MENU

Taking Freezer Meals on The Road (Eat Well, Spend Less)

The activity, hot weather, and entertainment factor of summertime can wreak havoc on one’s grocery budget. How can summer fun affect your food costs?

In summertime we venture out and about more often; we have more random schedules than the rest of the year; we tend to avoid hot kitchens and want someone else to do the cooking. And the justification factor of “it’s summertime,” can lead us to spend more than we might otherwise spend. Whether it’s the temptation of the drive-thru after a long day at the zoo or the high price of food at the  baseball field, we can find ourselves spending more money on food than we do during the more hum-drum days of the year.

Furthermore, summer travel can take a big bite out of our funds. Between transportation and lodging costs, vacation spending can escalate before we know it. And eating out at restaurants and fast food joints will jack that bill even higher.

One way to offset these costs is to take freezer meals on the road with you.

Have Lasagna, Will Travel

Freezer meals have served me not only at home, but also away. When we go to the grandparents, I pack several meals to share during our visit. Not only does that make our visit less of an imposition on our family, but it also allows us to make the load a little lighter on Gramma, particularly when we arrive on Friday night and she’s fighting traffic to get home from work.

It’s been so fun to spend the afternoon with Grampa, pop a lasagna and garlic bread in the oven, toss a salad, and set a nice table for her to come home to. Even though I’m a guest, I get to pamper my hostess at least once during our visit.

 

I’ve even packed freezer meals on full vacations as well. A few months ago we took a trip to Mammoth. Since we had reserved a condo with a fully equipped kitchen, I grabbed an assortment of meals from my freezer and packed those in the cooler. Not only did we avoid wasting money on restaurant food we might not have liked, but we also saved a bundle of money. For the two days that we were away, we would have eaten six meals at a restaurant. This could have cost our family anywhere from $120 to $300.

Even if I had bought groceries at the local market, I would have paid a lot more for food than I would have at home. Packing food allowed me to tailor our meals to our tastes as well as our budget.

We’ve had too many bad tourist attraction meals over the years. And unfortunately, you don’t always get what you pay for. We ate like kings and didn’t feel guilty about it. Plus, the money we saved on food justified the little extra we paid for more deluxe accommodations, a pleasure I would gladly pay for again and again.

What Travels Well?

Wondering what you should pack on your next trip? Think about what’s quick, easy, and possibly a “one dish dinner.” You want to enjoy whatever it is you’re doing on vacation, so you probably don’t want to spend a lot of time preparing meals — unless, of course, that is what you love to do.

You may be limited on kitchen resources, depending on your accommodations, so choosing easy meals is a good call. And an “all-in-one” dinner can cover all your bases without a lot of work. Serving bread, fruit, and a salad on the side is easy to pull off wherever you roam. And don’t forget to hunt down some inexpensive snacks to make things a little more fun.

Here’s a list of make ahead and/or freezer friendly foods that have served us well over the years:

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

This is an ongoing series about how to eat well and spend less. Along with some fabulous foodies, organizers, and frugalistas, I’ve been bringing you suggestions on how to eat like a king without becoming a pauper to do it. This month we’re discussing ways to make the most of summer travel, weather, and adventures — and still stay under budget.

You are going to love what the other girls have brought to the table:

:: Mandi gives some great suggestions on setting your kitchen to rights before you leave on a trip, so that when you come home, there’s a welcome and good eats waiting for you.

:: Shaina takes us out to the ballgame and shares tricks for eating well with crazy summer schedules.

:: Aimee rocks it with homemade convenience foods suitable for air travel, including a fabulous list of foods to pack and some tasty cookies to bake before you hit the road.

:: Tammy offers some cool suggestions for avoiding the heat of the kitchen — without hitting the closest fast food restaurant.

:: Katie shows us how to rough it and still eat well while camping.

:: Carrie posts techniques for seasonal stockpiling and how to make the best use of summer sales.

:: stay tuned for more posts this week from Alyssa, and Katie

How do YOU eat well and spend less on the road?

Would you rather subscribe by RSS?
Read Newer Post
Read Older Post

Comments

  1. For full vacations, how long will the frozen food stay frozen? How should I pack my cooler? I’d read dry ice somewhere but that seems like a lot of extra work.

    Thanks.

    • @Jennie,
      We’re taking a vacation 4 hours away, I pack our freezer food (marinated chicken, burritos etc). deep in ice and stick it in the freezer when I get there. I thaw throughout the week according to the menu. Solid frozen food will last a good while if it’s packed tightly.

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      @Jennie, the length of time depends on what facilities you have to store it when you get there. We’ve never gone for more than a few days, so I just put them in the refrigerator when I get there.

      As for packing, my stuff stays frozen for so long, I don’t really worry about it thawing before we get there. That has never happened in the standard cooler.

  2. Lori F. says:

    So true! I’m already planning our trip to the beach with extended family next month. My niece and my own sons requested my spaghetti for one night’s meal. I’ll make the sauce at home and freeze it then seal it in FoodSaver bags. I’ll buy the pasta here on sale and bake my own bread. The only thing to buy will be fresh salad greens and fruit for dessert. Our night to host dinner will be easy-peasy (and inexpensive) thanks to some advance planning. :=)
    I’m also packing laundry/cleaning/paper products for our beach house from my stockpile. Less shopping once we get there and we won’t break the budget.

  3. Love the article!!

    The last time we went on a family vacation for any extended period of time was a few years ago to the beach. We rented a house, had a full kitchen and a outside grill. It was awesome with small kids!! We were there for a week and the way we worked it was to have breakfast and lunch either at the house or packed along to the beach. We ate dinner a couple nights at home and then a couple nights out at a restaurant. After all we are seafood lovers and we were at the beach. Cooking at the rental house and bringing snacks and such from home really saved us!! We were able to stay within our food budget and got to eat out a bit too and not have to worry about feeling deprived of the vacation experience!!

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      @Dana, absolutely dine out if you know it’s good! And the money you save eating in on some nights helps ya feel better about spending when ya go out.

  4. I use this same strategy!!! I like to make a pan of frozen chicken. I clean the chicken, sprinkle it with spices, put it in an aluminum pan, and pop it in the freezer. When we’re on vacation, I leave it in the freezer till the night before we’re going to eat it. I defrost it in the fridge overnight and then bake at 350 for 1 hour. If I have a few potatoes I throw those in the oven for a quick side dish of baked potatoes. A perfectly satisfying dinner.

  5. That does make sense when I think about it. Make a good meal, freeze it, defrost it to wherever you’re going. Good looks mama.

  6. I like to bring the crockpot and use the crock pot liners for easy clean up.

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      @Nora, I’ve always been hesitant to do that hotels, but in condos, absolutely. I don’t know why it should matter, though. Hmmm.

  7. We do this all the time! First off we love packing picnics to eat at rest stops along the way . . . doing what we consider “fancier” sandwiches like egg salad or chicken salad, fresh fruit, perhaps a chocolate cake–we really try to make it a special kind of picnic. And then once we reach our hotel we make use of our itty bitty microwave and heat up stuff like shredded bbq chicken (or pork), taco meat for softshell tacos or taco salad–all things I have premade and frozen to limit the eating out. For a family of seven this saves us a lot of money!

  8. We did this last year when we went to Disney World. We stayed at a condo with a full kitchen so I packed our coolers with our freezer meals and put them straight into the freezer when we got there. Super easy! We took pre-cooked taco meat, granola bars, dump meals for the crockpot, and took a whole chicken to cook in the crockpot. It was good!

  9. We must be on the same wave length b/c I’m talking about the same saving money by taking freezer food on the road too. I just did a post on freezer cooking and camping and vacation in my Tasty Travels series. I love saving money on food and spending it on the FUN stuff.

  10. This may sound stupid, but I noticed that you freeze marinated cooked chicken. How do you thaw/re-heat it?

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      The chicken is usually uncooked and frozen in the marinade. It marinates as it thaws. I have frozen extra grilled chicken as well that we’ve used on salads.

  11. I have taken freezer meals to grandma’s too! Several of us are dairy intolerant, so it was helpful to bring our own food, and my mom got a break.

    When we go on vacation, we often take our slow cooker. Last year I browned up a pound of beef, brought it with us in a cooler and just added manwich at the hotel. It simmered in the crockpot while we were away, and we came back to the hotel and had sloppy joes.

  12. i love making freezer meals too. my aunt and uncle fly down to visit us about 4 times a year. they stay in a condo on the beach. they always barrow my electric skillet and a good knife. those condo kitchens don’t really come with kitchen stuff that is usable for “real” cooking. so if you visit family try that! it might help :0)

  13. I have been looking everywhere for those foil pans with a flat lid that wraps around the pan. The only lids I can seem to find are plastic and poke up quite a bit from the top of the pan. Any suggestions on where I can get those?

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      I found mine at Smart and Final, but I’ve also found them online. Someone else told me that Sam’s sells them.

  14. Great idea- Thanks for the tip!

  15. This is such a great idea! We vacation at a condo for a week every summer and I usually pack all our food for the week, but usually just the ingredients, then I have to make it. To have it made already and just have to thaw and eat would be so much easier!! Thanks! I just found your site and I’m enjoying it immensely!

  16. I love make ahead meals for vacation!! One of my faves is to marinate chicken, and freeze then once you get to your condo or set up camp you just let it thaw and grill. I normally cheat when camping and bring instant rice and then spice it up with broth and spices. Grilled marinated chicken, grilled onions and peppers over kicked up rice= awesome dinner either while in a condo or at the campground!!!

  17. FYI: The link to ‘beat this lasagna’ goes here http://www.babyzone.com/mom/ instead, doesn’t look right to me…

Thanks so much for participating in this conversation about "a mom's life."

This is a place where moms can be themselves. Remember that each mother's path looks a little different. Please keep your comments respectful and kind. Reasonable minds will disagree in a nice way.

So let's talk about it, using "our big girl words."

Share Your Thoughts

*