Frugal Road Trip with Kids Series: Frugal Road Trip with Kids – Be Positive – Plan Your Route – Safety First – What to Bring – Food and Snacks – Fun Stuff – Fun in the Dark – Fun in the Heat – Classic Games
In this article: To Bring: Box of Food – To Bring: Basket of Snacks – Snacks To Buy – Food To Make – Drinks
Try to keep your diet as close to normal as possible. If you normally eat a ton of veggies try to search out more veg on the road. If you don’t usually drink coffee don’t chug it for four hours. If you usually stick to just meals and don’t snack, keep a limit on munching. If you always have a banana at breakfast you can still do that on the road. The last thing you want to do is shock your system and get potty issues.
The dollar store has a 5 ct pack of toddler snack cups with lids, or Walmart will have little storage containers, or you can save baby food jars, for portioning stuff like pudding and yogurt ahead of time
If you decide you want to get fast food Subway’s $5 footlong subs are a great deal . There are a lot of $5 lunch deals out there but they aren’t as much food. And the subs give you carbs, protein, veggies, even dairy. Keep in mind rest area fast food always costs more, and usually the value menu does not even exist. Just getting off the highway will save you money. If you want to splurge you may want to find a local diner that should be inexpensive and may offer local delicacies worth trying. I find this budget much harder to stick to in the winter when I really want hot food, however.
We all scream for ice cream! $4a pop at an ice cream place x a family of 6 = ouch! This can get expensive quickly. But sometimes it’s so hot you just need to cool down. McDonalds does have a $1 ice cream(ish) item on the value menu, but those aren’t on rest area location menus, at least not for the value price. If you have a good cooler you can buy some treats ahead and eat them early. Or WalMart does sell individual treats for about $1 in the freezer section, or buy a box of something. Once we stopped at a gas station and I walked across the street to a RiteAid and I got two 4 packs of Klondike Bars for less than a dollar each.
We pack a box that has food and food-related supplies. This box has stuff like paper towels, paper plates, plastic cups, plastic utensils. Sippy cups and baby spoons. Also a small knife that comes with a cover, although you can rig a cover with cardboard.
In the bottom of the Box of Food I place the lid for a 4 qt/gallon ice cream/sherbet container. I put the container on the lid. Then I fill the container with whatever fits that’s already going in the box. If someone is feeling barfey and I need the container I can just dump out whatever is in there, but otherwise it isn’t taking up a lot of space. If you know one of your kids gets car sickness you want this container to be easily accessible, like under the feet of the shortest one. If you do have motion sickness issues I recommend antinausea (Sea) bands, they help prevent motion sickness with acupressure and should be available at your pharmacy.
Also you might want to pick up a rollable or disposable place mats. I really prefer the idea of a reusable mat, but my one year old will immediately try to toss whatever we put in front of her, and has no trouble ripping off suctioned things. So for this trip I got some disposable place mats off of eBay, they stick to the table and protect the kid from germs. Also remember your shopping cart cover works on high chairs too.
In this box we also put whatever food we are bringing that isn’t single serve snacks or going in the cooler. Like bread, peanut butter, bananas, fruit cups, baked goods. Depending on where we have more space some snacks will be put here.
This is just a more convenient spot to put individually wrapped snacks and munchies items. This basket doesn’t get as buried as the Box of Food.
I will make individual packets of food, label them with a name with a sharpie, and then either put them in a gallon zip bag or wrap around the mess with painter’s tape. This way it’s easy to pull something out. Also you aren’t wasting time prepping servings after you’ve left. And there’s no bickering over who still had some cheese crackers in their bag when we stop, their name is on it.
When we stop one of my steps is to replenish this from the Box of Food.
These ideas lean towards whole food, but are mostly just from scratch road trip food
Apples (sliced, dipped in lemon juice to prevent browning)
Celery sticks (with peanut butter, in empty peanut butter jars, or ants on a log)
Cheese (sticks cut from a log, or sliced for pepperoni and crackers)
Grapes (pre-washed and cut, frozen, choking hazard)
M&Ms because there has to be chocolate (choking hazard)
Peanuts (choking hazard)
Raisins (portioned out from box, choking hazard)
Bagels (pre-cream cheesed)
Banana Mini Choco Chip Muffins mmm these are super good warm, I might wrap these in tin foil and stick em in a hot/cold bag for breakfast after the 4 am start
Banana Oat Smoothie (in thermos)
Beef jerky (you can make it on your oven’s lowest setting you just have to watch it)
Black Bottom Banana Bars these are good bribes
Goldfish or cheese crackers
Ella Bella’s Healthy Summer Squash Bread (my very own recipe)
Hard-boiled eggs pre-peeled
Iced tea or half-and-half
Popcorn (prepopped in microwave)
Triscuits or crackers
Vichyssoise (cold leek soup, in thermos)
Water keeps you hydrated, doesn’t have any extra sugar or dyes, and doesn’t get sticky when spilled.
You can also use your water to wash fruit you buy on the way.
We bring big gallon bottles, or larger even, for refilling smaller bottles. You need to drink (vaguely) 2.5 liters of water per day x 6 people = 15 liters = almost 4 gallons. Plus water for washing things, and cooling down.
We each have a water bottle we drink from regularly. You can get these at the dollar store, or really cheap at yard sales. For really long trips I would buy enough water for everyone for a couple days, and I knew at our last stop it had to be a Walmart where I could buy more water, fruit, etc.
You can get skinny ice cube trays that make ice that will fit in skinny little bottle mouths, make a bunch of that beforehand and stick it in the cooler to have for the beginning of the trip.
No soda. If your kids don’t normally drink soda this is not a good time to start. If they do try to cut it back. Sugar highs and lows are excellent for encouraging tantrums and crankiness. Over 10% of a can of Coke is sugar.
Coffee. Sometimes you just need a boost to keep driving for the zillionth hour. If you drink a lot of coffee you will quickly learn which gas stations carry decent coffee, some of them carry good brands like Green Mountain. If you are looking for ice coffee it is cheaper to get it at a convenience store than a fast food place.
Gatorade is ok for a boost but it’s coming from a ton of sugar, and it’s expensive.
Energy drinks. I really, really don’t like energy drinks, but have tried several and 5 Hour Energy is the only one I didn’t get any kind of crash, twitchiness, or sludgeiness (that’s a word, I made it) from. These are much cheaper at WalMart, like $1. I’ve seen them for $5 each at rest areas so we always pick up a couple beforehand and then try not to use them.
For the kids if you want to give them something different when you stop Capri Sun makes some of their pouches with 100% juice, you can just have to pay attention to the packaging.