Vacation Food – Saving Money – Dry Ice is your Friend

Packing Food for a Family Vacation

My extended family has been vacationing together for a number of years now.  Sometimes we do Disney World, sometimes the beach, but we always use this method for bringing our food along.

I’ve updated this post, which originally was published in 2009.  The photos are not great quality.  Every year I think I should try for better pictures, but it’s vacation and I forget in the midst of all the fun.

Subtitle: How My Mom Transported 5 Dinners for 13 People from Indiana to Florida in August without Giving Anyone Food Poisoning

What? Not eat out on vacation? Who wants to cook while they’re vacationing? Probably nobody, but with a little planning making your own food on vacation can be easy and will save you hundreds of dollars. (It also helps if you have a mom who does all the work. More on that in a minute.)

I’m not going to talk about using crockpots, hotpots, toasters and coffee pots in a hotel room, although I have done that before. This info will be most useful for those of you who rent a house or cabin or if you camp. These are also great ideas if you are doing a “staycation” and want to eat at home, but keep it simple and good.

Using Dry Ice to Transport Food

My parents packed a very large cooler about 4:30am with the food, which was already frozen solid. They bought dry ice that morning. There were guidelines on the package of dry ice that said to use something like 12 lbs. for 48 hours. Because of the heat, they decided to use 20-25 lbs. of dry ice. They packed it on top of the food because cold descends. The dry ice was also wrapped in newspaper to better insulate. All the ice was gone when the cooler was opened, but the food was still frozen.

You need to know that my parents left Indiana at 4:30am on one day. The cooler was not opened until about 4:30pm the next day! That is a long time to keep food frozen in August. The cooler just hung out in the back of their van while they drove and then enjoyed a half day at Epcot. We were a bit nervous before opening it, fearing it had all rotted. But it worked!

Tip: If you can’t find dry ice, check with a local welder.  They usually have plenty and will sell it to you, although it is a good idea to check with them ahead of time to be sure they will have it for you.

Update 2016: My parents packed the cooler with the frozen food and 60 pounds of dry ice on Thursday around noon.  We didn’t unload the cooler until Saturday around noon.  Everything was still frozen and there were still pieces of dry ice.  Do be careful unloading if you have pieces of dry ice remaining.  It will burn your skin if you touch it. We used tongs to remove the dry ice, and towels to handle frozen metal pans.

I’m not sure why the amount of dry ice has increased so much since we started this. We’ve never had anything thaw before.  Maybe we’ve just gotten nervous about it?

The Menu:

There are lots of different foods you could make that could be assembly only and frozen to reduce your cooking and clean up time on vacation. These are some of the foods we made. Click the links for recipes. I took these photos with my old point-and-shoot camera.

Update 2016: This is the exact menu we ate this year (and every year).  It works for us.

Stuffed Shells

Chicken Fiesta with Black Beans

Chicken Tetrazini

Pulled Pork Sandwiches and Hashbrown Casserole

A few other tips

Make good use of foil pans and crockpot liners. They will greatly speed up the cleanup process.

We used a grocery shopping service called We Go Shop in Orlando. That saved us spending our vacation time buying perishables that couldn’t be frozen.

Update 2016: We’ve used We Go Shop a number of times. They are wonderful to work with.  I highly recommend them.

Mom also made and froze a cake, cookies, waffles, banana bread. Obviously, there was some work in planning and preparing the food, but it really paid off in the end.

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Freezer Friendly Breakfasts

When summer vacation is over, mornings always get a little more hectic. There’s no sleeping in or lazy breakfasts! Keeping a stash of quick breakfast options in the freezer can be a real time saver.
freezer breakfasts col

So just in case you need some inspiration and ideas for breakfasts you can grab-and-eat for your freezer, I’ve compiled some freezer friendly recipes here.

egg free waffles EAHWhole Grain Waffles

Waffles are the perfect freezer-friendly breakfast. Pop into the oven or toaster to defrost and it’s almost as good as fresh from the waffle maker! Especially if you top it like this. 

Gingerbread Waffles

hashbrown casseroleHashbrown Casserole

This is a recipe that can be made in the oven or slow cooker, but it can be frozen before or after baking.  If you freeze it in individual servings after baking, it can be heated in the microwave for a quick breakfast. It’s great for busy mornings…and holidays too!

Breakfast Burritos

applebrownbettymuffinsdone.jpgApple Brown Betty Muffins
Graham MuffinsGraham Muffins

blueberrymuffinswithorangeglazedone.jpgBlueberry Muffins

All muffins

You can pretty much freeze any and all muffins, not just the few I spotlighted here. And there’s lots and lots of great ones to choose from, both sweet and savory! I love muffins, and think they make a great breakfast on the go, too.

peanut-butter-pancakesPeanut Butter Pancakes

whole wheat apple pancakes doneWhole Wheat Apple Pancakes

All pancakes

Pretty much any pancake will freeze well. They’re toaster friendly, and the kids always love them.

 

depression era bread doneDepression Era Bread

Whether you make a quick egg sandwich with it, or top it with peanut butter and applesauce, having this quick bread in the freezer is really handy on busy mornings!

What are your favorite breakfast foods for busy mornings?

 

 

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Why and How to Freeze Cooked Meats

One of my secrets to quick meals is having cooked meat in the freezer.  This is by far the biggest time saver you can do for your meal prep.

 

Ground Beef

You can cook ground beef (or ground chicken, pork, sausage etc) on the stove-top.  Or use this trick to do it in the slow cooker.

Grilled Chicken

If it’s nice out, fire up the grill and cook the chicken outside.  Slice and freeze. The smokey flavor will bring summer to your winter meals.

Rotisserie Chicken

3 Costco Rotisserie Chickens yield 5-6 meals. 13 possible recipes

 

If you’re not in the mood to cook it yourself, grab several rotisserie chickens.  Pull the meat off the bones and freeze it.  You can find meal possibilities here and 10 more meal ideas here.

Whole Chicken 

Or bake a chicken yourself.  Use the slow cooker or do several at once in the oven.

Freezer Friendly Meatballs

how to stretch ground beef

 

Meatballs are so versatile for quick meals.  I have this recipe that includes rice to stretch the ground beef and make it go further.  Or try this more classic meatball recipe that still makes a bunch.

Turkey Breast

turkey breast in slow cooker

 

You can get a lot of meat off a turkey breast.  It’s a great deal if you find a sale.

Pulled Pork

Pulled Pork is always good to have stashed away in the freezer for quick meals.  Serve it as sandwiches.  Add pineapple and cheese for a Hawaiian version.  Serve it over rice, like haystacks.  Lots of possibilities.

 

 

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Dessert Recipes to Freeze

Desserts may not be the first thing you think of stocking your freezer with, but there are a lot of great reasons to do just that.

Having something sweet stashed away can help you avoid running to the grocery at night to grab a snack (or are we the only people who do that?).  Kids and teens especially like having cookies in the freezer to grab.

And prepping a dessert for company before the occasion arrives is a great time saver.

No matter what your reason, here are some dessert recipes to consider making and freezing.

peanut butter fluff pie done

Peanut Butter Fluff Pie

cappuccino pie

No Bake Cappuccino Pie

Frozen Fruit Cups

Frozen Mocha Marble Loaf

Candy Cane Ice Cream Sandwich Cake

Candy Cane Fudge Ice Cream Sandwich Cake

Amish Oatmeal Cookies

Chocolate Dipped Banana Pudding Pops

Black Forest Cherry Ice Cream Dessert

Black Forest Cherry Ice Cream Dessert

coffee toffee ice cream pie done

Coffee Toffee Ice Cream Pie with a Ribbon of Fudge

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Peanut Butter and Jelly Ice Cream Cake

Easy Peanut Butter and Jelly Ice Cream Cake

Mocha Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

Jello Popsicles 

buster bar inside

Buster Bars

Pumpkin Chip Cookies

10 homemade ice creams

Ice Cream of all Kinds!

Virtual Freezer Cooking Party

 In case you’d like to have grocery lists and plans done for you, we’re running a sale on 12 Slow Cooker Freezer Meal Plans.  Click the image  below to find out more and use the code PARTY to save $2.

200 lp12 slow cooker freezer meal plans

 

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Main Dish Recipes to Freeze

There are so many main dish recipes that will work for freezing.  In fact, nearly any recipe will work (although there are some exceptions).

Instead of listing every possibility, we’ve pulled together a short list for you.  Let these get you started, but know that there are lots of other options as well!

minideepdishpizzas

Mini Deep Dish Pizzas

chicken lettuce wraps done

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Hamburger Vegetable Soup

Honey Pork Chops

 

Smothered Steak with Onion and Mushrooms

stromboli done sliced2

Stromboli

Mel’s Diner Chili

Reuben Calzone

50’s Primetime Meatloaf

baked-spaghetti-done-this-one

Baked Spaghetti

freezerburritosdone_thumb.jpg

Black Beans & Rice Freezer Burritos

Chinese Cheater Chicken

Thai Chili Chicken Egg Rolls

Smoked Sausage & Sauerkraut Soup

Chicken and Dressing Casserole

Stuffed Shells

BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

Virtual Freezer Cooking Party

In case you’d like to have grocery lists and plans done for you, we’re running a sale on 12 Slow Cooker Freezer Meal Plans.  Click the image  below to find out more and use the code PARTY to save $2.

200 lp12 slow cooker freezer meal plans

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Breakfast Recipes to Freeze

We’re going to be gearing up for our Virtual Freezer Cooking Party all week.  I’ll be sharing different freezable recipes for you, so you can decide what you want to stock your freezer with on Saturday. And even if you can’t join us for the party, you still may want to set aside a time to fill your freezer.

Here are some ideas for breakfast foods:

What breakfast foods do you like freezing?

Virtual Freezer Cooking Party

In case you’d like to have grocery lists and plans done for you, we’re running a sale on 12 Slow Cooker Freezer Meal Plans.  Click the image  below to find out more and use the code PARTY to save $2.

200 lp12 slow cooker freezer meal plans

 

 

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How to make 6 slow cooker freezer meals in 1 hour – February (and a video)

February slow cooker freezer meals

Every month, as part of the Slow Cooker plan for Weekly Meal Plans, we do a freezer meals week.  The goal is to be able to assemble all 6 meals in just about 1 hour.

I stock these away to use on our really busy days.  I love having them in the freezer!  In fact, as I write this I can smell the Chicken Cacciatore cooking for our dinner tonight.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a video showing how I assemble the meals.  I’m not great at video.  I haven’t taken time to learn to edit.  And the storage on my phone is almost out (yes, I’m super high tech and record with my iPhone), so the video cuts out near the end.  But you don’t miss out on too much.

I hope you find the video helpful.  And if not, just skip it 🙂

All of the slow cooker freezer meal plans have downloadable, color-coded grocery lists.  I love shopping with these.  It makes it so easy to pick up what you need.

The February plans are all available in the member area now.  Members have access to all three plans – Traditional, Whole Food and Slow Cooker.

The recipes I make in this video are all available on the site.  But to get the printable grocery list, recipes and assembly instructions, you’ll need to be a member of Weekly Meal Plans.

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Freezing Single Servings for Teenage Boys and Other Hungry People

Freezing Single servings

 

A reader asked the other day about what types of foods are good for freezing in single servings.  She’s got a hungry teenage boy to fill up. (I can relate to that!)

Short of keeping the kitchen open all the time, with a cook waiting on hand, filling the freezer with single serving foods is the best way to keep those boys filled up.  And it works for others in the family too, who need to eat at off hours.

If you’re trying to feed boys, there are a few things to keep in mind:

1.  Include protein.  They like foods that will stick with them.

2.  Make it easy.  Hand-held is good.

3.  Keep a list on the freezer so they know what’s in there and where to find it. Or is it just my boys who forget what I’ve told them?

Here’s a list of recipes that will keep all kinds of  hungry people happy:   [Read more…]

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Slow Cooker Peach Chutney You Can Store in the Freezer

Slow Cooker Peach Chutney

 

 

Chutney is not a food that we eat often in my family.  In fact, this may be the first time most of the kids had tried it.  I was inspired by a sandwich we ate in Epcot Norway to try making my own chutney.

Since we’re in the middle of a Summer Slow Cooker Series, it seemed appropriate to use a slow cooker to make this.  I also wanted to be able to freeze it for future use.  For most recipes, you don’t need very much chutney and it’s nice to have it stashed away for when you need it.

Instead of the normal mango, I used canned peaches.  The fruit pairs up with red bell pepper, onion, jalepeno, golden raisins and spices for a sweet condiment with a hint of heat.

And in case you’re wondering what on earth you would actually do with chutney, I’ve got three recipes coming up for you!  I’ll be sharing those on the blog soon.

I know I took a photo of the ingredients, but somehow those photos have gone missing.  Thankfully, even though chutney itself may be a bit unusual, the ingredients are not.  Chances are you have most of these in your kitchen right now.  And the few you don’t have can be picked up on your next trip to the grocery.  Don’t forget plastic freezer bags to store the extra!   [Read more…]

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Pepperoni Pizza Stuffed Meatloaf – a Freezer Friendly Meal

Pepperoni Pizza Stuffed Meatloaf sliced1

 

I am so excited to be partnering with ALDI this year.  On a recent trip to ALDI, I picked up all the ingredients for this Pepperoni Pizza Stuffed Meatloaf.

It looks impressive, but it’s so easy to put together.  And it freezes great too, so you can assemble it ahead of time, but wait to bake until you’re ready.

Fresh mozzarella, pepperoni and marinara sauce bring a twist to the traditional meatloaf.  And because all the ingredients are found at ALDI, it makes it affordable too.

Click here to see the recipe and more photos of the assembly process on the ALDI Simply Smarter Living Blog.

Pepperoni Pizza Stuffed Meatloaf whole baked1

 

Disclosure:  I am partnering with ALDI and have been compensated, but all opinions are my own.

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