Updated on 08.26.14

Frugality That’s “Impossible”

Trent Hamm

If you’ve read The Simple Dollar for long, you’ve seen tons of lists of money-saving tips, from 100 little steps for saving money and 100 free things to do this weekend to fifty ways to have fun by yourself on the cheap and my frugal vacation guide to Dallas/Fort Worth, just to name a few.

A few days ago, an old friend of mine wrote to me about The Simple Dollar. She’d been reading the archives for a while and had finally caught up with the most recent posts. One of her comments was quite interesting and worth discussing:

The articles I didn’t like were when you listed tips for cutting your spending. Most of them are just simply outside the realm of possibility. Most people don’t want to do a bunch of extra work or do something really unenjoyable or ruin something fun just to save a few bucks.

Her example actually revolved around a tip she found on the site where I suggested making sandwiches on vacations instead of eating out for every meal:

I’m on vacation to have fun. Eating a “sandwich” that consists of some awful lunchmeat jammed between two pieces of dry bread does not equal fun. I just simply won’t do it, and most people won’t, either.

Since I couldn’t find the tip she mentioned after searching for an hour, I’ll explain it in more detail in a “mini-post” right now – two posts in one!

A Frugal Vacation Tip From My Childhood
We rarely went on vacations when I was a child. The only true vacation that we went on before I was in high school – meaning a trip that wasn’t either camping within 50 miles of home or visiting relatives – was a trip to Saint Louis in 1986 with my parents, one of my brothers, and one of my cousins.

We didn’t have a huge budget for the five day trip, so my parents used several techniques to save money. My father got discount Six Flags and baseball tickets through his credit union in some sort of package deal. All five of us shared a single room with one large bed, leaving us three kids to sleep on the floor. At least two of the days, we didn’t do anything at all – instead, we either just stayed at the hotel in the pool much of the day or wandered around Saint Louis near our hotel, exploring.

But one big trick that my parents used on this trip was to eat sandwiches for every lunch on the trip. The day before we left, my parents bought several loaves of bread, some cheese, and some bologna from a local deli counter, along with some condiments and chips. Each day for lunch, we’d either gather in the hotel room and make sandwiches at lunch time or we’d pack a lunch in the morning and eat it when we were out and about.

We plowed through several loaves of bread, a few packages of bologna, a few packages of cheese, and a bottle of ketchup and mustard, but the total cost of the food was less than $15 – and it provided five lunches for five people. Compare that to the cost of eating out … anything. It was a huge savings – it likely amounted to getting our hotel room for free.

Since then, I’ve been a big believer of making picnic lunches while traveling whenever there’s a reasonable opportunity to do so. Often, on long road trips, we’ll stop at an exit and instead of hitting a restaurant, we’ll stop at a park, pop open the back, and dig into the sandwiches we packed – or stop at a grocery store, pick up a loaf of bread and a few other items, and head to a park to make our own sandwiches (and save the inevitable left over bread).

It’s cheaper and healthier and almost as fast as the other options.

So, here we have it. I like to make my own sandwiches for lunches on road trips and vacations, but my friend comments that such tactics are “outside the realm of possibility” as it degrades the quality of the vacation just to save a few bucks.

This type of phenomenon pops up time and time again. It might be “outside the realm of possibility” to pry that morning coffee from your hands. It might be “outside the realm of possibility” to drive a ten year old car (my truck is thirteen years old! I must be a loser!). It might be “outside the realm of possibility” to make your own laundry detergent. You wouldn’t even think of doing such things.

But why?

Here’s the way I look at the world:

If something has an obvious benefit, I’ll consider it instead of brushing it off immediately.

Most money-saving tactics fall straight into this category – so, in this example, the obvious benefit of making such sandwiches is that they’re healthier than fast food and quite a bit cheaper.

The obvious benefit of trimming out a morning coffee is that you save $5 every morning and break a caffeine addiction.

The obvious benefit of driving an old vehicle is that you’re not spending money on a new car payment.

The obvious benefit of making your own laundry detergent is that your detergent is about 1/10th the cost of detergent bought at the store.

I’m willing to at least consider most frugal tactics – I don’t immediately rule them as being outside the realm of possibility.

Obviously, each of these options has some sort of cost.

A sandwich on a trip is likely not going to be quite as tasty as going to a restaurant, and you’ll likely be eating in a park instead of a restaurant (with kids, this latter part is an advantage, but it might not be for others).

Trimming your morning coffee means that you’re either drinking lower quality coffee or you’re giving it up entirely. Maybe you can just move from the Starbucks routine to making your own (a big savings right there) or just try different brands to find one that suits you (for example, my wife reports that Eight O’Clock Coffee is the best bang for the buck out there).

An old vehicle is somewhat less reliable and likely gets worse gas mileage.These two factors pushed us to upgrade our car earlier this year, moving from a 1999 Mercury Sable with a failing transmission and about 24 MPG to a 2009 Toyota Prius that gets 46 MPG. We debated the upgrade for the better part of a year.

Making your own laundry detergent takes about fifteen minutes, so it’s really a factor of how you value your free time in the evenings or on weekends.

In some cases, I’ll go for it – I’m still driving my old rust-bucket truck, I make my own laundry detergent, I make sandwiches on the road, and I don’t drink coffee anymore at all (aside from a once-a-month or so treat).

Others might balk at one or more of those choices, choosing to stick with what they’re already doing or a more expensive route. I do this with many food choices – I’ll buy eggs from a local farmer at a premium, for example.

That’s fine – it’s all about personal value. What’s dangerous is not even considering such options and immediately ruling them out of the realm of possibility. There are a lot of reasons for this, but I think it comes down to one thing: fear of change.

Frugal choices often require doing things differently than you did before.

For some, the thought of changing their routine – even if there’s an obvious net benefit – is bad. This can affect every aspect of one’s life.

Here’s a great example of how powerful routine can be.
Once a year, my wife and I spend a day with two of our friends that live about six hours away. It’s usually a “weekend getaway” for them that we interrupt for an afternoon or so. Every single year, though, the two of them choose to go to the same place. They stay in the same hotel. They go to many of the same places. Earlier this year, when we met up, I asked them why. They both shrugged their shoulders and then suggested it was because it was familiar – it fit like an old glove. Choosing something different would just seem… wrong.

The next time you outright reject a frugal choice, ask yourself whether you’re rejecting that frugal choice for a good reason or you’re rejecting it because it would mean you’d have to change a comfortable behavior.

Quite often, stepping outside a comfortable behavior can offer huge benefits, not only in the immediate choice, but in that it makes you more flexible and open to other little choices.

Making your own laundry detergent or your own sandwiches on the road isn’t outside the realm of possibility, after all.

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  1. Julie says:

    I think you hit the nail on the head with this one. Many times people aren’t willing to try something new (to save money, or in life in general), simply because they are comfortable with what they’ve been doing, and would rather not break that routine. I do think, though, that some frugal tips are perhaps more “scary” to some people. Take your sandwich example- I would not personally feel deprived by having a picnic for lunch instead of going out to eat. In fact, I prefer not to eat out every meal, as I get sick of the heavy food you’re stuck with in restaurants. But some people feel deprived by the idea of not eating out on vacation. Maybe there are some other areas of vacation that your friend would feel better about cutting back on, but that would seem like a “non-negotiable” to me.

  2. M says:

    What’s wrong with sandwiches?

    I enjoy vacations, but I enjoy them more when they are frugal, because I can go on more of them!

    My husband and I went away for a 2 night- 3 day trip to a beautiful place called Hocking Hills, OH. We rented a 2-person cabin with small kitchen, small bathroom, bed, books, TV, back porch, grill, and hot tub. We ended up spending $250 for 3 days… $200 of it from the cost of the cabin.

    The hikes we went on were priceless. Not to mention the baby raccoons we fed (and later I had to run from because they were being stingy!), the deer that were peering through our bathroom window at 1AM, and the quiet time spent in the hottub.

    Instead of going out to eat, we brought food items that we enjoy, but dont eat regularly. We had filet mignon, shrimp, salmon, homemade wine, etc. If we were to have bought two filet dinners at a restaurant with two glasses of wine, it would have been over $50. Our entire food cost was less than $50 for the GOOD STUFF!

    And because of our inexpensive trip, we ended up being able to have 3 vacations this year. I’d much rather be able to take MORE vacations than eat out on vacation at every meal.


  3. Maureen says:

    I just have to say that having sandwiches for lunch on vacation is not “out of the realm of possibilities,” it is the possibility. We just spent a week in a rented house in the Outer Banks (where the cost of the house was less than spending a week in a 1 room hotel room and you get a whole house!) We ate lunch and dinner at the house every day. We did splurge for a one time dinner out (for 4 adults and 2 teenagers) and it cost almost $250. Yes you read that right. We did have some coupons and rebate bucks that totaled $75., but each group of adults still had to kick in money for what we thought was too much money. We are much happier renting a gas grill for the week (you can rent anything in the Outer Banks) and eating at the house. And we pack the cooler and bring most of the spices and condiments from home so that we aren’t paying too much for groceries when we get there. It took us a few years, but we ultimately have a great vacation and don’t spend a lot.

  4. You know, a week or so ago, I wrote this on my own blog:

    The recipes on The Simple Dollar are pretty much the first bit of food advice from any frugality blog that I’m taking action on. Most of the food-related advice from frugality blogs is either stuff that I figured out for myself (“dried legumes are cheap!”) or things that I’ve been doing all my life, i.e. box up your lunches, make your own coffee, cook from scratch. In fact it is fair to say that frugality blogs have introduced me to a lifestyle of wanton profligacy: until I started reading them, I was not aware that there were people on average, middle-class incomes who ate out for lunch and drank coffee at Starbucks every day. To me, boxing up my lunch and making my own coffee is not something I call “frugal”, it’s something I call “normal” – one of those unquestioned assumptions about my life in comparison to other people’s.
    Advice like that, advice that tells me to do things I already consider normal, annoys me, especially when it’s repeated over and over again. Of course, to a person who regards eating a nine-dollar lunch every day as normal, these repeated messages count as counter-marketing: they need the repeated messages telling them to consume less just to counter the endless bombardment of media messages telling them to consume more.
    (Another one that irritates me but is probably useful for many people is the one telling people to turn off their TV and use the time saved to do other, more productive or interesting things. I haven’t had a TV in the house since 1995, apart from a few months when I borrowed one, but most people do and waste a lot of time on it)

    Now I hear that making sandwiches isn’t just a “frugal” thing to do, it’s “outside the realm of possibility”. The mind boggles.

    I want more “outside the realm of possibility”-type advice! I already do all the regular frugal stuff!

  5. Michelle says:

    I ALWAYS make sandwiches because I’ve been disappointed by food on the road so many times. You don’t have to buy low quality ingredients to save money–buy some delicious deli meats and some fresh sourdough and have fun with it, it’ll still be less than $15 for an entree at a restaurant

  6. sophia says:

    Her tone is so strangely full of disgust- nasty lunchmeat “jammed” between to slices of dry bread? It doesn’t have to be that way. And further, the comment about going on vacation to have fun, and eating sandwiches being not fun- unless I’m on vacation somewhere that is specifically for culinary pleasures- say, France- I don’t count food as “fun” when I’m on vacation. My requirements of food on a vacation are that it be healthy, frugal, quick, and easy. Because usually I don’t want to waste time eating when I can be out and about and enjoying wherever I am :) I think the tone of her comment speaks volumes as to the negative assumptions she is already bringing to frugality, assumptions that many people have- you’re not enjoying your life, not treating yourself, not having fun… same old same old.

  7. cherryriver says:

    Your friend is nuts! Picnic lunches on long car trips do more than save money (though they do that, for sure)– they let the kids get out of the car and run around, they allow you to see lots of great local parks or natural areas– heck, with kids even a rest area can be a better alternative than a so-so restaurant.

    Another benefit is that a picnic lunch is likely to be a lot lower in calories than a restaurant meal. Three squares a day in restaurants (plus, as likely as not, car snacks) means weight gain for all the adults on the trip!

  8. Meg says:

    I didn’t understand her negativity toward packing your own food either. If lunchmeat sandwiches aren’t to her liking, how about an elegant lunch of fruit, cheese, French baguette, and smoked salmon? I don’t like the heavy, greasy food at restaurants and I like to eat well, so I bring a cooler with gourmet nibbles on road trips. I know I’m spending less on my food, yet I’m sure I’m enjoying it much more.

  9. Shannon says:

    Hello – longtime reader – first time comment.

    I just had to comment on this because we just had a long road trip to go to California and go to Disneyland.

    We stayed with family, made lunches and brought snacks. This saved us a ton of money. The kids loved being able to have some peanut butter celery, string cheese and fresh fruit. We stayed in hotels that provided breakfast, however, we brought our own preservative free food.

    I just wanted to add that we loved our lunches on the road. I had made egg salad for sandwiches and made a quinoa salad with fresh veggies. This was so light and refreshing.

    I did not feel deprived since we love this kind of food.

  10. CaGirl says:

    Your friend sounds way too picky! Unless her focus of going on vacation is getting to eat out, packing a picnic lunch can be yummy, frugal, and still a nice change of pace from normal meals.

    When I got married earlier this year we drove about 3 hours up to wine country where we stayed in a hotel for our honeymoon for six days. We packed a cooler with our favorite turkey, really good swiss cheese, a bunch of lettuce, several types of fruit, drinks, and condiments . We also took a big pack of crossants from Costco (super yummy!) and a couple different types of chips. On the drive up we had a picnic on the beach of turkey-swiss sandwiches on crossants with tomatoes, lettuce, and chips on the side plus iced tea and sodas from the cooler. This was one of the best meals of the trip yet it was a fraction of the cost of a fast food meal.

    Throughout the trip, we ate sandwiches on crossants, plain crossants for breakfast, and snacks of fruit or chips. By doing this, we were able to go on a wine tour plus have a few really nice dinners at expensive restaurants. If we hadn’t eaten in our room/ picnicked for most of the trip, we wouldn’t have been able to afford the trip at all. And even if we went for cheap fast food, it would have been much lower quality and probably still worked out to be more expensive than the food we brought!

  11. Qin Shi Huandi says:

    I went on a cross country trip last summer, at the time when McDonald’s introduced their new southern style chicken sandwich. They mailed out a coupon for one free breakfast sandwich and one free lunch sandwich to everyone. I received these coupons from family and anti-McDonald’s friends and ended up eating at least a dozen of these sandwiches across the US. It wasn’t very healthy, but at least it was free.

  12. Brittney C. says:

    What I like about a lot of your tips is that they can be adapted to my personal situation–as long as I am open to making changes and willing to spend a few minutes thinking of ways I can save a few bucks. Keep it up!!

  13. steve says:

    I have been known to fire up the camping stove (pulled out of my trunk) at a rest stop and cook from scratch and my cooler when on vacation. In many settings where there isn’t an active restaurant scene (I’m thinking of sections of rural Maine or Nova Scotia) this actually will yield better food, and is certainly at least as relaxing, as a so-so local restaurant.

  14. runningmom says:

    Not only are sandwiches a lot healthier for you than restaurant food, getting out of the car in a park is so much more enjoyable than a parking lot and the inside of a restaurant. Then there are the peaceful atmosphere and natural surroundings that make you feel so much more relaxed as opposed to rushing through a meal at a hectic restaurant. Conversations flow better and memories are created. I live in a big city, so we are not lacking on restaurant choices, I just prefer to save a few dollars as well as my health and peace of mind!

  15. Hannah says:

    To some people, doing your own laundry, cooking your own food and cleaning your house is outside the realm of possibility. I mean… personally I’d rather stay home and catch up on my sleep before I’d go on a “vacation” that involved making someone sleep on the floor, but it’s all really up to personal perspective.

    Sandwiches don’t have to be bologna and american cheese on wonder bread (but I’m not knocking that). Maybe your friend should expand her definition of what a sandwich can be!

  16. Paula says:

    Your friend makes it sound awful! Making food on road trips is something I’ve done for a long time, for several reasons. It saves money, it saves calories, it’s usually more nutritious, and my kids like picnics. When they were smaller, we took a soccer ball in the car and their dad kicked it around with them while I made sandwiches, and then we played again after. It made the car ride a lot easier for them, knowing that a picnic and a game were coming.

    I usually plan nice picnics, with good breads, flavorful ingredients, fresh fruit, raw vegetables with dips, lovely cheeses…not the absolute cheapest stuff you can get but definitely better than fast food burgers, fries and sodas. My boys are teenagers, and we still pack lunches for road trips. Now it’s a family tradition and I expect they will remember those picnics for many years to come.

    Now that I think about it, I did this sort of thing on my shoestring trips to Europe when I was much younger. It didn’t get much better than fresh bread, cheese, wine and fruit from a market in France (or Denmark in the case of one picnic I remember) eaten in some incredibly gorgeous place outside in the sun!

  17. Jeana says:

    I have no problem with people choosing not to employ frugal tactics. But call it what it is: a choice.

    My husband and I have 4 kids and I stay at home with them. Our budget is super tight. Because he works for an airline (no, he’s not a pilot) we fly free, and when he has business trips we often can tag along for free lodging. We also get free hotel nights through points built up on the credit card he uses for business expenses.

    Because we were willing to eat endless amounts of sandwiches, pack granola bars and Hamburger Helper across the ocean, and prepare meals while on vacation, we have been able to travel quite a bit, including a trip to Hawaii this year and almost 6 weeks in London last year.

    Eating out every day was not an option for us. The only option we had was to go and eat frugally or not go at all.

    Would we have given it up rather than eat sandwiches? Not a chance! We only ate out 4 times in London over 6 weeks, and 3 of those were fast food. But we have priceless memories of eating sandwiches in front of Big Ben, at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, at Trafalger Square, inside the grounds of Windsor Castle, at Stonehenge, the Roman Baths…Waikiki Beach, Hanauma Bay, Atlanta, New York City, Salt Lake City…I could go on, but I won’t. I have fond feelings for lunch meat and bread, even if it’s dry. It’s allowed us to see the world with our kids.

    I realize not everyone has the opportunities that we do. But when they turn their noses up at frugal measures, they narrow their opportunities considerably.

  18. Stacey says:

    It’s funny – my favorite memory from our first vacation as a couple was making italian chicken and potatoes in our hotel room. (We packed frozen chicken and all the ingredients in a cooler – even a can of peas.) We didn’t have much money, but we had lots of free time to relax on vacation. It was fun to reconnect and relax as we made dinner together – something we don’t get to do alot at home. We also made sandwiches for lunch each day. Our vacations are more about memories, not fancy dinners. But to each their own! :-)

  19. lee says:

    There is nothing difficult about foregoing a meal or two at a (probably crummy) local restaurant while on vacation … unless you are in France like someone else said. and in France, they also picnic for lunch in the parks, too!
    “The definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” — Albert Einstein

  20. Not that I’m missing the forest for the trees here (I totally get the actual point of this post!), but Hubs and the toddler and I just got back from a week long vacation, with a ton of driving every day. On the way home, we agreed that we’d be much better off trying to stay in a place with free breakfast, then eat out at a “good” place for one of the other meals, so we feel like we’re enjoying ourselves, and the other meal could easily be sandwiches. Not to mention that the toddler didn’t eat a whole lot what with strange food and too much to look at, so there was a fair amount of money wasted there.

  21. Holly says:

    I think when people say something like this is outside the realm of possibility they must not be looking at the bid picture. If a small family can save a couple hundred dollars (not to mention calories!) by eating sandwiches instead of McDonalds, they can afford to go to more attractions or enjoy more vacations. It is the same attitude that says “I can’t give up my [insert expensive hobby], it’s how I unwind.” When, really, if they gave it up – they’d have more time and money to take a truly relaxing vacation…or work less so that they don’t feel the need to “unwind” quite so much.

  22. Scott says:

    I’m a big believer in sandwiches on the road. My girlfriend is just as frugal as I am and we enjoy creating our own gourmet sandwiches and picnicing somewhere on the road. A sandwich doesn’t have to not be fun. Be creative!!!! We also eat out but this allows us to be selective and have enjoyable, higher quality meals than just eating at the chain. Staying in a bed and breakfast also provides us with a “free” meal or at least the convenience. There are more ways to have fun than eating out.

  23. Joanna says:

    Great post, Trent! To the poster who talked about eating in France, my husband & I actually honeymooned in Paris. One of the things we both love to do is go to grocery stores in other countries. Might be crazy, but we love it! Anyway, while in Paris, we ate some phenomenal meals in restaurants but when we visited the grocery store, we realized that food is CRAZY CHEAP at the grocery store in Paris. Restaurants tend to be on the pricey side, but the grocery stores are really inexpensive, and for very good food. One of my favorite memories was the night that we stayed in the hotel due to the hubs’ hurting foot (we had walked a tremendous amount the previous day) and shared a baguette, saucisson (pork sausage the hubs was nuts for), a fantastic selection of cheeses and red wine. It was wonderful and, dare I say, romantic. :-)

    We also breakfasted on baguettes & Bonne Maman strawberry jam. I now buy it sometimes in the store locally & it reminds us of our honeymoon.

  24. rstlne says:

    When I travel, I stay at motels with free breakfast so that’s taken care of. Then I don’t usually eat much, or nothing at all sometimes, for lunch. For dinner, it helps to have researched restaurant specials ahead of time.

  25. Joanna says:

    Oh, also, I have a coworker who complains constantly about how he’s broke & “needs to get it together”, etc. But if I ever share somethign that I’ve done recently that saved us money, he’ll poo poo it & tell me why he would *never* do that. He boxes himself in & pays the price for it in the added stress he deals with due to his financial situation. End of the day, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.

  26. Andrew says:

    Unless you’re somewhere with world famous cuisine and/or spending top dollar, odds are good the restaurants you’re eating at on vacation offer the same quality or style of food you can get back home.

    During our spring break trip to Vegas we only ate out twice because buffet fare is nothing special. As a result, our food service tubs of PB & J and a Costco pack of bread practically paid for our hotel room.

  27. KAD says:

    You know, although she displayed a surprising lack of imagination about what a sandwich could be like, I think attitudes like your friend’s are about more than just the “comfort zone.” I think she probably has in her head a vision of what a vacation consists of (spending money without having to think about it, perhaps?) and making sandwiches doesn’t fit that vision of herself or what she feels she deserves.

    I suspect that underlying reactions like this one there is probably some inner preconception that the frugal choice is always the “poor person’s” choice. Sometimes that is true, but frugality is also the choice of a lot of people who are rich — whether you define that in dollars or in quality of life (or both!). If it were me, I’d loan that friend a copy of The Millionaire Next Door…

  28. Sarah in Alaska says:

    Frugality is my comfort zone. Sandwiches. I like them.

    On our recent trip to MI though we were in Airports for 18 hours. I packed: crackers, muffins, homemade breakfast burritos, cookies, and candy bars, but since we couldn’t take ice (or peanut butter for that matter) we ate out. In Seattle we split a Wendy’s meal, in Chicago we split a 2 entree Chinese plate. It really stressed me out that I couldn’t just eat a sandwich and yogurt!

  29. Becky@FamilyandFinances says:

    My husband and I would *prefer* to have sandwich lunches! We get sick of eating out really quickly. The best for us: continental breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, eat out for dinner. That way, we don’t get sick of eating out so quickly :)

  30. Anitra Smith says:

    I totally get the fear of the unknown when it comes to making changes. But some changes aren’t really “unknown”, they’re just uncomfortable, like packing your lunch. If you’ve NEVER packed a lunch or eaten a packed lunch, I’d wonder how you made it to adulthood.)

    Making my own laundry detergent? That’s something I’ve chosen not to try, for fear of what it might do to my HE washing machine and my laundry. If something went wrong, it would cause a lot more work for me in the long run. So I’ll pay my $10 every month or two for brand name detergent.

    – As an aside, we recently took a 9-hour car trip with our baby daughter and my husband’s family. I didn’t pack meals (because I didn’t really have time, and I didn’t know what kinds of sandwiches would actually be eaten), but I did pack lots and lots of healthy snacks. As a result, we spent less money (and time!) at rest stops on the road, and didn’t have to look for baby-friendly finger food. I forgot to pack water bottles, though!

  31. Sarah says:

    Your friend is crazy. I personally enjoy eating out when on vacation, but to say it is “out of the realm of possibility” is absurd.

  32. Tyler Karaszewski says:

    “the obvious benefit of making such sandwiches is that they’re healthier than fast food and quite a bit cheaper.”

    That’s true, but you’re making the wrong comparison. The alternative to sandwiches while on vacation is not McDonald’s, it’s whatever the most interesting local food is.

    Last summer I went to Chicago. Guess what I did for lunch one day? I went and got deep dish pizza. Sure, I could have gone to the grocery store and got sandwich supplies, but I’d be missing part of the point of being in Chicago.

    That’s not to say it’s impossible to save some money by eating in on vacation. Last spring I was in the Bahamas, and rented an apartment with a kitchen instead of a hotel room. We went out and ate at the local restaurants. We tried the grouper and the conch and all the other local foods. We even went down to the beach on night for the local fish fry where they Barbeque on the sand for the whole town. We didn’t do this for every meal though, and we went to the grocery store and stocked up our kitchen and and in about half the time, too. But we did make it a point to experience the local food and culture. After all, that’s half the reason we went there, right?

    Someone mentioned going to grocery stores in other countries — this is right on, it really makes you reconsider some of the things we do in the US.

    It also sounds like your friend makes horrifically bad sandwiches. If she was a better cook, maybe she’d be more comfortable eating in for the occasional meal, even on vacation.

  33. Jeff says:

    I can so easily see both sides of this divide.

    On the one hand, making sandwiches saves money and time, and is almost definitely more healthy. It doesn’t have to be “awful lunchmeat” either. I’ve had some sandwiches I’d kill to have again, that had no lunchmeat in them at all. Having sandwiches affords the opportunity to spend on other things that are fun.

    On the other hand, I love going out to restaurants. I enjoy trying new foods, or even staple foods prepared the way I may never have had them before. I enjoy having someone bring me food that has cost me no effort. I like the experience, and that’s something I’m after on a vacation. And as KAD said, part of me wants to treat a vacation as a place where I can spend money without thinking about it.

    I’m leaving for a weekend vacation with my extended family in the morning. I’m very much looking forward to it, but food is one of the worries I have. I WANT to eat out, and I probably will because of the other people in my family, but I KNOW I can’t really afford it. Left to my own decision, we probably wouldn’t be going at all (there are other pressures at play). But if I’m surprised and the others are willing to go with sandwiches, I will happily partake. Even if it is mostly lunchmeat.

  34. Cookie says:

    I get it. The idea of sandwiches on a vacation reminds her of Clark Griswold when he’s told his dog peed on the sandwich as he’s waving at Christie Brinkly riding off in a red convertible.

    But it doesn’t have to be like that. Pack other lunchj items or just start with drinks and/or snacks.

    Eating out IS vacation for me. It’s a break from serving others. But I save that for dinners and Itemper that with bought ahead snacks and drinks. I’ll eat restaurant leftovers for breakfast.

  35. Heather says:

    To chime in with the rest of the comments: if the choice is between eating “awful” sandwiches on vacation or not going on vacation at all, I choose vacation! I went to Paris and ate a baguettes with cheese and a piece of fruit for every lunch, while sitting in Versailles gardens or on a bench in front of some landmark, and it was wonderful! I have happy memories from childhood of making a salad in a ziploc bag in a hotel room, and having baked potatoes in the convection oven my mom brought along. I don’t feel deprived when I can’t eat out – but this is how I feel – my husband does NOT agree with me. He loves restaurants the way I love traveling.

  36. Lisa says:

    I think there’s definitely a big issue with the unfamiliar. Packing lunches or brining food on vacation was just normal in my family. Honestly- I really like the flexibility it allows. You don’t need to pack everything, but when no resaturants are appealing or you want to spend the day at the beach – having your own food is great.

  37. Andy Hough says:

    This is the type of comment I get sometimes when I post my monthly expenses that. Someone will tell me it isn’t possible to spend so little on rent or food or whatever. These are my actual expenses so it obviously is possible.

  38. Elisabeth says:

    I can see where your friend is coming from – I like eating out when I’m on vacation, too. But I acknowledge that that’s my own choice, and I’m willing to spend less on other things to finance it. She’s making it sound like the alternative is not a viable option at all, and that’s the kind of close-minding thinking that lands you in a hole. Good job on reminding people to keep an open mind.

  39. Yeah, I think people’s minds just expand in different directions sometimes. Atleast your friend is getting things from this blog. Not every post will hit home with everyone.

  40. Little House says:

    Sandwiches are definitely healthier. So, traveling with sandwiches makes sense.

    However, I’m not giving up my Starbucks. Starbucks is my comfort zone and my one item I splurge on. So I can see where someone would say “I’m not traveling with sandwiches” especially if their memories of eating soggy sandwiches makes them cringe.

    Moving away from the “comfort zone” to save money is difficult, but maybe it’s OK to weigh all the options and choose some money-saving alternatives but keep the “comfort-zone” choices.

    -Little House

  41. chzplz says:

    I spent two weeks in Paris for a major anniversary with my SO. We had some amazing meals, some that cost a not insignificant chunk of money. And now, five years later, the only one I remember is when we sat in a park and ate brie on baguettes. It cost us absolutely nothing – they were from the continental breakfast in our hotel.

  42. NMPatricia says:

    Don’t think this person would want to travel with my husband and me. Like Becky, we pack our own cereal, use powdered soy milk, drink boxed juices, eat sandwiches and then eat out. Unless we eat a lunch out and then a grocery store dinner is in order. I have found eating out all the time gets boring and the money wears on me. Of course, when in Rome… We always are looking for local restaurants and eat local food. Why vacation other wise?

  43. Meg says:

    I have been on many roadtrips with my family, and one of the cost saving measures my family used was making sandwiches for lunches and having other snacks available. The sandwiches weren’t all that great but the idea has stuck with me. Even when I go on trips for work, if I can I bring sandwich fixings for lunch. I also try to get a hotel room that has a little fridge (and a free breakfast). I save my per diem for a nicer evening meal, usually eaten out.

  44. bethh says:

    I meet friends for a weekend away each summer. For us one of the highlights is the picnic in the park we have. We probably spend 5-10 bucks per person, have way too much food, and way more fun than sitting in yet another restaurant paying 10-15 dollars each. The summer getaway wouldn’t be the same without it!

  45. liz says:

    You are so right about so many things. I have lived in the U.S for quite a few years now and have noticed that many people reject out of hand a lot of money saving ideas. Maybe its just the middle class who do this – the poor dont have the luxury.

    The first thing I did with my sons is teach them how to eat a great big sandwich – freshly made and a little attention paid to the contents, it cant be surpassed. It is so much better than so called restaurants. You seemed to have enjoyed your vacations with sensible and pragmatic parents who have bothered to plan and get the best for their kids that they could afford.

  46. Andy says:

    My family (5 people) went to Disney World every year growing up and we always packed our lunch when we were going to the park. With the prices that the parks charge, it’s extremely expensive for a family of 5 to eat both lunch and dinner at the park. We had no problem eating a simple lunch and then going out to a nice dinner. It saved us a lot of money and we didn’t have to take time out of our day of enjoying one of the parks, we ate our sandwiches while waiting in those long lines for the rides. Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money.

  47. Maggie says:

    Maybe to your friend making sandwiches on the road feels like a busman’s holiday. If your day to day involves feeding your family and it is starting to feel a little like drudgery, then perhaps part of your definition of a vacation includes NOT having to be responsible for feeding everyone.

    I try to cook healthy and frugal and if possible interesting food for my family every day, but on occasion my choice for dinner is “whatever someone else makes and serves to me.”

  48. Jim says:

    I wonder why she assumes your lunch meat is awful, or the bread is dry and that you would jam the meat between the bread? Who makes sandwiches like that?

    TO the point, I think everyone has a line they draw between what they will and won’t do to save money. Trents friend doesn’t seem to want to do to much to be frugal. I hope she is well off financially.

  49. George says:

    Your friend would absolutely hate what I’m about to do: leaving after work to camp overnight in the mountains without a tent (rainstorm just moving through as I write this) so I can get up in the morning to fish for tiny trout. I’m taking a tub of potato salad for dinner and breakfast fare and homemade trailmix (nuts, pretzels, and raisens) for lunch.

    To me, this is a GREAT vacation!

  50. Elise says:

    I’ve found that it’s often easiest to do this type of thing in “baby steps.” For example, I wanted to cut back on the amount of diet coke cans I drink a day. I started by cutting back to two, then one, and now I drink only diet coke from 2 liter bottles – it’s cheaper to purchase and I actually drink less – I don’t usually pour a can’s worth at one time, but I drink the whole can if I open it. I did the same thing when we eliminated using paper napkins and paper towels. Cut back until they were gone. Maybe your friend could make some of her lunches on vacation, but not all of them?

  51. We’re not on vacation, but we just took our lunch to the zoo today, because zoo food is expensive and not great anyway. Yes, we had cheap ham and cheese on cheap bread — but I also put in a container of olives for a treat. Yum! It’s all in what you choose to bring. We couldn’t have afforded today if we’d bought zoo food.

  52. Mama Bird says:

    So, I wonder if this person would poo poo my family’s three week trips to Australia every year because we stay with family and have nearly every meal at home, many of which we cook ourselves. Hmmm??? Does the fact that we see wild kangaroos up close and go to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world make up for the fact that we aren’t spending a bunch of cash eating out all the time? We take snacks and sandwiches to the beach sometimes too. Just ruins our trip! ;) I’ll be laughing about this in December when I’m there in summer, soaking up the rays at my inlaws pool over Christmas. ;)

  53. alison says:

    I know that it’s “outside the realm of possibility,” but our family of 5 just gave up our car and are now biking everywhere. So, we’re not telling our parents. :) And, we’re saving about $500 a month that we can use for other things, that are important (paying off debt) and that we’d prefer (karate for our boys).

  54. Kristen says:

    I’ll join the chorus with everyone else. Sandwiches or any other frugal choice is that… a choice. I choose sandwiches for one lunch so I can have a really nice dinner or I choose sandwiches so that I can actually go on the vacation and spend money on the other fun things. If sandwiches are good enough for lunch every other day of the month, they’re good enough for vacation too, especially if it gives me more freedom to spend in other areas. On our last trip, we compromised. I bought much nicer sandwich meat & some rolls (instead of a loaf) for our sandwiches and bought Sun Chips (yum…we never get them at home). This was a special treat that we enjoyed very much. A little bit more expensive, but no where near eating out!

  55. Lynn says:

    Something that you didn’t mention here is that you may not be getting less when you give up something at all, your new choice may be better *and* more cost effective. An example given is morning coffee. Quality beans can be found say at Costco for the price of $10.00 for two pounds. That’s about the price of 3 large lattes at Starbucks. One can find a lightly used espresso maker at a yard sale, thrift store or Craigslist. Even a brand new moderately priced espresso maker with your own beans and steamed milk is way cheaper, and tastes better. But hey, anything tastes better than the burned beans at Starbucks. At any rate, my point is: it is not always a step down to do it yourself. Who says you can’t make great gourmet sandwiches on the road? Why does it have to be a step down when you do it yourself? In fact, it is not unless you choose the absolutely cheapest way to go, and sometimes that’s fine. Frugality is not about eating unpleasant food and reading mangy paperbacks that are 20 years old, it’s about possibilities and creativity.

  56. cookie says:

    It’s a good idea to budget for food expenses on a trip. But it doesn’t have to be “baloney sandwiches” versus “gourmet meals.” During a conference which she had to pay for, my friend bought a Subway footlong, whichever kind was on special, every other day on her trip. She ate half at one lunch and put the other half in the hotel mini fridge for the next lunch. Not the cheapest option, but better than buying lunch in the hotel restaurant every day.

  57. ChrisD says:

    When we travel we bring sandwiches, even on the plane. And guess what, the sandwiches on the plane are expensive, small, not that good and they often run out. Only three days ago the Lufthansa snack was literally a bread roll with a bit of cheese. Good job I bought a real sandwich with me (admittedly I bought that, but the principle holds!).
    Last summer we went on holiday to Croatia in the peak season. We were 11 people and self catered most meals. With 3 people cooking each day the work wasn’t too bad, and you only had to cook every fourth day. Moreover on the day you weren’t on ‘cook duty’ you could sit around doing nothing while other people worked with a totally clear conscience. Every meal was a blast with no long journey home afterwards. Moreover as we were cooking with local ingredients that was almost as good an introduction to the cuisine as a restaurant would be, especially if the restaurant does pizza or if they all cater to British tourists with chips etc as in Malaga.

  58. Catherine says:

    I like eating sandwiches on vacation! What I hate is wasting time sitting in a restaurant three times a day for meals. With a toddler. Not enjoyable at all. More fun to make some lunch to eat in a park or picnic area.

  59. CollegeCheap says:

    Where did she get the idea that a DIY sandwich = an awful sandwich? You can probably make yourself a tasty panini for half the restaurant cost.

    My last several road trips were with my dad. When the company is good I don’t care so much what I’m eating. We were also going ten hours one way and just wanted to get there already — why bother stopping.

  60. Kaytee says:

    I am totally with Becky (Family Land Finance) on this one. We usually will pay a few dollars extra a night for a hotel that serves breakfast of some sort, bring or buy a loaf of bread for sandwiches, and then, because we only spent $5 on the day’s food so far, we can either splurge on a dinner, or on an activity. Going skim on the food budget means a more meaningful vacay over all, especially because I can’t remember a single time when we came back and said “wow, wasn’t that dinner amazing?” The memories are always about the people we met, the things we saw, and the time we spent together, with maybe one or two really phenomenal meals thrown in now and again. :)

  61. bethany says:

    I guess I’m lucky, the frugal choice is often the comfortable choice for me. I was raised in a very frugal home though. I prefer making sandwiches for lunch when I’m on the road, because I get so tired of the large portions and unpredictability of always eating out. My own sandwiches made the way I make them are a relief!

    But as you’ve said before, some things have enough value to make them worth doing for some people and not others. I often buy coffee shop coffee (and sometimes pastries) because I like to write at the coffee shop. I could make coffee at home and eat a few oreos and save something like $30 a month, but then I wouldn’t get the value of going somewhere else to do my work, which really improves my productivity.

  62. Sara Bee says:

    I think it is a hoot when people react to frugal ideas like you were a teacher assigning extra homework. As you often say, choice is the issue, as so many said in reply, more frugal eating = more vacations. One’s choices are driven by your value system. Yours is to eat sandwiches on the road. I’m a foodie so part of the reason for travel is trying restaurants. I take fewer vacations so I can eat out more. BUT…I only have two pairs of shoes, I drive a 15 year old buick, I never go to movies and so on and so on…

  63. Yelena says:

    I’m all about making sandwiches for roadtrips and vacations! Saved us so much money plus it simply tasted better than any roadside food. Granted, I make some to-die-for sandwiches and I love cooking.

    Of course, if you simply loath cooking, then it’s a different story – no need to spoil your vacation doing something you don’t like. But then find another way to save – free or discounted attractions, concerts, activities; frugal lodging options; etc.

  64. Amy S. says:

    Some of the fondest memories of my childhood are when my family and I would stop for a picnic in the middle of a long roadtrip. Just because it’s cheap, doesn’t mean it won’t add positive memories to the experience.

  65. Doug says:

    I think everyone here is missing the point…..Trent and/or his companions ate ketchup on bologna. That is disgusting. I’ll never read this blog again.

    All seriousness aside, I do bring most of my food when I go on vacation, except for my winter hiking trip. Then I wimp out and stay in a motel and spend $15 on dinner. Two days of hiking amongst frozen waterfalls for a little over $100 gas food and lodging and the lunches I bring with me. No bologna and ketchup though.

  66. jbd says:

    This is my first time posting. We took a first family vacation a few years ago and all had a ball. We ate sandwiches in the hotel room and on the beach… and one meal out. The food was rather uninspiring. I admit it. However, if the other option was eating out every meal, we’d have never taken the vacation because it flat out would not have been affordable. My family never complained. The trip was terrific and we all want to do it again. My kids remember seeing the pacific for the first time, hunting for shells, hiking at the Grand Canyon…etc I wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on that all because a meal. Don’t knock it till you try it.

  67. lurker carl says:

    Some folks view a vacation as though they were the Vanderbilts and the Astors in Newport. So they stay in all-inclusive resorts so they can lounge, eat and sleep the week away while servants take care of all the necessities of life during their stay.

    I guess packing some sandwiches in a cooler would interfere with the illusion of grandeur. Especially bologna and catsup on stale bread, Mrs. Astor would be offended.

  68. pacobanger says:

    There is a slight problem in your logic. A vacation is all about building good memories. If you choose to save an extra 2 bucks to buy bologna rather then something that doesnt invoke memories of bologna, then you have failed.

    What I would have found more impressive is memories about rest stops, picnic lunches, and the random parts of Americana that can only be obtained on the road. But if what you remember about the road trip was just bologna, you have truly missed out.

  69. sbt says:

    It seems to me that eating out once at a place that is special is really much nicer than a steady diet of McDonald’s or Village Inn. I’ll eat sandwiches for lunch gladly to be able to afford that.

    Our family has also enjoyed finding a nice park and cooking hotdogs and hamburgers on our mini grill. It makes for a festive picnic, and all the necessaries can be picked up at a local grocery store if you didn’t pack the cooler up. MUCH less expensive, and much more fun.

    We always pack a cooler of pop and snacks on any road trip, as well. Why pay the crazy prices for drinks and candy bars at the gas stations?

  70. Sorry, but being in St. Louis is as close as possible to the last thing on earth I would consider a “vacation” – assuming we are talking about St. Louis, Missouri; there are a whole bunch of cities named Saint Louis around the planet, but I doubt bologna and pre-sliced loaves of white bread are available in most of them (the city is Missouri is called “St. Louis”, not “Saint Louis”). Trent, are you going to buy your lunch at grocery stores when you go on your “Feasting On Asphalt” tour? Maybe you can compare how different grocery store brands of yellow mustard compare in various states across the midwestern USA.

    In developing countries, which is where I take almost all of my vacations, the cost of labor approaches zero, and it is barely more expensive to purchase prepared meal than to get groceries. The premise that buying groceries (which in some locales are quite rare) is more frugal than dining out is only true in rich countries. Break out of your comfort zone and go to some place such as India, China, Thailand, Ethiopia, Guatemala, (and many, many dozens of more examples across Asia, Latin America, and Africa) and you can find a prepared local meal for very cheap – check out Tim Ferris’s blog entry from yesterday for a great example. And all of those places are not only much more frugal, but much more culturally (not to mention culinarily) challenging for Americans than just going to a different city in the USA.

    So, my point is, and I knew I had one when I started typing, is that if you’re taking a vacation where the food is so expensive and want to become more frugal, maybe it’s time to rethink your destination, rather than just how you’re buying food.

  71. Betsy says:

    I’m of mixed minds with this one. My parents took us kids across the country (east coast to west coast) for our grandparents’ 50th anniversary party in California. We saw Mesa Verde, Mt. Rushmore, The Grand Canyon, and a rodeo in Cody Wyoming. Our ritual was – groceries for breakfast, groceries/sandwiches for lunch, and Pizza Hut every night for dinner. The groceries had to keep in a cooler and there was bologna. I have yet to make it back to those places so the gift of eating sandwiches was worth it.

    Fast forward to now, in a busy job where I don’t get a lot of time off period. I try do do my frugal stuff with crockpots during the work week and weekends. I travel for work, so actual personal vacations (if I travel rather than do a staycation) are now very “Yuppie” because they don’t happen that often and I don’t have enough free time to have a bad hotel/etc experience. I have yet to eat a homemade sandwich on vacation though I’ve bought a lot of fruit and nuts etc bc hotel minibars are the worst.

  72. Kyle says:

    Trent, I think your friend was probably going a little over the top by saying such things were impossible, but I think I may understand where she was coming from. With consumerism so heavily ingrained in our culture, it is quite a jump to go from piling up credit card debt to buy lavish goods we don’t need to making our own laundry detergent.

    I think the disparity may be that after a certain income threshold, resisting the impulse to spend money on the big ticket items is much more powerful than the frugal choices with smaller yields.

    Of course once the cycle is broken and one starts living within their means, it’s very possible that their priorities will change and they may become more open to the things currently “out of the realm of possibility.” Or maybe avoiding the big pitfalls affords them the ability to eat out all they want, buy gallons and gallons of Tide, and still put the kids through college and retire comfortably.

    Either way, I think your writings have something for both of these audiences.

  73. kirstie says:

    I think your friend has a very odd attitude. I agree with others that a homemade picnic can be much, much nicer than eating in a restaurant, particularly with children. We often bring a flask of good quality coffee and don’t in any way feel that we are compromising our caffeine experience.

    However, if she has money to spare it doesn’t really matter what she spends it on – gourmet meals or dodgy fast food. On the other hand, if she is relying on credit, it is likely that sooner or later she will have to discover what really is in “the realms of possibility”, and a lunchmeat sandwich will be the least of her worries.

  74. anne says:

    i think cookie nailed it in #26

  75. andi says:

    You know, this is where I think that tackling personal finance from both a left-brained AND a right-brained perspective is key.

    For example, living within one’s means is a pretty left-brained concept. It’s a math problem where your income=your expenditures.

    But frugality, done right, is a very creative, right-brained sort of pursuit. You have a problem, such as — in my previous example — living within your means and you BRAINSTORM ways to get the most value for the least cost.

    Using frugality and my imagination, I have tamed (though, sadly, not quite conquered) a fancy coffee addiction. I bought my friend’s barely used espresso machine for $50 (he had paid $400 for it). Instead of spending $4 on iced coffee at Starbucks everyday, I now make my own iced mochas at home for a little over a dollar. (That cost includes using disposable cups, lids, and straws. Although it is embarrassingly not eco-friendly, I realized that part of why I liked buying fancy coffee was the ease in disposing of it when I was done.) Frugal? Yes. Cheap or distasteful? No. In fact, since I use organic milk and Gevalia chocolate, I’m sure that my mochas are of a higher quality than I can buy at Starbucks.

    Frugality is only about deprivation if your imagination is broken.

  76. Anna says:

    Your friend invoked “other people” twice. What a sad, tiny world she lives in.

  77. Anna says:

    Sorry, I should have quoted her accurately: “most people” which would have made my point better.

  78. Doug says:

    If one doesn’t want to follow tips about how to save money, that’s fine. I think that means that individual no longer has the right to whine about never having any money.

    Remember that post about laziness a little bit ago? Not that someone who “won’t” make her own sandwich is lazy . . . but I’m betting there are other behavioral traits that lead to the poorhouse.

  79. Lenore says:

    Trent, I live near St. Louis. If you ever come back, I’ll treat you to some toasted ravioli, a hot dog AND a waffle ice cream cone. All three supposedly were invented here, the latter two being served first at the 1904 World’s Fair.

    I think it’s wise to take beverages and some snacks along on trips, but dining out is a big part of the vacation experience for me. Some meals can be prepared and eaten in the hotel room or car, but I’d hate to miss out on some memorable meals I can’t get at home.

  80. Kate says:

    To Joanna (post #17):
    You are not crazy–my husband and I love exploring grocery stores in other areas, too. We have found some great ones–my favorites have been an international grocery store in St. Louis and in Atlanta, a Whole Foods on Kensington High Street in London (the escalator was quite fun and some items were surprisingly affordable), and a SuperValu in Kenmare, Ireland (the scones and Irish Soda bread were outstanding).

  81. DB says:

    I was tired of the minimal expensive breakfasts they serve in my hotel this year, which would leave me still hungry, so I brought my own including drink.

    Instead I used the money I saved to buy something I wanted which I can use daily for the next couple of years.

  82. littlepitcher says:

    You friend missed the point by a contry mile. Kids love sandwiches made of awful lunch meat.
    Adults, on the other hand, might want an avocado sandwich on good bread, chayote and cucumber sandwich, fried green tomato on a whole-wheat burger bun, etc. etc. She needs to kick the blinders off wake up.

    It is possible, too, to cook entrees in foil, on the exhaust manifold of your engine on long trips. Coleman camp stoves are dirt cheap and I’ve cooked caponata (for those nasty sandwiches, again) on a Coleman, as well as curries BBQ, and breakfasts. Good restaurants are a part of good travel, but when the sun sets and you are arriving in Mudhole, Alabama, you need other options. ,

  83. Marsha says:

    I don’t see how anything can be “outside the realm of possibility,” as long as it’s not immoral, illegal, or dangerous. I certainly do not do every frugal activity I could, but to criticize another person’s choices is just being defensive about your own. Everyone is free to choose their own set of frugalities. Your friend should just adapt the thrifty tips that work for her, and ignore the rest without comment.

  84. Treva says:

    I totally get the point of the post, but just wanted to say that for my family when we travel we don’t eat out a lot (just dinner normally) b/c too much “eating out food” makes us not feel well. Even ordering healthier meal options or asking them to cook in EVOO instead of butter… something about too much restaurant food just doesn’t sit well after a while. When we moved it took us 2 days of travel to get to our new destination. I chose hotels that came with a decent breakfast in the morning — fresh fruit, whole grain bread, bagels, cereal, fruit juice, etc. For lunch we would stop at a rest area with picnic benches and grab the jelly, bread and drinks from the cooler along with peanut butter, fruit, granola bars, etc. and have a picnic lunch. (Snacks also came from the food box or cooler.) It was nice to be able to sit and relax and not have the rush to get up and clear the table, which often happens at restaurants b/c they need to get customers in and out to make the most money. Dinner was our only meal out and we all felt the better for it.

    In a couple of years when we take a vacation that is not visiting family, we plan on staying in a hotel with a small kitchenette. With my crock-pot and their fridge and microwave, we’ll hopefully only eat out a couple of times. It keeps the oogies away in my opinion.

  85. Chelsea says:

    We are not big breakfast eaters, and always bring breakfast foods when we travel if the hotel doesn’t offer free continental breakfast. However, I’m leery about the packing a lunch thing unless your hotel has a refrigerator. I was on a family vacation as a kid and we brought lunch meat in a cooler to make sandwiches every day. We had to keep it in the car because we were out doing things almost every day. In The Keys. In August. They tried to keep it iced down, but you can guess what happened. One very sick afternoon toward the end of the trip. I’m not saying this to discourage making sandwiches on vacation. You just have to be so very careful with meats. If we were going to take that vacation again, I know my mom would have packed PB&J.

  86. Kathy says:

    I have to comment on the sandwiches. Not only is it cheaper to bring your own food, but it’s also healthier, especially if you are watching what you eat. Granted, it’s not feasible to make your own food during the entire trip, depending on where you are and what you are doing, but I see nothing wrong with packing a cooler or making a stop along the way to pick up a few groceries and make your own food. I guess I was put off by your friend’s tone, as if making their own picnic food on a vacation was somehow “beneath” them. That’s pretty narrow-minded. I wonder if she eats at Panera Bread or Atlanta Bread Co? Does she realize that what they put between those slices of bread is also lunch meat?

    You don’t know if something is outside the realm of possibility unless you try it first. I tried making my own bread exclusively instead of buying it, but found out that it wasn’t feasible for me to do so every week. I even tried freezing the dough so I could thaw it and pop it in the oven during the week, but wasn’t happy with the results. The idea of having to make bread once a week out of necessity started to make something I do for enjoyment into a chore, and that’s not good either. Instead, I will save the homemade bread as a once in awhile thing. To me, the enjoyment of doing it ranks it becoming a chore I don’t like to do. I tried making my own laundry soap, and found that it was feasible for me to do so. So now I do it all the time and keep a purchased bottle in reserve as back-up just in case I would run out.

    Sometimes you are forced to try something that is “outside the realm of possibility”. For about a year, we had one vehicle because our car was totaled. It was a juggling act and also involved some loss of freedom when one person had the van and the other couldn’t, but we did save money by having one vehicle and eventually got a second car. We put off getting a second one until we had to have the brakes fixed on the van and had to rent a car to get around while the van was in the shop. Having one vehicle is certainly do-able, but requires a willingness to sacrifice.

  87. Sara says:

    We went on vacation recently and got a room with a full equipped kitchen in a b&b that also served a fantastic organic breakfast. The price of the little apartment was about the same as one of the moderately priced hotels. So we had a great filling breakfast and a decent kitchen. Obviously I didn’t want to spend the whole time cooking so I brought things we don’t usually eat such as fresh pasta with frozen sauce from home, bagged salad, etc and stuff to pack a decent lunch. Still had plenty of treats such as ice cream and local fare. But usually when we go away I come back feeling crummy from junky food. This trip I stayed within the boundaries of decent nutrition and cut my expenses in half. I also came back with a fantastic granola recipe that I still use… It really was one of the nicest vacations ever — both for reasons of health (better food) and not feeling stressed about the expense.

  88. Laura says:

    I travel with a hot plate so I can cook my oatmeal in my room! Breakfast is the meal that retaurants add the most salt and fat, so this is a healthy, frugal choice. I make each portion and pack it, which then leaves room at the end of the trip IF I bought anything.

  89. Missy says:

    I did not look at all the comments so this might have been said. I love eating out (too much probably!). We just took a family vacation in July to another state. We took bread, meat,etc for sandwiches for the first time. I did this to be frugal but our family LOVED it. It had more benefits than being frugal. I thought it was so much better than trying to just grab something. We were surprised because we felt it (eating out at a park) was actually more relaxing than being in McDonalds or some other fast food place. Also, since we were in the car a good bit on our way there, I felt better because I did not eat too much and then return to sitting in a car. It also enabled us to eat at some great places for our evening meals. That is so funny, that we just tried this and really enjoyed it for so many reasons.

  90. It’s pretty much all been said in the comments – but just to concur: there’s so much added value to be had by being clever with whatever budget you have, whether it’s sandwiches or – always much cheaper – local food or combinations of frugality and splurging if you can so you get the max local experience. Your Realms of Possibility are endless! Kick back, and enjoy YOUR way and don’t feel ‘a-way’ (local slang for bad) about any frugal choices you make that give you the power to go on vacation! Heck, there are whole blogs about frugal travel!

  91. I think that some people are actually embarrassed to be seen saving money in any form. My wife looks both ways before choosing a store brand or generic anything and she’s almost afraid to be seen in a “dollar store”

    John DeFlumeri Jr Clearwater, Fla.

  92. anne says:

    i’m w/ everyone here about making meals on the road to save $

    my youngest two kids are still so young eating out really isn’t that much fun for me. by the time the food we’ve ordered comes, they’ve already started to lose their minds a little. i spend most of the time just hoping we don’t humiliate ourselves in public. there’s a relatively brief period of time we have before behavior disintegrates.

    an exception is a place like hometown buffet, where the food is already prepared and i can get the kids’ plates to the table right away. i like a place like that because they will eat a ton of fresh fruit, a little meat or chicken, and then have a nice dessert. everyone’s happy.

    but a place like that is still not really a treat for me- i’m not on a break- i’m still serving everyone.

    so it’s a million times more fun and relaxing for me to have a picnic lunch somewhere- at a park or even at a rest stop. even if i make the sandwiches right there w/ fixings from a grocery store or even costco, if we can find one.

  93. Olivia says:

    I’m a BIG traveling with sandwich fan, which I learned from my frugal parents. They NEVER to this day road trip without sandwiches.

    Personally, finding the perfect picnic spot becomes part of the adventure and adds to the memories. In fact, I still recall our picnic lunch at the Great Sand Dunes in southern Colorado. After lunch, we walked across the hot sand and our kids splashed around in the creek that flows through that area.

  94. mark says:

    When the weather is good, i’ll take a picnic lunch at a nice park over many restaurants. One of our best honeymoon memories in Napa was picking up some sandwiches at the Oakville Market and eating them at a beutiful winery overlooking the valley with a bottle of wine that we got free at the tasting room. (we did buy some wine too). On a fall roadtrip to new england, we had a great experience tent camping in state parks every other night. It was a nice balance of enjoying the outdoors on the cheap alternating with staying in nicer than average lodging. Cheaper overall and more memorable than average hotels every night.

  95. anna says:

    My mom makes the best sandwiches ever. Wouldn’t trade them for anything!

  96. Claudia says:

    Your friend sounds like my sister’s neighbor Ralph. Ralph and his wife went on vacation to China and Australia. I was thinking-“How Awesome is that?” I was blatantly so jealous, I was green! I asked Ralph, “Wow, Ralph, you went to China and Australia! How was the trip?” I was expecting to hear about what they saw and did–nope, I got a run-down of what they ate every day! Apparently all they saw was the inside of a variety of restaurants–long and expensive trip just to eat.

  97. connie says:

    With attitudes like this, it’s no wonder that our economy is in the state it’s in. My family has traveled all over the country by car and we always eat lunch at a rest stop or picnic area. One of our most memorable was eating a “digusting sandwich” next to a river in Rocky Mountain national park, where a heard of 100 or so elk snuck up on us on the other side of the riverbank. This was 8 yrs. ago and our kids still talk about it. We never could have had this wonderful experience sitting in a restaurant. To me being outside in the fresh air with a beautiful view, trumps a restaurant meal any day of the week

  98. anne says:

    this reminds me of something else we do to save $

    my youngest two make it difficult to spend more than a few hours at an amusement park- if we tried to go for the whole day, it would result in melt downs, and an absence of fun after a certain point. there’s probably a way i could chart it, demetri martin style.

    anyway, there’s a fantastic old fashioned amusement park about 15 minutes from our house- it’s Quassy, in middlebury, ct. it’s on a lake, you can swim in the lake, rent a boat and go out on it, or enjoy the water park. plus there are rides for the kids, and it’s family owned, and it’s perfect for us.

    and it’s not too big- it’s very easy to walk to your car, so if we’re going at a meal time, we pack a picnic and enjoy it at one of the picnic tables.

    packing a picnic each time saves us a fortune. it really does.

    we buy season passes, so if we go for just a few hours, it’s ok- but if we bought a day pass each time, it wouldn’t be ok- it would be a waste of $.

    another fun way for us to save $ is the reciprocal children’s museum membership- instead of just belonging to and being able to go to the one children’s museum near us, we have a membership which lets us go to anyone that participates. and there are hundreds of museums all across the country who participate. the membership only cost us $100, if i recall correctly.

    so when we were up in saratoga, ny visiting family, we didn’t have to pay to go to the children’s museum- we just had to pay for my cousin’s ticket.

  99. Sea Jay says:

    Your vacaion sounds like the ones we took when we were kids–and we still talk about them. Being frugal, even on vacations, is a choice we make to have control of our lives. We often make sandwiches when we are going to be out all day because it gives us control over our day. We don’t have to pay to wait in a noisy place to eat, we can choose to eat in a quiet scenic spot.
    We take a coffee maker, coffee, & bottled water, oatmeal and miscellaneous supplies when we stay in hotels. (The coffee maker also heats oatmeal water) We enjoy having freedoms–including the freedom from debt. It is a choice we make to enrich our lives. Others find more pleasure in spending money on things we find unnecessary. It all comes down to being responsible for our decisions of how we choose to spend money. I would rather travel than stay home because we couldn’t afford to eat three meals a day in restaurants. And I LOVE being debt-free even more. Happy frugality!

  100. Dee says:

    When my husband and I were two teachers we managed to afford a 4-5 week trip to Europe every other year by staying at “European” hotels (bathroom down the hall), having picnic lunches every day (wine included), and never eating in a restaurant for dinner that did not post its menu (and prices). We traveled in second class train coaches (always got a seat) and had wonderful times. When asked by colleagues how we could afford to travel to Europe so often, I told them. One woman was so shocked and said she just couldn’t travel that way. I told her I understood and I did. For us the trips were well worth it and we never broke the bank.

  101. Marf says:

    Long ago and far away (ie 1940s/50s) my parents kept a box in the back of the car full of non-perishable food, manual can opener, knives, forks, spoons, metal cups and plates. This was before interstates, but there were picnic tables ever so often along the two lane highways, parks in towns and gorgeous scenic views in the middle of nowhere. With a jug of water in the car, we were never more than a few minutes away from what they called a Hobo meal away from home. Add fresh fruit or a cold soda or a hunk of cheese from a local gas station or grocery, and we were doing great. Vienna sausage and crackers was my favorite. My dad often ate sardines. Mom preferred apples and cheese, or those little individual boxes of cereal that served as their own bowls – just add milk.

    That hobo box was emptied and refilled a gazillion times while I was growing up. We were never hungry, we were never stranded, and we were not dependent on anybody anywhere. Being frugal wasn’t a consideration, that’s just what we did.

    The tradition has continued. My husband and I ate hobo lunches and breakfasts often while living and traveling in Europe and England. We’ve eaten hobo style while RVing here in the US with grandchildren. My tastes have matured, and options have evolved, but I’ll opt for a hobo lunch over a fast food fillup anyday!

  102. Patty says:

    Trent – this is exactly the activity I did with my nieces and nephews on our “Camp Aunt Patty”. It’s how my brothers & I experienced traveling with my folks, pop-up trailer in tow. We would pull along side a rest stop and have lunch – out-of-doors! Now I realize that it was the way we got to go camping as it really didn’t cost us anymore than we would have spent on lunch at home. At Camp, I made sandwiches, wrapped up snacks and a big jug of lemonade. I can only say that my nieces and nephews can’t wait to come back – probably not for the sandwiches but for the memories.

  103. Gigi says:

    Trent, your friend doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. If they’re wealthy enough (and don’t worry about calories/nutrition etc) to eat out at every vactaion meal, I hope their friends are the same way. I can’t even imagine vacationing without a cooler and grocery store stops, but it does make me pause when vacationing with friends (who do make more $ than we do, but are also terribly wasteful with that $) They’d want to eat out every meal and we just can’t/don’t want to keep up with that. I love to have a kitchen where I’m staying, and I love the secure feeling of having my lunch in the back seat so I can stop anywhere I want, or knowing that if I need a snack in my hotel room, there it is. But when we travel with family/friends I sometimes feel like I’m holding them back from having a good time at a restaurant(Even though I cook as well as many restaurants and am happy to) because they feel stupid going out without us, and we just can’t and usually don’t want to spend our $ that way, even though I’m fine with them going out without us! We have even started a habit of having dinners in parks. We each pick out what we want to grill, some deli salads, get a nice bottle of wine and grill in a park for dinner. I remember very few dinners out in a restaurant, but I’ll never forget grilling salmon in a park in Monterey where the seagulls were stealing bits of meat right off the grill, and I used rosemary that grew in long hedges, and the wind blew everything off the table and the kids got to play in the surf, or the beautiful grilled dinner in a park on Lake Superior. While the kids ran around and threw rocks in the lake, my husband and I sipped wine and watched the sunset and the grill. Or the rather odd lunch at Lake Mead (not another soul there and we just aren’t used to the treeless, rocky terrain. We felt like we were eating on the moon!) Not all meals of course were fabulous and memorable, but you can’t tell me all restaurant meals are either.

  104. NYC reader says:

    I have nearly 30 years experience and adventure of road food from my jobs which required massive amounts of travel (mostly US destinations).

    I am a foodie. I also eat mostly healthy food, and was a vegetarian for many years. I don’t care for sandwiches, self-prepared or otherwise, and there isn’t much that I’m willing to eat at fast food joints.

    The per diems and travel allowances from my jobs were based on the costs associated with the destination (high-cost vs. low-cost area). Anything I didn’t spend was mine to keep, tax-free.

    Although this gave me plenty of incentive to “eat cheaply,” I found that a job with 80% travel was much more tolerable if I ate frugally where it made little difference, and splurged where I could really enjoy the food and experience.

    Below are some of the strategies I used to survive decades as a “road warrior.” I’m sure the strategies for successfully travelling with children would be different from my travels as a single person, usually on business.

    First, I stayed in hotels that had a decent breakfast included. Embassy Suites, Courtyard by Marriott, etc. A decent breakfast to me means something either cooked to order, or that is healthy and suitable for a vegetarian. If there was only a continental breakfast included, I always selected the healthy choices (no pastries for me), and grabbed an extra banana or yogurt (or two) for lunch or a snack later in the day.

    Second, I always packed things I could eat on the road which did not require refrigeration, and which I could easily eat either while driving or at a rest stop. Tuna in pouches, granola bars, nuts, crackers, dried fruit, etc. If I started my trip by car, I packed a small cooler with string cheese sticks, fruit, water, baby carrots, hard-boiled eggs, boiled whole red bliss potatoes. (Obviously, if I was flying to my destination I was not taking along a cooler.)

    Third, I found food in road side restaurants, including fast food joints, that I could eat (and would be willing to eat). I’ve had too many experiences of getting sick on the road to trust most road side restaurants. (Hint: Go to the bathroom before ordering your food. If there’s no hot water and no soap, you don’t want to eat there. There’s no way the employees can maintain good sanitation and hygiene without hot water and soap.)

    The 99-cent Wendy’s salad is a good safe fast food choice because it is prepackaged at a factory, you don’t have to worry about the local restaurant contaminating it with bad sanitation. I would order one and eat it with my tuna, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, red bliss potatoes. I used to have a regular travel assignment in the Midwest, and I planned on making a stop in Columbus OH at Wendy’s for the salad, and taking it to a nearby park for lunch, followed by a quick nap, before heading on the road again. If you really need to eat a sandwich, Subway usually has a $5 special that is made to order and you can specify the ingredients to make it fairly healthy.

    I splurged on dinner on these business trips. I also ate deep-dish pizza in Chicago, and ate at top-line reataurants like Rick Bayliss’ Frontera Grill. On one Chicago trip, I was staying in a very fancy hotel in The Loop, The Palmer House. I splurged on room service for dinner one night. Definitely worth it.

    For pleasure travel, I do things a bit differently. Lunch is the best value in high-end restaurants, so I plan on eating lunch in a fancy restaurant and having a light dinner, either at a small local restaurant or in my hotel room. Lunch is the exact same food as served at dinner, and it’s cheaper. Sometimes the portions are a little smaller, but that’s not a problem. Some cities, such as NYC, have a special promotion called Restaurant Week, where many top-line restaurants run a special fixed price lunch (such as $20.09 in 2009). This is a great way to eat at wonderful restaurants and save money.

    On these trips, I try to stay in hotels that have a full kitchen, such as Residence Inn. I buy local groceries, wine, beer, etc. and have a light dinner with the local produce and beverages if I’m not eating a light dinner at a local restaurant.

    Often, the light restaurant dinner I eat is at the bar of a well-known place where I can’t get dinner reservations, such as The Border Grill in Santa Monica.

    I always plan for some really super dinners, such as Chez Panisse in Berkeley, The French Laundry and Tra Vigne in Napa Valley, and I make those dinner reservations far in advance of my pleasure travel.

  105. womanofthehouse says:

    I think your friend is looking at the “eating sandwiches on vacation” thing all wrong. If our family didn’t use such frugal vacation tactics, we couldn’t take vacations at all, and that would be NO fun! We stay at hotels with free breakfasts, eat one picnic meal each day, and eat out one meal each day. Oftentimes we’ll eat out for lunch because lunch menus are usually cheaper than dinner menus. If eating sandwiches means we can afford another day of vacation or entrance to some place we really want to go, then we happily eat sandwhiches. They don’t have to be crummy lunchmeat slapped between two dry pieces of bread either. All it takes is a little creativity. It’s easier to spend money than to have to think about how to use your resources.

  106. tina says:

    I was a bread hater (and therefore a sandwich hater) until I found my boyfriend’s bread maker. Now, it takes less time for me to throw together ingredients to make my own bread than it would to peruse the bread aisle in the grocery store. This method also allows me to control how sweet or salty the bread is. Mostly we do veggie sandwiches. We “splurge” on avocados when they’re on sale and that really adds to the sandwich.

    Another tip is that it is really easy to prepare oatmeal (with raisins, wal-nuts, chai spice mix, etc.) and bring it in a bag. Usually it is easy to acquire hot water to make an easy, healthy, and delicious breakfast.

    While I understand the thought that vacation should be just that, I think it comes down to individual interpretations of what a vacation should be like.

  107. If your friend makes sandwiches that consist of “some awful lunchmeat jammed between two pieces of dry bread,” she is doing it wrong. I mean, you can do the sandwich thing without resorting to bologna and faux cheese and it will *still* be cheaper than eating out. How about sliced turkey, sprouts, a little avocado, some tomatoes, a little mayo… all on a nice roll? Sounds like something you might get at *gasp* a little cafe. Yum!

  108. CC says:

    To some extent, I can see where your friend is coming from. I’m a big fan of delicious food, and since I rarely eat out when I’m at home, that’s part of what vacation means to me. I always designate one meal as my “fancy” meal, where I allow myself to go all out, ordering the filet and a good glass of wine, if that’s what I’m in the mood for.

    On the other hand, I manage this by being frugal for the rest of my meals. My absolute favorite road trip food is peanut butter and banana sandwiches. You don’t need a cooler, it’s full of protein, and it’s simple enough that the passenger can throw one together for a driver if you’re in a hurry. Plus, when you do stop, you’re much more likely to meet fellow travelers sitting next to you in the park than you are at the table next to you in a restaurant.

  109. Rachel says:

    Wow, sandwiches brought about this much discussion? I personally do not care for sandwiches. I eat dinner leftovers for lunch at home, and my husband takes them for lunch. We do eat sandwiches occasionally though. However, we do not eat out much. I really enjoy chick-fil-a. So on the road we like to stop there. It is good because we don’t eat it all the time. When we traveled when our children were small it was often McDonalds for lunch. But there again, that was a treat for them. But if necessary, we have taken bread, peanut butter and jelly. Like someone else said, a vacation is a time for me to get away from serving others. I actually look for free entertainment on vacation, I’d rather save them money there.

  110. frugalkerry says:

    I agree with he author suggesting bringing food around. My take is a bit different tho’. I learned years ago from wonderful friends who always brought the MOST delicious food about everywhere we went. I asked why and they asked “Could I think of any food at the events we went to that tasted better? … No way!” I follow recipes adding a bit more spice and do big cook ups,freeze them, so I save, money, enjoy more flavourful food and save lots of time. It takes maybe double the time to prepare and cook 12 portions as 2.
    As for coffee and tasty tea, well, , none are as delicious as how I brew it, ok, except Cappacino. I carry it in a stainless steel container and there is always enough to share.
    Once in a while I eat out and I really enjoy it because I choose restaurants which have food I don’t cook as well. I can then afford to easily pay the bill for myself and friend or family because generally I save so much! It’s so nice to treat someone to a really good meal outside.

  111. TLS says:

    My boyfriend and I enjoy going to the opera as an occasional treat. We usually pack a sandwich dinner and drive to the opera house early to avoid rush hour traffic. There’s an area nearby where we eat our dinner before attending the performance (and we see other people eating sandwich dinners they have brought too). The fact that we don’t go out to eat beforehand means that we can purchase good seats for the opera instead of the cheapest seats. And we both enjoy our sandwich dinners before the performance.
    However, I can understand why people wouldn’t want to do this. It’s a choice. But it works for us.

  112. Leah says:

    In my mind, the key is to find frugal things that work for you. And, sometimes, doing that frugal thing is the only way to make the trip work. For example, I went to New Zealand for 3 weeks on $3k, including airfare. But I couch-surfed (I only travel places where I know people) for part of the time, stayed in hostels for the rest, cooked the vast majority of my meals (yay PB sandwiches), etc. I then used my money to do awesome things like paragliding, horse back riding, kayak, etc.

    The big thing is to evaluate where you’re spending money and work on reducing that. For example, I don’t make my own laundry detergent. Not that it’s not cool, and I admire you for doing it . . . but my boyfriend and I can’t even go through a large box from Trader Joe’s in a year. I think the box is under $10, and I’m not yet ready to go through the time of making my own detergent for small savings. When I have a family, tho, I’m so there. But for now, things like cooking more, living in a small apartment, and combining errands are what save me money, so that’s what I do.

    The small apartment thing just came to mind, and it reminds me of another place where people can really waste cash: clutter. My boyfriend and I finally officially moved in together, and we realized we have a lot of stuff. But he gets free housing from his work, so it’s far better for us to just stay in this apartment (but if we did pay, I know it’d be at least $200+ per month to be in something bigger, and we can take a really awesome vacation for $2,400+ each year). Right now, we’re a bit crammed in, but we are working on downsizing our stuff. In that way, we’re saving a huge amount of cash by (1) living in closer quarters and (2) not wanting to bring anything new home. With the money we’re saving, we are planning a trip to Ireland next year! And you can bet we’ll likely eat a lot of PB sandwiches on our trip in order to enjoy more guinness in the evenings and be able to do all sorts of adventure stuff.

  113. dsz says:

    #42 Lynn-You beat me to it-we buy whole beans for $3 a pound and have great coffee every morning (although 8 O’clock and Dunkin’ are good, too and the Dunkin’ purchases over a year pay for the Sam’s club membership). I got an espresso machine for $35 and mix equal parts white chocolate and condensed milk to add for DH’s white chocolate mochas and he never missed Starbucks’ nasty burnt brew. He thinks my version is better. He’s spoiled that way. We do go out to eat, but more and more often his comment is ‘yours is better’ and it’s certainly served up with more care and love and attention to his tastes. Our best meals out are local places (at home and on vacation) with fresh ingredients where the chef really creates a dish rather than opening a bunch of foodservice cans.
    Unless a restaurant meal was a destination on a trip, we maximized our dining dollars and it was never a sacrifice to us. Twenty years later the only meals we remember from a New England trip are the takeout steamed lobsters we bought ($5 each) and had with sides I made at our cottage, takeout lobster rolls (sandwiches) on the rocky shore and spaghetti with homemade sauce I’d brought along eaten at the same cottage with the ocean breeze and Monday Night Football. It was new and exciting and comforting and restful all at the same time.
    The first place I go in a new town, even on a day trip is the grocery store and some of our best meals have come from those trips.
    As to the rest, I love my 11 year old Honda with 239,000 miles. She’s still had no major problems and I’ll gladly pay for repairs as long as the car is safe to drive.
    I think the point of the post is one’s perception of frugality/poverty. A co-worker commented that I’d been driving the same car for the 7 years I’d worked with him (the car was 9 years old at the time). I beamed and proudly launched into my ‘I love my Honda’ speech. He mentioned that he’d said a similar thing to another co-worker with a 5 year old car and got ‘I can’t help it, they don’t pay well here, I’d buy a new car if I could afford it…’ and stormed off. (The asker was in the market for a new car and was taking his own survey-he bought a Honda). The person who got defensive almost always equates money/new with quality/bounty whereas I am thrilled my little car’s reliability and the fact that she cost very little up front and next to nothing to maintain makes it even better. This lady’s first comment about anything is cost-the expensive restaurant and when I ask how the food was, it was ‘OK’. To her, the more she spends the ‘better’ it is and the reverse is true for her as well. Every experience is graded by the price tag. When I mention the great meal at a modest price or the fun we had at a free concert she looks at me like I’m green. I really do feel sorry for the poor thing (and I do mean poor). Perhaps Trent’s friend feels the same.
    I also make my own soap (the dry version) and it works well and I get a kick out of doing it.
    The idea that some see my choices as something for poor people is alien to me. I see it as smart and self-sufficient and the more I learn to do along those lines the happier I am.
    Frugality doesn’t mean sacrificing quality and homemade is not automatically deprivation. Seeing the world that way, to me, is a pity.
    #71 john deflumeri jr-Do you realize you just ‘outed’ your wife? Hope she doesn’t read this or you’re in some deep doo-doo.
    I think the comments to this blog are some of the most well-thought and well-written I’ve ever read. What a great community of people and ideas.
    But-did anyone else go through recipe withdrawal from ‘how low can you go’? I think Trent should devote this spot every week to frugal recipes. Good for us and he gets to ‘practice’ for his future food blog. Anyone else agree?

  114. Victorian Librarian says:

    Just wanted to chime in on the vacation food topic.. We recently went on a 10-day trip to Ontario, Canada. We brought lunch and snacks to eat on the drive there (fruit, hummus, pita bread), so we could have healthy but quick food to eat. While we were there we stayed in a college dormitory with a kitchen. We brought a small box of plates, a skillet etc. and so were able to cook our own breakfast and dinner every day. (Since I like to cook, going into small local food shops to get fresh ingredients & planning meals was a vacation treat by itself.) We found it very pleasant (and economical!) to have home-cooked meals even away from home.

  115. Michele says:

    I don’t get your friend’s attitude, either. For many years, my husband and I had season tickets to the LA Kings which meant 45 games a year that were an hour away in traffic. We always packed a couple of sandwiches, fresh veggies and fruit and a couple of beers in a little lunchbox. We at the ‘dinner’ on the way there in the car, and had a couple of beers in the parking lot before the game. We had a blast, saved at least $25 bucks each game for a burger and a beer and saved time on the way to something we enjoyed tremendously. Hmmm…$25 a game for 45 games is…$1125…about the cost of one season ticket when Gretzsky was playing for the Kings.

  116. Sara says:

    I take sandwiches (or the fixings) when I travel, when I go to meetings, etc., but I can understand someone’s feeling like she’s stuck with the same-old, same-old. For that problem, I would suggest a trip to a deli (even a grocery store deli if you happen to be in a place where that’s all that’s on offer). There you can get a loaf of good bread, two or three gourmet cheeses, an excellent sausage, some containers of tabouleh, a spread, some smoked salmon, a bag of baby spinach, a bottle of dressing, etc. and everyone serves themselves. Another hint I learned while driing from the East Coast to California: fill up your cooler with free ice every morning, but be sure to put the ice in plastic bags: things floating around in melted ice are yucky.

  117. Beth says:

    I totally agree with Sarah, Eight O’Clock coffee is terrific.

  118. Tom says:

    I was also one of those who believed some of these things were “just simply outside the realm of possibility.” I then was forced to declare bankruptcy in May. Since then I am making my own detergent, aftershave lotion, and doing many of the other ideas I have found on the Simple Dollar. I am now living life much simpler and am actually enjoying the journey.

  119. Michelle says:

    Different strokes for different folks I guess. We prefer to have at least a small refrigerator, if not a small kitchen, when we travel. Eating out constantly becomes numbing and makes us feel bloated as we tend to eat much unhealthier foods when we’re “splurging” on dining out. My husband and I love to cook (and what we make often tastes better than what we can get in restaurants) and rarely eat out, maybe once every two weeks. We actually get tired of eating out when on vacation because we feel forced to, for lack of options. But I know that’s not true for everyone lol.

    As others pointed out, it’s not just a matter of money but also health and, believe it or not, convenience. A bowl of cereal or bagel in the morning or a healthy, gourmet sandwich in the car or at a pretty spot on the way to our destination instead of driving somewhere and waiting to be seated and served in a generic restaurant or *shudder* fast food drive-thru. That’s time we could be exploring.

    My ideal vacation is one where I not only see the sights but also get a glimpse of how the locals live. A trip to a local store or farmer’s market to stock up can be enlightening and a chance to meet local people who aren’t part of the tourist industry.

    As Sara noted, a sandwich doesn’t have to be substandard lunch meat between 2 pieces of boring bread; yuck, that wouldn’t appeal to me either. Being frugal doesn’t have to mean bottom dollar.

  120. Amy H. says:

    Everyone has already said it, but at the risk of repeating . . . . My family road-tripped cross-country for five weeks when I was 10. The only way we were able to afford to go was to stay in Motel 6 and Best Western and to stay with family and friends along the way, and to stop for picnic lunches with our packed sandwiches on each driving day. Maybe it’s because I grew up with it that I love it. We all grew up loving day hikes as well, and I still will just pack some salami, sliced cheese, Triscuits, an apple and some trail mix for any day hike for myself. Life doesn’t get much better than eating a picnic in the open beside a lake in the Eastern Sierra!

    Some of the very best meals I’ve had in European cities were also pulled-together picnics. A baguette and cheese, plus some pate de campagne and fresh peaches in Paris. Fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and all kinds of salumi in Bologna and Ravenna, Italy, etc., etc. And I adore food!

    Johanna (#17), I LOVE shopping in foreign supermarkets. It’s one of my favorite ways to pretend I actually live in the place I’m visiting (staying in a rented apt. or cottage vs. a hotel is another great way). I think part of this may be explained by two different forms of travel. For some people (and my partner, at times, is one of them), “travel” means staying at a beach resort where people bring you fruity drinks with umbrellas as you’re lying by the pool. I’m not saying that that isn’t nice, but for me personally, I get tired of eating in resort restaurants. Those kinds of vacations also tend to blur together in my memory, whereas the trips I’ve had where I stayed in an apartment and pretended I was a local as much as possible(grocery shopping, shopping at the local market and flea markets, going to concerts, etc.) are the ones that stick in my memory and make me want to go back ASAP. Rick Steves calls his version of this “Back Door Travel” (he also highly recommends picnics as a way to do more when traveling, since you’re saving money and having a very local experience!). While I know people have different opinions of Rick Steves, I found his entire approach eye-opening and extremely enjoyable.

  121. Lynne says:

    When our children were 2 & 3 years old, we moved to Anchorage, AK, from our native CA. We drove a pick-up pulling a covered box trailer with those belongings we chose to take with us. We also had our dog. We packed an ice chest with sandwich makings, and had fruit & chips as well. We stopped at pull-overs or rest stops & fixed lunch. It saved money, gave the children a chance to run around & make extra noise, and our dog was able to move about on a tether too. We also carried a coffee pot, & instant hot cocoa for the children which we gave them in the a.m. We would leave early in the morning, travel a few hours (they also fell back to sleep) before we would stop for breakfast, and gas. We continued to use the sandwich routine any time we went on lengthy trips, because it saved us a great deal of money which we could then use for something really fun instead of meals.

  122. Pat Woodruff says:

    Growing up in England – we always took sandwiches and a thermos of tea as 30 years ago there was no Mcdonalds and very very few places to eat. I really enjoyed those days and I still like to take my own sandwiches and tea when I go anywhere. One of my faves is tomato sandwiches and by the time you eat them they are a little soggy – oh boy – yummy!!

  123. To me, its simple–frugality is in the eye of the beholder. Plain and simple.

    The comments from your friend sound to me like someone who just does not want to save money. If you don’t need to save money in your life, I guess its fine. Personally, I am not there yet.

    And, on a side note, some of the best times I had as a child or even as an adult were “homemade sandwich” type picnics!

  124. SP says:

    I have to admit, when I envision a sandwich pulled out of a cooler on vacation, I see cheap bread, lunch meat, and processed cheese. These comments got me to think about packing my own food, even PREMIUM food that I wouldn’t normally get, and enjoying way it more than I might a sandwich someone at Subway made me.

  125. mary says:

    I think those who are most successful at frugality and simple living (unless they are born to it!) have to take baby steps, and experiment. What works? What makes you feel okay, great, bad? Everyone’s answers will be different. But if you are interested at all in improved finances, living more simply and/or frugality, an open mind is essential. And willingness to experiment. If you tried sandwiches on a few trips and it ruined your trip, then enough said. But to not try it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, because it doesn’t get you where you want to go, that is financially solvent or independent (or frugal or simplicity or whatever).
    My husband and I are both on the frugal bandwagon, but I started about ten years earlier than he and he is still not where I am. So I am familiar with the idea of “outside the realm of possibility”. Usually though with gentle persuasion or a dare, he comes around.
    With regard to food, he often will describe a trip we went on by describing the food and where we ate. He is definitely a foodie. So I think he could relate to your friend. However, he is willing to try and to observe, gain insight into what works for him and what doesn’t, just like I do. And occasionally what works for him doesn’t work for me and vice versa.
    We spent two weeks in Portugal a couple of years ago. Truly our best trip ever. We ate in wonderful restaurants, but we also ate what we call our typical Portuguese meal…artisanal bread, olives, cheese, 20 year old tawny port, and chocolate, all bought from the local grocery stores. When we get together with the other couple who traveled with us, this grocery food is what we talk about the most. It just evokes a mood and we had truly wonderful times talking, sharing and eating that food. We didn’t call it making our own sandwiches or picnicing, but that is exactly what it was. No cooking, just a grocery store trip and eating.
    I do make my own laundry soap and love it. I figure I’m saving the environment, my clothes and money.
    Also we moved from a 2200 sq ft house to a 1200 sq ft house to a 700 sq ft house. There was a time that if you’d said to me “someday you will live in a 700 sq ft house”, I’d have said you were crazy. But we’ve tried lots of things and this is just the latest. I have to say, so far, we love it! There is nothing I miss about the big house.

  126. Nikki says:

    My husband and I have a teen boy, teen girl, and a toddler (2 yrs old) so our trips are always road trips and we always pack meals for the trip there and replenish our stock for the trip home. We all love it! My toddler would much rather be stretching his legs and running off some energy in the parking lot instead of confined to a chair in a restaurant! We usually have great sandwiches too! Our favorite is ham and cheese on marble rye bread (toasted ahead of time so the cheese melts) with cucumbers, raisins, spinach, spicey mustard, and mayo! I have realized that our family trips have less to do with the destination, and more to do with the moments we spend together while getting there!

  127. Vanessa says:

    I grew up poor and like everyone else, traveled with food when our family went out of town. I think packing food is most beneficial if you’re traveling as a family or with a group of people where you’re sure to use up almost everything you brought/bought. I travel alone and while I can get by on yogurt or fruit for breakfast, the other meals are always a challenge, especially now that I’m trying to go veggie.

    I struggle with the practicality of it. I don’t make sandwiches at home so all that leftover bread, meat and cheese would go to waste. Plus I like a little lettuce and mustard. I don’t need a whole head of lettuce or a whole jar of mustard! If I’m on vacation, I don’t want to have to eat the same thing every day for every meal. I’d rather stay home, or cut back in other areas of the vacation so I can eat in a way that’s most comfortable to me.

    What I’ve been doing lately is buying frozen dinners and nuking them in the hotel microwave, but even that isn’t always healthier, tastier or cheaper than eating out. Keep in mind my idea of “eating out” is closer to Quiznos than say Ruby Tuesdays or Applebees.

  128. Cheryl says:

    wow. this post generated a lot of comments! There was a time walking on the moon was consider outside the “realm of possibility”. I don’t think making sandwiches or laundry detergent belongs in that category! I love making my own detergent. And after 10 days in FLA eating dinner out, sandwiches for lunch were a very welcome option. I got so tired of restaurant food! We have done weekend getaways and ate out as a treat, but most of our vacations include daily trips to the supermarket. Last year, we took a weeklong vacation with 9 of us, and didn’t use the credit card for it! 2 weeks later, my husband got laid off for 6 months! I was so glad we were frugal and stuck to our budget!

  129. anne says:

    97- vanessa

    i know what you mean

    i do things a lot differently now than i did when it was just myself and my son. or just myself when my son was visiting his dad. now i have to feed a family of 6, plus we usually have at least a few friends w/ us too.

    this might seem odd, but i don’t care- i really don’t: one thing you can do is still hit the grocery store, but take advantage of the salad bar for sandwich fixings that you like- if you just want a half an ounce of lettuce, you can get it!

    i’m part italian, so i often use oil and vinegar and salt and pepper on a sandwich instead of mayo- maybe if you don’t want to pick up a jar of mustard, you could use a splash of dressing from the salad bar, too?

    and i love cole slaw on a sandwich instead of mustard.

    or just pick up those little individual packets of mustard when they’re available and stash them in the glove box or cup holder.

    sometimes i’ll have one of my kids at work w/ me, and for lunch we’ll pick up 1/8 pound of cheese at the deli and make sandwiches. i might be the only person who ordrs like that, but so what? i bet you could even order 1 or 2 slices if you want to. i don’t care if people think i’m a little odd, as long as they think i’m nice.

  130. Rap541 says:

    “I wonder why she assumes your lunch meat is awful, or the bread is dry and that you would jam the meat between the bread? Who makes sandwiches like that?”

    I have to be honest, Trent’s description of bread, bologna, cheese and condiments immediately put me in mind of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s cost saving measures in Maricopa County jails, in that he feeds the prisoners bologna and cheese for meals because it’s cheap and they are in prison.

    I’m not saying “bring sandwiches” is a bad idea – but the decription used sounds pretty dismal, everyone eating the cheapest lunchmeat on loaves of bread bought before the trip starts. Now lots of the comments suggest nice gourmet ways to fight resteraunt costs – I’d add throw in a sack of oranges or apples to fight munchies. But as described, five days of bologna on bread *is* how we punish people here in AZ.

  131. Caroline says:

    I think a fun way of kinda saving money on vacation is to make a picnic brunch (squish 2 meals into one!) everyday – but with absolutely delicious stuff. It’s all about location, and as long as my sandwich tastes good, I’m having a great time!

    I agree with the general idea of your post. It’s only the thought of bologna and cheese sandwiches that makes me gag :P

  132. I always stay in a hotel or B&B and I eat a big breakfast that is FREE and stays with me until dinnertime!

  133. KED says:

    It is so interesting to read the running comments on this subject. My family packs lunch everyday. I prefer to do this for myself and my two girls in lieu of the school offerings. It provides me an opportunity to provide healthier alternatives and use up leftovers effectively. My husband lucked out and gets a daily lunch provide for free by his company.

    Vacations for us always involve packing a cooler but not necessarily just sandwiches. Just last weekend when we took a day trip to the huge Flea Market 2 hours from our home we lunched on fresh chicken salad, organic carrots, whole wheat crackers and brownies. All prepared by me…..by the way, my 6 year old told me I was AWESOME about halfway through her lunch.

    Week long trips to the beach or mountains always include the packed cooler too. Along the theory of cooking double batches, it is not unusual for us to carry frozen soup or spaghetti sauce to eat the night we arrive at our destination. No scurrying to supermarket or waiting in a restaurant when we can kick back and enjoy our new view!! If we are staying for a week we usually eat out at least twice and make sure we eat where the locals eat to get the best food for the best prices.

    On a similiar note, last Saturday when my 6 year old had my husband and I totally to herself, no sharing with her two older sisters…..her request was a picnic at our local park. I love how that is her idea of fun! Maybe we are doing something right! PS- It was the 15 year old daughters request for the aforementioned Flea Market Trip.

    Summer beach trips just wouldn’t have been the same without grandma’s chicken salad, great “granny’s” chocolate cake and baked ham. Ahh….the memories!

  134. Katina says:

    This may have been covered but I think your friend’s problem stems more from “getting away from everyday chores and foods” while on vacation. To most, vacation means having someone else do everything for you. If that’s more important to your friend than money then I can definitely see why she was “balking” at the idea of making sandwiches.

    I look at it another way:

    My “honey” and I had the opportunity to go to Hawaii but did not have much “play” money for side trips once there so we made some frugal decisions that allowed us to have a great time. I had mileage points so our plane tickets were free and we used his timeshare to get a great condo rental for a week that cost us pennies. Since the condo had a fully equiped kitchen we decided to eat most meals in to save money, especially since restaurants in Hawaii are very pricey. We kept things simple so there was not a lot of prep or cleanup involved so we still felt as if we were on vacation. With all the money we saved we were still able to eat out at some fun restaurants, AND most importantly, we were able to do all the touristy things that cost money we wouldn’t have had, ie: helicopter tour, boat rides, etc… We had an awesome vacation that neither one of us will forget for a long time!

  135. ida says:

    If I read about making your own laundry detergent one more time I’m going to puke! OMG! Move on dude! Get a grip and look at the real cost of things Trent. Laundry detergent is CHEAP. It’s a complete and total waste of my time to make some or to read your silly low cost recipes. The whole internet is filled with stuff like that.

    I was once married to a guy who insisted on making cheap meals while our family (4 kids) vacationed. He did none of the work involved and never did any of the shopping or food fixing. I came to this conclusion: I’m on vacation too. We can eat out reasonably and I can get a break. Fixing food at the beach (as well as cleaning up/doing laundry/housekeeping after everyone else) is a complete and total drag. It got to be tiresome that eveyone but me got a real vacation.

  136. A very interesting post. My take on it is different from that of everyone else.

    When it comes to investing, personal finance bloggers, stick with what they know. Changing may may make them uncomfortable.

    I know that risk-reducing option strategies can protect an investment portfolio better than can asset allocation. But sometimes the cost is not attractive because that cost is accepting a limit on profits.

    Having an open mind, be willing to consider changing old habits and taking a look at the viability of conservative option strategies… Those ideas are totally in sync with today’s excellent post.

    Best regards,

  137. Elizabeth says:

    I, too, disagree with your friend. I grew up in an affluent family and when on our many summer road trips, we almost always stopped at a park and ate picnic style. It’s a great opportunity to stretch one’s legs, not to mention healthier than the average fast food chain. As a family of foodies, however, we did also eat out to sample regional specialties. So I guess the philosophy was that if there was something interesting or memorable to eat that warranted dining out, we would, but if it was greasy spoon fare, we bypassed it. Makes sense to me.

  138. I read all the back-and-forth about sandwiches. I’m personally happy with a tasty peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread versus mediocre food on the road. But we could probably all save more money on road trips based on the way we drive and maintain our vehicles than on lunches. See how you can save hundreds of dollars a year on gasoline with your specific vehicle by taking just six driving and maintenance actions at Drive Smarter Challenge.org (http://drivesmarterchallenge.org). Also, you may want to check out turning your vacation video highlighting one or more of those fuel efficiency tips into a fun contest video that could win $5000. — Rozanne Weissman, Alliance to Save Energy

  139. Wendy says:

    When my husband and I realized that the “recession” was knocking at our door, we were forced to make some changes. No cable or satellite tv, cutting way back on eating out, putting ourselves on a strict grocery budget, selling some of our things that we thought we couldn’t live without, turning up the thermostate a few degrees in the summer and down a few degrees in winter. Some if not all of these things seemed “outside the realm of possibility” for us until we were forced to do them. “How can we live without TV? What will we do?” To be honest, it doesn’t really feel like anything has changed much. What we were clinging on to dear life for we never really needed in the first place. I guess this “realm” is different for everyone. And you may even surprise yourself with what you can live without and not miss for a second.

  140. angela says:

    This is the epitome of what ‘The Simple Dollar’ represents. It is about small and usually insignificant changes in the big scheme of things. We have been slimming down on spending because of our employment situation. Have only used the credit cards in an emergency this year, have deposited into savings and have not dipped into it. Because of the small changes we have made, surprisingly we have been able to do more with less. Go more places, do more fun things, be more creative with our choices for our family. What it comes down to is value to some is not value to others OR it takes away of the experience…example…if you only go on vacation once a year and you look forward to having people cook for you (eating out) and clean for you (housekeeping on a cruise or a hotel) then it is worth it and part of the vacation for you. I have lived on both sides…both are fine. I find myself in a different place now with different goals and making a sandwich is just fine for us. Thanks for a great post Trent!!!

  141. Becky says:

    Good grief, if you don’t like sandwiches (and the way she described them, who would), pack something else!

    Most cultures have fantastic take-along meals – empanadas, samosas, pasties, rice balls. Bring a chef salad in a cooler. Pack a beautiful picnic – baguettes, fancy cheese, salads, tarts, olves, etc. You can pick this stuff up at the grocery store at home for way less than you’d pay for the very same thing at a cafe.

    Then you aren’t struggling to find a good place to eat on the road, which can be challenging. You can eat on your own schedule, not when somebody else in the car is hungry. You won’t resort to deep-fried mystery meat because you got too hungry before you stopped to eat.

    Sure, if eating out is *why* you go on vacation, or if you truly love the Waffle House, then go for it. But the idea that your vacation would be ruined by packing a few meals is, frankly, a little sad. “Outside the realm of possibility” is such a helpless, self-defeating phrase. I hope this is just a quirk on your friend’s part, and not part of her general outlook on life.

  142. Vicky says:

    We ended up doing a variation of this on a three week trip to Italy with my Mom. We would always have one meal in, and one meal out. We would stop in grocery stores along the way, picking up some bread, cured meats or sausages and cheeses, some vegetables and stretch our dollar a bit farther.

    And seriously, the memories of those lunches in wine country, or looking out at the rocky coastline in Positano, or (my favorite) the nights when we’d been going so long that my Mom and I just sat in the hotel room eating some of the best salumi I’ve ever tasted are some of the most cherished memories.

    And between our friends, when we plan on going out anywhere for the day, we all just assume one of the meals is going to be a picnic and one meal is going to be eaten out. Funny, I guess it comes from all of us being college kids when we all met. We learned how to economize and never lost the habit. We all have enough money to eat out every meal if we really wanted to, but it never really occurs to us to do so. Interesting. I never even noticed that. :)

  143. sharon says:

    Love what #89 NYC had to say. I have food allergies, and am forced to use many of the strategies he used for business travel. I also dislike most fast food so this make taking my own food whenever possible a necessity.
    My husband and I always take a cooler when we travel by car and had some of the best non-sandwich meals from the deli or specialty food section of the grocery store.

    As Frugal bachelor #56 noted, eating out in non-western countries is very affordable and very much a part of the vacation experience. I wouldn’t think of going to such countries without trying the local fare, for me that’s part of the travel experience..

  144. Karen says:

    My boyfriend and I do something similar on several occasions. We went to Corpus Christie and met up with his sister and nephew and all stayed in the same hotel room. The hotel provided bbq pits on the beach. We grilled and it was the best meal we ate all weekend.

  145. Advicehound says:

    My husband is from Ireland and we went over for a family function and decided to travel around to make a bit of a vacation out of it. We visited a farm that had fresh bread and cheese and onion chutney and decided to buy some. We ended up out in the middle of nowhere and were starving. We remembered the bread and cheese and decided to have an impromptu picnic. It was not only one of the best meals we had, it was also a great memory of the trip. We enjoyed it so much that we decided to picnic for lunch the rest of the time. Our picnics were the best part of the trip! It was great to save money, but the memories are even better.

  146. Matt says:

    It sounds like your friend needs a lesson in sandwich making. My mother did this all the time on our yearly vacation to cedar point, making ‘blimpee subs’. She would buy all the deli meats and veggies needed, then splurge the extra 2 dollars for the authentic blimpee dressing, which means we could feed 6 kids for what it would cost to buy one meal at the sub shop.

  147. Penny says:

    @ Ida- Perhaps you don’t mind spending the five dollars a gallon for laundry soap when you could make it in under five minutes for $.80; however, you should not demean those who would rather have the $4.20. Furthermore, why even bother reading a blog about frugality if you are going to have a temper tantrum when someone mentions tactics with which you don’t agree? Might I suggest you quit “wasting your time” reading this blog since the low cost recipes and homemade products are a “waste of [your]time”? Seems if your time is so valuable, taking the time to read and criticize this blog is not the wisest choice.

  148. ksmedgirl says:

    We recently spent a week in the Bahamas. In order to maximize our time on the secluded beach we loved but had to drive 25 minutes to get to, we packed a lunch every day. There were no facilities, no food, and no water nearby. We had to bring it all with us. It was more than worth it. I would rather be on the beach than in a restaurant any day! Incidentally, this is how we do all our vacations. Pack our own food or eat out of the grocery store, which leaves us more time and money to to what we really want to do.

  149. Sara says:

    Amen, Penny!

    I have a feeling that the people who don’t like the idea of sandwiches on vacations are the ones who are already planning every detail of the vacation and just need a break. They might should try involving others in the decision making process and the load would probably feel lighter.

    I only let my inlaws plan one vacation that I just “rode along” for before I realized I could contribute and make things better for all of us by introducing them to hummus and homemade pita as alternatives to mayo and sliced bread. (By the way, if you haven’t tried PBJ on wheat pita after a hike, you don’t know what you are missing!) Brownies and cookies keep well in tupperware for car trips. And all kinds of meat can be seasoned/marinated then frozen to be put in coolers to slowly defrost in the ice chest then be cooked on a grill at a local park.

    Prepping a meal can easily take less time than waiting for a table in a restaurant. With less whining if some people aren’t happy with the restaurant choice!

  150. Interesting that the point in question is sandwiches on vacation. Many times on vacation we’ve opted for an “in-house breakfast”. If the hotel we’re staying at doesn’t provide breakfast, we’ll often bring a supply of cereal and milk or bagels or donuts.

    Since we have kids, even an inexpensive breadfast at McDonalds can cost $20-25, so we save a ton just with this one method.

    The kids tend to like it too, but one of the other things about vacation that they like is sleeping in. With food on hand, they can sleep in and/or take the morning slow, so we don’t get many complaints about our budget breakfasts. We can save over $150 for a week long trip, so it’s well worth the trade off.

    Sara (149)–I completely agree with what you’re saying about the time it takes to get to and wait at a restaurant. Sometimes it’s just not worth the wait, especially if you’re traveling, or at a place where there’s lots of competition for your time.

  151. Nice post.

    Hey, not every tip is for everyone . . .

    People need to pick, choose and use what makes sense.

  152. Wendy says:

    A picnic on the moon is “outside the realm of possibility”.

    Let’s keep some perspective.

  153. ali says:

    lunch in the park can be wonderful when traveling! it is a nice break for everyone – the kids run and play and I relax in the shade. We make lunch fun – sandwiches, fruit, even pick=up some popsicles or ice cream. My kids would rather stop by a park or campground that a cafe. And eating poolside at the hotel – they think that is “upper crust”! Learning to enjoy the small things make our live great.

  154. deRuiter says:

    Think of a glamorous picnic on the banks of the Seine in Paris with baguettes, local cheese, a bottle of wine or sparkling water, and some fresh pears. Picnic food doesn’t have to be “lunchmeat shoved between two slices of stale bread.” You can either vacation a little while spending a lot, or vacation a lot or a great distance while spending little. Nothing wrong with going to a restaurant for a local specialty, and also enjoying picnic lunches or breakfasts. In Germany and Holland the typical breakfast is fresh rolls, sliced ham, sliced cheese, and juice, coffee or tea. You can get these breakfast ingredients cheaply at a deli or supermarket deli counter, and breakfast like sophisticated Europeans. Trent, the friend of yours who was so negative about picnic food, sounds like a person who is unable to be thrifty in any way in her life. A few days ago we sat on the sandy bank of the Elbe river, lounging in the shade of a beach umbrella, and munching on sliced watermelon while a man in a speed boat entertained us with his antics on the river. This was a WONDERFUL AFTERNOON, AND DIRT CHEAP!

  155. Georgia says:

    Who says bologna and cheese and bread are bad? Uh Uh. One of my favorites. Had it quite often when a kid (nearly 70 years ago) and don’t have it very often now. But it is a great treat for me. Of course, I add mayo, mustard, catsup or whateve I have on hand. Also lettuce, onion, tomato. If you eat it every day it isn’t a treat. But 3-4 times a year can make it seem a real treat.

    Thanks for all the hints. I will now consider taking a cooler on my long drives, even though I go by myself. And I love the idea of taking your own cereal, coffee, etc. with you. Maybe because I do love the idea of sleeping in on vacation.

    Good traveling everyone.

  156. Fern says:

    I’m wondering if in addition to fear of the unknown, a certain sense of entitlement is also at play with your friend, and with others who won’t try new ways of doing things.

  157. David045 says:

    Ah France! Many years ago while I was in service and on a USN vessel, I had a wonderful time in Toulon on practically no money. I recall strolling the parks and sites around the city and my favorite meal was a tomato sandwich on great bread and made by the sweet hands of a gorgeous French girl. Ohh la la! As Alton Brown would say, “That’s good eats!”.

  158. Julie says:

    Making sandwiches is a great idea and I’ve done it for years with my kids. I’ve been a single parent for years (kids grown now) and I’ve come to appreciate the “Simple Dollar.” The actual simple dollar and am loving this site. Over the years I have found a lot of satisfaction in having a great lifestyle on the cheap. Many times I have seen friends struggle financially on more than twice my income while I have felt abundant in the goodness of life.

    I live in Australia and we have been in a drought for several years. Water and it’s supply has gone up in price substantially and we have had many restrictions placed on it’s use. Four years ago I purchased a watering system for my garden that reused the grey water from my laundry. Although it was expensive it has proved to be a very good purchase. At the time I was only able to water my garden for two, two hour periods per week on a Sunday and Wednesday morning between 6 am and 8 am which was very inconvenient. I have also connected most of the water drained from my roof to it and most of my small garden is watered automatically and I very rarely have to buy water for this use.

    The down side is that I have to be really careful about what products I put into my washing machine. I have been using tri nature alpha plus washing liquid which has the same PH as water. My garden thrives but it is quite expensive. If I use a soaker I usually throw a switch and the water goes into the sewer. I try to get back to switch it for the rinse but this is not always possible and I also forget semi-regularly.

    Do you have any suggestions for cost savings in this situation? I wouldn’t be game to try your clothes washing formula. I have put a lot of love and care into my garden.

    Keep up the good work.

  159. Jaron says:

    This comment made me wonder if your friend has a partner and/or kids and, if so, who usually does the cooking? I know couples where the husband does most of the cooking or the two people share it equally. But if she’s in a relationship and has kids and normally does all the cooking… guess who’s the one who doesn’t really get a break on vacation if, once again, she’s the one doing all the cooking? Her!

  160. H. Steller says:

    One of the nicer dining experiences in the Napa Valley is lunch on the grounds of a little store there that has freshly baked bread loaves, hunks of all sorts of cheese, packages of olives. . .some more expensive than others, but still far cheaper than the restaurants. The grounds are beautiful, and families eat at tables or just spread a blanket on the grass. It’s more memorable than lunch at many a famous spot. We always go there when we visit Napa.

  161. pam munro says:

    When I was a kid we even had breakfast in the card with those little cereal boxes you could put milk in! And yummy sandwiches for lunch – my mother made the BEST sandwiches, crammed with stuff – but even liverwurst with pickle relish is great & an old favorite. Or you could buy canned pate & have it with crackers & cheese – As a student traveling in Europe, I ate cheese/sausage/bread/fruit from the local providers & it was great!

  162. CW says:

    Well, add me to your list of eating sandwiches on vacations and on trips. I love going into little markets that we come across during our travels — I pick up a loaf of bread, one of those tiny jars of mayonnaise, some lunch meat and sliced cheese and we make lunch in the car. I’ve used the glovebox door many times as a ‘counter’ to lay out the bread. Too cool to find that you do this too… I never thought of it as being frugal so much as convenient. We eat immediately (well, as soon as I can get the sandwiches made), and it’s cheap and fun. Fantastic article!

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