Staying somewhere with a kitchen means you get to save some money on food by cooking your own meals. This also means you have to actually think through and plan what you’re going to get at the store once you arrive. If you’re on a restricted diet, this can also become a challenge because some of the easiest meals tend to be bread and pasta. So, what sort of meals are healthy and simple to make away from home?
After doing a lot of googling, it seems that pasta meals and sandwiches tend to be the most popular options for “away from home” meals. This is challenging for anyone who is gluten-free, dairy-free or sugar-free. So, I started doing some of my own researching, and here are a few meals I think could work for most people on restricted diets.
For tips on cooking in your vacation rental, check out this post I wrote where I contradict some of the things I tell you to do here. (To be fair, I wasn’t focused on cooking for a restricted diet in that post, but on economic and practical things. So there are still some good things!)
In addition to purchasing food at the store when you get there, consider bringing some of these items from home (which I also discuss in the above article):
- Reusable lunch bags
- Plastic sandwich bags
- Spices (salt/pepper, garlic powder, etc.)
- Reusable plastic containers
- Resuable water bottles
- Plastic cutlery
I have broken this down by breakfast, lunch and dinner and included an estimated budget for two people for 5 days. Obviously some places are less or more expensive, but this is an average. In a nutshell, this is at least 15 meals worth for $12 a day per person. That’s cheaper and healthier than eating out for every meal.
Shopping list: Eggs, oats, fruit, coffee, oil/butter for cooking, spinach, mushrooms
Budget: $35 ($3.5/day per person)
Eggs and fresh fruit. This is always our go-to. Sometimes, we get toast, but mostly, we like to get whatever fruit is in season in the place we’re visiting. Nothing like fresh fruit, and some hot eggs for a good source of protein. If you are vegan, I would suggest substituting eggs for oats. Nice filling bowl of oatmeal and some fresh fruit. Can’t go wrong.
Eggs and hash browns. I would use a leftover baked potato from dinner to make hash browns to go with your eggs.
Oatmeal. You can tailor your oats to your own specifications. I love honey in my oatmeal, so I would try to find some local honey.
Omelets. Toward the end of the week, you can use whatever leftover vegetables and lunch meat you have to make an omelet.
Smoothies. This is dependent on having a blender, which not all vacation rentals have. If you have one, this would be great for all the leftover fruit and vegetables you have at the end of the week. You could always bring some protein powder or make pick up a single-serve smoothie packet at the store.
Shopping list: Lunch meat, vegetables, tortilla chips, apples, nuts, granola bars, romaine lettuce, mayonnaise and mustard (if you’re cheap like me, grab some of these at Panera next time you’re there so you don’t have to buy giant jars of these)
Budget: $40 ($4/day per person)
Chicken salad. Leftover chicken breast meat can be used to make chicken salad. You can eat these with some gluten-free crackers or put them on bread if you can eat gluten. (Also, you can eat this in the car, as pictured above.)
Taco salad or dip. Leftover taco meat or beans. You can also layer the fixings in a to-go container, get a bag of chips and just eat as dip in the car or while you’re out in about. I know this might sound weird, but I’m usually out doing things, so I’m looking for ways to eat in the car or on the beach or on a hike.
Finger-food lunch. You don’t have to have some big lunch prepared, just bring the foods that you can eat on-the-go for a few small meals throughout the day. Nuts, apples, vegetables and dip, etc. This is the easiest for hiking days.
Lettuce wraps. At Jimmy Johns, they call this the unwich. Basically, it’s a sandwich you use lettuce for instead of bread. Pack with you some granola bars and nuts as well.
Shopping list: kidney beans, rice, bagged lettuce, salad dressing, potatoes, foil, chicken breasts, vegetables for roasting (cabbage, carrots, etc.), taco meat, seasoning, shells, condiments for potato bar and tacos (use the same ones for both)
Budget: $50 ($5/day per person)
Red beans and rice. Not only is this cost effective, but inexpensive and filling. There are so many variations of this, you can do it vegetarian style and add additional vegetables. You can also add ham or sausage if you want more meat.
Salad and baked potato bar. This type of meal allows you to mix and match items from other meals. You already have spinach for smoothies/omelets, baked potatoes mean leftovers for hash browns, etc. And, this can be tailored to any diet: vegan, vegetarian and carnivores.
Roasted chicken breasts and vegetables. This is an easy meal to make, plus you can cook one or two extra breasts to shred the next day for chicken salad. All you need is a flat pan, some spices and oil.
Tacos. Beef or chicken or beans. Hard, soft or just lettuce. These are so easy to customize for any diet.
So, there you have some ideas, and a rough budget, for eating healthy meals at your vacation home on a semi-restricted diet. It can be done, and I hope this is helpful to you! Bon appetit.