Before heading out for a weekend trip, I always go through the refrigerator to make sure I won’t come home to any surprises waiting for me. It can be such a disappointment to come home, refreshed after a vacation, to realize that my frugally-purchased groceries have to be thrown out! Here are a few ways I “clean out the fridge” and prevent waste, as well as spending very little time cooking while on vacation.
- Make a meal plan for the trip. (I make weekly meal plans anyway, so this is simple to implement.) It can be as simple as a list of foods to take, allowing for flexibility, on up to a detailed menu for each day. Make sure to include restaurant meals, if you intend to eat out, to prevent taking too much food. In doing this, you can pack leftovers/ingredients out of your fridge, into the cooler, instead of leaving them at home. Having easy meal ideas helps prevent frequent “budget-busting” restaurant visits.
- Our family tends to snack a lot on vacations, so I plan ahead. Instead of unnecessarily purchasing expensive snack foods during our vacation, I bring a selection of snacks with us. The “last little bits” of things in the fridge can be perfect for snacking, such as a couple scones or muffins, slices of bread (just add peanut butter), the last chunk of cheese, or some odds & ends out of the veggie drawer.
- Wash and cut up anything left in the veggie drawer. A container of carrot sticks, celery, broccoli, peppers, etc. will be perfect to put out for a quick snack or easy meal side during a vacation meal. (You can even grab the jar of dressing to pack along, too, for dipping.) That half bunch of lettuce can be washed and the leaves tossed into a container; handy for sandwich-making during a vacation. Some veggies can also be tossed into the freezer, to be used when you return home.
- Slice or grate up any cheeses, and shred leftover cooked meats to take along. These are wonderful for mixing up sandwiches (chicken, fish, or seafood), or tossing into a one-pot dinner over the campfire, with little on-site prep. (I don’t like to pack knives along with us, so I do all chopping/slicing when packing.)
- Start the “cleaning” process a night or two before you leave. Prepare meals that will effectively use your leftovers, such as stews or casseroles. (Leftovers from these meals can also be frozen for a quick meal when you return home.) One of my favorite “pre-vacation” meals is Shepherd’s Pie:
Pull out a pie pan, and toss in some cooked meat (diced venison or beef, shredded chicken, or ground turkey/beef). Dice up the remnants of your veggie drawer (1/2 an onion, some garlic, wimpy celery and carrots, any leftover beans, peas, or corn… whatever you have.) Sautè the veggies in a frying pan with some oil or butter until tender. While they are cooking, pour in some leftover broth (about 1/2 a cup), and a couple dashes of tamari/soy sauce. Add herbs/seasonings as desired. Spread the cooked veggies over the meat in the pie pan. Pour more leftover soup or broth over the mixture (about 1/2-1 cup of liquid).Meanwhile, boil or steam up any last few potatoes/yams you have sitting around, and then mash them up with some butter and salt/pepper. (If you already have leftover mashed potatoes, use those!) Spread potatoes over the top of the veggies, to the edges of the pie plate, sealing in the filling. If desired, you can grate some cheese over the top, too. Bake at 350 F for 20-30 min. (the peaks on the mashed potatoes will be slightly toasted, and the pie will be heated through).
- Leftover juices or milk can be poured into mason jars or thermoses to be enjoyed during the trip.
- Don’t leave fruit to rot in the fruit bowl at home. Take along those aging bananas, apples, and oranges! You can wash and slice fruit into containers, or pack them whole. If you have time, prepare a fruit salad before you leave, and pack it in a bowl in the cooler, for a cool snack or side dish. When eaten with the last of the cottage cheese, it makes for a simple, light meal.
- You can pack eggs in a camping egg-container, or prepare them ahead of time. Hard-boiled or Deviled Eggs are delicious finger foods for snacks or meals.
Now I’m off to pack my suitcase for our weekend camping trip! Visit Biblical Womanhood for more Frugal Friday ideas (and congratulate Crystal on Baby #3!). Visit Gayle at the Grocery Cart Challenge for the Grocery Cart Recipe Swap!