(TNS)—When you are ready to relax after a morning of sightseeing or just returning to your hotel room after a round of business meetings, heading out to wait in line at a restaurant can seem like a real headache. And if the room service menu where you are staying is nonexistent or lackluster at best, it can leave you in a real lunch lurch. What’s a hungry traveler to do? When it comes to pinching meal pennies on the road while still maintaining convenience, consider turning to takeout. Following are some of my favorite ways to do so.
Rice is one of the most popular choices when supplementing an order of savory, spicy ethnic food. When it comes to this particular dish, however, I recommend you skip the side order and opt for carrying a pouch or two of the precooked stuff from the grocery store with you. Typical costs for fried rice can easily run you $6, while a pouch of fully prepared rice from the grocery store is less than $2. Transfer it to a collapsible travel bowl and spoon a hot batch of saucy, soupy takeout curry over the top, or simply squeeze some of the rice into the container of curry itself. Either way you are ahead of the game financially, and at worst you have something in your suitcase to ease the hunger pains if you are unable to place your order during regular restaurant hours.
While grabbing the lunch special to go may be the most obvious answer for solo travelers looking to save money, there is value to be ferreted out for singles by leveraging dining deals designed for couples. The popular Applebee’s combo offering two main courses and an appetizer for $20, and the Chili’s equivalent priced at $22, each allow you to swap out your starter snack for two side salads. This means you can score two multi-course meals for less than $12 each. Order them both to go, and store one in the hotel fridge for the next day.
Takeout bargains can also be found in the form of gift cards. For instance, a recent check of Costco’s website showed a number of $100 multi-pack gift cards from various chain restaurants being sold for 80 bucks. Eateries with these deals available include P.F. Chang’s, California Pizza Kitchen and more. Traveling with kids or a dog? Numerous casual dining chains now have curbside pickup, which eliminates the logistical stress of going inside to pick up your food.
Family-sized deli deals from local grocery stores can also serve as an affordable takeout option. My husband and I have used the Publix combos for meals at a number of Airbnb rentals around Florida. The one closest to us offers an eight-piece box of cooked chicken, two side dishes and a small package of dinner rolls for less than $15. That’s easily two dinners for each of us, plus a small chicken snack or two for when we are too busy working to stop and make lunch. At less than $3.75 per meal, we’d be hard pressed to purchase drive-through burger meals for that price.
The grocery store also offers great options to supplement ready-made deli items with tasty additions from other departments. Even a plain rotisserie chicken can easily be jazzed up with a bag of mixed greens and a light dressing, or a freezer box of fried rice you can heat up in the hotel microwave. That and a bottle of wine enjoyed on the balcony of your hotel room makes a decent dinner for two and provides chicken leftovers for picnic sandwiches the next day. Other yummy extras include cut veggies with dip, a pint of gourmet ice cream or tortilla chips and salsa to complement microwave sandwiches.
Turning to takeout can be an attractive option not only for your bottom line, but also for enjoying an upgraded hotel room. If you opted for a balcony with a view or a business suite with couch, coffee table and flat screen television, relaxing with a tasty Thai treat or grocery store deli item you can supplement with a pint of specialty ice cream or bottle of wine can feel like just the ticket after a taxing day on the road. With all of the options available for grabbing additional value, it can definitely pay to put takeout on your short list of travel dining options.
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