Benefits of Cooking for Yourself While on Vacation

7 Tips for Making Cooking a Fun and Relaxing Part of Your Vacation Routine.

Summer vacation means keeping things simple and easy. Which for many, means very little to no cooking. But when it comes to what we eat, giving someone else or packaged convenience foods the power over what fuels us during this sacred time off can backfire if we’re not careful. With a little extra planning and a willingness to think outside the box, cooking for yourself can become an important and meaningful part of your next vacation. That’s why I’m taking a look at what those benefits are as well as 7 tips for making it a fun and relaxing part of your vacation routine.

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Why Cook for Yourself on Vacation?

While cooking for yourself on vacation has many benefits, here are my top reasons.

It saves money. There is no doubt that eating foods that you associate with a particular place or foods that place is known for are among the best parts of a vacation. Eating out in these cases is well worth the extra money you may pay for the luxury of trying new foods or old favorites that someone else prepares. But if there’s nothing special about what you’re eating out, think about the cost. Eating a modest breakfast or lunch out for a family of four can run anywhere between $20-$50. Eating a modest dinner out can run anywhere between $45 – $100. Add in snacks of any kind and you may be talking about $105 – $210 a day for food. For a seven-day vacation for a family of four, that’s $735 – $1,470 for eating while on vacation. By comparison, a weekly shopping trip (food items only) for a family of four is usually between $150 – $225. If you plan on providing breakfast and lunch items for yourself for six days out of your seven-day vacation as well as snacks and plan to cook four to five dinners, you could save between $400 – $800 on your food costs.

It saves time and energy. Finding new restaurants and trying something different for a specific special meal on vacation can be loads of fun. But let’s face it, having to find somewhere to eat for three meals a day can be a big drain on your precious vacation time, not to mention your energy. I can remember wanting to get out and about bright and early in New York one day and saying we would just find something quick and simple for breakfast. Since the hotel we were staying at was in more of a neighborhood area, most of the surrounding restaurants were nice sit-down type places. Since we were all starving at that point, there wasn’t a lot of appreciating the sights as we walked. Twenty minutes later, we ended up at a Dunkin Donuts. Not to knock the Dunkin, but we could have just as easily whipped up a quick, comparable breakfast on our own and been out and seeing and doing much quicker and with a lot less grumbling.

It gives you control over the food you’re eating. From a health perspective, it doesn’t get much more clear-cut than this. While you probably want to ease up on trying to make every meal and snack healthy on vacation, if you ease up too much, you could very easily wind up feeling worse instead of better by the time you get to the end. If you’re eating the most fantastic food ever, then that might be worth it, but if the food is nothing special, you don’t want your health to be sacrificed in the process.

It can provide some much-needed grounding when away from home. While spending time away from home can be just what the doctor ordered, it can also be a bit of a shock to our system. Eating familiar foods or more like what we’re used to can help ground us so that we can enjoy all that we’re seeing and doing.

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7 Tips for Making Cooking on Vacation Fun and Relaxing

  1. Make sure you have a kitchen at your disposal. Look for hotel rooms or suites with a kitchenette or at least a cooktop, microwave and full refrigerator. These are often comparable in price to a regular hotel room. Another great option is a vacation rental with a full kitchen. These are also often comparable to or less expensive than a regular hotel room.
  2. Scout out nearby grocery stores ahead of time. You can easily map nearby grocery stores as part of planning where you’re going to stay. If you’re going to be in a big city or where it’s not easy to drive, be sure to find a place to stay with a grocery store or market very nearby since you will be carrying groceries. You’ll also want to take the whole family along so that everyone can carry groceries on the way back – or take a stroller! While you may have to make a second trip mid-week if you can’t carry everything at one time, try to get as much in one trip as possible. For the same reason that you don’t want to search for somewhere to eat for every meal, you also don’t want to be going to the grocery store every day either. Another idea is that if you don’t have a car or you really don’t want to go to the grocery store, see if you can order your groceries online and have them delivered. While this will cost a little more, it may be worth it depending on your situation.
  3. Plan your meals and make a grocery list.While this is one of the least fun things about regular grocery shopping, it is well worth it anytime, but especially when you’re buying groceries on vacation. This makes it so that you have everything you need on hand and that you don’t end up buying more than you need. It also gives you a clear idea of what you’re looking for when you’re going into a new grocery store, which as we all know, can be a little challenging.
  4. Plan for snacks. Snacks on vacation are a must. Fruits and packs of nuts and trail mix are very portable and easy to eat on the go or just sitting and relaxing. Make sure you also have plenty of bottles of water. If everyone is taking a backpack or bag of some sort, just split up the bottles and snacks between you so that no one is carrying everything.
  5. Keep it simple. If you just really want to go all out and try to fix a full meal inspired by the local cuisine, go for it. Otherwise, keep the meals you’re cooking simple and familiar. After a full day of sightseeing, activities or being with family and friends, the last thing you’re probably going to want to do is fix a full meal that you’ve never tried before. Eating something different or local is what your eating out experiences are for.
  6. Visit a local farmer’s market or outdoor market. This is a fun way to immerse yourself in the local culture and eat seasonally even while you’re away. If you’re in the United States, Local Harvest lets you find what’s available near where you’ll be staying so that you can know your options ahead of time.
  7. Create a restful and relaxing setting for cooking. You can do this by having a glass of wine or your favorite cocktail while cooking, bring candles with you or buy them once you get there and play your favorite music or music that matches wherever you are. While you might not do all of this for yourself when you cook at home, this is vacation. Creating a relaxing atmosphere may even make cooking one of the things you look forward to while you’re away.

While cooking doesn’t fit with every vacation, it can be a part of most if you simply think a little differently than what you may be used to. For more tips on how to keep your next vacation relaxing, fun and healthy, be sure and check out  Integrated Wellness While On Vacation and Hotel Fitness Center Tips.

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