For many of us, summertime means vacation. And in this era of skyrocketing air fares, vacation means road tripping for more and more of us, too. My family will be joining the great tradition of loaded up minivans in just a few weeks.
This is our first vacation in two years, as we have finally saved up enough money to pay for it in cash. We’ve built some wiggle room into our budget, but we can’t go too crazy or we’ll be over-budget and 1,000 miles from home!
One of my biggest concerns is WHAT ARE WE GOING TO EAT while we’re driving? Once we get to our destinations, we’ll be staying with family and friends who keep kosher and can feed us plenty. But the in-between days are downright stressful for me. Perhaps it’s because I am overly fixated with food? Nah. It must be because I am blessed with two big boys who love to eat and whose most frequent refrain is, “I’m hungry.” Either way, a handful of cheese sticks and some crackers isn’t going to cut it for this family.
Here are some of the ideas I’ve come up with so far for a frugal-friendly kosher road trip, but I’d love to hear how you handle food on the road as well.
:: Stock up on snack foods – For the last month, I have been stocking up on free or nearly free snack foods and easy breakfast treats. So far, I’ve got 4 bags of Chex Mix (for free, thankyouverymuch double coupons at Hen House), a couple cans of Pringles, some fruit snacks, several boxes of Kashi crackers and cereal bars, and even a bit of candy (Twizzlers!). No, these aren’t foods that I’d serve my family every day, but I think for a road trip, it’s okay to have some junk. I picked up a cute plastic storage tub from Target that I will use to store all the treats. And in fact, I might pack some of them in our luggage to serve as a deterrent from me the kids eating all of it before we even get half way.
:: Pack easy-to-eat protein sources – I will buy a pound of deli meat and divide it into sandwich-size portions, then freeze. I can stick that frozen block into the cooler chest at the last minute. Then I’ll cube up a 2-lb block of cheddar cheese (obviously not to be served together with the deli 😉 and boil a dozen eggs. I can also throw in some cans of tuna fish and a frozen bag of cheese sticks. Then I’ll bring some rolls, wraps or pita halves, so we can make up quick sandwiches on the go. My plan is for us to eat dairy during the day and then to have the deli for dinner.
:: Choose shelf-stable fruits & veggies — Apples, bananas and oranges can all last for a couple days in the snack tub. I’ll add some red and white grapes, cut up melon, baby carrots, and cucumbers from our garden (yum) to the cooler chest. Even if these only make it a day or two, they will be a nice change from Pringles and Chex Mix. I also have a bag of freezer slaw in my deep freeze, which I might stick in the cooler chest. It should be defrosted by the end of the first day, and will make a nice treat with our deli picnic dinner.
:: Make it pretty — Remember those vinyl table cloths I picked up for pennies at a CVS clearance sale? I will pack one or two of those, along with a sharp knife, some paper goods, and individual packets of mayo, mustard and ketchup. All these goodies will go into a dry goods bag, so I can easily access it when we pull over for a rest-stop picnic.
:: Have back-up breakfast options — Along the way, we’ll be staying at hotels with a continental breakfast. I imagine we can ask for paper bowls and choose kosher cereals or yogurts. In case we don’t find options, however, I am throwing some instant oatmeal packets, yogurt sticks, homemade muffins and cereal bars into the mix. I’m not sure that the yogurt sticks will last the whole way, but my kids love ’em, so we can consume them quickly if need be.
:: Budget for treats — A few weeks ago, there were printable coupons for free soft drinks at Pilot. We grabbed a dozen of them, so my husband and I can enjoy a pick-me-up most afternoons without any out of pocket expense. The kids will no doubt beg for politely request snack foods at these stops, so we plan to give them a treat allowance. The idea is that we can help them practice some good budget management skills. (Yes, I realize that it will probably fail miserably when they spend all their money within the first 11 minutes and then whine mercilessly for more.)
That’s it so far. But I’m sure I’m missing plenty of frugal kosher road trip ideas, so please… lay it on me! How do you feed your family while on the road?