Tuesday, June 24, 2014

On the Road: Trying to Keep Food Costs Down

An example of a Trader Joe's storefront.
An example of a Trader Joe's storefront. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Vacationers will sometimes try to keep their food costs down by cooking their own food in a hotel that has facilities for that purpose. This is a great idea to save money if travelers have a large family. However, checking exactly what supplies the accommodation has is a good idea before hitting the grocery store.

In one place I stayed I had a stove, microwave and refrigerator. I had a set of dishes and some glasses. In addition, I had one very small pan and one very small skillet. I purchased some food with the intent to make a meal, but I found I was lacking the other things needed to accomplish this task. The place did not have any condiments. The can opener, which did not work well, was the only utensil other than a couple knives, forks and spoons. I did not have any plastic containers to properly store the leftovers. In some respects, I would have been wiser to just go out for dinner. However, having food in the hotel for small and simple meals is a good idea. Just remember to have all the little extra things needed for the meal so an extra trip is not necessary.

While on the road for my longer trips, my needs are simple for food and I am able to keep my food costs down by going to Target, Sam's Club and Trader Joe's. One thing people may not realize is these big national chains do a good job of keeping prices almost the same all over the country. I have seen little difference in the prices in California vs. the prices in Ohio for the food items I purchase at these three chains. Keep in mind my needs are simple. I almost never cook a compete meal while I am away from home. When I first drove to California, I thought the prices would be outrageously high. I took enough shampoo, conditioner, ZonePerfect bars, etc. to last for the entire trip. Now I realize that Target and Sam's Club will hold the line and keep those prices pretty consistent with their prices in Ohio, so I purchase those items when I arrive at my destination.

An exception can sometimes be found within certain chain stores. For example, I have found the prices for a few items at the Empire Center Target in Burbank are higher than the prices for those same items at the Target in Santa Clarita. Sometimes this cost can be at least a dollar more. If an item is found in the ad, no price difference will exist. The regional grocery stores are where I see the highest prices. If the item is not on sale, people will pay a higher price as is the case in any grocery store in any area. Travelers can also ask the hotel if farmers' markets are in the area so they can have fresh produce. If they are going to be in an area for a long period of time, travelers would be wise to research online the options available to them for their food needs.

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