Meal Planning For Your Beach Vacation


meal planning beach

As you go through your family’s vacation checklist and mark off things like toothbrushes, bathing suits and phone chargers, you might also want to add coolers and tote bags filled with food to that list. On your next family vacation to the beach at Ocean City, NJ, consider saving some time and money by meal planning. This healthy habit allows you to prep for your week ahead, so there’s no fighting over where or what to eat — you have meals that will satisfy the whole family. Whether you need a quick bite before heading off to the beach in the morning, want to relax and enjoy lunch at the seaside or head back to your rental and enjoy a simple, but tasty, dinner, meal planning is the way to go.

Why Should You Meal Plan?

Packing meals for an entire week-long family vacation might sound intimidating at first. However, you’ll reap the rewards of meal planning soon enough, especially when you factor in money, time and health. You can still enjoy exploring the many places to eat in Ocean City, New Jersey, and enjoy dining out a few times on your trip to reserve those moments for more special occasions. In the meantime, here’s why meal planning should be your new vacation go-to.

1. It’s More Affordable

Vacations can end up being costly. Even with a set budget, it’s easy to accidentally exceed your desired spending when you factor in lodging, transportation, entertainment and, of course, food. Considering these expenses, respondents to one recent survey by Bankrate reported spending an average of $1,979 on all their summer vacation-related costs. With things continually getting more expensive, this number likely rises every year.

Plus, more families are spending money on eating out. According to the 2018 Customer Expenditures study conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. families spent an average of $4,464 on food away from home that year, up from both 2017 and 2016 totals. For a more affordable trip, meal plan for your next family vacation to the beach.

2. It Saves Time

Meal planning is an excellent way to make the most of your trip so you can spend even more time relaxing. If you’re in a hurry to get down to the beach first thing in the morning before it gets too crowded, you probably don’t have time to get ready to go off to a sit-down restaurant. Plus, restaurants closest to the beaches may be crowded and take longer for you to get seated and served.

If you’re in the midst of the perfect beach day, watching the waves roll in with your toes in the sand, the last thing you want to do is get up out of your chair to wander off the beach in search of food. When you have food already planned out, you can spend more uninterrupted time soaking up the sun and having fun with your loved ones.

3. It’s Usually Healthier

Not only can mindful eating reduce health risks, but it can also make you feel better overall, so you have the boost you need while on your family vacation

The smell of funnel cakes and Boardwalk fries is tempting, even more so when you don’t have any other options. Meal planning can help you stick to a routine even on vacation, so you’re not splurging every night. Even if the family doesn’t mind pizza for every meal, meal planning ensures everyone is still getting the nutrition they need in between dining out. Not only can mindful eating reduce health risks, but it can also make you feel better overall, so you have the boost you need while on your family vacation.

Things to Remember When Packing for the Beach

Packing food for the beach can be a little tricky. While you may opt to wing it last minute and pack whatever is handy in the pantry, that’s a bit of a gamble. Instead of taking your chances, be prepared and meal plan for every occasion on your trip. Before you start packing up coolers and totes, however, there are a few essential things to remember.

1. How Many Meals to Pack

Consider how many members of your family are going on vacation and how many meals you plan to bring food for, depending on how long you’re staying in Ocean City, NJ. If you’re taking a week-long trip, and everyone in your group eats three meals per day, you’ll need 21 meals for each person, plus any snacks. However, since you probably plan to eat out a couple of times, this number will decrease. Before you start packing, create a chart of each day, accounting for all meals and snacks. Go through and put which days you plan to eat out and stick to the schedule, so you know exactly how many meals to pack.

2. Give Yourself Enough Time to Shop

You might be used to waiting until the last minute to start packing — after all, about one-fifth of all Americans are chronic procrastinators. However, you can’t be successful with meal planning if you don’t give yourself the time to prepare. In the days before you leave for vacation, make sure you go grocery shopping for all the things you need, from snacks and water bottles to plastic utensils and containers. You should also pull out your coolers and tote bags to transport your food and drinks, so you aren’t frantically searching the house right before you go.

3. Plan Accordingly

Come time to pack everything up and load it into the car, take the time to designate different bags and coolers for specific foods to avoid a random plethora of assorted items

Come time to pack everything up and load it into the car, take the time to designate different bags and coolers for specific foods to avoid a random plethora of assorted items. Keep meals together, and label the bags and coolers if need be. You should also keep lodging in mind when you’re packing — will your rental have a full kitchen with an oven, microwave or toaster? What about a grill? Since this can affect what you bring, be sure to check the full details of where you’re staying. You probably can’t bring absolutely everything you need with you, so you should also have a list of anything you plan to purchase at a grocery store down at the beach so you can get in and out as quickly as possible.

Best Foods to Pack on Your Family Beach Trip

While you don’t have to empty your kitchen in preparation for beach vacation meal planning, you’ll still likely be packing a significant amount of food. You’re probably wondering, “What foods should I pack for vacation?” or if there is such a thing as packing the “wrong” foods. However, with proper meal planning for every occasion, you can’t go wrong. If you’re looking for some additional guidance, here are just a few of the best foods to pack for breakfast, days on the beach and other easy vacation meals your entire family is sure to enjoy.

For Breakfast

Although many think of breakfast as the most important meal of the day, it can be challenging to think about when you wake up on the beach and are eager to start your day. For fast, simple breakfasts, don’t forget to pack staples like cereals, yogurt and fruits. Yogurt cups are easy to transport in coolers, and you can even add granola and pieces of fruit to create a more filling parfait. If you know your rental will have a toaster, you could also bring a bag of bagels and a tub of cream cheese for a quick breakfast bite.

For mornings when your stomach won’t stop rumbling, you might want something a bit more filling. With a quick visit to the local grocery store at the beginning of your vacation trip, you can stock up on things like eggs, which you can cook with some sausage and potatoes to create a mouthwatering breakfast casserole on the mornings where you have some extra time. You can also make eggs to eat alone with some toast, or switch things up and create the family’s favorite French toast.

For Days on the Beach

A few beach picnic staples

If your family is planning on making the most of a beautiful day on the beach, pack up the coolers and enjoy a seaside picnic. However, eating food at the beach can be tricky, thanks to one culprit — sand. Anyone who has been to the beach knows how sand manages to find its way into just about everything. You’ll need to think about this factor, as well as the wind and water, making it easier for sand to stick to anything in sight. You also need to consider the summer weather and pack foods that can withstand the heat. Here are just a few beach picnic staples sure to satisfy.

  • Wraps: Skip the sandwich and go for something less messy, like a wrap. Since everything in a wrap is neatly packed away behind a layer of protection, you can spend less time worrying about stuff spilling out and sand getting in. Plus, wraps are easy to eat with one hand. You can even put each wrap in foil and store them easily in a cooler, and use the foil as yet another layer of protection from sand, peeling back the foil as you eat the wrap.
  • Pasta salad: Pasta salad is a classic summertime staple, so what better way to celebrate the season than by enjoying it on the beach? Pasta salad is easy to prepare and usually yields plenty of leftovers, making it handy to put in some containers and take it on the go for multiple days on vacation. Plus, pasta salad shouldn’t have any problem withstanding the heat. Just don’t forget the forks!
  • Fried or rotisserie chicken: Chicken is another option that stays delicious for days, whether you warm it back up or enjoy it cold. Pieces of both fried or rotisserie chicken are super easy to throw in a bag or container in your cooler and enjoy chilled for a protein boost on the beach. You could even pick up a fried or rotisserie chicken at the nearby grocery store to cut down on cook time and separate or shred the pieces before you leave your rental for your beach day.
  • Whole fruits: Fruit is a refreshing, sweet summer treat, perfect for a hot day on the beach. However, consider packing whole fruits, like apples, peaches or grapes. Whole fruits are an excellent alternative to sharing one bowl of fruit salad, since you risk sandy fingers continually reaching in to pull out pieces of fruit. Plus, you could even freeze grapes you plan to pack and use them as ice inside your cooler for other foods. When you’re ready to eat your grapes, let them thaw out for a few minutes and you’re ready to go.
  • Skewers: Using skewers to create kebabs is an easy, fun way to enjoy plenty of different foods on the beach. Whether you want to load your skewer with meat, vegetables or even fruit, you can enjoy lunch without ever even touching your food, significantly decreasing any risk of accidentally eating sand. With kebabs, you don’t have to worry about any extra utensils, and cleanup is a breeze.
  • Simple snack foods: Don’t forget about snacks! While some people may be quick to grab the bag of chips, consider pretzel rods or trail mix instead. When you reach into a chip bag with wet fingers, it’s easy to make the chips soggy. Plus, chips have a tendency to break, which could leave your towel covered in crumbs and a target for seagulls. Pretzel rods and trail mix usually hold up better against wet fingers and are typically more satisfying, too.
  • Pita pockets: Like wraps, pita pockets are another safer, beach-friendly alternative to the traditional sandwich. You can stuff your pitas with whatever you like. The bread works to protect whatever is inside, and may even help keep it cold.
  • Lunchmeat roll-ups: Ditch the bread and roll up your favorite lunchmeat and cheese for a simple, yet protein-filled, lunch that doesn’t take up much valuable cooler space. These are a cinch to throw together before heading off to the beach. You can even put something in the center, such as your favorite condiment or some small olives or pickles.
  • Cookies or other sweet treats: Satisfy your sweet tooth and bring some dessert with you to top off your picnic at the beach. Cookies are easy to make and are delicious chilled or warm, but consider skipping the chocolate chips or anything else that could melt and create a mess. Instead, you could create something like cinnamon sugar sand dollar cookies, which use sliced almonds on top of the cookie to resemble a sand dollar for something festive and tasty.

Other Easy Vacation Meals to Cook at the Beach

After a long day at the beach or exploring other entertainment in Ocean City, New Jersey, you and your family have probably worked up quite the appetite. On nights where you want to stay in and eat, it’s understandable you don’t want to spend too much time preparing a meal. Luckily, there are plenty of easy meals to make while you’re on vacation so that cooking doesn’t have to feel like a chore. With a pot, a sheet pan or a grill, you already have plenty of options.

  • One-pot pastas: Even if you only have one pot to cook in, you still have plenty of options. Take one-pot pastas, for example. You can create a multitude of different meals, from classic chicken alfredo to pasta primavera. Plus, since you only used one pot, you have less cleanup time and more relax time. Pasta isn’t the only option when it comes to one-pot meals — the opportunities are endless.
  • Simple sheet pan dinners: Like one-pot meals, sheet pan dinners are an excellent way to prepare a delicious dinner with minimal cleanup. Keep things simple with some sheet pan steak or shrimp fajitas, or indulge in Ocean City’s seafood and create a sheet pan seafood bake — a perfect beach food idea for a party if you’re expecting guests while on vacation. You could also keep things more low-key for a quick meal and make some sheet pan pizzas or grilled cheese sandwiches, sure to be hits with the kids.

Keep things simple with some sheet pan steak or shrimp fajitas, or indulge in Ocean City's seafood and create a sheet pan seafood bake

  • Fresh off the grill: Nothing screams summer quite like the smell of burgers and hot dogs on the grill. Put your grillmaster skills to the test and prepare some mouthwatering meats in the comfort of your vacation rental. While everyone else cleans off from the beach, you can have dinner ready by the time your family is finished getting ready, all without making a mess in the kitchen. Just throw on your favorite meats and vegetables, and you’re all set for a full, fantastic meal.

Start Planning Your Meals for Your Next Family Fun Vacation to OCNJ

On your next family vacation to Ocean City, New Jersey, consider meal planning. Even if you’ve never done it before, meal planning doesn’t have to be challenging. It can save you plenty of money and time, so you can get back to enjoying your stay. Enjoy an uninterrupted beach day along Ocean City’s nearly eight miles of beautiful beachfront by packing a picnic for your whole family. Take in the views of America’s happiest seaside town and start planning for your next Ocean City family vacation — just don’t forget to pack your totes and coolers! For any additional questions about your getaway, contact us today.

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