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Motel Living. Do I Have to Starve?

I'm going to be living in a motel for the next two weeks. Maybe longer depending. The place doesn't allow cooking other than a microwave. Bologna sandwiches, canned soup, ravioli and the like really just doesn't turn my crank. (Hubby will be happy with peanut butter and Little Debbie snacks) So keeping in mind the dinky little refrigerator and microwave, what are some decent meals I could make? Not that I couldn't stand to lose a few pounds, but I hate to miss a meal. Lol! I'd appreciate any suggestions y'all could offer up.

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  1. I'm not sure where you are, or what the climate is like, but you may not have to starve. It won't be gourmet, but it will be better than bologna.

    A few years ago I was at a cutting horse show with my trainer, and after our first dismal meal out the next day we were loping horses already thinking about dinner that night. We bought a cheap bbq grill, found a local park, and I got pre-marinated chicken, a "salad out of a bag", nuked potatoes in the motel microwave, and got a good bottle of wine. It wasn't great, but it was better than starving or potential food poisoning if we ate at the local greasy spoons.

    It was really fun, and some evenings we'd just stay at the show and cook. We had a good cooler that kept ingredients cold throughout the day. You can grill a protein, lots of different veggies, and a starch can be done in the microwave.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Barbara76137

      I'm in east Tennessee. It's pretty chilly here. Hubby will grill during a blizzard if I ask him too tho. And I never even thought of grilling. Awesome idea! Thank you!

      1. re: Barbara76137

        Depending on the kind of place you'll be staying in, you might ask permission to set up a small grill in the parking lot. We've done this at small non-franchise places & then simply left it out to cool overnight. I can see where a franchise or very busy place wouldn't allow this, though. Perhaps you could set up shop in a far corner of the parking lot?

        Hope the 2 weeks zip quickly by so you can get back to your own kitchen.


        1. re: FishTales

          That's actually a really good idea. We were at a La Quinta recently and there was a group there for something. In the very back they had a grill set up and had a little party. Looked like fun. Give me a grill and I can cook really happily.

        2. re: Barbara76137

          I strongly recommend you look for copies of two older Barbara Kafka books--Amazon, probably, has used copies available--called The Microwave Gourmet, and the Microwave Healthstyle (something like that ) Gourmet. She has time tables for every kind of fish you can think of--according to thickness and cut--and my copy of the first book just falls open to her incredible microwave risotto recipe, I've used it so many times. I cook almost NOTHING in my microwave, but when I do--and it has to be good for me to bother--it's invariably one of her recipes.

        3. When my condo was being remodeled, I lived in a motel for a few months. The biggest challenge was washing pots and dishes in the dinky motel sink.

          If you search on Chowhound for microwave recipes you will find lots of info. There are also some threads about this same subject.

          Oatmeal microwaves beautifully. Fish and veggies work well with a microwave. Corn on the cob is especially good. Just leave in the husk and nuke.

          You can also buy one of those electric picnic coolers to give you extra fridge space. That was very useful for my motel time.

          Seriously.. Bring the toaster and a hot plate. Pack them away before the maid cleans the room.

          7 Replies
          1. re: rworange

            I have an egg muffin maker but thought I'd get in trouble if I brought it into the room. I suppose I could hide it tho. I wanted to have my electric skillet with me but hubby says that's a definite no-no. I'll hunt up those microwave recipes right now. Thanks!

            1. re: Driftbadger

              Bring the electric skillet. Seriously, if you pack it away no one will know. As long as you are careful and don't burn the place down, just make life easier for yourself.

              Here's an idea that doesn't require serious refrigeration and is surprisingly good.

              Italian tuna and gorgonzola sandwich

              1. re: Driftbadger

                Ask forgiveness, not permission and bring the electric skillet.

                1. re: c oliver

                  I was planning on doing that with my cat. Lol! I just had a thought tho. I'm renting a storage unit nearby to the motel so that clothing and things like that will be within walking distance. I could always smuggle the skillet in when I need it and then return it to storage when I'm done with no one the wiser.

                  1. re: Driftbadger

                    Motel 6 accepts pets, which was the reason I stayed there. There are a few others that accept pets but they were not close to me.

                    There are motels that have kitchionettes if that is any easier for you.

                    1. re: rworange

                      I'm kind of limited in the area I have to choose from in order to be close to my storage unit. I hope they don't make too much of a stink over my cat. She and I have been together 7 years now and she's like one of my kids.

                2. re: Driftbadger

                  I don't understand the difference, an iron is allowed but not an electric skillet or hot plate? That doesn't make any sense. I'd bring it. Anyway. The other thing is those George Foreman Grill like things, you could make hot sandwiches. Hope you're stay goes quickly. Before i met him, my hubby had to live in a motel due to a job, and he decided to save money and not spend his allocated meal money, so he did what you're doing. He lost weight while he had to do this worked out and he ate canned everything.. something I'd have a hard time with. But, he did go to a Chinese Restaurant nearby and would order enough so he'd have a meal the next day, it saved him money and was easiest. It's amazing what you get to used to after a couple of days.

              2. You can nuke quesadillas, potatoes, and eggs for sure. Add a variety of cheeses, veggies and beans to keep interesting. You have endless salad possibilities. Change up your greens, produce mix-ins, and protein options (canned beans, tofu, tempeh, deli meat, eggs, nuts) to keep it interesting). Microwaving tofu works well, actually - periodically drain off liquid throughout the process. Couscous also cooks easily in the MW; speaking of which, savory oatmeal is an option. Will you have a fridge, or only a cooler? Will you have access to regular grocery stores?

                4 Replies
                1. re: enbell

                  I believe there will only be one of those small refrigerators. Grocery store access will be very limited. On the plus side, I just learned that I can cook corn on the cob in the microwave thanks to a thread here! That makes me really happy! Quesadillas sound promising too. I'm pretty sure I could nuke a chicken breast with decent results. Thanks!

                  1. re: Driftbadger

                    Most veggies nuke well. Asparagus is good in a microwave. Just wrap in wax paper. Baked apples work well. Actually, fruit compotes are nice to do. Just slice the fruit of your choice, put in a dish, sprinkle with sweetener of choice and nuke until cooked.

                    1. re: Driftbadger

                      Ever since I read the thread on corn in the MW, I have not looked back. Artichokes are also great in the MW. I'm with rworange though, take the skillet, maybe invest in a cheap rice cooker or small crockpot, maybe a s small coffee pot as well...

                      1. re: enbell

                        I have a small electric percolator that I'm taking with me. I picked it up at a thrift store along with a larger stove top percolator for decoration about 3 years ago. I gave the larger one away so I'm really counting my lucky stars that I still have the small one!

                  2. Can you bring some things that could elevate otherwise boring food? Like some good spices for on the chicken or vegies. Fry some bacon ahead of time and make into crumbles to put on nuked vegies or other things. Or on grilled cheese sandwiches or eggs in the electric skillet. Really good croutons or somethings to put on salads if you will have access to greens. Some special sauces, like a good barbeque sauce for on the micro or skillet chicken? Anything to make things that might otherwise seem boring more special.

                    And maybe make a batch of your favorite cookies and package them in amounts for each day.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: karykat

                      Mmm. Sweet Baby Ray's bbq sauce. That stuff is awesome. I was going to throw out all my spices and just buy fresh when I get back home, but I think you have a good point about taking them with me.

                    2. Definitely invest in a small crock pot. You can make soups, stews, beans. It's low electricity and fire safe - shouldn't be a problem.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Jeanne

                        I have a really tiny crock pot. Euro Pro, I think it is. It should be big enough for two people. To be honest, I've never used it. Looks like now is the time to try it out finally!

                      2. think of cuisines :)

                        mexican - make tacos (or quesadillas as suggested); grill or poach chicken in micro, mix with nuked onions and peppers, serve in hard taco shells with sliced avocado, salsa, sour cream and cheese

                        chinese - make spring rolls... buy cooked shrimp or crab, the veggies, mix the dipping sauce and voila

                        mediterranean - baba ghanoush (nuke eggplant whole in micro, then puree in food processor if you have one or mash by hand with tahini, parsley, cumin, S & P); hummus, dolmas, storebought pita bread

                        italian - panzanella salad and you could attempt microwave risotto (have heard success stories); or polenta with ragu (polenta mix with broth; nuke then stir, lather rinse repeat; for ragu/sauce, nuke onions and garlic, add tomatoes, veggies and/or meat, nuke, then add herbs one more zap and you're done)

                        other ideas - blackened halibut with an aioli; tuna noodle casserole; chicken divan; shepherd's pie; lentils and rice...

                        good luck!

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Emme

                          Those suggestions sound great! I didn't know eggplant could be nuked. Thanks!

                            1. re: enbell

                              I'm trying that. Right after the corn on the cob. Thanks!

                        2. If you have a microwave with a convection feature, it opens up a world of possibilities. You can roast a chicken, bake a cake, or braise a stew. And it looks just like a regular microwave...

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: alanbarnes

                            My microwave is just a cheapie. I only use it to reheat and occasionally to defrost something. Maybe I'll price out a convection microwave next week. I hate the one that I have right now anyway. Gives me an excuse to replace it.

                            1. re: Driftbadger

                              I bought a MW/convection (upon Alan's rec) this past year and love it. It gives me the second oven that I need occasionally.

                              1. re: c oliver

                                I'd ask for an Extra Fridge (You said you were be there for awhile, why not??) & get a Portable Stovetop/Burner....(Unless Banned) But you know they told us all in college at the dorms we could not have coffee pots and nothing bad ever happened. Just were careful not to leave it on - common sense unless you're not that bright. :)

                                Roomie and I kept it up in a cabinet or had something over it just in case someone was smoking pot down the hall and we got a random room inspection. never was a problem and we enjoyed many great breakfasts of eggs and coffee and toast. (Oops, forgot we also had a toaster oven and never had an issue with that either). Much better than getting E.Coli from the Dorm Cafeteria or trekking there in the coldddd (Think we got the appliances from Lowes/Best Buy fwiw). Great investment!

                                1. re: JamesPapa

                                  I wonder if they would give me a second fridge? I have a large cooler but I really don't trust it for actual food storage versus just a picnic. I'm going to smuggle my coffee pot in and if they say I can't have it, I'll just go buy some nasty instant coffee.

                          2. I'd look on these boards, on the internet, or at a bookstore for a book on college dorm cooking. All the restrictions which you have parallel those in dorms. When I was in college, my Japanese friends seemed to do an extensive amount of cooking with electric frying pans with lids and electric lidded rice cookers. Japanese cooking often requires a minimal amount of appliances, probably because Japanese kitchens are extremely small. Try sukiyaki!

                            1. Small George Foreman grill for panini, vegetables, even meats.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: rcallner

                                Oh. My. Gosh. George Foreman grill it is!

                                1. I'm a bit outraged at some suggesting that you bring in a forbidden device. The place has to abide the fire codes - The culinary benefit isn't worth the huge headache this can cause.

                                  On food and the microwave, just play to its strength - Heating water. If you can make it on a stove with some liquid, then you can make it on a microwave. So, you can cook just about all grains and steamed produce just fine. As for proteins, unless it's going to be in braise/soup/stew form, it's probably not a good idea. If you must have a protein in some other way, I guess you can take the opportunity to brush up on your ceviche, sushi and tartare skills. Some mentioned eggs, but I wouldn't, since it gives the eggs a funky texture.

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: ediblover

                                    I don't want to get this off topic by discussing the legality of the issue. I am just surprised it took this long for someone to be outraged. I guess you've never watched the move "Gypsy" with Natalie Wood.

                                    The reason these devices are forbidden is because of what you mentioned. There are codes. So to cover themselves, they have to say these appliances are not allowed or pay gazllions more in insurance. Should one of these appliances cause a fire, then the OP would be liable for the damages having voilated the codes.

                                    Hwever, common sense has to prevail somewhere. If the OP knows she can cook responsibly, then if she is discreet it is her call. I personally have not burnt a motel to the ground yet ... or any of the houses I lived in.

                                    However, I hope everyone will leave this issue here. Some people will think it is ok. Others will agree with you that you should not do it. Enough said.

                                    The biggest issue for me was clean up. It truly is a pain to wash pots and pans in a motel sink. Get disposables as much as possible ... which is where a microwave is nice because you can cook in stuff you throw away.

                                    And invest in one of those plug in electric coolers. They have so many uses. They are terrific because they also plug into the car outlet so you can use them beyond the motel stay to transport cold things such as meat and ice cream from the market. They also have heat settings, so if you are bringing a warm dish to a dinner or pot luck, it will keep the dish warm.

                                    The cat n the other hand ... no ... you need permission for that. I've tried that in the past. You really can't hide a kitty sucessfully ... and they get SO annoyed when you put them in a suitcase to carry them in. Pay extra.Offer a depost or find a place that takes pets. Get permission up front for the cat.

                                    1. re: rworange

                                      Yikes. I'll ask about the cat, but I really have no one to take her for me so I hope and pray they'll say she's okay.
                                      I have plastic plates that are easily as sturdy as high quality paper plates but they're really flexible. That part will be easy since I can cook on them also.

                                      1. re: Driftbadger

                                        Yes, be careful about the cat. I ended up sleeping in my horse trailer (sans horses) in a camp chair one night after paying for a motel room, my cat was spotted on the windowsill at about 2AM, got kicked out and they wouldn't refund my money. My truck had the transmission go out and I already had it towed to the repair shop, I was stranded at a truck stop, the motel was across the street, and I couldn't just leave my cat alone in the horse trailer all night with all of the noise. She was terrified but at least I could hold her. It was a nightmare.

                                        1. re: Barbara76137

                                          That's when you're glad you spent the money on those expensive mats for your trailer.

                                          We suffered through Motel 6's with dogs and cats. Let's see; we dealt with hookers tromping the hallways, drug dealing next door and a 3AM screaming, call the cops,domestic dispute down the hall. I "upgraded" to LaQuinta and worth the extra $20.

                                    2. re: ediblover

                                      I haven't started a fire since I was 9, but I can understand the motel's liability. Even tho I'd hardly ever be leaving the room, there is always the potential for accidents. I suppose I can live two weeks without a steak or a decent burger. (Sonic, anyone?) I will admit to having cooked some incredibly tender and flavorful pork chops in my microwave years ago. I just wish I could remember how I did it.

                                      1. re: ediblover

                                        Outrage seems like an awfully strong response to the mere suggestion that someone you don't know violate rules you didn't make in a place you don't run. Maybe it would be more understandable if your assumption that fire codes prohibit cooking devices were correct. But it probably isn't.

                                        Seriously, if it violated the fire code to have a hot plate in a hotel room, don't you think fewer hotels would provide coffee makers with hot-plate bases? For that matter, if anything that consumes electricity and gets hot is illegal, we've got bigger problems than electric skillets - hair dryers and irons cause fires, too.

                                        The simple fact is that a motel room isn't designed for cooking, and cleaning up a kitchen-type mess in a bedroom-type environment is problematic. So the simplest thing for management to do is just ban cooking.

                                        No doubt it would be extremely bad form for the OP to spatter grease on the wallpaper or drop cooked pasta on the carpet. But so long as the cooking is discreet and considerate of the management and other guests, I can't imagine that there would be a problem.

                                        PS - to the OP - for a steak or a decent burger, a small charcoal grill (hibachi / Smokey Joe / etc.) is your friend. They take up no space and you can set them up anywhere, from the sidewalk in front of your room (check with management first) to a distant corner of the parking lot (ditto, but more likely to get the go-ahead) to a nearby park.

                                      2. You may want to pick up a used copy of Jean Anderson's book Micro Ways, or Barbara Kafka's Microwave Gourmet. These are highly respected cookbook authors, and the books have recipes, many of which will be more involved than you want to attempt in your motel, but also have references for cooking various vegetables, fish, rice, and a bunch more foods.



                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                          Thank you! I'll absolutely check those out.

                                        2. My stay in a motel was longer. I eat out a lot normally. However, it was surprising how tired I got of HAVING to eat out. I wanted something I cooked myself. I can't tell you how much that shocked me.

                                          I'm living in a hotel in Antigua for three weeks while going to Spanish school and trying a good number of the restaurants in the city.. Yeah, it has been fun, but mid-way through I'm craving non restaurant food really badly. Yes, you can do the occasional meal out, but it is a drag when you have to do it all the time.

                                          I'm across the street from a mind-blowing amazing French bakery ... and yet ... what I wouldn't give for a plain bowl of oatmeal in the morning ... restaurant oatmeal here is different.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: rworange

                                            My long-term get-aways alway involve sleuthing out panaderias, fruiterias, and carnicerias on day 1. Morning coffee is essential, and I travel with a 4-cupper always. I agree it is stimulating to whip up something fun and resourceful in one's modest nest, even when restos are all around. Many small hotels will lend you small appliances like hotplates, if they are not standard in the room.

                                            1. re: rworange

                                              rworange, when I visited Italy my hotel room looked more like a deli.....I should have gotten a picture of the sausages hanging from the lamps! I ate in restaurants, bought various cheeses, breads, sausages, fruit, etc. from the local merchants. But then I REALLY wanted to be able to cook all the wonderful foods I was discovering.

                                              I ran (and won) a 5K race when I was there, and one of the runners I met at the race I met again the last week of my stay. She and her husband so graciously invited me into their home the last week of my stay. They were US military stationed in Italy. I finally got a chance to cook that last week!

                                            2. Um, yeah, pretty much. My health prevents me from driving. There will be a Sonic nearby but I think that's about it. Nothing else in walking distance for me. :-(

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Driftbadger

                                                There is a Sonic across from my work. I'm 48 years old, had NEVER been to a Sonic in my life. One day a went to the bank, also across the street, a co-worker asked me to pick up something at Sonic. You should have seen me trying to find the "entrance" to Sonic!!!! Am I dumb or what?

                                              2. > Bologna sandwiches, canned soup, ravioli and the like... peanut butter and Little Debbie

                                                I think you can do much better than that without having to "cook"... you have everything you need with a microwave and mini-fridge.

                                                One reason I am a ChowHound is because I am also a Road Warrior. Before moving to NJ, I averaged 250 nights per year in hotels. Of course, being Platinum level means I often had access to the concierge level at the Marriott, or tried to stay in places that offer a full kitchen, like the Homewood Suites by Hilton. But I've stayed in my share of dumpy motels with just a microwave and small refr, with no car (note: the hotel van may not operate on weekends), albeit I didn't need to feed a spouse, too. Anyway, if you visit a high-end or larger market, you can easily buy a one-week supply of pre-prepared meals that are delicious. Not frozen dinners, but single meals in store-brand packaging. Stop-n-Shop's Lassagna was my favorite. If you find you also need to stock beer or other items that are going to take up room in your mini-fridge, you might get a sytrofoam cooler and ice, although I once stayed in a motel that had a large commercial cooler that was nearly empty, so i asked the "chef" if I could keep a bag of supplies in there, and she was generous enough to clear a little space for me.

                                                What I'm saying is you can eat quite well without bringing a lot of cooking equipment along.

                                                1. can you bring in a rice cooker? uses almost zero energy and opens up a world of possibilities: you can purchase pre-cut veggies and prawns and do a microwave stir-fry type of thing. You can make noodles in boiling water in the m.w, and drain and mix with cottage cheese; kind of a poor man's kugel, but a good breakfast nonetheless. And I had forgotten this - it happened quite a long time ago - but after a housefire, we were in a Motel for a week, and so very tired of doing sandwiches roomstyle, or going out for dinners at Applebee's. I was walking past the laundry room and smelled some Delicious food cooking, and it occurred to me to ask the lady of the house (the owner's wife) if she'd feel like cooking her food for my family. They were East Indian, and she hesitated, but I reassured her that we could manage anything she could cook. She charged me way less than we'd have paid in a restaurant, and we got delicious healthy food. I'm not saying this just to be anecdotal, DB - keep your sniffer open; maybe you'll luck out there. Wouldn't hurt to ask!!