hotel on Per Diem
« Reply #2 on: July 29, 2012, 07:27:50 PM »
Thanks for the ideas...I do have a mini fridge. Ive thought about getting the small george forman or something similar for <$20. Might be the way to go. Eating out is time consuming, expensive, and frustrating when the food isnt that good. (which seems to happen a lot here)

totoro

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Re: Help! Living out of a hotel on Per Diem
« Reply #3 on: July 29, 2012, 08:13:46 PM »
I just did this for two weeks.  I had a microwave and fridge.  I bought:

1.  rye bread
2.  tortillas
2.  cheeses
3.  pickles
4.  cilantro
5.  salsa
6.  refried beans
7.  avocados
8. cherries
9.  apricots
10. microwavable soups/stew
11. hummus
12. broccoli
13. butter
14. potatoes
15. yoghurt
16. raspberries
17. milk
18. some deli salads
19. mayonnaise
20. strawberries
21. tomato

I made nice cheese and tomato sandwiches on rye with pickles; tortillas with refried beans, cheese, avocado, cilantro and salsa; microwave baked potatoes with butter and cheese; broccoli with hummus to dip; soup; yoghurt with raspberries; and fruit.  I was on the east coast so I went out for lobster one night and had leftovers for lunch the next day.  I shopped twice.

I dislike eating out too much as it takes too much time and gets monotonous when it is day after day.   

carolinakaren

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Re: Help! Living out of a hotel on Per Diem
« Reply #4 on: July 29, 2012, 08:17:00 PM »
Don't forget sweet potatoes.... (I do sometimes) but they are very healthy and would not need refrigeration.  You could cook them in the microwave.  A package of tuna might be an occasional option.  Just eat it from the pouch with a fork and don't bother heating it up.  I think it can be high in mercury, so maybe only eat that occasionally. 

Sparky

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Re: Help! Living out of a hotel on Per Diem
« Reply #5 on: July 29, 2012, 09:04:08 PM »
I am assuming you have easy access to the outdoors, and being summer time right now anyway. Buy yourself a small camp stove that uses propane or petrol. You can cook outside on a balcony, park, back of your car, anywhere. You'll be able to cook anything.

I'm jealous that you have access to a Walmart, the last time I got sent out to work in a rural area the nearest grocery store was 100 km away. There was one in the town I was staying, but I had no way to make their opening hours.

ShanghaiStashing

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Re: Help! Living out of a hotel on Per Diem
« Reply #6 on: July 29, 2012, 09:16:34 PM »
This was definitely my life for a very long period of time. Pre-Shanghai I spent more than 200 nights a year in hotels. This worked well for being a moustachian as all expenses were covered, I racked up airline and hotel points like a mofo resulting in glorious free vacations at some pretty epic places. As we weren't on a per diem I typically ate all three meals out (this has the interesting side effect of making me never want to eat again and I gained 40+lbs). We then went to a per diem which was ~$60 per day. I found that I could spend 60% of one day's per diem for the week and bank the remainder. I agree with Totoro's overall plan, with a couple of additions (mostly personal taste).

In order to make this work I went to:
1. Fresh fruits (apples, bananas, grapefruit) in hotel room or on me at all times
2. Oatmeal (shockingly, this can be made fairly easily in the coffee maker or you can buy the instant kind)
3. Almonds, cashews, walnuts bought in bulk (usually small towns have a local bulk food store where you can get good deals)
4. Loaf of bread
5. Peanut butter, jam, etc.
6. Large block of cheese
7. Hummus and other small dips (ideally as natural as possible, but may not be possible)
8. Avocados, carrots, peppers for veggie sticks
9. Salsa
10. Milk
11. Granola

I agree with totoro, eating out became a chore (yes, a chore) after doing it 600+ times a year for a couple of years. Effectively the pure monotony of it became overwhelming. Once I simplified my life and went to a simpler diet I became much happier (and saved a ton of money).

Jamesqf

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Re: Help! Living out of a hotel on Per Diem
« Reply #7 on: July 29, 2012, 11:51:39 PM »
Am I correct in thinking you're in the same town all the time?  If so, why not find a roommate situation instead of a hotel?  It's what I did in a similar situation.  Paid a lot less than what a hotel would have cost, and the person I rented from was happy because I was gone a lot of the time.

totoro

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Re: Help! Living out of a hotel on Per Diem
« Reply #8 on: July 30, 2012, 06:51:25 AM »
I considered renting a furnished room while I was away but I preferred the privacy and the hotel was covered.  A microwave and bar fridge is fine if you adjust your cooking habits and it is just you. 

I ended up purchasing a second home in a town with a suite where I go to once a month for a week for work.  It is ideal as I can charge a small fee for this cost and I have everything I need there with no packing required.  I rent the suite out by the week in the summer and, overall, it is cash flow positive.

If you are going to the same place over and over it might be worth it to buy something there and get a roommate if you are ablet to  charge the monthly rent back to the company and if you would be able to cover the costs of ownership through rents if you no longer had that job.

Uncephalized

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Re: Help! Living out of a hotel on Per Diem
« Reply #9 on: July 30, 2012, 09:04:10 AM »
As for food, you can steam vegetables in a microwave: http://www.ehow.com/how_2282721_steam-vegetables-microwave.html

And you can make rice in a microwave: http://www.wikihow.com/Cook-Rice-in-a-Microwave

Which covers a couple of nutritional bases. Then of course there's canned beans. And you should be able to get all kinds of food at the Wal-Mart if it's the kind with a grocery inside.

Meat will be a little trickier. Jerky is a good option, though it is a little expensive on a per pound basis. But you can also hard boil eggs in a microwave too: http://www.ehow.com/how_2247645_hardboil-eggs-microwave.html, which is nutritious and cheap.

I'm assuming you have a mini fridge but if you don't you can still just do small quantities; a little bit of rice and vegetables and eggs won't go bad if you eat it up in a couple of days.

EDIT: The advice to use a camp stove on a balcony or wherever is really good, too. You can go full backpacking style with a little tiny single-burner stove that weighs a few ounces and packs into a tiny bag, or get a briefcase-sized Coleman or similar 2-burner unit. Either one will easily boil a pot of water.
« Last Edit: July 30, 2012, 11:06:57 AM by Uncephalized »

Sparky

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Re: Help! Living out of a hotel on Per Diem
« Reply #10 on: July 31, 2012, 06:05:15 AM »
To add to my own BYO camp stove comment.

I've cooked 6 litres of homemade soup from scratch, many rounds of pasta, stir fry's, butter chicken, homemade sauces galore, instant noodles, eggs in all sorts of ways and more more. The most difficult thing to cook is rice as it likes to burn.

With camp stoves, your limited to really 3 options: Propane bottles (bulk and the little ones, cheap), butane (small, expensive), wood and petrol (cheapest to run, but most expensive to buy at first). I've run all sorts and  like the MSR petrol stoves the best ($100 to $150 including fuel bottle). Average cost of fuel per meal is around $0.10, dirt cheap really and the stove is nearly bomb proof.

jbhernandez

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Re: Help! Living out of a hotel on Per Diem
« Reply #11 on: July 31, 2012, 06:57:53 AM »
I use  a rice cooker at home that makes it impossible to mess up rice. Similar to this rice cooker at Amazon.
http://www.amazon.com/Black-Decker-RC3303-Cooked-Cooker/dp/B002CVTT52/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1343739042&sr=8-3&keywords=rice+cooker

Uncephalized

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Re: Help! Living out of a hotel on Per Diem
« Reply #12 on: July 31, 2012, 12:28:53 PM »
Regarding camp stoves, if you want to go really small and light for easy packing and moving, you can't beat this one:

http://www.amazon.com/MSR-11792-Pocket-Rocket-Stove/dp/B000A8C5QE/

for ease of use and price point. I've owned one of these for years now and always found it reliable. The propane canisters are relatively inexpensive and easy to find, too--Wal-Mart will certainly have them or you can order them online.

arebelspy

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Re: Help! Living out of a hotel on Per Diem
« Reply #13 on: August 01, 2012, 08:56:36 AM »
Regarding camp stoves, if you want to go really small and light for easy packing and moving, you can't beat this one:

http://www.amazon.com/MSR-11792-Pocket-Rocket-Stove/dp/B000A8C5QE/

for ease of use and price point. I've owned one of these for years now and always found it reliable. The propane canisters are relatively inexpensive and easy to find, too--Wal-Mart will certainly have them or you can order them online.

I've got almost the same one, though mine had a one click lighting button (which broke, so I use a Swedish Firesteel to light it).

I also have the larger one that uses the bigger propane ones, cause they're cheaper.  Good if you don't need to pack ultra light.

Hotels might take exception to you using these though.
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James

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Re: Help! Living out of a hotel on Per Diem
« Reply #14 on: August 01, 2012, 10:05:04 AM »
Lots of excellent ideas here, I especially second the idea of steaming in the microwave, you can cook almost any veggie that way, even just by wrapping in a wet paper towel and then in plastic wrap.  I sometimes use the microwave simply to save energy when steaming.

I think the key focus now that you are hearing so many idea is to focus on health and what you are willing to try first.  Make a menu for a week of different idea that sound good and try something new each night.  Once you get a few things you really like it will become the new routine and won't seem like a big deal.  At first the experimenting will be a bit rough, so even if you fail in one meal don't give up, I'm positive in a short time you can have as big a variety as you want of good healthy meals.

onehappypanda

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Re: Help! Living out of a hotel on Per Diem
« Reply #15 on: August 01, 2012, 12:16:15 PM »
For veggies, I agree with steaming them in the microwave. You can also get microwaveable brown rice, quinoa, lentils, and/or beans and toppings to spice it up. I might do:

Brown rice topped with steamed veggies, curry sauce, and chickpeas
Brown rice topped with chopped peppers and onions, salsa, guacamole (Walmart sells guacamole in individual serving packets) and black or pinto beans
Microwaved whole-grain pasta with steamed asparagus, peppers, onions, broccoli, marinara sauce, and parmesan cheese
Microwaveable quinoa with steamed zuchinni, squash, and eggplant topped with nuts and spices (basil, etc.)

...and so on. It might sound boring but you can vary up the veggies and the toppings into infinity.

You could also hit up the salad bar at the grocery store. Usually they charge by weight, so if you really fill up on the light-weight but filling stuff (greens, fibrous veggies, cheese, slivered nuts) then you'll get a ton of veggies for not too much money. Usually it's a bit less than a restaurant salad, and tastier because you can pick your own toppings.

jawisco

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Re: Help! Living out of a hotel on Per Diem
« Reply #16 on: August 01, 2012, 06:30:36 PM »
Hey Windman - I am also in wind (met towers) and have traveled a lot and dealt with the same sorts of issues you have...I have come to the point of other's in that I really dislike the whole chore of eating out - for me it is the time wasting that is the worst...

I didn't know so many things could be microwaved - that is interesting. 

Over the years, my diet on the road has become much more raw - I eat a lot of fruit, raw veggies, nuts, canned fish, hardboiled eggs (cooked in small hotpot).  Most of these store really easy and keep well and provide me with the energy I need - I feel really good eating a ton of fruit and veggies and nuts, but I do love cooked food when I get back home.

Roadrunner53

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Re: Help! Living out of a hotel on Per Diem
« Reply #17 on: November 09, 2020, 09:15:00 AM »
This topic is really old but I thought I might add to it anyway. I used to have a timeshare with a full kitchen. It was in the Caribbean and at the time the grocery stores were kind of sketchy. We packed some food supplies and took them with us. One thing we always packed was ziplock bags. Cans of tuna, peanut butter, small jar of mayo, crackers. There must have been more but I don't remember. Now, there are pouches of precooked rice you can buy, there is canned turkey, canned roast beef, canned chicken even canned pork, canned beans.

If you are travelling to a job site, any chance you can mail a box of supplies to the site and pick them up there or maybe you can mail the box to your hotel. I know people mail out their luggage to hotels sometimes. You could pack a box of easy to make food including canned meats, pouches of rice, even real potatoes to bake in the microwave. Canned veggies are not great at all but in a pinch, green beans and corn are okay. You could pack a few cans of that. There are these very small 7 inch skillets you could buy to cook in and pack pretty easily. Or you could get a George Foreman and you could cook lots of things on it. Steaks, hot dogs, burgers, chicken and even veggies. You could also get some collapsible bowls and a few pieces of small plastic containers or ziplocks to store fresh veggies in the fridge. Look for a really flat George Foreman cooker and wrap in a towel then pack in your luggage. Oatmeal pouches, small pouches of nuts, pouches of dehydrated fruits. Wraps or pita bread lie flat and could be packed. Maybe you could find the individual packets of mayo, mustard, ketchup. Instant coffee.

As far as fresh veggies go, get them at Walmart or another idea is to find a restaurant and see if you can get a big container of broccoli or some kind of peppers, onions, cauliflower. A vegetarian dish. Then you can have some each night. Not really 'eating out' but supplementing the easy way.

Foil comes in handy, an extension cord if you bring along a small appliance. Paper towels come in handy too. I used to take a whole roll and take it off the roll and just make a flat package out of it. Also, put together a few utensils like spoons, forks, knives.

Skillet: https://www.walmart.com/ip/Elite-Cuisine-7-Electric-Skillet-with-Glass-Lid/21554244?wmlspartner=wlpa&selectedSellerId=0&adid=22222222222015596250&wmlspartner=wmtlabs&wl0=e&wl1=o&wl2=c&wl3=10361126478&wl4=pla-1103084524510:aud-808058289&wl12=21554244_0&wl14=tiny%20electric%20skillet&veh=sem&msclkid=6baaaaba512f12acdcd2f51337f609e4

George Foreman: https://www.homedepot.com/p/George-Foreman-60-sq-in-Black-Fixed-Plate-Indoor-Grill-GR340FB/303055274?

Collapsible skillet: https://www.walmart.com/ip/seort/677136352?wmlspartner=wmtlabs&adid=22222222222369336835&wmlspartner=wmtlabs&wl0=e&wl1=o&wl2=c&wl3=75041800701940&wl4=pla-4578641335485273:aud-808058289&wl5=&wl6=&wl7=&%20wl10=Walmart&wl12=677136352_10001045871&wl14=portable%20cooker%20travel%20cooker%20collapsible%20cooker&veh=sem&msclkid=4c2ce53412591b25f95fba9d7aa904c6


expatartist

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Re: Help! Living out of a hotel on Per Diem
« Reply #18 on: November 09, 2020, 07:08:45 PM »
Great ideas Roadrunner, thanks. May use some of them if I end up having to do hotel quarantine for 2 weeks next month, cheers.

the_fixer

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Help! Living out of a hotel on Per Diem
« Reply #19 on: November 10, 2020, 12:00:18 PM »
I know some linemen / construction crews that are on the road constantly and they cook all of their lunches and dinners and eat the continental breakfast.

They have small BBQ grills, microwaves and fridge / freezers in their trucks.

Kind of cool when they come in for training and at lunch break they head out to the parking lot and start cooking lunch at their trucks.

Not sure if it will work for you but a portable fridge / feeezer and a bbq grill might be nice?

That coupled with some batch cooking prior to each trip, for example you can make a huge batch of soup with little effort, freeze it (in ziplocks) and warm it up for a lunch / dinner a few nights a week.

Just realized this thread was necromanced but will leave my response just in case someone comes across it in the future


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« Last Edit: November 10, 2020, 12:03:03 PM by the_fixer »

Roadrunner53

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Re: Help! Living out of a hotel on Per Diem
« Reply #20 on: November 10, 2020, 12:51:35 PM »
I would also bring a small bottle of dish detergent and maybe a few kitchen towels. Another thing would be to not cook anything  like fish or garlicy things that could permeate the walls, carpet, drapes. You might consider bringing some odor eliminator spray.
https://www.amazon.com/Febreze-Freshener-Heavy-Crisp-Clean/dp/B01M4RLBJU/ref=sr_1_6?dchild=1&hvadid=78546416705010&hvbmt=be&hvdev=c&hvqmt=e&keywords=odor+eliminator+spray&qid=1605035819&sr=8-6&tag=mh0b-20

If you get too carried away with onions, garlic or burned foods, a red flag may come up and they may ban you from cooking in the room. I would be very diligent to dispose of food in a way that the cleaning person will not object. Same with your cooking equipment and food prep items. Once you are done cooking, eating, clean it all up and stow it away so not to advertise you are cooking. Maybe you can dispose of the food garbage in an outdoor garbage can. Be tidy!

Good idea the_fixer had about making food and bringing it with you. You could actually make up some meals, freeze them and then put them in an insulated bag to take along with you. I am assuming you are flying to your job site? If not and you are driving even better! You can bring so much with you in your car. Here are some containers you could use to freeze meals in: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0875K8DZQ/ref=sspa_dk_detail_4?psc=1&pd_rd_i=B0875K8DZQ&pd_rd_w=4VpbM&pf_rd_p=7d37a48b-2b1a-4373-8c1a-bdcc5da66be9&pd_rd_wg=aKmtc&pf_rd_r=Z1E5YY6QD86078RYQ58Q&pd_rd_r=5a9b1372-1d08-4823-a61a-92c897216c41&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUExMkZUME5NSFBTQUwmZW5jcnlwdGVkSWQ9QTAwNTI2NjEyRFNYS0tPQTIyRUQmZW5jcnlwdGVkQWRJZD1BMTAzMDA0NjIwSkpUTjEySDdSV1cmd2lkZ2V0TmFtZT1zcF9kZXRhaWwmYWN0aW9uPWNsaWNrUmVkaXJlY3QmZG9Ob3RMb2dDbGljaz10cnVl


lhamo

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Re: Help! Living out of a hotel on Per Diem
« Reply #21 on: November 11, 2020, 04:05:24 PM »
A small rice cooker or crock pot, or both, might be another thing to look into.  You can use them to make larger batches of rice and stew-type dishes to go with them, maybe overnight so there is no fire risk leaving them unattended.  Then just portion them into meal size containers and keep in the minifridge, reheating in the microwave.

If you find this approach works you could also look for a small freezer (maybe second hand?) so you have more storage space.  In my city rice cookers and crockpots are also both easy to find second hand.