When you are traveling with a family, a large chunk of your money goes towards food. For our family, finding a donut shop or popular snack shack or restaurant is at the top of our list. But on top of that, if you don't have the convenience of a hotel room with a kitchenette, all your meals have to be take out or fast food. And for our family of 5 even a quick trip to McDonald's can be a minimum $30 trip each time. And that hardly gets the kids full!
So on a mission to fit travel and fun into our family budget, I started experimenting with non-perishable foods and quick meals to take along to save us at least a few trips to the gas station for snacks and drinks and our first day's breakfast and lunch. YAY! Here are my ideas!
Prepare breakfast sandwiches ahead of time and freeze them. I start with a whole wheat english muffin and fill with an egg, slice of cheese, and bacon. All you have to do is pop them in the microwave the morning of your trip and everyone can eat them in the car or before you leave and then everyone is satisfied and the first meal of the day is knocked down! Ka-POW!
Next, Frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on whole wheat bread. YES! You can freeze PB&J and use them as freezer packs in your kid's lunch box or a cooler and by the time they're hungry again....VOILA! They have a tasty sandwich to enjoy..thawed but nice and cold. Serve with some apple slices and carrot sticks and you have another meal down for the first day! BOOM!
I pick up a lunchable for each of my boys and keep it in the cooler for the next day to take along to save another lunch trip. I have a small styrafoam cooler to keep things chilled. All you have to do is find the ice machine at the hotel and keep the cooler filled with ice. That allows you to keep things like cheese sticks, salami, drinks, milk, fruit, and premade sandwiches etc. chilled during the duration of your trip. Also, cold beverages during your travel. Win Win.
For myself, I prepare some salads in tupperware. Hard boiled egg, beans, cheese, bell pepper, tomatoes, grilled chicken. Then i keep those in the cooler and save myself on lunches and calories!
If your hotel has a mini fridge and microwave. You have more options. They have mac n cheese microwave cups, oatmeal microwave cups, You can get a package of hot dogs and buns and have a quick kid-friendly meal in a minute. Keep in mind utinsels. You'll have to bring your own!
To save money when you have to eat out, I suggest pizza. You can get a large pizza for everyone and not worry about ordering 5 individual meals. Shaves off the cost of the meal right there. I like to look up restaurants before hand to get a feel for what there is to eat for breakfast and dinner options around where I'm staying and then look at the menu and get a feel for prices. Then, I can plan what we will eat and make sure the budget can accommodate it. Maybe we will eat at a restaurant for one meal and then just grab some hamburgers from the dollar menu from a fast food joint. Or better yet, pick up some sandwiches from the Safeway deli. However, that can get pretty pricey as well. Not every meal has to be lavish. But it sure is fun to eat somewhere new at least once while in a new town. Doing this also allows you a chance to look for any deals, specials or coupons that might be a deciding factor in choosing where you'll eat.
***Bring your own water bottles and juice boxes so you don't need to purchase those items during your trip. 2.99 for a case of water vs. 3.99 for a single bottle of water "they" try to sell you...even vending machines! Just buy a case!! 1.99 for a pack of 6 juice boxes. I'll take it!
***For Breakfast, my kids can totally make do with a piece of fruit and a muffin or croissant. You can bring these items with you and keep on ice.
I give my kids a small allowance for food "treats" during the trip. Just enough to spend on one or two things depending on the length of the trip. For example, on my trip to Reno we will be gone for 3 days and I am giving my kids $5 each. If they come across a Churro stand, ice cream cone, cotton candy, cookie, slushy etc. then they can use their money to buy it if they have enough. Once that's gone, that's it. That helps keep the budget in check while also allowing them to enjoy their trip and all the special things they don't normally get.
pretzel sticks with peanut butter (they sell single serve cups of peanut butter)
crackers, salami, cheese
cucumbers (my kids eat these up, no need for cutting!)
I shop for these items at Costco and Grocery Outlet. Grocery Outlet has tons of travel friendly food! And you can get what you need without breaking the bank.
Anyways, I hope these tips will help you on your next trip. I'd love to hear what you do to save some bucks on food while traveling!