How to Save Money on Food and Supplies While on Vacation

In a few days we’ll pack up the car and head out on a week long trip to the beach. We visit North Carolina fairly frequently, but with my husband acting as the sole provider for our family our last two trips were only two days long. We left late on a Friday night and returned by Sunday afternoon. This will be our first week long vacation since we idiotically waited out Irene last fall.

We’ve owned our beach home for nearly eight years now and over the years I’ve learned quite a bit about saving money when staying in a beach house. If you know the house you’re staying in will have a kitchen, grill, dishwasher and/or washing machine you might find these tips helpful.

The best money saving tip: Bring as much as you can from home. Stock up when things are on sale before you ever leave for vacation.

First, bring rolls of toilet paper and paper towels from home. I ALWAYS buy paper products when I can combine a coupon with a store sale and usually have a stash of them in the house. If you wait until you arrive at your destination you will inevitably pay full price for them at the grocery store. If you buy paper products on sale you can save quite a bit of money by bringing along your stash from home.

I do the same for any household supplies I know we’ll need.  I make certain to bring trash bags, dish soap, dishwashing detergent and laundry detergent. I like to bring along items that can be packaged in smaller units. For example, I like to use Purex 3-in-1 laundry sheets, which act as both the detergent and the dryer sheet. I can just grab a few and don’t have to worry about lugging a heavy bottle around with me. Those little ultrapacks for the dishwasher are similar. You can put a couple in a plastic container or sandwich bag and bring them along. They don’t take up much space in the car and they aren’t heavy.

On most days we eat in while we’re on vacation, so I also bring a bunch of recipes and spices along for the ride. If you know you just need a bit you can measure the ingredients in advance. You can place them in baggies or take the more environmentally friendly solution by placing them into tiny glass containers or clean baby food jars. Everyone knows spices are extremely expensive, so it helps to menu plan a bit in advance. You’ll save a bunch of money on ingredients this way.

I also pack a stack of those marinade mixes that you can purchase by the packet. Again they are easy to transport and typically require nothing more than oil and water. You can find these on sale throughout the year and they last for a very long time. If you have a grill where you’re staying, (most places do these days), you can marinate chicken or meat and make a quick and easy supper.

If you have room to carry a cooler in your car, (we no longer have room in our Camry for one), you can also buy some dry ice or cooling bags and pack meats like ground beef or chicken. I must admit that I do this much more often for one or two day trips to the beach. If I’m going for a whole week I just purchase it at the grocery store and typically know that I’ll pay full price for it. Even at full price it’s still a whole lot cheaper to buy meat and poultry than paying for meals at restaurants.

If you are going to a beach town leave a little room in your cooler and search for fruit and veggie stands along the way. The produce is typically in better condition than you’ll find in grocery stores and the price is usually better too. It’s best to look for stands that are slightly off the beaten path. You’ll pay more for ones with prime locations right along the main roads. We almost always pick up ingredients for pool side smoothies this way.

If you are a coupon clipper bring along coupons for any items you’ll need to buy to complete your recipes. You may find better deals with sales at the store, but it never hurts to be prepared for those every day items like bread, butter, cooking oil and cheese. If you have room to transport these along in your car go for it, but I find it’s easier to just make a trip to the grocery store once I get there.

If you have time clip coupons for chain restaurants between your home and your final destination. My husband and I often stop for sandwiches at places like Subway and Quiznos and Quiznos often has printable coupons available on their website. If you want to save even more money pack sandwiches yourself and snack on them in the car. As an added bonus you may be able to drive for a longer stretch without stopping.

Once you arrive at your destination look around for coupon booklets outside of gas stations and shopping areas. You’ll often find discounts for free appetizers, buy-one-get-one free meals and/or a percentage off your breakfast, lunch or dinner. These booklets also have coupons for local stores, so if you plan to buy clothes, trinkets or souvenirs definitely pick one up before you go.

Despite the best intentions you may still blow your budget on food and supplies while on vacation. You may pass a tasty restaurant and decide to stop in for dinner, you may find a local seafood market and spend large sums of money on steamed shrimp, mussels and crabs. Remember that it’s okay to splurge every once in awhile and if you’ve budgeted for it by all means splurge on vacation! If you want to eat out every night, not pack a single thing and buy everything once you get there it’s entirely up to you. My tips are not meant to keep you confined and repressed during your vacation, they are simply meant to save you a couple of bucks if you choose to use them.

If you have a travel tip of your own, head on over to Budgets Are Sexy to enter his $1,000 giveaway, in partnership with HotelClub!

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