Author Topic: Help! Living out of a hotel on Per Diem  (Read 13859 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.