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Old 05-30-2015, 08:45 AM
 
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How do you save money on food when traveling? We will be traveling by car, staying in motels, with friends, and want to avoid eating out as much as possible. I know we could put food in an ice chest but would appreciate hearing ideas and suggestions.
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Old 05-30-2015, 08:51 AM
 
Location: Niceville, FL
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Most nicer grocery stores these days have takeout departments and some even have seating areas. Granted, lunch at Whole Foods is pretty much the same price at the Burger King option, but it beats a sit down option and the quality of their sandwiches is a lot better than (shudder) Subway.

Many 'budget business' level hotels have a light breakfast included with room rate. Since we're not big breakfast people, mediocre danish/bagel and coffee is generally all we need in that regard.
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Old 05-30-2015, 09:17 AM
 
Location: Des Moines Metro
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Here's what I do:

First, I make a rough plan of what I will probably eat each day, including meals with friends. Then I look into what sort of breakfast the motel has. Many are too high in sugar and fat, but at one of the places I stay, there's decent coffee and hard boiled eggs.

Then I make up a menu for the trip. Yours will be different, but here's how I would approach it:

Day 1

B. Coffee and a bagel with cheese on it at home. Cut up apples (put in a plastic bag). Cut up veggies (carrots, etc) for nibbling (put in a plastic bag). Put cold water in one thermos. Put decaf coffee in a second thermos. Make lunch and dinner. Pack several tubs with sandwich fixings and a bag of flat bread, pita bread, or whatever works.

Snack: cut up apple slices

L. 1/2 sandwich (hero/grinder - piled high with meat and veggies), container yogurt, decaf coffee.

Snack: cut up veggies/cheese cubes

D. Other 1/2 of sandwich, cold bean salad (or other salad not made with mayo for better keeping), handful of grapes.

Day 2

B. See what the motel offers in the way of breakfast. Eat that if it's acceptable. I carry my own instant oatmeal packets, the low sugar kind. Cut up fruit and veggies for the day if you snack on those. If you want soup, pour some hot water and several instant soup packets into one of the thermoses.

Snack: yogurt or veggies

L. 1/2 sandwich, cup of soup, handful of grapes or other fruit. You could also build another salad.

Snack: whatever is leftover

D. If not meeting friends for dinner, second 1/2 sandwich, etc

Day 3

B. Whatever the motel has or oatmeal and last of the eggs.

Today would be a shopping day. Find a grocery with a good deli.

L. Either eat at the grocery store deli or get one of their hot meals for variety. Also pick up more fruit, veggies, and sandwich makings.

If you have access to a friend's kitchen, boil up some eggs, make a few salads . . .

And I think you get the idea. Don't pack too much fresh food that can go bad but have things like instant oatmeal, soup, coffee/tea. I've also traveled with foil packets of tuna for tuna sandwiches.

Eating this way saves a ton of money. I also incorporate a camping stove for some trips and heat up one pan meals for dinner, such as rice or an already cooked baked potato (or instant potatoes) or noodles (omit the spice packet). Ham slices travel well.

It depends on how much work you want to do, but even just carrying baggies of fruit and veggies can save on stopping at restaurants for snacks.

Added: for some trips, I've made my own "boil in the bag" dinners: I put pre-cooked food like cut up pork chops, mashed potatoes, and peas in a freezer baggie and boiled that in a pan on my camp stove. Do watch the temperature of your cooler if you do that. I generally can't keep those dinners okay for more than 48 hours, but that's a good way to use leftovers from the night before if you had dinner with friends.

Last edited by Meemur; 05-30-2015 at 09:27 AM..
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Old 05-30-2015, 09:59 AM
 
1,830 posts, read 4,876,750 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Meemur View Post
Here's what I do:

First, I make a rough plan of what I will probably eat each day, including meals with friends. Then I look into what sort of breakfast the motel has. Many are too high in sugar and fat, but at one of the places I stay, there's decent coffee and hard boiled eggs.

Then I make up a menu for the trip. Yours will be different, but here's how I would approach it:

Day 1

B. Coffee and a bagel with cheese on it at home. Cut up apples (put in a plastic bag). Cut up veggies (carrots, etc) for nibbling (put in a plastic bag). Put cold water in one thermos. Put decaf coffee in a second thermos. Make lunch and dinner. Pack several tubs with sandwich fixings and a bag of flat bread, pita bread, or whatever works.

Snack: cut up apple slices

L. 1/2 sandwich (hero/grinder - piled high with meat and veggies), container yogurt, decaf coffee.

Snack: cut up veggies/cheese cubes

D. Other 1/2 of sandwich, cold bean salad (or other salad not made with mayo for better keeping), handful of grapes.

Day 2

B. See what the motel offers in the way of breakfast. Eat that if it's acceptable. I carry my own instant oatmeal packets, the low sugar kind. Cut up fruit and veggies for the day if you snack on those. If you want soup, pour some hot water and several instant soup packets into one of the thermoses.

Snack: yogurt or veggies

L. 1/2 sandwich, cup of soup, handful of grapes or other fruit. You could also build another salad.

Snack: whatever is leftover

D. If not meeting friends for dinner, second 1/2 sandwich, etc

Day 3

B. Whatever the motel has or oatmeal and last of the eggs.

Today would be a shopping day. Find a grocery with a good deli.

L. Either eat at the grocery store deli or get one of their hot meals for variety. Also pick up more fruit, veggies, and sandwich makings.

If you have access to a friend's kitchen, boil up some eggs, make a few salads . . .

And I think you get the idea. Don't pack too much fresh food that can go bad but have things like instant oatmeal, soup, coffee/tea. I've also traveled with foil packets of tuna for tuna sandwiches.

Eating this way saves a ton of money. I also incorporate a camping stove for some trips and heat up one pan meals for dinner, such as rice or an already cooked baked potato (or instant potatoes) or noodles (omit the spice packet). Ham slices travel well.

It depends on how much work you want to do, but even just carrying baggies of fruit and veggies can save on stopping at restaurants for snacks.

Added: for some trips, I've made my own "boil in the bag" dinners: I put pre-cooked food like cut up pork chops, mashed potatoes, and peas in a freezer baggie and boiled that in a pan on my camp stove. Do watch the temperature of your cooler if you do that. I generally can't keep those dinners okay for more than 48 hours, but that's a good way to use leftovers from the night before if you had dinner with friends.
Great response, Meemur! Your ideas will help a lot of readers. We won't do the camp stove because the first half of the trip is by plane but I sure appreciate the reminder about the tuna salad packets for sandwiches and also the grocery store deli section. Also I need to remember to pack some scissors in my checked suitcase for opening food packages.
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Old 05-30-2015, 10:32 AM
 
Location: Bella Vista, Ark
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Op, you say you are staying in motels? Do you actually mean motels or budget hotels? Most budget hotels have breakfast as well, so there is a savings off the top. You can also have breakfast and grab a couple of pieces of fruit and a cup of coffee for later. I am not suggesting you fill your purse with food from the breakfast bar, but a couple things are fine.

Some hotels even offer evening snacks and drinks. It is worth an extra few $$S on the rate to get a little extra food included.

Grocery stores often have made to order deli foods and things like salads and fried chicken. That is a lot less expensive than eating out every night. Of course this works well, only if the place you choose to stay has room to enjoy a meal, like a table in the room and a micro.

Sometimes we check into our room and hubby finds a fast food place, grabs a sandwich for each of us and maybe a salad or whatever or a pizza and brings it back to our room.

We often skip lunch altogether or just stop for something very light.

Taking a few snacks in the car or a small lunch and just pulling over at a nice park or rest area is another way to relax while saving money.

Always bring your own drinks, whether water, soda or alcohol. These are things that really can increase the price of eating. We always have lots of water for drinking while traveling and our bottle of wine to enjoy after a long day of driving.

Last but not least, make sure you splurge on a couple of meals, that is what vacations are all about.
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Old 05-30-2015, 11:02 AM
 
Location: Eureka CA
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We bring an ice chest full of our favorite drinks but to me , stopping to eat is not just a safety factor (avoid fatigue) but trying new foods is a big part of travel.
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Old 05-30-2015, 11:43 AM
 
Location: Bella Vista, Ark
71,964 posts, read 83,640,243 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eureka1 View Post
We bring an ice chest full of our favorite drinks but to me , stopping to eat is not just a safety factor (avoid fatigue) but trying new foods is a big part of travel.
That is how we feel as well. As I said we will sometimes skip lunch, just stop for a quick potty break, fill the car with gas and maybe pick up a little something but we do like to try new things and yes, driving too long without a break isn't a good idea. I do know people who do this though. I feel the same about preparing a bunch of stuff before we even leave home, that to me isn't really a vacation. Some money saving eating ideas are good and I can understand people using them, but too much isn't fun. At least for us it isn't.
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Old 05-30-2015, 11:44 AM
 
Location: Middle of the Pacific Ocean
11,701 posts, read 6,290,166 times
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As some others have mentioned, I try to book at motels/hotels with free breakfast options. If that's not possible, I'll pack some cereal and buy some milk locally for breakfast. Also, if on a road trip, I'll bring a cooler with drinks and other food items. I'll also shop at the local supermarkets wherever I'm at to get things like sandwich meats, etc., to keep in the hotel refrigerator; if the hotel has a microwave or oven as well, that only increases the selection of items I can purchase from the supermarket.

Doing that drastically cuts down on the amount I eat out while traveling, which usually saves me a great deal of money in the process. Yes, eating out is part of the travel experience that I still look forward to, but I still want to travel on a budget.
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Old 05-30-2015, 12:35 PM
 
Location: We_tside PNW (Columbia Gorge) / CO / SA TX / Thailand
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#1... always eat like a local (worldwide). Veggies and fruit / bread / meat / cheese is very ez to get frequently and can travel a day at a time.

camp stoves are the size of a small margarine dish, we take ours everywhere (on the plane too).

Grocery store produce depts... Go early in the morning and talk to produce person to get 'culls' (Blemished / outdated)

Our $10 / night stays come with 1 - 2 meals (usually GREAT meals with leftovers / sandwiches to take with. ) Hospitality exchange - Wikitravel

We stay on lots of farms (plenty of garden produce to take with)

If we 'eat-out'. it will be during 'happy hour'.
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Old 05-30-2015, 01:27 PM
 
Location: Central IL
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Definitely try to get hotel rooms with a fridge...a microwave helps too but those can be harder to find. A continental breakfast included in the price of the room is pretty easy to find. I like to enjoy local food - it can be cheaper to have a nice lunch in a restaurant than dinner and many of the same menu items may be available, just smaller portions. Or you can check for early bird dinner specials in the late afternoon/early evening.
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