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Topic: Some suggestions for those nights you don't want to cook... please add your

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Subject: Some suggestions for those nights you don't want to cook... please add your
Date Posted: 1/31/2010 5:55 PM ET
Member Since: 2/23/2006
Posts: 4,505
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We have been spending way to much money eating out lately and I'm commited to STOP the madness!  So here are a few things I've been doing when we really want to eat out, but don't want to plunk down $25 plus for our family of five.

Rotisseri or fried chicken from the grocery store.  We have an IGA just a few blocks from my house that makes GOOD chicken!  On a night we really don't want to cook (and some nights it's just not gonna happen... you know what I mean) I'll have DH stop and pick up a chicken on his way home.  Then I grab some carrot sticks from the fridge and it's dinner. 

We also do occasional chinese takout.  It's not terribly expensive if we don't all go and order a separate entree.  For about $10 - $12 we can get two large menu items and white rice.  It's plenty to feed us all.

Grilled cheese.  Easy, fast, cheap, and everyone likes it. 

Salad with cold cut and cheese on top.  We buy salad in a bag... a little pricey, but if the alternative is eating out, the convience is worth it some days.  Top it with some grape tomatoes and sliced cold cuts and cheese (or left over chicken, or tuna from a can, or or or, you get the idea) .  Fast, easy, much cheaper than eating out. Sprinkle a few tortilla chips on top for some crunch!  If the kids aren't feeling in a salad mood, then they get a cold cut sandwich.

Another good salad alternative, Wendy's chili on a salad.  That's what you pay $5 for at Wendy's.  So I have DH stop off and pick up a couple things of Wendy's chili (it tastes way better than the canned stuff to me) and top a salad with it.

Breakfast for dinner.  Fast and cheap.  It's usually canned bisquits, scrambled eggs, frozen sausage, and juice.  Easy!

I've also gotten good at cooking a bit more than we need when I cook, so leftover night is an easy option at least once a week.

So what are YOUR ideas for saving money on those nights you really just want to eat out?



Date Posted: 1/31/2010 6:18 PM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
Posts: 14,634
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um I don't think you left anything LOL! :)

I was thinking some of the same things which is what I do now since I work 12 hour shifts and rotate every 2 weeks and am often tired and dont' want to cook.

I've done the Wendy's drive-thru for chili! love that stuff.

I also almost always have at least 3-10 servings of stuff I cook since it's just me eating it. I freeze soups and meals that can be reheated well. keeping a bread or tortillas on hand and some frozen soups, etc in the freezer are quick meals. if I had the space I 'd consider making some dishes ahead of time.

frozen pizza (I had coupons and a good sale on California Pizza Kitchen a while back and put several in the freezer)

I 2nd breakfast for another meal!

don't do the rotisserie chicken all that often but it's usually a great deal(unfortunately when I don't feel like cooking I don't feel like shopping in a crowded grocery store) I like making chicken salad with the leftovers!

as for the chinese food - a friend of mine used to do the takeout buffet regularly and she NEVER got the rice..she had a rice cooker and would put the rice in then go get the food..it would last several days(she was a light eater) but she refused  to waste money on the rice. but all the places I've ordered delivery from the rice came with the meal so always had tons leftover - plain white rice with some sugar and butter is the only way my dad will eat rice. so just depends on what you have nearby. formy area the buffets and dinner entrees are expensive..usually the lunch specials are enough for 2 good sized meals with the rice though it's not easy to tell when you're not gonna want to cook later on!

if it's early in the day and you know you won't want to cook because of other stuff going on maybe a slow cooker meal will work. sometimes I don't feel like cooking because I have a bunch of errands to run but putting something in the slowcooker 6-8 hrs earlier so it's ready when I am might do the trick.

growing up my mom didn't feel like cooking a lot of times due to work then taking classes and our being busy with stuff and we had sandwiches or hotdogs or canned chili or cheese toasted sandwiches(we called them grilled cheese but they were done with the broiler)..we would sometimes have the sub sandwiches for a change of pace (those were 'special' then since we usually only ate sliced white bread).

Date Posted: 1/31/2010 7:47 PM ET
Member Since: 7/23/2005
Posts: 7,502
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Hmmm.... I'm not sure I can come up with much.... you guys listed some great things and some were what I would have listed, LOL.

How about hot deli sandwiches?  I'm not sure that they'd be all that cheap, but they're quick and yummo:

Grilled sliced turkey breast, pre-cooked bacon and cheese
Grilled pastrami and swiss cheese
Corned beef for reubans, or hot corned beef topped with melted cheese and cole slaw
Sliced turkey breast sandwiches covered with turkey gravy
Sliced roast beef sandwiches covered with beef gravy

You can pair them up with soup, baked potatoes or your favorite frozen side dish, nuked

You can make spaghetti with meat sauce ahead of time and just nuke it.  We keep the sauce separate from the pasta so it doesn't soak up all of the sauce while sitting in the fridge.  Just brown the meat and add jarred sauce.

Ham BBQs or Manwhiches are super quick and can also be made ahead of time.

Maybe tacos?  Make the meat ahead of time and use simple toppings like lettuce, salsa, packaged shredded cheese, sour cream, etc.

Hot dogs in a skillet and boxed mac and cheese?

I have to agree with Susanna on the crock pot, if you have one.  You can make some pretty great meals in them with relatively few ingredients.

Last Edited on: 1/31/10 7:49 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 2/2/2010 12:04 AM ET
Member Since: 6/30/2007
Posts: 2,545
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Some of these are 'prep' cooking so you'll have it ready for a day you don't want to cook.

English muffins with tomato sauce and a little shredded cheese, pop in the toaster oven/broiler, instant mini pizza.  You can also use the new thin bagels.

I know some say you can't freeze rice but I've had great success.  I make a huge batch and then I measure it out into 1/2 cup 'balls', which I place onto plastic wrap.  I wrap lightly by forming into a ball.  These go onto a plate in the freezer until they're frozen.  Then I take them all and put them into a large ziplock bag.  When I need rice I just pull the quantity I need and unwrap onto a plate and sprinkle a little water or chicken broth on top of each. Cover with a microwave top and set for a couple minutes at a low power level.  Still fluffy and tastes just like fresh steamed.  These are great for taking to work for lunch.  1/2 cup is just right to warm up and and pop into a bowl of soup or beans, etc. 

I use the store rotisserie chicken to make broth.  After we've picked all the meat we want I plop it into the slow cooker and cover with water.  No seasoning needed.  After a few hours I just ladel the broth out and strain it into storage containers.  I freeze in one or two cup increments and always have enough broth for any cooking project.  The leftover carcass often yields enough meat to make chicken salad or even 'pulled' style BBQ.  Save it or freeze for when you want to use it.

I have a favorite soup I make using two packages of thawed frozen winter squash (store brand works great), my chicken broth, apple juice and a small amount of sauteed powdered ginger and chopped onion and curry powder.  Simmer and add a dash of sour cream on top.  Takes about ten minutes

Homemade tomato soup.  Chop up tomatoes and cook with chicken broth and chopped onions, celery if you like, I prefer no seasoning until it's served.  Once cooked down, carefully ladle into blender and puree.  If it's not thick enough for you can add some canned tomato paste but after making this a few times I've learned to gauge it.  Takes about half an hour or so but you can make a batch ahead or in the slow cooker and freeze/save in family or single serving increments to have later.  If you make it thicker you can thin out with more chicken broth or milk.

Quick sloppy joes.  I buy ground hamburger or turkey and 'boil' it instead of frying it.  Drop meat in small chunks into boiling water.  Break it up as much as possible while it's cooking.  Drain in a collander and pat dry.  Helps to get the grease off too.  Freeze the crumbles in your desired serving sizes.  This thaws much more quickly than solid and you can add the meat to sloppy joes, lasagna or to tomato sauce or even season for tacos, etc.

Date Posted: 2/2/2010 3:32 PM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
Posts: 14,634
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I'm SO glad I made both meatloaf and cowboy beans Saturday because I'm nearing the end of them now and about to do 3rd night shift...will cook more stuff either tomorrow or Thursday (or both!) also had help from my parents eating some of the stuff.I was worried I'd done too much! but sure glad I had since I sure didn't/don't feel like cooking. breakfast has been egg whites and waffles(frozen) or hashbrowns. quick stuff!  I've debated fixing up some pancakes and freezing those to reheat.

Date Posted: 2/2/2010 9:44 PM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
Posts: 14,634
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I wish I could duplicate chick-fil-a's chicken! that's one fo the things I crave a lot and that place is pretty expensive for fast food. I also crave the enchiladas, chicken fajita nachos at this one mexican restaurant close-by and haven't been able to duplicate it fairly healthy..not even unhealthy! lately though it's been free since my parents pay but that sorta defeats the purpose! plus last time I got tortilla soup and ate one of my mom's chicken fajita tacos--she's not a heavy eater and that plate comes with 3 and they're pretty stuffed along with beans/rice though she gets double rice but doesn't like the guacamole which I do. that one fajita and the soup was plenty for me.

sometimes I try to order something that will reheat or can be eaten later. I love the linguini marinara at Olive Garden but am often full from the salad and breadsticks. sometimes(If I have the willpower) I'll take most of the linguini home..if there's a breadstick left I'll take it as well otherwise I'll find some at home or skip it. I remember back in the early 90's when I was first losing weight a friend and I would go and the lunch portions were HUGE! I'd fill up on salad and have refills of salad and breadsticks then take the entire entree home and it was enough for 2 meals if I added a veggie..they shrunk the portions now though! but it works well if a meal can be shared though I think some restaurants have started charging for this.

I've heard good things about the Entertainment book also though I never get one since it's just me and mst are for 2 entrees or 2 people, etc. the major cities have them I think.

Date Posted: 2/3/2010 7:52 AM ET
Member Since: 2/23/2006
Posts: 4,505
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Susanna, you may already do this, but if you crave Chick Fil A sometimes, just buy the sandwich and take it home with you.  At home you have drinks, and you can add some carrot sticks or something to your meal to make it a little more weight friendly.  I know when I am out running around doing errands and it's lunch time and I'm starving I'll run through McD's and grab a $1 McDouble or McChicken just to get me through until I can get home.  Not so great on the waistline, but better than adding the fries and coke (and extra dollars) to the meal!


Date Posted: 2/5/2010 9:57 AM ET
Member Since: 12/30/2007
Posts: 1,739
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Slow cookers are great.  I've used mine 3 times in the last week.  Put a roast in it in the am.  Later I tore the roast apart with forks, dumped in a bottle of BBQ sauce and we had pulled pork BBQ sandwiches.  Doesnt need to be pork either.  I have used chicken breasts, roast beef.  No need to thaw the meat before hand.

Few days ago, I beat up some eggs, added milk, chopped ham, seasonings, some chopped veg, cheese.  Dumped it in the crock.   Whoever wanted hashbrowns, just threw them in the toaster.  Use whatever meat you have on hand, same with the veggies and cheese.

Seems whenever I make homemade soup, I overdo it and we have scads left.  So I put the leftovers in the freezer, and then take it out to use later.

Date Posted: 2/12/2010 1:53 AM ET
Member Since: 1/29/2007
Posts: 3,365
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I try to cook double of things that freeze well and then I can just take it out of the freezer on tough days - lasagna, spaghetti meat sauce, meatballs (my family will eat them w/ bbq sauce or I make up a gravy and serve over rice or noodles), taco meat, any type of casserole all freeze well. .

I also keep smoked sausage and a package of the frozen precooked hamburger patties from the grocery store. Both of those can just be quickly heated and it's dinner.

Date Posted: 2/12/2010 2:30 AM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
Posts: 14,634
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chick fil a is actually one of the more WW friendly worth the point fast food places IF I can sub the fruit cup or even the side salad with low fat dressing! I also like their diet lemonade..wish they'd jump on the bandwagon like macaronin grill and sell those patties bagged like Tyson LOL! just nuke and eat. they're just a bit more expensive so I try not to go there as often as I used to do.

I'm probably gonna make some slowcooker chili this weekend..I use a lot of canned beans and tomatoes so it's easy to do once I brown the meat with onion plus I hav esome leftover celery from the jambalaya I made the other day that I need to use up in something. I adapted teh wendy's chili recipe from topsecretrecipes.com but instead of fresh chilis and tomatoes I use a can of generic Rotel and put it all in the slowcooker vs stirring every 5 min on the stove! I usualy leave out the celery or use seasoning blend I buy frozen but since I have the celery I may just use it...wouldnt' mind making more jambalaya either and freezing some servings! also have some pizza crust that I already have the meat sauce frozen from the spaghetti I had a week or so ago. I may do that today if I wake up early enough or maybe on Saturday after I wake up. it doesnt't take long esp once the meat sauce is done.

Date Posted: 2/14/2010 5:10 PM ET
Member Since: 11/16/2007
Posts: 745
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I eat a low-fat diet. Some days I take a half can of chili, toss on some cheese, heat, and I have a dip for tortilla chips. Add sour cream if you want. Also add veggies and fruit. One can serves 2 adults.

Also, here is my black bean chili:

1 can black beans (about 10oz)

1 can crushed tomatoes (about 10oz)

1 small can diced chili peppers (2 oz?)

1 can corn (about 6-7 oz)

Chopped onion (optional)

Ground hamberger or chorizo (optional)

3-5 tablespoons chili powder

Dump everything in a good sized pan. Heat 15 minutes. Serve with sour cream or cheddar cheese, tortilla chips, or any other condiments. Add fruit, veggies if you want. Easy and delicious!

Last Edited on: 2/14/10 5:13 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 2/14/2010 7:13 PM ET
Member Since: 11/25/2009
Posts: 86
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one day a month, i bake 5 whole chicken parts. then i freeze them in zip lock bags. i will put enough in for my family. there are 5 of us so each bag get 2 breat 2 thighs and 3 legs. then i set one out in the morning and when i get home turn on the deep fat fryer and the chicken goes in for 5 minutes comes out hot and crispy. cheap fried chicken. steam some green beans(7 minutes) and you have a nice diner. o

also you can get gordons fish fillets. they come in a little square and are preseasoned and frozen. 15 minutes in the toaster oven and diner is done. it only takes a few secs to de-core a head of lettiuce and cut into quarters. pour dressing on and you have a salad. i actually had lettuce served this way at a 4 star resteraunt not to long ago and i have used the idea ever since.

Date Posted: 3/17/2010 3:20 PM ET
Member Since: 12/11/2009
Posts: 219
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I buy 10 pounds of hamburger at a time and cook it, divide it back up into baggies, wrap well, and freeze. Only takes a couple minutes to thaw a pound in the microwave. Then add to spaghetti sauce, casserole, Hamburger Helper/Zatarains (yes I know, that stuff is evil but once in awhile necessary) Can do other meats this way too -- smoked sausage, ground turkey, whatever.

I try to freeze little odds and ends and someone usually ends up eating them for lunch, or I throw a litle meat, veggies, whatever, together with rice and make fried rice-type stuff. They have Sun-Bird brand seasoning at Wal-Mart for fried rice and it turns out pretty good, I think.

Rice freezes well, IMO, so I make extra when I'm already making.

Crockpot meals work great -- and usually make enough for a couple times worth of leftovers, which can help too. I'm starting a roast tomorrow morning that I hope will make three meals.

We have Schwans' home delivery -- usually way out of my budget but I try to watch and if they have specials then I can pick up a few things -- their frozen pizzas are really great, for example. And they have a lot of other really easy things -- their soup is very good, and lots of other things.

Our store has Tony's frozen pizzas 2 for $7.00 all the time -- not the cheapest meal ever, but hardly terrible either. I usually add a few things to them -- some green peppers, mushrooms, whatever, because they're a little plain.

Date Posted: 3/17/2010 6:31 PM ET
Member Since: 11/14/2009
Posts: 6,999
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Last Edited on: 8/13/10 4:28 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 3/28/2010 11:48 PM ET
Member Since: 10/13/2005
Posts: 2,168
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First off, eating out for us means a 30 mile drive one way, so that isn't an option unless we are in town for other reasons.

My easiest "no cook" meal is to tear a piece of cheese in half. Place end to end on a flour tortilla. Whisk two eggs and scramble. Heat tortilla and cheese in microwave for about 30 seconds. Places eggs on tortilla. Add salsa. Wrap.

When I buy chicken breasts on sale, I will freeze a meals worth with marinade in a baggie. I can then pull it out in the morning, and have it thawed and marinated by dinner time. This is a summer staple, great for grilling, salads, ect. 0

When I make brown rice, I double or triple it and freeze in baggies. When Thom doesn't eat all his carrots and celery in his work lunches, I chop them up and flash freeze on a cookie sheet (I usually add onion at this point.) Once frozen, it's back to my handy baggie they go. Toss in some leftover meat, and I now have ready to go ingredients for a fast and easy soup, or fried rice (PM me if you want the recipe, don't want to type it if there isn't insterest.)

PS: Freezing food flat in baggies allows for faster thawing times and you can actually stack tons of them in the tiny freezer on the top of your fridge.

Date Posted: 6/3/2010 2:22 AM ET
Member Since: 4/2/2010
Posts: 911
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Making bean burritos is easy. All you do is heat up a can of refried beans, fry some flour tortillas, and then set-up an assembly line for your family to make their own the way they like 'em -- lettuce, cheese, salsa, tomatoes, sour cream, olives, etc..

Also, tostadas are real good. Fry some corn tortillas in veggie oil, and have the assembly station.

Tonight we ate one of those family size TV dinners -- Salisbury steak in gravy. Takes about an hour in the oven. I did make some mashed potatoes to go with it, though, and that does involve cooking but they tasted good with that gravy on top of them.

Date Posted: 6/5/2010 12:32 AM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
Posts: 189
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Rotisserie chickens are the best!

Target has REALLY good boxed Indian and Thai dinners. I buy rotisserie chickens and break them down as soon as they're home from the store (they're much easier to clean when they're hot!) Then mix the chicken meat with the Archer Farms (Target brand) Indian curry. There is also rice and a veggie side in the boxes. (I don't like their chutney, so I toss that.) Delicious!

Subject: Pizza Bagels
Date Posted: 6/6/2010 4:10 PM ET
Member Since: 9/1/2009
Posts: 6
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I just discovered these and they are easy, fun for kids and delicious.

Just take plain bagels and smear on a little pizza sauce, some cheese and whatever pizza toppings you want. Put in the oven at 425 for 5-10 minutes and everyone has a personal pizza. Easy clean up too!

Date Posted: 6/6/2010 6:38 PM ET
Member Since: 4/25/2007
Posts: 11,650
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Pancakes are so easy! I usually buy the Bisquick Shake N Pour bottles when they're on sale. By the time the griddle is heated up, I've put the water in the mix and shaken it up. Quick and easy meal. Leftovers can go in the fridge for the next day or frozen (put a piece of waxed paper between the pancakes) and thawed later.

We also buy ground beef in bulk (better price!) and cook it up loose and freeze it. Easy to defrost in the microwave and throw in Hamburger Helper or make tacos or a casserole.

The leftover white rice from chinese takeout we make into rice pudding. Very yummy!

Date Posted: 6/8/2010 9:02 AM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2006
Posts: 14,634
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I've noticed the grocery store right near my house has specials different nights/days of the week. pretty decent deals if you're not trying to eat healthy like I am! I know they have pizza fairly often and meatloaf, rotisserie chicken, fried chicken, chicken strips..ribs.they also have sides. in the meat section they have precooked heat and serve pot roast and other stuff that's pretty quick(but salty).

sometimes I'll grab a California Pizza Kitchen frozen pizza(I like the 5 cheese tomato one) and in my toaster convection oven it's done in less than 15 min or so and nice and crisp on the bottom.

Date Posted: 6/8/2010 12:04 PM ET
Member Since: 2/5/2010
Posts: 1
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To use up leftover cheese ends -- from Jacques Pepin -- Blend any types of cheeses in a food processor with some chopped garlic and (optional) white wine or sweet vermouth. Incredible as a dip, swirled with pasta, or in a sandwich.

We are going on vacation soon and will be staying in a house with a kitchen. I usually bring the ingredients for meals and cook there. This year, I am assembling and freezing little meals in plastic containers from leftovers at each dinner I have been making at home for the past few weeks. One container might contain a hamburger, some green beans, and a half of a baked potato. I'm thinking I should just keep doing this for regular home meals, too, like having a "free" Lean Cuisine type meal to heat in the microwave, instead of a bunch of single ingredient things to thaw and then assemble. Hope it works and I can spend more time at the water this year!

Finally, I read a hint in Parade or something like that a few weeks ago. It said to eat out of your pantry and freezer once or twice a week. I'm consciously planning one or two meals a week with what we already have. I have enough access to grocery stores that I don't feel like I'm getting ahead by overstocking the kitchen these days--keeping a running grocery and menu list is really helping with that.

Date Posted: 6/8/2010 9:20 PM ET
Member Since: 3/3/2009
Posts: 1,438
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Since i have chronic pain i don't cook like i used to, i'm trying to teach my 22yd daughter my "tricks"

I also used to work that dreaded 12hr night shifts so i used my crock pot alot.

I have a Food Saver and i LOVE IT, you can freeze just about anything and yes it keeps for a long time, i had a block of cheese in the freezer for 2yrs and it was just as fresh as the day i bought it.

When i bbq i do alot of meat. Just on Memorial Day i bbq'd steak, chicken legs/thighs, breasts, hot links, fish and hambergers. It's just me and dd here so i knew all that meat would last at least one week, and after that i would Food Saver anything leftover.

I like to use those Suddenly Salads mixes but will also use the store bought pasts shells, i will cook at night when it's cooler and add low fat Italian dressing, crumbled cheese, shrimp or ham chunks, olives, any leftover veggies. We love itcold on a hot day. I almost always double the recipe.

I make my own chicken broth with leftover chicken and then freeze it for later use. If i bake a chicken i will bake 2 and Food Saver the other chicken in parts.

I buy a big pack of hamberger and sperate it, some i will brown it up some i will make into hamberger patties, some i will make into a meatloaf and freeze it all in portions.


Date Posted: 8/11/2010 1:54 PM ET
Member Since: 2/23/2006
Posts: 4,505
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I just followed my own advice while we were on vacation. We were staying in a motel with a microwave and fridge. We got breakfast free at the motel, and usually ate lunch out while doing site seeing stuff. I wanted to save on dinners and not have TWO full meals out each day. One night we microwaved hot dogs at the motel. One night DH went down the road and got Wendy's sandwiches for everyone (no drinks or fries) and we added our own chips, fresh fruit and drinks to make it a meal. The last night we splurged and went out, but we went to a pancake house and ordered breakfast for dinner so it wasn't as pricey as some other options. It was a fun trip!