Looking to save money on your next Hawaiian vacation? Find out how to cook in Hawaii on a budget.
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There is no way around it- Hawaii is expensive!
When you factor in the flights, accommodation, and activities, it’s easy to completely forget to factor in food costs to your Hawaii budget.
Eating out for every meal in Hawaii can add up quickly. I’m always sticker shocked when I get the bill for my family of 4.
If you have the ability to make your own meals during your stay in Hawaii, here are five tips to help you stick to your vacation budget in Hawaii!
Hawaii on a Budget: 5 Tips for Saving Money on Food
1. Meal Plan Ahead of Time
Before you leave for your Hawaii vacation, sit down and create a meal plan.
Take into account how many people are traveling in your group, how many days you are there, and how many meals you would like to eat out.
Note: it is generally cheaper to eat out for lunch than dinner!
This will help you determine how many breakfasts, lunches, and dinners you will need to plan for.
When planning your meals, try to make them as simple as possible so that you don’t need many ingredients for each meal.
Overlap the protein used for multiple meals. This will definitely help to keep the cost down!
Many condo complexes have outdoor grills available to use- take advantage of this!
You can buy chicken to grill for multiple days, but change up the marinade or the preparation.
Also keep in mind when identifying your meals that you may not have as the kitchen tools that you are used to at home!
In general, simple is better when meal planning for your Hawaiian vacation.
Finally, create a grocery list for all of your breakfasts, lunches, and dinners that you plan to make during your vacation.
Don’t forget the snacks as well!
This will be useful as you navigate the next four tips.
2. Bring Your Own Spices and Pantry Staples
Often times only a small amount of a spice is needed for a recipe. Rather than buying your spices in Hawaii, bring them with you!
Measure out what you think you may need and put each individual spice in a small snack sized Ziploc bag.
Remember to label what the spice is on the outside in Sharpie!
Overestimate the amount you need. You can always bring it home if you don’t use it all!
Once you have your grocery list made up, see if there are any pantry items that you can bring from home, such as pasta, flour, rice, popcorn, etc.
We often measure out rice and put it in Ziploc freezer bags so we don’t have to buy a full bag of rice when we get there.
Remember to individually pack each item and label it.
Avoid liquids unless they are in your checked luggage and properly wrapped so that they don’t break or spill.
If you are feeding a lot of people or have a lot of pantry items that you know that you will use, it may be more cost beneficial to pack an entire bag with just cooking supplies.
The money you would spend to check that bag in is much cheaper than buying full sized packages of these items in Hawaii or eating out for multiple days.
Plus, you can use that bag to bring home fun souvenirs!
Remember to never bring perishables, especially dairy, meat, fruit and vegetables with you from the mainland.
Hawaii is very strict on the items allowed into the state in order to protect their crops.
If you are traveling to Hawaii with a baby or toddler, I highly recommend packing your own baby food and toddler snacks.
Those items are extremely expensive on island, especially food pouches.
3. Costco is Your Best Friend
If you have a Costco membership, use it!
Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island all have a Costco on the island. And they have lots of local produce and specialty items.One of my favorite things to buy at Costco in Hawaii is their fresh poke! It’s such a great deal and they have quite a few options. I put mine over rice or eat it with tortilla chips for a full meal.
Costco also has the best deals on snacks. While you can get all kinds of snack foods there, we usually stock up on Hawaiian cookies, Hawaiian-style potato chips, Asian crackers, and Hawaiian candy.
And if you visit Hawaii during the holidays, they have a HUGE range of Hawaiian-style food items in gift packs. We love getting the huge bin of Botan rice candy!
If you don’t have a Costco membership, consider buying one. You can save a considerable amount of money buying the items you need at a Costco on the island than at a Hawaiian supermarket.
Remember, food in general is more expensive in Hawaii since most items need to be shipped to the islands.
4. Purchase Your Alcohol at a Store Instead of Drinking Out
If you are planning on consuming alcohol on your vacation, it is much cheaper to buy it at a grocery store than purchase individual drinks at a restaurant or hotel bar.
Plan ahead for how much you think you and other members of your vacationing party will drink and factor that into your food budget.
Costco is a great place for buying wine, beer, and spirits for cheap! Plus, they have lots of tropical juices and mixers.
You can also find alcohol at any grocery store or ABC store.
Since there’s so much fresh fruit in Hawaii, you can really get creative when making your own tropical cocktails!
Or, it’s super easy to add Passion-Orange-Guava juice (known as POG) to just about anything for a yummy mixed drink!
There are also several Hawaiian wineries throughout the islands as well as Hawaiian beer companies, like Kona Brewing Co.
5. Shop at Local Fruit Stands
Finally, my last tip is to shop the local fruit stands at the island rather than buying the produce at the store.
Hawaii is a prime location for growing pineapple, bananas, mangoes, papayas, avocados, etc and many farmers set up a small stand in a local town or on the side of a road.
Not only may you get your produce for cheaper, but you are supporting local farmers as well! The fruit also tastes so much fresher!
The farmers markets in Hawaii usually also have a booth that sells yummy treats like mochi, Hawaiian-style cakes, and malasadas!
I hope that these tips on how to do Hawaii on a budget get you started for planning your meals and help you to stick to your vacation budget while traveling in Hawaii!