Frugal Travel Eating

Grocery shop when you arriveAlong with home swapping as a way to save money on travel, another money saver is to bring food and water with you while traveling. I always pack food when we head out for a day at the beach, a bike ride or while on a home exchange to another country. With a baguette, cheese, dried meat, fruit from a local market, and a water container, you’ve got a picnic in your backpack and you can skip the high cost of going out to eat for every meal.

I’m not saying I don’t like to go to a restaurant or coffee shop to sit and people watch while traveling, it’s just I don’t like to pay for food items on a menu that I can easily make at home or pick-up and have with me for an impromptu picnic or meal. Feeding a family while on the road can be expensive if you have to eat at a restaurant 3 times a day. I try and plan for meals that are portable, simple, and healthy wherever we’re traveling and then splurge on a restaurant meal for a treat. Or splurge on dessert!

Frugal Travel Eating

These were some pot-stickers we splurged on in San Francisco. They were so good and delicious and not something I make at home. This was an afternoon snack and not an entire meal at a restaurant. A snack at a restaurant or small lunch is another way to indulge in restaurant food without going overboard on the expenses.

Frugal Travel Eating

Water: A water container and cups or water bottles for each person. When our kids were little, I’d keep a thermos of water in my backpack and carry small plastic cups. Small cups also help if kids haven’t mastered the drinking fountain if you’re traveling with young children.

Peanut butter: Don’t leave home without it. Peanut butter (or your nut butter of choice) is an easy lunch with bread and fruit. It’s an instant picnic and no one will starve with a quick peanut butter sandwich.

Don’t try to carry on peanut butter on an airplane. It doesn’t pass the TSA screening and I nearly cried when I watched my organic peanut butter jar get tossed into the garbage can on a trip not too long ago. (Local food banks should have a donation bins at every airport for just this reason!) If checking luggage, tuck it in there. If only bringing carry-on (very smart of you! ), just buy some when you arrive at your destination.

Also, I always go for the plastic jar of peanut butter when packing it. I don’t want any broken items in my luggage.

The picture below is a trip we took to Long Island, Bahamas with our good friends. We went to the local bakery – otherwise known as Miss Ophelia’s home – where she bakes bread in her kitchen and keeps more goats in her yard than I’ve ever seen! We were there for an hour hearing stories about her life and adventures and left with the best tasting bread ever.

Frugal Travel Eating

Wooden knife: Ok, it’s not really a knife but is more of a spreader but it works to cut most items or is it more of a dig into most items? Either way its useful when spreading peanut butter or for slicing soft cheeses. It also gets through security at the airport so let’s call it a spreader, shall we?

Dried fruit: Dried fruit fills in for us if we’re camping and can’t hit a market and we need something from the fruit and vegetable food group. Be sure to check ingredients on the packaging if buying. Often times, sweeteners and preservatives are added.

Those are the secret foods in my backpack for keeping my family fed.

What are the secret foods in your backpack?

Go Gingham related links:

Our first home exchange is here
Travel packing tips with a PDF chart are here
Frugal travel in San Francisco, CA is here
Home swapping and how to prepare your home for one
Vacation meal planning
Meal planning for campers
When traveling, I love to home exchange because it’s frugal and fun

You can sign-up for InterVac Home Exchange service by clicking the image below. Type in the name “TETREAULT” at checkout and receive $5.00 off your membership. InterVac is short for International Vacation but you can do exchanges within your own country as well. This is the website we’ve used for all 8 of our home exchanges. 4 of our home swaps have been in the US and 4 have been in Europe. If you’d like me to speak to your group or organization about home swapping, frugal living with style or blogging, please check here.

Intervac Home Exchange




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16 thoughts on “Frugal Travel Eating

  1. Yup, that’s what I do, too. Nuts/seeds are also good choices. A little protein kick can take kids (and mom!) from grumpy to cheerful very quickly.


  2. Werther Original candies can be a good little boost when blood sugar levels are getting low, without being bulky or risking melting. You can’t go wrong with a really good apple or pear. I like to take plastic bottles, fill them half full the night before, and freeze them so I have cold water all day!


    1. Erina, the freezing of the plastic bottle is a good one! When it’s hot, there’s nothing better than COLD water to drink. I love the Werther candies, too. That’s a favorite of ours from a home swap we did in The Netherlands! Thanks!!


  3. I’m so with you, Sara! Packing healthy and filling snacks while sight-seeing or just out and about can be a huge money saver as well as a quality of life issue. Sometimes it’s much nicer to sit on a bench and eat than wait in line (or to be waited on) for the standard greasy tourist food. If you’re spending on entertainment, not spending on food can make a difference — and it’s fun too.


    1. Amy! Agreed on the quality of life while sight seeing. If you’re eating and snaking on healthy foods, you just feel better. And, yes, entertainment is where I’d rather spend my money and not on food – except for a special splurge!


  4. Love hearing about your travels friend. Great tips! We always have pretzels, and nuts, or granola, raisins. When we traveled out west a few years back we had pbj in a cooler in back of our suburban with waters and that was our staple lunch for a month! it worked and saved us ton of $$.


    1. Smart traveling, Sheila! I know you’ve got hungry mouths to feed so you’re smart to save and plan ahead. Great job!


  5. I agree with every word you have written.

    I carry a lot of food with me when we travel. I buy heavy tape from Home Depot and secure the lids and caps so that they don’t open accidentally and spill over. Plus I tuck them in Simple plastic bags. I carry peanut butter, Nutella, some cereals (small packets come in handy), granola bars. If we drive, I also pack cooked food like dry rice and meat dish. I also carry an ice box and pack it with some cooked food besides drink.

    Once we land at our destination, I go to the local grocery store and buy some pita bread, regular bread, cooked chicken, and cheese. It cuts a lot of food cost.

    If you are into Indian food and Chinese food, then some restaurants let you buy their buffet by the pounds, and that is also extremely cost effective.


    1. Minnie, sounds like we’re very similar when it comes to food and travel! I had no idea restaurants let you buy their buffets by the pound! I will definitely keep that in mind. Thank you – great tip!


  6. When we traveled we took dry salami, bread or bread rolls, crackers (soda crackers too, in case someone had an upset tummy), mints, beef jerky, hot and cold water, cookies, instant soup mixes, ketchup. Amazing how ketchup makes a really nice hot soup……
    We also carried a hot pot in case we were in a motel/hotel that did not have a small kitchenette. Those hot pots were great — boil water to make soups, tea, instant coffee.

    When traveling by air, in addition to the above staples we brought with us, we would go to local grocery stores to pick up fresh fruit and veggies, as well as bread and lunch meats. Saved a bundle on food costs and it allowed for more creative ways of enjoying a repast while people watching.


    1. Sue, these are great strategies for eating well on less! And, anything that involves people watching and eating in the same activity is fine by me. Thanks, Sue!!


  7. Great ideas, but if you are travelling to Australia or New Zealand, don’t bring any food at all, even in your stowed bags. Both countries have extremely strict quarantine rules and you will be x-rayed, questioned and sniffered dogged for food. Some things are OK if you declare them, but you will invariably end up in the much slower quarntine queues at the airports – it’s just not worth it and the food down under is just fine!


    1. Great tips! It’s true…we saw lots of food getting tossed out when returning from Spain entering the US and dogs were being used. I’ve never been to either of those countries and have them both on my travel wish-list so this is good information. Thank you!!


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