But what fun memories we have tucked away. And yes, we ate our way through more than several states. Out of the three weeks gone, 7 of those days were actually spent on the road. For very long periods of time. Add that up, and that is 21 meals on the road or potentially in a hotel.
Now don't get me wrong, our family enjoys eating out occasionally but it can get old, well, except for the 7 year old who has a thing for restaurants and would eat out every meal if you let him. But between the expense factor and the fact that one of us has eaten foreign food for 4 months, let's just say that 21 meals out was not going to cut it.
No worries, this momma had a plan! Not just for our sanity, but to save money!
Yes, you can save money eating on the road.
Pack a cooler!
We actually use two. One holds all of our things that really do need to stay cool!
Our standard items-
Mayo and mustard
Individual containers of diced peaches, pears, and applesauce
And a few Mountain Dews to keep dad awake! Despite the HUGE time change and jet lag, my hero drove every minute of the trip except the day we picked him up from the airport.
The other cooler bag fits perfectly between the two second row seats and holds snacks and such. Many of the snacks for this trip were given to us by a sweet friend (thanks Andrea!!!) and the "such" includes napkins, plastic utensils, and the plastic cups which we use to hold said snacks.
This is our standard lunch on the road, just like it would be at home on any given day. Much cheaper than a $6.00 meal x 6 people= $36.00 for a bad-for-you lunch! Plus, I figure that the fewer public restuarants we are in, the less likely we are to pick up random germs!
Take advantage of hotel breakfasts and possibly mid week meals.
Here's the deal. If you are going to pay for a place to stay (have you seen the cost of rooms these days) you might as well make sure they have a free continental breakfast. Yes, some hotels' ideas of breakfast are better than others, but most have at least yogurt, juice, fruit, cereal, oatmeal, and bread of some sort. Most these days even offer waffles or pancakes, and, much to Colby's delight, some even have doughnuts. We make sure we eat well and often grab a piece of fruit for the road to have for an afternoon snack.
Share meals at restaurants
Usually by dinner we are ready to be out of the car, are tired of picnic lunches, and want to actually sit down for a meal, so we do usually eat at restaurants in the evenings. One way to save on meals is to share! Our girls are famous for this when they can find a place with fajitas. Most restaurants do not mind sharing and often their portions are too big for one person anyway. Even an order of fries at Five Guys can be split between three in our family! (Anyone else love that restaurant?)
Another way to save costs is to eat lunch, a cheaper meal, in a restaurant, and have your picnic from home for dinner in your hotel room. Many rooms have microwaves you can use to heat up food you bring and we have even been known to heat water in a coffee maker and make mac and cheese. (yes, when you are on the road as much as we are, you learn to be resourceful)
Pack a crock pot!
Yes I did! My husband rolled his eyes at me but I am pretty sure he appreciated the home cooked meals. We actually do this quite often, especially if you are going to be in one place for more than a night and if you are out all day sight seeing. Just pop a roast, chicken, or pork loin in before you head out and when you come back to the room exhausted after a day of fun, your meal will be waiting for you. I often wonder what the maid service people think, but so far no one has ever said anything to us. We shared a meal with friends once and they brought their electric griddle along. It was great and a much easier way to visit old friends than in a restaurant.
No, we are not cheap. Well, maybe a little, but the reality is that I not only want to eat fairly healthy on the road, but to save money. After all, the money we save on something as trivial as food can then be spent on much better things - like family fun! ;)
Are there more money saving ideas? I am sure there are and we would love for you to share how you too save money while eating on the road!