Thursday, June 8, 2017

Mau`i Eats for $40 a Day

I was inspired to cook because of the Rachael Ray Show, but I had my first introduction to the perky host with her Rachael Ray’s $40 a day travel series from back in the day.  With most people on a budget, it is no wonder she is still so relatable over a decade later.   

My happiest place on Earth, Mau`i however is not very budget friendly and food is no exception.  I already had sticker shock the first time I paid over $7 for a gallon of Safeway milk 10 years ago so imagine how I felt seeing $7.59 for a ½ gallon from the ABC store this time around.  I admit there is definitely a price tag for convenience since I did not rent a car but to understand why things are so more expensive in Hawai`i, you have to take in consideration the shipping cost of “importing” goods from the Mainland, making it so important for Mau`i to return to its roots of self sustainability. 

With the recent closure of the commercial sugar industry it is the end of an era but there is so much potential for something great.  First and foremost, it is time to reroute the water sources back to the local kalo farms, gatherers, and fishermen that have had so many of their resources jeopardized in the name of profit.  Although tourism is one of Hawai`i’s largest industry, building more hotels or production of only profitable goods only makes sense in the short run.  In the long run, by preserving those intangibles like the aloha spirit that stems from natives being able to stay in Mau`i through self sustainability is what will keep the visitors you would WANT to return again and again, those with a deep appreciation and respect for the land (a`ina) and its people. 

My stays on island are never long enough for me as I actually get homesick for the islands when I leave.  So when an opportunity arose thanks to a very generous friend whom we coincidentally had met in Mau`i 12 years ago, to return for an free week at the Whaler on Ka`anapali recently for just the price of air and food, needless to say, they did not have to ask me twice.  Going on my own this time allowed me to travel a little differently. 

1.  Carry-on only – With complimentary washer and dryer on site, I traveled with only a carry on, but with the 25 lb limit imposed by Hawaiian Airlines, it did limit my ability to fully execute money saving tip #2.  However, the $50 check in bag fee I saved, more than made up for it.   With the exception of one bagel, a sleeve of crackers and a cup of dried rice, I left all my normal cooking essentials at home. 

2.  Mau`i Bus - I did not have a car so was limited to how far I can go for perishables, hence the $7.59 half gallon of milk.  However, with the Rider app downloaded before leaving, it helped me plan my way around via the Mau`i Bus for just $4 for a day pass. 

At $2 each way, if you intend on even one round trip by bus, get the day pass as you have absolutely nothing to lose and with the nicest bus stop ever at Whaler's Village, you still feel like you're in paradise. 

Although possible to get to West Mau`i via the bus system from OGG airport, transferring multiple times over 1 ½ hours each way would have wasted too much of my precious time in paradise so I did reserve a RT airport transfer for $75 which is still cheaper overall than a one week car rental. 

Money Saving Tips: 

Over the years, I have discovered ways to save money with many tips becoming second nature now. 

1.      Stay in a condo – having a full kitchen saves so much money when you are not eating out breakfast, lunch, and dinner which on average would run you about $100 per person per day.  My home away from home at the Whaler on Ka`anapali. 



2.      Even ingredients for cooking are much more expensive there - $4 vs. $1 for BBQ sauce, $5 vs. $3 for bread, so I have learned to bring some over with me when I can to cut down on costs.  Soy sauce, ketchup, a few bottles of water, bagels, hamburger buns, dry rice just to name a few.  

3.      Pick up those driving magazines at the airport as many of them have great coupons that can save a few dollars here and there.  Even without a car this time around that did not stop me from picking up those driving mags. 


My daily breakfast of choice when I am on island and long before avocado toast became trendy is half a papaya and half a toasted pineapple or coconut bagel topped with a more cholesterol friendly guacamole (vs. cream cheese) made from Mau`i’s own butter avocado. 

Farmer’s Market Honokowai - I picked up all the fixings my second morning on island for 6 days worth of breakfast for $17.79. 


ABC – Remember that $7.59 for half gallon of milk. 

Unfortunately without a car, I had to pay it for the convenience since it is perishable but liters of water here were very reasonably priced at $1 a liter which is a blessing not having to lug them back on the bus = $9

Even with that overpriced milk, my breakfast comes in at just $4.25 per day. 

Other Groceries

Fish Market Honokowai – Unfortunately the price of the opakapaka pink snapper has gone up from $29.99/lb to a pricey $39.99/lb in just 6 months.  However, since I was already at the fish market and the 2 large filets with a mac nut crust (small discount on marinades and toppings with coupon), the $50 spent ended up lasting me 5 meals (lunch or dinner) coming out to about $10 per meal.


Foodland Farms – Trying to eat as local as possible on island, I try to buy things found here or cheaper than what I would find back on the Mainland.  Kalua pork, fully cooked and just required steaming before serving over rice was enough for 3 meals, Koko Head smoked ahi spread to go over crackers for a quick pool or beach snack, and a ½ gallon of Meadow Gold guava nectar to go with lunch or dinner = $19.20. 


Staying in a resort area, it can be challenging to find a decent option without the high resort prices but the food court at Whaler’s Village has a couple of good choices now.  No view or much ambiance as it’s a food court but not a problem for me bringing it right next door to enjoy by the pool or on the beach.  Coincidentally hitting it up for my first and last meal this trip, I will never look at this food court the same way again. 

Joey’s Kitchen – Arriving early into West Mau`i, most restaurants in the area had yet to open for lunch so I went to Joey’s Kitchen for a mahi mahi fish sandwich to enjoy by the pool - $13

Nikki’s Pizza – Discovered this time around that the name is a bit of a misadvertisement but in a good way.  With choices from omelettes and breakfast croissant sandwiches to plate meals, wraps, and pastas, it seemed like a food court in itself. 

For $9, I had myself a sausage and egg croissant sandwich with potatoes that was satisfying enough for my flight out. 


808 Grindz Café – As you can tell, I rarely eat breakfast out, but 2 years ago, I decided to splurge on my birthday and get macadamia nut pancakes at 808 Grindz Café in Lahaina.  Not only did I get a short stack comp’d because it was my birthday but the service is friendly as if you are eating at someone’s house and the food was ono!!  I came back twice last year and had to stop by at least once for brunch this time.  The banana slammer special of two fluffy banana pancakes with the special mac nilla sauce for $1.50 more, Portuguese sausage, and 2 eggs my way (poached), AND a loco moco to go for lunch the next day set me back a whopping $23.55 including tax and tip. 


Fish Market Honokowai – Since I was picking up fresh fish from the market and I had 25 minutes between the time I got off the bus and the time it comes back around for pick up, I decided to try a fish taco in the meantime while they kept my fish in the refrigerator until I was ready to go = $4.35



Being on my own this time, I did a few happy hours and only one sit down dinner the night before I left.  This allowed me the flexibility to catch the sunsets each evening. 


Leilani Aloha Hour – Perfect for the first day as I had been up since 2AM HST so was ready for a light dinner by mid-afternoon.  Leilani’s Aloha Hour is from 3-5PM with discounted appetizers and drinks.  Two Ni`ihau Lamb Sliders, Kalua Pork Spring Rolls, and a Mai Tai finished off with ½ a Hula Pie to eat on site and ½ to go for another night’s dessert = $38 including tax and tip for dinner



Japengo Happy Hour – I discovered Japengo’s Happy Hour from 5-6PM towards the end of my stay last September and wish I had time to come back one more time so I made sure to stop by during this stay.  Located in the Hyatt, I walked over early so I can stop by Ululani for shaved ice beforehand.  With a free add-on coupon from the driving magazine, I was able to get it over macadamia nut ice cream.  There are no rules on vacay, so eating dessert before dinner is completely acceptable.  This ensures I can be satisfied with some light bites from the happy hour menu.  An order of curry dusted calamari and pork ribs with a sparkling pina sangria came out to only $27 including tax and tip for dinner. 





Leilani Tasting Menu – It is a tradition of mine to have my last dinner each trip at Leilani and this time is no different.  Their chef’s tasting menu offered from 5-5:30 for $26 is a steal, with a choice of pupu, entrée, and dessert from their tasting menu options.  A starter of chilled kefir lime scented tiger prawns, parmesan crusted monchong, finished off with a tropical fruit crisp and a virgin mango colada, was $40 including tax and tip for dinner. 




It is a good thing I get a lot of exercise in Mau`i via walking and swimming as I found myself having dessert every day.   

Leilani Hula Pie – 2 Hula Pies split over 4 days – one ordered during happy hour, once to-go from bar for $11.42 including tax and tip

Ululani Shaved Ice - $7 for shaved ice with coupon for a free mac nut ice cream add on

Island Cream - $4.35 for a single scoop with a $1 off coupon

Ono Gelato - $7.50 for medium cup with 2 flavors – mac nut and mango


Grand Total Spent on Food:  $281.16 = $40.16 a day

Finding a good combination of cooking and eating out without depriving myself of a good foodcation, I came in at about $40 a day for food.  It would have been a week that would hopefully make Rachael Ray proud.




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