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Authored by Vera Miller

Did you know that in the 1950’s people almost never went out to eat? Not only was it too expensive, there also weren’t too many places to go. Going out to eat and even enjoying a soft drink was something that most people enjoyed once a month or so – at the most.

But today, people eat out on average 4 to 5 times per week and spend around $1200 a year on fast food alone. If you’re on a road trip without an oven or even a microwave, that number can be a lot higher. If you want to save a little money on food costs, here are some suggestions for your next road trip.


You can find individual bowls of cereal in most big grocery stores and especially the bulk stores like Costco. Keep some milk in the cooler along with some plastic spoons and you have an instant breakfast.

If you don’t like cereal, you can go with something like granola bars or pre-made sandwiches with bacon, sausage, egg and cheese in any combination. These can be eaten cold with no problems but they can also be put into a thermal lunchbox and kept warm for hours.

Some people prefer to bring along some bagels with cream cheese or butter. They won’t be toasted but your kids won’t mind. You can also have a great breakfast with hard-boiled eggs and string cheese.

Cereal breakfast RF


When it comes to lunch, sandwiches are the perfect road trip food. Not only can you simply pack the bread, meats, cheeses and condiments so that everyone can make themselves the perfect sandwich, you can create amazing sandwiches that will stay good in your cooler for a long time.

You can pair sandwiches will all kinds of portable foods that will easily keep on a long road trip. Individual bags of chips are an excellent choice but if you want to go healthier you can pair sandwiches with trail mix, fresh carrot sticks or peanut butter and cracker packages.


Dinner is a little trickier because of the desire for hot food. But here’s a trick that you can use.

Put some hot dogs or ‘Lil’ Smokies’ into a thermos and fill with boiling water. They will be ready to eat whenever you are and you can just eat them by themselves or use a bun along with some condiments.

You can also use thermos for soups and this can be a delicious dinner as well. Pair your main course with something like potato salad or macaroni salad that will keep in the cooler and then go with something sweet for dessert like a candy bar.

Thermos camping

Snacks Between Meals

You definitely want some snacks between meals because even if you plan to stop for dinner at a restaurant, you and your family are going to get hungry at some point. Snacks that make perfect “in-betweeners” include string cheese, peanut butter/cheese and cracker packs, chips, individually packaged cookies and desserts like moon pies or Hostess treats.

Of course, you may want your kids to eat healthier snacks than that so you can go with carrot sticks with caramel dipping sauce or ranch, individual salads that you can keep in a cooler; you can also get little packages of nuts or trail mix.

If you go to one of the bulk discount stores like Sam’s Club or Costco, you will find many bulk packages of individually wrapped snacks in every shape and size.


One of the main ways that you’re going to be able to save money is if you ensure that you have access to cold beverages throughout the entire road trip.

A great way to save money on beverages is to buy (or fill) bottles of water and mix these with a packet of powder drink mix. Flavors like Kool-Aid or Hawaiian Punch sell in boxes of 6 or 8 in most places for about a dollar. Of course, you can also organize soda, particularly if the grownups need a caffeine boost while driving.

You can also explore options like lemonade and iced tea.  The biggest thing to remember is that you’re going to save by buying before-hand; gas station drinks have an extraordinarily high mark up.


Amazon food containers

3-Compartment Lunch Boxes

Amazon food containers

Bento Lunch Boxes with Lids

Amazon cooler eski

Arctic Zone Titan Zipperless Cooler


Vera is a blogger trying to lead a frugal (but not frustrating) lifestyle. She is also an avid food enthusiast who loves everything about cooking and especially using modern tech in cooking that can make even a novice cook look like an expert chef.  You can find her at Frugal Frogs.


  1. Awesome tips! I wish I had some of these when I backpacked around Iceland!

    • Hopefully in time for your next trip then :) Glad we could help!

  2. I love doing road trips and can’t wait to do ur huge one from Vancouver, BC to St Johns NL in Canada next year (which we allowed four weeks to do). As we need a lot of gas money, we will try and avoid eating out and buying food from the supermarket instead and doing things are way. :D Your tips are very useful for those who are thinking of doing a long road trip and I would follow your advice as well. If I didn’t, I be suffering with open wallet surgery after the trip :D

    • Wow sounds like an incredible roadtrip coming up for you! Buying food at the grocery store is definitely the way to save, especially if your budget is already going to be tight.

      Glad we could partner with Vera to help with some advice :)

  3. I prefer to eat light for breakfast anyway, and I love to stop off for picnics when it’s warm. If I eat out several times a day I pile weight on so these are great suggestions

    • Sounds like you’re on top of it Suze! Happy road tripping!

  4. Years ago, we used to pack food, but not just go out. Experiencing the local cuisine is one of the things we enjoy most when we travel. If you’re just recreating your foods from home, you’re not really fully experiencing your destination. At least that’s our take. On a road trip, the incremental food costs are almost negligible when compared to other big expenses of travel.

    • That’s very true too :) We do enjoy hitting up local grocery stores as our way to sampling the local food scene – it was quite the adventure in Iceland trying to translate the back of packets (Mike is Celiac) and ending up with fermented shark for dinner!!

    • Absolutely agree, Lance! While I think these tips fit for an American road trip, they just don’t work elsewhere.

      Actually, those little single serve bowls of cereal the author discusses cost €11 per bowl and the only one available is Lucky Charms in the teeny American section of the grocery stores here in France. The whole car could have a freshly baked croissant and fresh squeezed orange juice, which is a typical French breakfast, at any patisserie for less than the cost of one bowl of €11 cereal.

      I am all about picking up a baguette, cheese and charcuterie though to stop for a picnic lunch.

      But I won’t sacrifice dinner out. The local food is part of the travel experience. And I do agree you’re missing out on a big part.

      I know this girl who travels super frugal. She only flies the European budget airlines. She only does free things in her destination. And she packs and brings food from home. She only ever stays 48 hours at most and then calls the country “done”. But I can’t help but wonder what, if anything, she’s actually even experiencing.

      To each his own, but that isn’t any enjoyable way to travel in my eyes.

    • Thanks for sharing your perspective Jennifer :) Yes, €11 per cereal is quite over the top – will obviously vary from country to country as you’ve mentioned. I think planning and pre packing food is the biggest message / way to save, and you can then adapt the specific items to the country you’re in.

      Definitely think it’s an each to their own. We hardly ever eat out when we travel nowadays mainly due to food allergies, though we don’t feel as though we miss out on the destination. We have different interests and have never been foodies – don’t really mind what we’re eating so long as we’re exploring the outdoors scene, getting to know the people and soaking up the atmosphere of the place :)

      Where-as a hardcore foodie might travel to a destination and not do more than jump between restaurants, which makes me wonder what they’re actually experiencing. So like you said, it’s each to their own :)

  5. All really great trips for eating on the move. But I have to say the hot dogs in the thermos is my favourite. Have never thought of doing that one before, cool idea.

    • It’s quite genius right! :D

  6. I love a good road trip and this is a great way to save some money. I love the idea of pairing a hot soup in a thermos with a cooler kept cold potato salad for dinner. That actually sounds perfect! Be prepared with meal options and snacks will also save time if you’re wanting to stay on the road and maximize the time for your trip.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Jackie – in our eyes, saving money while on a roadtrip means being able to stretch your budget elsewhere where it matters :)

  7. Great tips. Perfect when you are on a long road trip with a person like me who is always peckish. I love carrying granola bars to snack on and for an energy boost. We carried soups and coffees in a thermos when we went to Iceland. That does help in the cold climate.

    • I’m always slightly peckish too! I think it’s probably once the boredom kicks in for driving for such long periods of time lol! And especially when you’re driving, it’s definitely nice to have little snacks on hand to give you an energy boost.

      Ooooh road trip through Iceland, nice! Was one of my favorite drives :)

  8. Very Interesting, I just love this post! As a mom of 3 who has traveled extensively, I have spent so much time thinking of how to feed the kids on the road, or in airports, or on long drives that this is just great! I love that idea of lil smokey’s !

    • Definitely helps being prepared when you have kids in tow :) Glad you enjoyed the post! Lil smokey’s for the win on your next trip!

  9. I love thermos for hot soup!! I use them all the time for lunch at work! Nothing like butternut squash in the middle of the day. :) These are some seriously great suggestions for road trips. I’m a bit hopeless with cooking AND packing things properly (including food), so I’ll definitely refer back to this post!

    • It’s my lifesaver on most trips! Ooooh butternut squash sounds great!

      Glad you enjoyed the suggestions, feel free to reach out if you’re looking for more tips before your next trip :)

  10. Great ideas for portable food. There’s another reason besides saving money. It also saves time. If you already have your food packed you don’t have to make any extra stops to eat! When you make road trips as much as I do, sometimes all you want to do is get where you’re going and not drag out the trip.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Tami – definitely saves time too :) Food stops can put you quite behind, where-as I love the ease of stopping whenever you need to, grabbing pre packaged lunch from the back, and then being back on the road :)

      Totally agree about wanting to get to point B, especially after you’ve been driving for a long time!

      Happy travels :)

  11. Some great tips here! My biggest expense is towards beverages since I am a coffee addict and need to have a few every day! I have cut it down mostly but I think I should find some ways to minimise the cost :) And true, snacks in between are the biggest culprits!

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Reshma :) Beverages do have a way of adding up! I bought a bottle of sprite from the gas station a couple of days ago and it was $5! Can get it at the grocery store for 99c. But yes, coffee will hit the wallet also – thermos is a great way to go in that sense :)

      Happy travels!

  12. Thanks for this post. So super helpful. I’ve always struggled with food on trips, most times I just skip or have irregular meals. I can’t remember having beverages (minus coffee) on trips. But with this post, I’ve found ways to eat cheaper on road trips. And the thermos is quite multi-purpose. Hoping to get one soon.

    • You’re welcome Lydia – glad that it’s helpful! Yes, it’s very easy to fall into irregular meals when you’re traveling – happens to the best of us! But pre planning out your meals schedule and having a good supply of food and drink constantly stocked in the car is a great way to stay on top of meals, and buying in bulk at grocery stores is always cheaper!

      Can highly recommend a thermos. Happy roadtripping!

  13. Reading this blog post is making me hungry! Hehehe! A thermos of coffee sounds just right for a long road trip. We should keep that in mind, considering the bus trips in our country are quite long.

    • Haha every time I come back to this post, me too! A thermos is right there in my cup holder for every road trip – it’s a fabulous way to stay awake when you’re driving too :D

  14. good blog

    • Thanks Ram! Glad you enjoyed the post :)

  15. Hi Meg,
    Thank you for your great efforts. It is quite important tips while you are going on a road trip. Great post. Keep it up.

    • Glad the post was helpful for you Hurghada. Happy travels!

  16. Great tips! I’m planning for an adventurous trip so your post is exactly what I’m looking for. Thank you so much for your useful post. Good jod! Keep going!

    • Thanks Hoi An, glad the post was helpful :) Happy road tripping!

  17. Excellent tips, some I knew and some are new!

    • Glad the article was helpful for you Erin :) Happy road tripping!

  18. Megan, you really know how to trave without not forgetting anything! When me and my friends hit the road we like to make some sandwiches at the morning before leaving, we only make a stop in a shop from a gas station to buy some sodas and chips, some times to save some money we only buy chips and we pack bottles of water so we don’t spend on soda! We pack everything in a cooler so it stays cold!

    • So glad the post was helpful for you Jane, it sounds like you have a pretty good system in place. Ultimately water is probably best for us anyway when we’re on the road, I find sodas give me energy but I usually end up dehydrated. So I’ve started going more towards water now too – and of course it’s a money saver as well!

      Happy road tripping, thanks for reading :)

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