Save Money by Cooking Even When You Are Not Home

by David Ning · 26 comments

I recently experienced a “first” while I was in Las Vegas over the weekend.  No it’s probably not what you are thinking since what I’m referring to is cooking while my wife and I are on a trip together.  I never thought it was possible but the dinner actually turned out great.  We had delicious food, we had fun and we saved a ton of money too.

It all started when my wife noticed that the hotel we stayed at offered a gas grill by the pool side.   As our room also provided a dishwasher, plates and utensils, my wife decided to prepare some chicken wings to grill on Saturday night.

It was quite surprising to come back to the hotel room to find uncooked food on the counter but after my wife explained the plans, I was delighted to help and start our evening.

bbq is great for saving money

Why Cooking During Our Trip was Amazing
The gas grill worked great and we had a lovely dinner outdoors while watching the stars.  Here are some other reasons why it was amazing.

  • No Wait – Everywhere in Las Vegas is packed so it was a good change as there were no lines.
  • Romantic – It was just the two of us and it was peaceful and also a wonderful night.
  • It was different – it was surprising to say the least.
  • And of course, it saved us a ton of money – The night’s cost was about $8 for the two of us since everything else was provided by the hotel.  Compare this with the dinner we had the night before that cost us $50.

What I Learned about Saving Money from The BBQ

  • Think out of the Box – There are always new ways to save money.  Be creative.
  • Don’t be Afraid to Try New Things – If my wife didn’t decide to just prepare the food, I might not think it would be a good idea as we were in a hotel after all.  As it turned out, I had a wonderful night and I will probably do it again in the future.
  • Turn Old Tricks in New by Changing the Environment – If I cooked while I’m on a trip, I might be able to save more money by applying what I already do with one activity and expand it to different environments.  Hmm.  Time to Start Brainstorming.
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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Ed Z September 22, 2008 at 11:22 am

I was just in Vegas too, and spent wayyy to much money eating out, even trying to be frugal (splitting 1 appetizer+1 entree for my wife and I, no cocktails/alcohol etc…)

What hotel was it that had the grill? I’ll definitely have to keep that in mind for my next Vegas trip.

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Jewelsmom February 3, 2011 at 11:25 am

Last time we planned a trip to Vegas, we purchased an Entertainment Coupon book [buy 1, get 1 free coupons] in advance. Using it once more than paid off the price of the book (books are significantly discounted after January, with free shipping). We bought our book used on ebay for $4, which included shipping. It only had two coupons missing. When we ate out we did so for breakfast and lunch because the menu items were cheaper. We would get water with lemon, squeeze the lemon in the water and add packets of sweetener for “lemonade.” My family takes frugal to a whole new level.

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Calvin September 22, 2008 at 11:31 am

Neat little idea.

I’ve seen those grills around hotels but always wondered whether people uses them. I guess they do.

I will just have to try it next time.

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Sheila Sultani September 22, 2008 at 5:45 pm

This sounds like such a great idea. I’ve never heard of hotels offering grills. One of my favorite memories of family vacations is the smell of the food cooking – it’s part of the whole atmosphere – I’ll have to look into this next time I’m planning a vacation.

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Aries September 23, 2008 at 9:31 am

Great Idea for saving money
but I can’t cook :(

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Jewelsmom February 3, 2011 at 10:52 am

Great thing about the internet, I can find a simple recipe for almost anything I want to cook or any ingredient I have on hand. With the internet search engines available I don’t even have cookbooks cluttering my shelves anymore. I just save the recipes I find on the internet to my computer, for a personal cookbook listing. I also send the recipes to myself by e-mail too, save them in a folder on my mail server, so I can log into my e-mail account while traveling and have all my favorite recipes anytime I need them.

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marci September 23, 2008 at 12:31 pm

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Remember when folks used to go on long drives and wrap a meal in several layers of tin foil and place carefully on the engine compartment of the car so it would cook using the engine for heat?
Boy, that takes me back. Used to be actual cookbooks for on-the-road cooking.

Ok – so now I’m telling how old I am. haha

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Bill September 1, 2013 at 7:05 am

My parents had a Desoto with a heat exchanger box above both exhaust manifolds for heating food in while driving. You could stack 2 – 3 TV dinners in each one. We used them a few times with mixed results.
Twelve years later I made one for my ’73 BMW motorcycle to use while touring. Worked good heating up stuff that wasn’t frozen. Just had to remember to poke a hole in the can top or jar lid so they wouldn’t explode when heated.

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Funny about Money September 27, 2008 at 5:52 pm

Okay, now hang onto your hat…

SDXB (Semi-Demi-Exboyfriend, the Emperor of Cheap) loved to travel but he would not, would not, WOULD NOT eat out.

So…what did he do for food while gadding around the country? How did he make do during the long TDY’s to garden spots like the noncommissioned officers’ quarters in San Antonio and Robins, Georgia?

Camping gear. He would pack all his camping cookware (lovingly collected from various yard sales) plus a camp stove. When we’d arrive at our destination, he would run out and buy a propane canister and then hit the grocery store (he’s the only man I know who loves to grocery-shop–he regards it as a competitive sport). We would cook in the motel room, eat on the floor if there was no table, and clean up in the bathroom. Food was often very good: a typical dinner was pork chops, mashed potatoes, salad or veggie, wine, coffee or tea.

You can travel really cheap that way. Yup.

And when you’re on TDY, you know, you get a per diem to buy food, which saner people assume will be taken in restaurants or ordered out from pizzerias. Because he could eat so cheaply out of his traveling kitchen, he would come home with a pocketful of change. Enough, indeed, that he didn’t have to work at all most of the year: a two- or three-month TDY would support him for the other nine or ten months of the year.

Amazing, eh?

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Amy @ The Q Family October 1, 2008 at 7:15 am

This is a really good idea. I didn’t think that you can cook in the hotel. These days whenever we travel, I try to look for accommodation with full kitchen. I think it’s cheaper and easier on our schedule to be able to have dinner in our room. Kids are less trouble. :)

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Jewelsmom February 3, 2011 at 11:01 am

When we travel I always take along a small 2-3 quart slow cooker [that serves 2 people] in my suitcase. All I have to do is hit the grocery for a few pieced of meat, jar sauce (tomato sauce or cream soup with pop off lid). Combine the two, set the pot on low and come back to a wonderful meal. Add some crusty bread & bag salad (many come with croutons & dressing) or fresh fruit and this makes a wonderful meal on the road for pennies. We even pack plastic picnic wear in our suitcases that can be reused.

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Fabulously Broke October 1, 2008 at 10:15 am

BF and I almost never eat out when we go on vacation. We ALWAYS book a hotel with at least a microwave, and we cook.

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Pat Walker October 5, 2008 at 11:52 am

When camping in a tent we took our crockpot( it would work in a room) put on dinner go sightseeing lunch out if the place we were had special places we did not want to miss. When we got back at night supper was ready.

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Penny Pincher March 24, 2011 at 11:33 am

Some of the people in my band bring food with them on tour. While most of us just bring snacks and then buy overpriced burgers at the festivals we play at, one of my band mates brings a cooler of raw vegetables plus canned chicken and nuts and seeds. The band I was in before that, the leader would bring along 2 liter bottles of soda and water he had flavored himself with different extracts like mint.

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class factotum August 2, 2011 at 6:28 pm

Our favorite vacations of the past few summers have been renting a cottage on Lake Superior with our friends who live in Minneapolis. They are responsible for supper the first night, we make supper the second. We have leftovers for lunch and on the third day, and we eat a lot of good bread and cheese (our friend bakes bread) and pastries from a nearby bakery. That savings helps pay for the cottage, which is not cheap!

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Witty Artist August 16, 2011 at 3:54 am

Me and my partner had a similar experience when we were in Greece a few years ago. We rented a room that was provided with a cooking machine and we bought the food and prepared it. It’s true that we didn’t make anything complicated, but it was a good beginning. We ate out also, but it was at good prices, and we visited some beautiful places, so all in all it was a good choice and a great holiday.

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Red Clay Lee August 18, 2011 at 9:28 am

A couple other ideas: Take a cooler in your car, to avoid buying drinks at convenience stores. When we were younger, we tent-camped & used a camp stove to cook food. B/c of my bad back, I can’t sleep in a tent anymore. BUT we still have the camp stove & could pack it in the SUV when we drive somewhere. We could use it at a park, weather-permitting, or in the parking lot at a motel.

The last few times I’ve flown someplace on a trip, I take food along, to avoid costly airport meals – raw baby carrots, trail-mix bars, apple, dry cereal in a plastic bag, & refill water bottle after taking the empty bottle thru security.

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Bill June 13, 2012 at 6:15 am

If the hotel doesn’t provide cooking facilities in your room, it is best not to try to cook in the room. If the hotel staff sees cooking equipment, particularly a stove or hot plate, you may be asked to leave. This is primarily due to the danger of fire. A gas or propane camping stove is particularly frowned on. I often carry this kind of equipment with me, but use it at roadside picnic areas, not in the room.

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Priswell March 25, 2013 at 8:47 am

I agree. And it’s not just the fire dangers. It’s also the smell. It can be hard to get that cooking-food smell out of the room for the next guests.

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Bill September 1, 2013 at 7:41 am

I use crock pots to feed my crew while working out of town. Found it wise to ask the management first if I could leave them on while at the job since the staff will unplug them if found unattended. Most don’t mind those being used if they’re informed first plus shown what you’re using to be sure it’s safe.

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Shane January 7, 2013 at 11:47 am

That is one thing I won’t do. When I am gone on vacation or work, I do treat myself to eating out. But I wouldn’t mind it if a few people got together and did it for fun while traveling.

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Holly Thrifty March 7, 2013 at 7:49 am

Rotisserie chicken at a local store, bag of salad (or salad bar) fresh fruit. If you have a microwave–visit the freezer section for some sides. Delicious, less expensive than going out. No microwave–you can still do the chicken, salad and fresh fruit. Consider going to the seafood dept and asking them to steam the shrimp for you–as many stores will do. Then take them back to the hotel–enjoy warm or put in the fridge for cold shrimp on your salad.

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Donna March 24, 2013 at 12:54 pm

We always book Residence Inn for family vacations. They will even buy groceries for you and have the kitchen stocked when you arrive. I also have a hot plate and an electric griddle. I’ve made pancakes, grilled cheese etc. for a family of 5 it’s a big savings.

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Eric Poulin March 25, 2013 at 1:51 pm

One of our favorite food-saving ideas is to use Restaurant.com. You end up in more out-of the-way smaller places, but get to try some great local places at huge savings.
We’ve tried preparing food in the room, and it does work, but usually results in a mess I’d rather not deal with while vacationing.

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lee November 11, 2013 at 7:42 am

Hi we belong to a holiday property share and the properies always come with a full kitchen. The accomodation and facilities are first class and we always save a ton of money by cooking for ourselves. When the kids were in their teens we could always afford to take a friend along too, we couldn’t have done that if we were going to a hotel. The friends were always amazed by a) the free facilities and b) that we cooked on holiday, and they always enjoyed helping to cook.

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Gousalya February 13, 2014 at 10:06 am

I cook at home all the time, so when I am out on vacation – I put my cooking on vacation and eat out. I always want to enjoy what is served locally. If i had to cook when I am on vacation it does not feel like a vacation. However I do not get snacks and water from airports or places that are expensive. Food cost is something I budget into the travel cost.

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