Make ahead vacation meals can make cooking for a group or family so easy and incredibly frugal – here's why I've been loving them as we travel this summer!
Make-Ahead Freezer Meals for Vacation
(The picture above is one of the houses I keep crushing over when we walk by. We're in North Florida this week, and goodness, I love this little area near Ft. Walton Beach. We feel so crazy blessed to stay in such a fun area, and know it's an incredible splurge! We paid off our house last summer, and my husband and I agreed yesterday that the money we once spent on our mortgage now goes towards fancy vacations. 🙂 It took 22 years to pay off our home, but goodness, it's afforded us such crazy freedom and for that we are so crazy thankful WHEW!)
WOWZA. We're traveling right now at the beach (we love it here!) and while I've always loved planning meals to take on vacation, I have finally decided that I will never-ever-never travel ever again without a blessed freezer meal.
Y'all. FREEZER MEALS ARE AMAZING.
AND COOKING ON VACATION IS AMAZING.
But FREEZER MEALS + VACATION COOKING?
Clearly I'm the smartest momma on the planet. 🙂
Don't believe me?
Easy Vacation Meals for a Family
Here are 10 reasons freezer meals on vacation are an absolute must. (I'm not even kidding ~ you absolutely must do this the next time you travel!)
1. Imagine that you're tired. Your family is tired. And you've just pulled into your cute vacation spot after a long day of traveling. It's dark and rainy out (at least for us it was ~ so just imagine you're in my story because you very well may be!), and the last thing you want to do is figure out is what's for dinner (and find a new restaurant in a new town for a bunch of grouchy folks.)
Enter the beloved freezer meal.
That handy freezer meal you've made ahead of time has been sitting in a cooler all day long, so it's likely thawed just enough to make and bake, and all of a sudden all your stress is gone and dinner is just done for you.
Add a side salad if you need to. Think ahead and prep some rolls to go with it too. Let your grouchy family 🙂 explore their new vacation spot without stressing over heading right back out for dinner.
All you need is a freezer meal for the first night of your trip while you get your bearings.
I promise, you're gonna thank me forevermore on every single vacation for this smart tip. 🙂
2. Groceries in vacation spots are expensive.
In my grocery store at home, milk costs around $1.49 (which is incredible . . . I know!) Eggs are $1.19, cheese is less than $2 for an 8 oz bag, boneless, skinless chicken breast is $1.99 per pound.
But grocery stores in many vacation spots are ridiculously expensive.
Yesterday I saw a gallon of milk for $4.99, an 8 oz. block of cheese was $3.29, and chicken was $3.99/lb. That is so much more than I would normally pay at home.
Not only did I save myself time and stress, I saved myself oodles of moo-lah.
3. Not having to plan and shop for all the ingredients while shopping makes vacation truly more of a vacation just for you.
And isn't that what vacation is all about? Rest?
4. Buying every single item you need while traveling is a hassle.
When you're making food at home, it's easy to grab a 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda out of the pantry. or 1 teaspoon of oregano when you need it. But if you're on vacation and cooking in your hotel or condo, you have to purchase all the ingredients to make full meals even if you won't use them up.
So imagine making tacos that call for cumin, for just one meal. Then you also realize you need Italian seasoning for a pasta recipe on another night, and onion powder for chicken and dumplings on meal #3. You'll spend a whopping $20+ for a few single spices (because remember, you're shopping on vacation where grocery prices are high!)
But by cooking a few meals ahead you don't have to worry about those random oddball seasonings that you won't use up ~ instead just pull out your meals and enjoy.
5. Navigating a grocery store you're not familiar with can be just a pain.
The reason I started frugal blogging forever ago is because I simply love a good grocery deal.
I love grocery stores, I love comparing prices, and I love seeing how different bakeries and delis are laid out at any store.
But I hate feeling lost in a grocery store with a massive overwhelming list.
When you go into a grocery store in a new town (especially after traveling a good bit!), the last thing you want to do is spend half a day wondering where the cereal is at, which aisle to find the vanilla on, and whether or not that store has your favorite salsa on hand.
By planning your freezer meals ahead of time, you can stop in for the basic groceries you'll need for a few days, but skip the never-ending-meandering-down-the-aisles especially in a crowded area, and earn yourself an extra half day of fun while you travel.
By prepping your meals ahead of time, you can enjoy checking out the new local grocery store nearby, but also earn a little extra time to sit by the pool or read a book. (Or, if you have young kids, focus on them a little more while you're there!) A momma's work truly is never done (um, even on vacation!), but having some freezer meals prepped will lighten your load a wee bit.
6. NO. REAL. COOKING.
I love cooking for my bunch most of the time (really, I do!) but when traveling I don't really want to spend hours in front of the stove. Because freezer meals are mostly prepped ahead of time, just thaw, grill, bake, or slow cook and dinner is done.
7. Going out to dinner while traveling can cost an arm and a leg.
Let's talk about the heart of the matter that's why we cook on vacation in the first place: going out to eat on vacation is EXPENSIVE. Yesterday we decided to head out for lunch since we'd eaten a freezer meal the first night we were here and had breakfast at home. We ended up at a fun place that we really do love, but every person's meal cost $15 FOR LUNCH even without drinks.
It was a fun splurge, but all of us (even my kids!) felt a little sick at throwing away money on food that was just okay. Saving the money for a fun souvenir, maybe even an extra day of vacation, or most importantly less anxiety over the trip's cost overall is a much better use of your hard-earned dollars.
(If you just want to get out a little more, opt for dessert or maybe a breakfast out while traveling, as dessert or breakfast tend to be cheaper. Plan one or two fun dinners out at restaurants that really have great reviews. But please save your “fancy” meals for a break at home instead of while traveling and save yourself a bundle. Food isn't what makes or breaks a vacation, and honestly, your family will like your cooking more when you make great freezer meals!)
8. You'll enjoy your vacation more especially when with a big group because you don't have to decide now many pizzas to get, what type of toppings everyone likes, and which is the best place to order from.
There are definitely ways you can save on vacation when eating out (ordering pizza from a not-too-fancy chain really isn't all that expensive when feeding a crowd!), but the decision making and hassle that goes into feeding a bunch is a pain.
By having meals planned ahead you take away all the stress over figuring out who what's want, and can just enjoy your family time together.
9. Overspending on vacation takes away some of the joy of traveling.
GOODNESS, hear me on this one if you don't believe one single other thing that I've said.
We've been on a very tight budget most of our lives. Every single time we spend money it hurts just a wee bit on my insides (I hate it!) And when traveling I hate that feeling of “OH MY GOODNESS. WHY DID WE JUST SPEND THAT EXTRA $50. IT HURTS.”
Spending too much simply takes away my joy as we travel.
Even though now we're in a season of more financial security, my heart still drops a bit when we overspend. I know the value of a dollar, and throwing one away for over-priced food hurts my heart a wee bit.
Do not let spending too much on food take away the joy of your vacation. It doesn't have to feel that way.
Instead, you can be like me 🙂 who was sitting here boasting to my family about how rock-star-ish the whole idea was of bringing freezer meals along for the ride.
(Seriously. We ate lemon-pesto-chicken tenders and I said exactly eight-hundred-and-two times to them “Isn't this amazing? Aren't I the smartest momma? Aren't you so very glad you brought me along for the ride?” Bless my poor people.) 🙂
In our early married years, money was so very tight, and vacations were such as splurge. I remember sitting there on vacation, stomach in knots over the $75, meal for our family of five, and all the joy of our trip feeling sucked out of me. I don't want that for you.
I promise, it doesn't have to feel that way. Plan ahead. Prep a few meals. Enjoy your time without that added stress ~ I know you will thank me.
10. Freezer meals really really do taste so good (at least ours do!)
Okay ~ here's my shameless plug that I really do feel good about sharing with you after using these this week while traveling.
I'm betting there are plenty of free freezer meals you can try while traveling (you can even try our free sampling here), but our full set of freezer meals are the absolute best freezer menus on the planet.
If you're new to freezer meals and the whole concept you may have no idea what to even expect, I promise you'll love the one's we include in our freezer meals. Here are a few of my favorites to make and take along for the ride (even though honestly, all 60 recipes and their desserts are delicious!)
- Ranch & Parmesan Chicken Tender
- Cheesy Baked Spaghetti
- Pesto Tortellini
- Grilled Hawaiian Chicken
- Asian Beef Lettuce Wraps
- Ranch Cheddar Burgers
- Cracker Barrel Chicken Tenders
- Food Truck Style Cuban Sandwiches
- Incredible Baked Oatmeal
Honestly – I started going through the list and was like you need this one and this one and this one ~ ha! So many good recipes there, you truly can't go wrong!
The nicest thing about these menu plans is they also include the “baby” cards that you can slip inside a plastic bag along with your freezer meals, so just head out on vacation and everything you need to know about making that meal while traveling is right along with you. (Forget the hassle of pulling up a recipe while traveling or bring a big cookbook along for the ride ~ everything you need will be right inside your freezer bag or aluminum foil pan!)
These menu plans really do make life just a little bit easier when feeding a bunch, and you can just enjoy your time.
If you're interested in our Menu Planning Made Easy Freezer Meal Series, head on over HERE.
We have the physical cards on back order to deliver in late August (we sold out of our first batch in 15 days!), but you can order those and get the PDF delivered today (or choose to just order the PDF itself. Either way you can't go wrong!)
And if you're not convinced yet that you need these in your life 🙂 you can snag our free freezer meals printable right over HERE to test a few out and see what you think (click the link at the very top of this page and I'll send you a few free freezer meals right away).
I really didn't even plan to write this post after our freezer meal challenge ended last week, but as I've been using them while we're traveling I couldn't help but want to share them with you!
Head on over HERE to order these freezer meals if you're interested, and if you've tried out freezer cooking on vacation I'd love to hear how it's worked for you too. I love it when you comment, so leave a comment to share your success too!
BLACK FRIDAY CHEAT SHEET!
Download your FREE cheat sheet now!
I won't send you any spam, ever. Promise.