[Disclosure: As of the time of this writing, I am not directly affiliated with any of the businesses whose services I describe in this post nor have I been hired to advertise for any of them. Anything written in this post is my objective advice. Any advice in this blog does not constitute legal or medical advice and is provided as is with no liability to #FrugalCongressLife or the author.]
Food is a congress expense that a lot of people underestimate and it can really add up, especially if you are trying to eat healthy and have dietary requirements such as eating a certain amount of protein per day lest you lose your hard-won gym gainz, as I do. Hotel convenience stores are overpriced on a ghastly level, and even convenience stores outside the hotel are very expensive. Stocking up on non-perishable food staples at a lower-priced grocery store will help mitigate your food costs tremendously while still keeping yourself well-nourished enough to get through the weekend. Obviously you can’t bring a lot of food on a plane or bus with you, so this is not much of an option for congresses you have to fly or take the bus to, but if you are local or you’re driving, taking the train, or ride-sharing to the congress, this is a very good option indeed. For events you fly or take the bus to, it may be worth going to a grocery store nearby and stocking up after you land.
PSA: EAT HEALTHY – FOR THE MOST PART.
A few unhealthy meals are ok but don’t eat only junk. Eating nothing but junk will make you tired and sick and drastically affect your ability to learn in the workshops and dance the night away at the socials, and will overall hamper your congress experience. Now that I’m done being your dad for a minute…
Non-perishable staples that I stock up on before a local or driving congress:
Protein bars (Quest is my favorite, they are the realest protein bars on the market, I will profile Quest bars in a future post), nonperishable non-refrigerated protein shakes (such as offerings from EAS or Premier Protein), jerky (beef, turkey, bacon), tuna/salmon packets, peanut butter, dried fruit (yeah I know dried fruit isn’t the best nutritionally, but real fruit is generally very perishable), maybe some easy to transport and reasonably nonperishable real fruit such as oranges and bananas, almonds, 5-Hour Energy 4-packs (late-night dance social fuel), Bulletproof Ghee, Bulletproof Brain Octane Oil, Onnit Alpha Brain packets, and Great Lakes Collagen Hydrolysate (collagen offers joint support benefits that are very good for aching knees, shoulders, etc).
Everyone who talks to me knows I love me some Bulletproof Coffee in order to have the mental focus and clarity for difficult workshops and keep the caffeine buzz going longer (coffee with fat in it has a slower and more drawn out caffeine buzz rather than a “spike and crash”). As a reminder, I am not affiliated with or sponsored by BulletProof or Onnit at the time of this writing, but I am a regular user of their products. I will also profile Bulletproof Coffee in more detail in a future post.
To maximize savings, I get only the Bulletproof and Onnit ingredients from my local Whole Foods or from Amazon and the rest from a discount grocery store such as Wal-mart, Aldi, or Dollar General.
This almost goes without saying, but many hotels, including most congress event hotels, provide free breakfast for guests between 6:30am and 9:30am or some similar block of time, so for those who are somehow able to get up early or stay up late enough to catch the hotel’s free breakfast (unlikely in my case and probably for many other people too), this is a no-brainer frugal congress option for getting some of those calories and macronutrients in.
Additional reader suggestions:
Reader and dance enthusiast Karen Swavely Clark, of State College, PA, chimed in with a few other suggestions on food. Her first suggestion was using your hotel room’s coffee maker to make hot water for instant oatmeal, and to buy or bring frozen microwavable meals if you have a microwave in your hotel room. I would add to this, be sure to clean the coffee maker and microwave with antibacterial wipes before using them if you go this route, as you can not necessarily count on the hotel cleaning staff to have done so, even in otherwise clean and reputable hotels – hotel cleaning staff generally gets a very limited window of time to clean and turn over rooms and are likely to pass over things like the coffee maker, the microwave, and the TV remote to save time. Karen also suggests tuna kits with crackers as a food option, which is also very good.
A note about tuna, onions, garlic, or any other stinky food:
I would generally advise against eating stinky food in your hotel room. If you’re in a room-share your roommates will probably hate you for stinking up the room. If you’re by yourself, you may hate yourself later for stinking up the room. Just eat it outside.
There Can Be Only One:
For my sanity, unless my budget is really that tight, I will allow myself one meal out per day even at the frugalest of frugal congresses, preferably as a social occasion with friends and preferably at a restaurant I really want to eat at. This can either be the hotel restaurant (throwing the hotel establishments some extra business is never a bad thing) or a restaurant in town that you like or have heard good things about. I generally avoid chain restaurants for the most part as I can eat at chain restaurants anywhere else and at any other time, and try to find a cool local spot that I won’t always get to eat at.
That’s all I got for food, sound off in the comments if you have other suggestions or insights!