How do you save money on food when you are home? You eat out less, use coupons, and look for bargains. How do you save money on food when you are on a trip? You eat out less, use coupons, and look for bargains.
Here are some ideas that have helped us reduce the cost of eating when we on a road trip:
- Buy food when you are still at home and it is on sale (with coupons preferably) and take it with you. Snacks and meals for the road are very easy to take in your vehicle. If you prefer not to have people eating and drinking in the car, plan to stop at roadside rests and parks to make use of public picnic tables.
- Take a cooler (size depends on the amount of room you have) with those drinks and food for the trip. It also allows you to pick up regional food and go food shopping while your on the road. The cooler is also important if you need to keep medicine cool…ie. liquid antibiotics, insulin.
- Join rewards/loyalty programs for chain restaurants that you visit at home and/or are located where you plan to travel. If you use these programs before you travel, you may be able to get the more perks while on your trip. The rewards programs can mean discounts, free food or drinks, priority seating, etc. Even if you can’t get the perks when you traveling, you will be closer to getting them when you return home. Panera Bread, Red Robin, and T.G.I. Fridays are three of the chains with rewards/loyalty programs.
- If you prefer to eat at local establishments (like I do), true daily specials are often a great value.
- Do research on where to eat while you are researching where to stay when planning your trip. Using websites, like Urbanspoon and others, can help you discover places you may want to eat, places you may want to avoid, and will give you an idea of what the cost will be.
- Apps like those by Urbanspoon and TripAdvisor can point you to places and prices while you on the road.
- Use coupons. Coupons for even local restaurants can be found on the Internet and in newspapers. Groupon, Living Social, Restaurants.com, and even the restaurant’s website are all places to check for coupons.
- Use discounted gift cards. If you have a Costco membership, stop by a Costco in the area and check out what local establishments have discounted gift cards available. These are often for the higher end places, but it can reduce the cost of a splurge. Many chain restaurant gift cards can be occasionally purchased for less than face value at drug or grocery stores when they are on sale.
- Eat a late lunch/early dinner as your big meal out for the day. Lunch menus are often cheaper than dinner menus. Also, eating early can give you a larger selection of places to eat..especially in larger cities where many breakfast/lunch only restaurants exist.
- If you don’t finish your meal at a restaurant, take the leftovers with you and place them in your cooler. You can keep and reheat in hotel rooms, etc. with refrigerators and microwaves.
- Drink water. Save several dollars off the typical family meal price at a restaurant just by not buying soda pop, tea, milk, coffee, etc.
- If you are staying where you can cook, do. Don’t cook all the meals…it is a vacation…but limit the number of meals you eat out.
- Beyond the food you take from home, buy as close to the source as possible for the best deals on produce, meat, and seafood…especially if you want organic.
- Read blogs, like this one and A Simple Home Cook, for more ideas on where to eat and buy food.
This article is only my opinions and I am not connected to any entities mentioned in the article, nor have I received any form of payment for my comments from any of them.