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How to Prepare for Vacation: Saving Money on Food

costco

Over the years I’ve perfected the art of packing and preparing for vacation. I can load the car in a matter of minutes; ensuring we don’t forget anything important and finding space for absolutely everything we need. I know the quickest routes between points A and B and the best way to maximize our travel time. I never leave the house without snacks and ensure the kids and I will be well fed along the way.

What I can’t figure out is how to contain food costs during our extended stay; no matter how hard I try I still seem to waste previous time and money at the grocery store.

The worst part of grocery shopping on vacation is paying full price for items, because we simply don’t have the time to wait for a sale. On an average trip to the beach I would guess 95% of the stuff in our cart isn’t on sale and a grocery store bill for six to ten people can easily top $400.

This year, in an effort to save a little more money, I tried something new. In addition to stocking up on sale items long before our trip I took a last minute trip to Costco. I piled my husband and two children in the car and walked up and down the aisles in search of anything that we might eat on vacation.

We loaded the cart with a bunch of paper products like napkins and trash bags. Then hit the snack aisle for giant boxes of crackers, apple sauce squeeze packs and dried fruit. We also bought a bag of candy for after dinner treats and some chocolate covered fruit to hit that sweet spot before bed. In the dairy section we picked up large bags of shredded cheese and string cheese for the kids. We grabbed two large boxes of cereal and a giant box of Bisquick, which is my husband’s favorite choice for pancake breakfasts. We also loaded up on fruit and veggies including pineapple, grapes, pears and oranges.

Next on the list was steaks and chicken. The meat and poultry portion of our bill totaled $300, though half of this was cleaned, vacuumed sealed and left at home. My husband spent two and a half hours chopping and slicing chicken so we wouldn’t have to waste precious vacation minutes preparing dinner. Any time we need chicken for dinner we pull out one or two packs, let them soak in water for a bit and thaw exactly what we need.

Has this saved me any time or money? I’m honestly not sure. As a whole my family and I have taken four trips to the grocery store.

My son is a HUGE fruit eater. I’m not complaining about this. I am happy to hear him ask for fruit rather than candy or junk food, so I keep a plethora of fruits and veggies in the fridge at all times. Fruit is eaten quickly at our house and in the last three weeks we’ve filled the fridge with just about every option available. Pears, apples, bananas, blueberries, strawberries, pineapple and oranges are his favorite. I don’t want to purchase too much produce for fear of spoiling, but it seems the fruit is gone within a few days of filing the fridge. We’ve also eaten through our fair share of milk, eggs butter and bread.

We could have purchased milk and eggs at Costco, but we didn’t have the means to transport so many cold items to the beach and don’t really have the room to store them here either. Sometimes bread can last for a week and other times it seems to grow mold rather quickly. A few rolls were tossed after turning green, but the rest were eaten as my family prepared daily sandwiches and grilled hamburgers and hot dogs that all required buns.

All told I’ve spent $300 at the grocery store and another $500 at Costco. We didn’t drag all the food we bought from Costco to the beach though, maybe $250 or $300 of it, so the grand total is probably $550 or $600 so far with another two weeks to go.

Do you have any tricks for saving money while on vacation? Do you stock up before leaving home?