One fall, before kids, steady housing, and other adult responsibilities, it was just me and Chris. Our budget was so tight it was suffocating, but we had some cash saved from our wedding.
Instead of using our carefully squirreled money on something practical, like toilet paper, we decided to go on a short road trip.
Maybe that was immature. Maybe we should have used that time to find better jobs. But we were young and dumb, and life was on oyster we were gonna open because we couldn’t afford real oysters.
After packing our tiny Saturn, we drove through the mountains. We still tried to keep our trip as cheap as possible. That meant no drive-thrus or expensive gas station pretzels and jerky.
Instead, I bought a bag of tortilla chips from Aldi, some sliced cheese, and carrot sticks. Not the baby carrots – those were too expensive. Then I made a big batch of “healthified” chocolate chip cookies, using the methods I shared here.
We can get really stressed about traveling. No one likes feeling terrible after a long road trip, but many of us do – whether from sitting for 8 hours, the bickering from the back seat, or breakfast AND lunch coming courtesy of the drive-thru.
Travel food – even packing your own – gets expensive. We’re conditioned to think that everything needs to come in snack-size bags or personal-sized boxes. It doesn’t.
You can pack your family’s travel food in 10 minutes and spend no more on it than you spend eating food at home.
Pack a Lunch Box
If your kids go to school, they likely have a lunchbox. Just pack it like you normally would and toss it in the cooler. It makes road trip food far less expensive and still very easy.
Pack the Snacks You Eat at Home – Just Make Them Travel-Friendly
At home between meals, my kids are allowed to eat fruit, veggies, nuts, and raisins. I don’t care how much or what kind they choose – but that’s the only snack food. So when we travel, I pack those things. Understandably, I try to choose car-friendly versions. Here are some examples:
- Celery (with peanut butter and raisins)
- Mandarins or clementines (easy to peel)
- Pistachios (if you buy shelled, it keeps their hands busy – but also may create more mess. Choose your priority.)
- Homemade trail mix (peanuts, raisins, DONE)
Avoid Empty Carbs
Carbs give quick energy, so if you want the seat-belted kids filled with high energy, pack lots of crackers, cookies, and chips.
Fats and proteins are a slow-burn, and they keep you feeling full longer. Try these:
- Blocks of cheese cut into slices (less expensive than pre-cut)
- Tuna fish with crackers or veggie sticks
- Hard-boiled eggs
- 5-Minute Egg & Cheese Muffins
- 4-Ingredient Homemade Sausage
Some carbs are okay. Here’s what I pack that’s inexpensive but doesn’t send them on a sugar high:
- Homemade popcorn (gluten-free and cheap!)
- Tortilla chips (gluten-free and inexpensive too!)
- Healthier Banana Bread
- One-Bowl Sweet Potato Bread
- Simple Baked Oatmeal (gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, vegan options)
- Easiest Bread Ever with peanut butter and honey
Because vegetables are hard to come by at gas stations, green smoothies are really handy. Try these tips to make them fit in a tight budget.
Travelling can be stressful, but these tips will help you save money and eat healthier on the road. Keep it simple, choose inexpensive foods, and do what works for you!
What You Can Do Now:
Are you traveling soon?
- Make a quick list of the snacks mentioned here that you know will work for you and your people.
- Next, what is your favorite travel snack? Share it in the comments!
Fun pic to Pin: