Eating in Hawaii

The Tiny Kitchen Assistant eats his Christmas dinner.

As winter drags on, it seems that everyone I know is talking about vacations, and how they can manage to go to the fabulous destinations without depleting the kiddo’s college fund.

When I told people that we were going to Hawaii for two weeks at the end of last year, they looked at me like I was either insane or independently wealthy. “Oh, I can’t afford to go to Hawaii. It’s too expensive. The food alone will bankrupt you!” That might be true if you’re staying in a hotel, but when you’re hanging out at a condo with a full kitchen, you can save a lot of money without a ton of effort.

During our trip, we went out for one meal a day. The rest of the provisions were purchased at Costco, Target, Safeway and, when possible, various farmer’s markets around the island.

We usually ate breakfast at home: cereal, milk, fruit and yogurt, all for less than $2 per serving, although sometimes we did go out. While Starbucks isn’t my favorite coffee establishment in the world, the three of us were able to have a leisurely coffee-and-pastry breakfast for between $4-$7 per person, depending on our choice of fancy drink. Had we stayed in the neighboring hotel and eaten the same type of breakfast from the lobby coffee shop, we would have spent more than $35 for a meal for the three of us. How do I know? Because on the one day I went to the hotel for my spa treatment, I made the ill-fated decision to order an iced tea and a muffin: 12 ounces of tea (mostly ice cubes) cost $3.95 and the muffin was $6.95. Trust me when I tell you that I didn’t think it was worth nearly $11 for that snack.

For an easy beach lunch, I picked up a 3-pack of shaved ham from Costco ($8.99 for 18 meals — 3 people multiplied by 6 days), two packages of sliced cheese ($3.99 each) and two packs of 12 small sweet rolls for $3.99. Total cost per day per person: $1.39. Other days’ lunches were taken care of with dinner leftovers.

Dinner was usually eaten on the lanai of the condo, and usually featured recipes requiring minimal prep work. Some examples:

Christmas: $5 per person

  • Ham: $3.67 per serving
  • Papaya: $0.06 per serving at farmer’s market (6/$1 @ Hilo)
  • Pineapple: $0.67 per serving
  • Organic jasmine rice: $0.32 per serving
  • Baguette: $0.28, Costco

Lemon Chicken: $5.90 per person

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts: $2.57 per serving
  • Lemons: $0.67 per serving
  • Garlic: $0.05 per serving
  • White wine: $1.56 (should have been less, but no one drank the leftovers)
  • Papaya: $0.06 per serving at farmer’s market (6/$1 @ Hilo)
  • Pineapple: $0.67 per serving
  • Organic jasmine rice: $0.32 per serving

Rotisserie Chicken: $1.78 per person

  • Costco rotisserie chicken: $0.83 per person
  • Pineapple: $0.67 per serving
  • Baguette: $0.28, Costco

You’ll notice the conspicuous absence of vegetables with our meals. Veggies will flat-out bankrupt you on this island, but with the abundance of fresh fruit, we don’t really notice or miss it. Besides, the Tiny Kitchen Assistant prefers fruits to veggies anyway.

Want to include drinks? Ok. A 6-pack of Kona Longboard Lager is $1.50/bottle. Homemade iced tea worked out to be about $0.50 per glass after buying a box of Lipton tea bags. Milk runs $4.99 a gallon at Costco, or less than $0.50 per serving for the kiddo.

The majority of what we ate was “real” food, and in reasonable portions. Sure, we went out for a few bigger meals (mostly to satisfy my ridiculous obsession with kalua pork tacos with pineapple salsa), but it was nice to know that we didn’t have to go out and could still eat well.

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