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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Save Money By Cooking In Your Hotel Room

It's no secret that I'm a big advocate of vacation rentals, because having a kitchen can totally help you stretch your budget. But what if you don't have a kitchen, because you can only get a hotel room? Well, if you have a microwave, coffee maker and mini-fridge, you can still make actual food. You just have to be a bit more creative.

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Obviously, you can survive on microwaveable meals, but they can be packed with fat and sodium, so with a little ingenuity, you can make easy, healthy, and (mostly) fresh meals with minimal appliances.


Oatmeal: Not only can you make packet oatmeal in the microwave with just water, but you can make regular oatmeal in the coffee maker as well. Do as you would on the stove top. 

Cereal: This is pretty much the easiest breakfast ever.

Peanut butter and jelly: A good pb&j sandwich can be really filling and you can switch it up by adding sliced bananas instead of jelly and/or honey. Delicious!

Omelette: If you like a good hearty breakfast, then you can use a zip top bag to make an omelette in your microwave. You can add all your veggies and other ingredients, pop it in the microwave and zap for 2 1/2 minutes. Use Ziploc Zip 'n Steam bags for this. If you can't find them, you can make an omelette in a mug:
  • whisk eggs plus salt & pepper in your mug
  • microwave for 1 minute
  • add toppings and stir a bit
  • microwave for 1-2 minutes (done when all your liquid is gone and eggs are fluffy)
  • eat out of the mug or serve on a plate
Soft-boiled eggs: Add your eggs to the coffee carafe, brew (without coffee, obvs) so hot water drips over your eggs. Let them sit for several minutes and then they're ready to eat!

Bacon: You can make bacon in your microwave, as long as you have a real plate and some paper towels. Hit up a local dollar store for a plate and towels (and bacon, if you're lucky). Lay out two paper towels, one on top of each other, on the plate, place your bacon on them without overlapping, cover with two more layers of paper towels and microwave for 5 minutes.

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Grilled sandwiches: Whether you're looking to make a grilled cheese or something a bit more substantial, make sure to get some foil when you buy your ingredients at the store, put together your sandwich, butter both sides, wrap in foil, and then iron away with the iron that comes in your room. You can also do quesadillas this way. 

Macaroni and cheese: Use the microwave to cook your pasta, then drain and add your milk, butter and cheese packet. Of course, you could buy those little just-add-water cups, but they are twice as expensive and are only good for one person (if that).

If boxed mac and cheese sounds horrible to you, you can actually make your own from scratch as well. TheKitchn has this easy recipe that you can do in your microwave using your favorite shredded cheese and noodles.

Wrap sandwich: You can purchase pre-grilled chicken, then add hummus, lettuce and feta to a pita, or caesar salad dressing and parmesan for a salad wrap. You can heat up the chicken in your microwave if you want a warm wrap.

Salad: This is pretty easy and only requires a fridge. Buy all the ingredients and put it together when you're ready. You can make it even easier buy buying a bag of ready to eat salad that includes all the ingredients in the bag. Get some rotisserie chicken and add as topping.

Hot dogs: If you don't have a microwave, but you do have a coffee maker, you can have hot dogs, in about half an hour. Fill your carafe with 6-8 cups worth of water, add your frozen hot dogs to the carafe and turn the machine on. They will slowly cook in around 30 minutes.

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Pasta: You can actually make pasta in your microwave, if you have a container large enough to cover it with water. Most pasta can be cooked in 8-10 minutes on high. Here's a handy website. I do this at home, too, because I'm not patient enough to wait for a whole pot of water to boil on the stove. You can heat up a jar of really flavorful sauce in the microwave as well, or you can heat it up in your coffee maker, so both are ready at the same time, but you may want to use the carafe to drain your noodles.

Rice: Use your coffee maker to cook rice as you would on  your stove top, then add something like Indian food pouches they sell at Trader Joe's and similar food sections in your typical grocery store. Purchase steam in the bag veggies to add. If you're into a vegetarian meal, mix in beans, a can of diced tomatoes, and some steamed corn. You can also do quinoa instead of rice. You'll add the rice to the carafe, put the amount of water for the amount of rice you're cooking in the top and hit brew. Then keep it warming until all your liquid is gone. If this freaks you out, there are those quick packs of microwaveable rice.

Baked potatoes: I love a good baked potato. You can bake them in the microwave with a bit of olive oil or butter. Prick them with a fork or knife, drizzle a little oil or slather some butter on the outside, cover with a paper towel and cook on high for around 8 minutes. Once done, you can top with anything you like. I enjoy baked sweet potatoes with chili, but also regular potatoes with ham and cheese, traditional toppings, or fajita toppings, which you can sometimes buy already cooked in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.

Mashed potatoes: Knorr and other brands make a just-add-water mashed potato pack that come in different flavors and are easily made in the microwave. If you want fresh mashed potatoes, cook your potatoes like baked above, but for a bit longer, then mash with a fork with milk, butter, and salt & pepper.

Shrimp: Use a high quality zip top bag to cook your thawed (peeled) shrimp in the microwave. Add them to the bag with a bit of water or sauce and then cook for 3-5 minutes and use them over rice, pasta, or make your own easy shrimp tacos.

With a bit of smarts and a trip to the store, you can totally make a complete meal in your room for any time of the day. Don't forget about bringing back leftovers and repurposing them as new meals too, like meat and veggies that you can throw on top of potatoes or rice. 

If you bring some of your favorite spices from home (you can use empty Tic Tac containers), your meals will be even more flavorful. Just don't forget to get out and actually eat at some restaurants for a taste of your destination too. 

What's the best thing you've ever made in your hotel room?

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