Saving Money on Travel Food

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Find yourself on the road often? You don’t need to pay the high price of restaurants and convenience foods. Save on vacation eats. Here’s how:
Where noted, I have received sample product to review. All opinions are my own.

Save Money on Travel Food - Find yourself on the road often? You don't need to pay the high price of restaurants and convenience foods. Save on vacation eats. Here's how:

One year on a trip to Mammoth, I perused a fisherman’s shop while my husband talked rods and tackle with the salesman. As I am apt to do, I was drawn to the food section. It was sparse, but there was a fair amount of shelf-stable foods for sale.

I was SHOCKED when I saw a box of graham crackers priced at $14.99. My husband joked that they must have added an extra 1 at the beginning of the price. $4.99 was a more reasonable, albeit expensive, price for a box of crackers.

But, the salesman didn’t laugh. That was their price. Insert crazy shocked emoticon face.

The lesson here: take food with you if you possibly can because you will be gouged.

Whether you travel for business or pleasure, being away from your regular kitchen and grocery stores can hit the budget pretty hard, especially if you go places geared toward tourists. But the same strategies that help you save money on groceries can help you on the road as well.

Save Money on Travel Food - Find yourself on the road often? You don't need to pay the high price of restaurants and convenience foods. Save on vacation eats. Here's how:

When we travel we try to stay in places where we have access to a full kitchen. This enables us to accommodate different food preferences and food allergies, to eat on our own schedule, and to save money. We shop at grocery stores where we are staying, but also like to have food packed in case we can’t find what we want or need in a timely manner.

This prevents people from getting hangry* and helps us enjoy our trip so much more.

Since we’re planning a big vacation in France with brief stops in London this fall, I’m particularly concerned about my daughter who has severe food allergies and my husband who is prone to hanger.

The kids and I were discussing suitcase-stable foods that we could bring or buy in the event that we can’t find allergy-free/cheap snacks on the road. Rarely do I pack and regret it, but many is the time that I wish I had. We came up with a great list.

Not all those listed are appropriate for carry-on luggage or for import into all countries, so adjust for your particular trip.

Suitcase-Stable Foods to Pack on a Trip

  • applesauce pouches (no need for spoon)
  • almonds or other favorite nuts
  • dried fruit
  • Larabars (make homemade Mamabars, if the trip is short)
  • beef jerky or meat sticks
  • sunflower or nut butters (may not be allowed to take into certain countries)
  • fruit leathers or ropes
  • crackers
  • rice cakes
  • pretzels
  • canned fruit

Save Money on Travel Food - Find yourself on the road often? You don't need to pay the high price of restaurants and convenience foods. Save on vacation eats. Here's how:

Pack for a picnic

Don’t forget to pack these items that will help you out on picnics:

  • water bottles (collapsible water bottles work well for plane travel)
  • plastic utensils (I like these reusable sporks)
  • small plastic trash bags
  • ziploc bags for leftovers or open packages
  • picnic blanket
  • travel size condiments, salt and pepper
  • a reusable grocery bag that folds small
  • hand sanitizer or antibacterial wipes
  • napkins or paper towels
  • bread knife and cutting board (be sure to check the bag if you’re flying with a bread knife)
  • bottle/can opener (again, this must be in checked luggage, when flying)
  • insulated lunch box or cooler bag
  • mini disposable toothbrushes or gum to freshen breath

Am I missing anything?

Pictured here is the picnic pack I’m taking to Europe. We’ll buy the paper products overseas. But, we’re ready as soon as we hit the ground to grab yogurts, bread, cheese, and fruit and be able to have a quick snacky dinner on the road.

I’ve packed it all away in a Tom Bihn packing cube. The company sent me a range of items that I’ll be sharing more this week. The packing cube is a great way to see what’s inside and be able to grab just the things that I need out of the suitcase. I’m compartmentalizing lots of things for this trip in packing cubes. Love them!
Where noted, I have received sample product to review. All opinions are my own.

What do YOU do to save money on travel food?

Read Great Travel Books - Planning a trip? Be sure to check out some great travel guides before you go -- and make sure the kids get a chance to read along with you. Travel with Kids

This is part of the Travel with Kids series. Every day in October, I’m posting tips, tricks, and tutorials for making all your travels fun, frugal, and family-friendly.

Be sure to read through the archives in case you missed a post.

*hangry = hunger that produces grumpiness on the verge of anger.

About Jessica Fisher

I believe you can get great meals on the table -- and still keep that pretty smile on your face.

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  1. Jessica says

    Well, our budget way is also to pack snacks, but one place we frequent while we are out is the Boulangerie. We can get little pizzas, quiche, and sometimes baguette sandwiches for a small fraction of the price that a restaurant will charge. If you are looking for some grocery stores to hit up while you are in France, the Dia, Aldi, and Lidl have better prices on things than most. And as always eat as the locals eat as much as possible. It will be the most inexpensive food. Check out local markets especially close to closing times to get a good bargain. Oh, one final hint, we take the flavored water packets to give a little variety to the water only rule that we stick to on the road.

  2. Love the “hangry” term! My husband is also prone to these moments and I always try and keep something for him to snack on in my bag!

  3. I am planning on flying for the first time since I was a kid and I will have 3 kids with me under 5,so I am always looking for something small that can be packed to go. I found some shelf stable milk that I plan on packing to take with us because little ones like milk and restaurants and everywhere like to charge outrageous amount of money for tiny cartons of milk. On a recent overnight trip we ate breakfast out and I got 2 small cartons of milk and was charged over $4 for them. I called and complained because I didn’t realize it until I got home, so that will definitely save money to carry some with me.

  4. Just a thought – the applesauce probably counts as a liquid for flights – details! And to the lady who was packing milk – probably can’t carry it on unless it’s in a very very small container – check the airline/airport regs!

  5. We are moving to Idaho from Nebraska. Me and 4 kids, 16,13,5,3. All eat like truckers! I make sure I have a cooler with milk, cheese, gogurt/yogurt, fruits and veggies. Plus I am bringing my crockpot for dinner and breakfast. Much easier on the wallet and tummy!!

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