With the price of everything skyrocketing, it makes sports and other activities, like dance, super hard to afford. Add in the cost of competitions, costumes, team suits/warm-ups, and eating out three times a day each weekend you have a competition, and the bills add up fast.
I can’t control things like meet fees, team bills, or other costs associated directly with the competitions and training, but I can try to save on other things like hotel costs and food. The biggest money-saver I’ve found is to plan meals and bring them with us in coolers or thermoses instead of eating out three times a day for every day of the competition.
The week before a competition, we plan the meals and snacks as a family and then go shopping together to pick out what we need.
If it is a local, weekend-long competition, we just bring snacks and food in coolers or thermoses to last the sessions we need to be away from home. If there is more travel and longer stays involved, I generally plan whole meals for both the travel and the stay. Sometimes we bring everything for the whole weekend, and sometimes we buy most of the food when we get there. It just depends on the length of stay, the size of the fridge, and how much extra room we have for food in our car.
If there’s not a full kitchen in the hotel room, I bring a set of knives and a cutting board along with serving spoons, a can opener, and a colander in addition to the food. Plastic forks and paper bowls are our fine china, and I also bring our Instant Pot/Crockpot and dish soap to wash everything. On the off-chance we might have leftovers, I bring our plastic take-out containers, and if the kids decide they want to take the food to the competitions, we invested in some decent thermoses that keep the food piping hot even at the end of the day. My son’s coach has asked him where he got real food for a competition, and his friends have partaken in his snacks and food as well.
Some quick and easy recipes that I’ve made even in a hotel room:
Tacos or Mexican Casserole
I bring onion, garlic (these can be included in the spices instead of fresh to make things even easier), a bag of rice, a can of tomatoes, a can of black beans, a box of chicken broth (4 cups), and I measure out spices in a snack-sized bag and label it Mexican (or a taco season packet would work). Add a pound of ground beef and there’s a meal. If we have a kitchen, I make tacos and bring the shells and toppings. If not, I prep the onion and garlic before we leave or bring knives and a cutting board and do it in the hotel room. Then I just open the cans and dump everything in the Instant pot. We bring a bag of tortilla chips and use them to eat the casserole off of the paper bowls. You can add cheese at the end as well, but it makes cleaning more difficult so we leave it out.
Chicken Parmesan or Spaghetti
I bring a jar of sauce, an onion, garlic, a bag of pasta, a baggie of spices labeled Italian, and add a pound of ground beef or a couple of chicken breasts cut into tiny bite-sized pieces. Again, I make spaghetti with meat sauce in a full kitchen or dump everything in an Instant Pot with a cup or two of water and have Chicken Parm or Goulash. (Cook everything except the pasta and add that for just 2-3 minutes after everything is done.)
Onion, garlic, ginger, carrots, celery, rice, chicken broth, spices, sesame oil and coconut aminos or soy sauce, along with ground pork or chicken cut in bite-sized pieces dumped in an Instant Pot, and it’s a quick take-out meal at home.
Chicken and Noodles
Onion, celery, carrots, parsley, spices, pasta, chicken broth, and bite-sized chicken pieces in an Instant Pot makes a quick and easy home-cooked meal.
This is our number one breakfast to take with us. I make a double-batch in a baking dish the day before we leave and it feeds all four of us for an entire weekend. If the stay is longer than a weekend, I usually buy a bag of sausages from Costco and some frozen waffles or pancakes to stretch the food.
This is our go-to for lunches. Some bread, lunchmeat, mustard, and lettuce, and we have simple lunches for the weekend.
Fruit like berries, apples, grapes, and oranges. Vegetables like tomatoes, baby carrots, mini-peppers, and cucumbers. Snacks such as pretzels, protein bars, jerky, granola, chips, hummus, and trail mix. Drinks such as bottled electrolyte water, coconut water, Bai, and Vitamin Water.
This is just a short list of ideas, but it’s a start to help save some money. Let me know if you have any food tips to make for easy competition weekends.