This post was written before we purchased our motor home as I adjusted to cooking for a family of five while staying for extended periods of time in a hotel room.
Affordable meal planning on the road has been one of my biggest challenges. Of course, if you’re planning a quick field trip, weekend getaway or a short vacation, to avoid eating out, you could pack PB & J sandwiches with apples, maybe your choice of lunch meat with chips or pretzels or easy snacks like crackers and cheese, and if there are enough pennies in your budget, maybe you’d even enjoy a meal out somewhere different once in a while. Chances are, by the time your trip was over, you may be getting sick of the easy, convenient foods, but you’d survive. But for an extended stay, believe me when I say that it won’t take too long before you’ll long for a home cooked meal.
What happens when you are going to be somewhere for an extended length of time, money is tight and you don’t have a lot left over for food? And to add to the dilemma, you don’t have access to a kitchen or even a microwave or refrigerator? What then? Well to help us overcome this problem, I always pack what I like to call ‘a kitchen in a box’.
My makeshift kitchen includes my crockpot, toaster oven and cooler. I’ve learned to cook many, many meals in my crockpot. The problem is finding meals that are very inexpensive when we don’t have a lot of money. I love the websites and e-books that claim to create an entire meal for a family for under $5 but as hard as I try, I’ve been hard pressed to actually pull that feat off. Even though I’ve learned to use coupons and shop sales, living in the hotel room, I’m limited on storage space so I’m not able to stock up when I find a ‘great deal’. And with 5 people in our family and two of those being growing teenage boys, the promise of creating all our meals for under $5 has eluded me. But that hasn’t stopped me from trying. So, I thought I’d give you an idea of a few recipes that we enjoy while on the road and share with you the cheapest meals I’ve come up with so far.
One particular recipe that we have enjoyed that is really inexpensive uses Ramen Noodles. In my crockpot (on high heat), I simply crush up 5 packets of chicken flavored noodles, add hot tap water (if the water’s not hot enough in the hotel, I can heat it in the coffee maker), add the seasoning mix and add in 2 cans of corn. The ‘soup’ will heat fairly quickly (30 min. or so) and is ready to eat. At a total cost of approx. $1.74, it’s very budget friendly and makes enough for the fellows to have seconds if desired. I wouldn’t want to eat this everyday, but it is quick, easy and requires no prep work. I normally prepare a tossed salad with croutons to eat with the soup. While looking for inexpensive meals, I ran across this website that lists meal ideas for the Ramen Noodles .
Another inexpensive meal I’ve found is to cut up about 8-10 large potatoes in cubes, add 3 cans of cut green beans (don’t drain) and 1 pkg of Turkey Smoked Sausage cut up in pieces. Add the ingredients to your crockpot and cook on high for 6-8 hours. Serve with salad and/or buttered French bread. If you need to make more, simply add more beans and potatoes.
For about $8, I’ll heat a few cans of canned beef stew in my crockpot and cook Pillsbury biscuits in the toaster oven. This is great for cooler days.
Another quick and easy meal is to serve baked potatoes with your choice of toppings. Wash & dry the potatoes, wrap in aluminum foil and place in the crockpot on low for 8-10 hours. Sometimes the potatoes are a meal in themselves, sometimes I’ll add a salad or a quick dessert.
How about Crockpot Ravioli, Chili or Crockpot Pizza? And of course, who could ever pass up a delicious roast with potatoes and carrots? It may not necessarily be budget friendly, but it certainly tastes good.
Crockpot Ravioli– 1 pkg of frozen ravioli, 1 large jar of spaghetti sauce, mozzarella cheese. Pour a bit of sauce on the bottom of your crockpot, add the ravioli, cover with the remaining sauce, top with mozzarella cheese. Cook on high for about 2- 2 1/2 hours. I also serve this with a quick tossed salad and garlic bread cooked in the toaster oven.
Crockpot Pizza– This seems to be a hit with the kids. I use Mostaccioli noodles, but I’m sure you could use whatever type you prefer. Pour a bit of spaghetti sauce in the bottom of the crockpot, add a layer of noodles (uncooked) with your choice of toppings – we use pepperoni, mushrooms and green peppers- top with cheese and continue layers until all your ingredients are gone. Be sure to cover the noodles entirely with the spaghetti sauce so they will cook properly. Cook on high for about 3 hours. Of course, we also add a salad and bread to this meal as well.
Roast with Potatoes and Carrots– This is our favorite crockpot meal. Simply cube your potatoes and carrots and add to the crockpot with your roast. I like to add 1 pkg. of dry onion soup mix and 1 can of cream of mushroom soup for flavoring. Cook on high for most of the day. Great, easy recipe!
These may not be gourmet meals, but they are fairly easy to prepare in the hotel room.
What’s your favorite crockpot meal that’s easy enough to prepare on the road?