The Frugal Traveler: Recipes For The Road

We left the hotel room with plans for an affordable romantic dinner for two. Unfortunately, our spastic but lovable Labrador had another agenda. When affection, toys and treats failed to stop her barking, we knew it was time to regroup. Our solution? Even more affordable in-room dining.

With the right tools and attitude, simple hotel room recipes can save time and money. Here's how we cook up savings on the road:

Infrastructure: Ice machines, coffeemakers, microwaves and refrigerators are standard hotel amenities. Maximize vacation dollars by making full use of those appliances. Stock the refrigerator with cold cuts, yogurts and other quick meals from the supermarket. Use the coffeemaker to make iced tea, and the microwave in place of room service to deliver hot meals. Boxed pureed soups from the grocery store make a stylish sip-and-save lunch to go when microwaved and transferred to a travel mug. A sandwich press, purchased for less than $20, is our favorite kitchen appliance for family travel. We've used it to prepare gourmet sandwiches, veggie burgers and waffles. A small hot pot is great for boiling eggs or potatoes, while multipurpose tools make it easy to open cans and slice food.

Order ahead: Save money and stress by shipping protein bars, peanut-free snacks and other dry good items directly to your hotel. This strategy works for travelers who will stay at a particular location for several days, or have special dietary requirements, such as kosher, halal, vegan or food allergies.

Go local: "I love going in to markets in different locations. The fun part is getting the local raw materials and putting them together in a feast," said Janis Roszler, registered dietician and 2008-2009 National Diabetes Educator of the Year. She recommends tasting regional cuisine by ordering select take-out items, including soup, sandwiches or grilled fish. "Take the small item from the restaurant back to your room and add your own side dishes and salads," said Rozler, author of "Diabetes on Your Own Terms." We've dined on rotisserie chicken with hummus and artisan bread while waiting out a snow storm, enjoyed red wine with aged Asiago at poolside, and purchased bagels and cream cheese to enjoy with smoked salmon on the balcony. Combining basic take-out condiments for an impromptu salad dressing is a great way to dress up a bag of mixed greens. Purchase sparkling wine from a local vineyard to mix with grocery store orange juice for morning mimosas.