Every traveling mom wants to get the most bang for her buck on the road. Have you ever chosen a suite-style hotel so that you could close the door and relax with your partner away from the kids at the end of the day? Well, those rooms also come with another money-saving feature, a kitchenette. Whether you’re in a timeshare, a rented condo, or an extended stay hotel, dining in can be the solution to problems that come along with picky eaters and food allergies.As a mom who travels frequently with my family we have some tried and true (and cheap) meals that you can make utilizing the small array of pots and pans in your hotel room. All meals listed use the stovetop only, as most hotels do not have ovens. For under $80 in groceries, I’ve got you covered for all 6 nights of the average family vacation.
What to Bring from Home:
I travel with spices. It may be a little lame, but it’s a huge money saver on the road. Cooking in hotels is easy. Buying spices to give everything flavor is expensive. I use a pill container & keep a few teaspoons of each spice on hand. If you do buy spices on the road try to buy them in the bulk section so you only pay for what you need. You can usually find salt and pepper in the breakfast area of your hotel. Spices need for the below recipes are- oregano (3 tsp), red pepper flakes (4 tsp), ground rosemary (1 tsp), salt (4 tsp), pepper (4 tsp), nutmeg (1/2 tsp), paprika (1 tsp), turmeric (1/2 tsp), cardomon (1/2 tsp), cumin (1/2 tsp), cinnamon (1/4 tsp)
What to Buy:
1 box Success Boil in Bag Rice (I use the extra large bags that come 6 per box) ~ $4.49 ( You will have 4 left over. If you buy the smaller bags that come 4 to a box use 2 per recipe.)
Small container sour cream ~ $0.99
Bag of Shredded Mexican Cheese~ $2.00
Can of Corn ~ $0.79
Can of Black Beans ~ $1.29
Can of Chickpeas ~ $1.29
Can of Tomato Sauce (16 oz) ~ $1.19 (store brand)
2 1/2 lb small potatoes ~ $2.50
1 small onion ~ $0.50
1/3 lb tofu ~ $3 (if there is a bulk local version available the recipe will come out much better! I love VT Soy and strive to use their tofu. )
1/2 cup white wine (If you are staying at a suite style hotel they usually have a complimentary meal M-F with wine. Try to snag a glass. Otherwise, buy a bottle (it doesn’t need to be fancy) and drink the leftover!) ~ Free- $3.99
Bunch of Basil ~ $2.99
1/2 dozen eggs ~ $2.00
1/2 cup bread crumbs ~ $2.00
Olive oil, small bottle ~ $4.99
Pasta Sauce, 1 jar ~ $2.50
Mozzarella Balls, small container~ $5.99
1 box pasta, your choice of shape (16 oz) ~ $1.99
1 stick butter ~ $0.99
8 oz heavy cream ~ $3.00
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese ~ $3.00
garlic, 1 clove ~ $0.50
1 large bag microwave steamable broccoli, $3.00
1 can diced beets ~ $0.79
1 package of bacon ~ $4.99
1 lb frozen small shrimp ~ $7.99
1 box Organic Imagine Corn & Lemongrass soup (trust me this is the winner in the flavor category- but aim for something Thai-ish if you can’t find it) ~ $3.99
2 limes ~ $1.50
1 box mushrooms ~ $2.99
2 carrots ~ $1.25
1 bunch parsley ~ 1.29
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The grand total for this list is $79.77 (subtract 3.99 if you got a free glass of wine!) and it will make 6 nights of meals for your family of 4-ish at your hotel. Read on for the recipes. (All prices are rough estimates. Your bill may be slightly less or slightly more depending on where you are staying.)
Day 1: Pseudo- Parmesan (Tofu Parmigiana)
The night before: Drain tofu (1/3 lb) and thinly slice into slabs. Place back into empty container or into a bowl. Add a drizzle of olive oil, 1/2 c white wine, a pinch of red pepper flakes, a pinch of salt, a 1/2 tsp of pepper, 10 basil leaves and 1 tsp ground rosemary. Make sure that tofu is submerge. Place in fridge overnight to marinate.
That day: Wash 1 lb potatoes and start them boiling. In a large skillet, place 2 TBS or so of olive oil and heat over low. Beat one egg in a bowl and set aside. Place 1/2 c breadcrumbs on a plate. Take the tofu from the fridge, piece by piece place tofu in egg then coat in breadcrumbs. Place in oil pan and fry slowly until golden brown. Remove tofu to plate and rinse skillet. After rinsing pour 16 oz jar of pasta sauce into the skillet and start heating on low heat. Place all basil leaves from the marinade into the pasta sauce. Heat slowly. Add tofu back in placing 3 pieces of sliced mozzarella balls onto each piece. Quarter remaining mozzarella. Drain poatoes & cut large ones in half. Toss in pan with mozzarella, 2 TBS olive oil, and additional shredded basil from bunch. Dish into bowls & serve topped with tofu and sauce.
Day 2: Flannel Hash
A New England classic, red flannel hash is popular anytime of day. This hearty dish makes a great dinner! Dice 1 lb potatoes and put into large pot to boil for ten minutes. Take out the bacon and chop dice. In a saucepan, fry bacon and drain off excess fat. To bacon add- 1 can diced beets, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, 1/4 cup chopped parsley and 1 tsp red pepper flakes. Drain potatoes and add to saucepan with beets. Cook on medium-heat, stirring regularly to avoid sticking. In another saucepan, add 1 TBS olive oil and fry your remaining 5 eggs. Serve hash in bowls topped with a fried egg (grown ups in our family get two).
Day 3: Pseudo- Persian (Khoresh-e Qeymeh)
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I love to celebrate my culture but the time consuming cooking led me to this quick knock-off for weeknights. The kids love it and it satisfies in under a half hour. Wash and chop a 1/2 lb of potatoes into matchsticks. Fry in 2 TBS olive oil and set aside on a plate once they are golden brown. In a pan boil one of the large Success Rice Boil in Bags (or 2 small ones). Chop your onion and saute until golden brown in 1 TBS of olive oil. Add the 16 oz can of tomato sauce, the can of chickpeas, 1/2 tsp cardomom, 1/4 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, and 1/2 tsp turmeric. Squeeze the juice from 1/2 a lime into the sauce. Cook until heated through. Serve rice with chickpea sauce and topped with french fried potatoes.
Day 4: Wannabe Tom Kha Gai Soup
This is one of my families favorite dishes. It couldn’t be easier and it mimics a dish we all love to order in Thai restaurants. If your kids don’t like shrimp it can be made with chicken or tofu. Use the shrimp with tails on to save time, then just put out a bowl for everyone to throw their tails into as they eat their way through the soup. Chop 2 carrots into rounds. Slice mushrooms. In a saucepan, melt 2 TBS butter and add the bag of frozen shrimp. Squeeze the juice of one lime over the shrimp. Let them cook on medium until tender when squeezed. Add in the mushrooms and carrots. Add 1 tsp red pepper flakes and a tsp of salt. Once the carrots are tender add in the Imagine Corn & Lemongrass soup (comes in a 16 oz box). The soup has the coconut flavors of a traditional Tom Kha Gai. Heat through and serve. Cut up the remaining 1/2 lime into wedges for each bowl. Easy and delicious!
Day 5: The Best Pasta Alfredo Ever
Serve this rich a
nd creamy dish to your family on the road. In a saucepan, melt 6 TBS butter. Saute 1 clove minced garlic in the butter until golden. Stir in 8 oz of heavy cream, 3/4 c grated parmesan cheese, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp oregano, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, and 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes. Stir consistently while cooking over medium heat. In a large pan, boil the box of pasta. In the microwave, cook bag of microwave broccoli according to package instructions. Drain pasta. Add broccoli and alfredo sauce into pasta. Mix and serve immediately.
Day 6: Rice and Beans
You’ve reached the last night of your vacation and you deserve a little comfort food as you pack and prepare to return to the real world. In a large pan boil 1 Large Success Rice Boil in Bag (or 2 small ones). Drain a can of black beans and rinse several times. Put black beans into saucepan along with the can of corn, 1 tsp red pepper flakes, 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper. Heat. Once rice is done cooking add it to the beans & corn. Serve topped with shredded mexican cheese and sour cream.
Happy Cooking! What are your favorite meals to make on the road?
Nasreen Stump is a freelance writer who lives in Vermont, when she isn’t on the road for work. Check her out on Twitter@ramblingstump!