When it comes to really blowing the budget, the 2 areas that are the biggest culprits, at least for us, are fuel and food.
With the fuel there’s not much that you can do (you have to get home after all) except make sure to figure fuel mileage accurately and correctly anticipate the number of miles that you’re actually going to travel, but that’s for another post.
With food, however, there is lots of room to over-spend but also ways to compensate and cut back.
Organizing and meal planning is all about options and I’ll be sharing ideas and recipes for you if you enjoy cooking while on the road and want to spend time with it, as well as quick and easy ideas if you just need to ‘fill a void’ on a busy day.
I will also be sharing recipes and ideas that fit into the ‘phases’ of your trip. If you bring most of your food from home then you really need to plan so that things don’t go bad. Here’s the plan that I use:
- Phase 1: Serve things that you have packed that are raw and/or initially frozen (chicken, steaks, veggies etc…)
- Phase 2: Serve things that are precooked and initially frozen (precooked hamburger for tacos, marinated chicken etc..).
- Phase 3: Serve things that come in boxes, cans or that your butcher has freeze-dried / dehydrated OR hit the grocery store.
Even if you don’t choose to use ‘Phase 3’ meals, it’s nice to have a few options on hand in case your trip went over-budget and you want to compensate, or, if you got stuck overnight in the middle of Oklahoma with no stores or restaurants in sight (again-that is another post!).
There will be lots of recipes and meal prep ideas and hacks, so stay with me! Everything I share will be tested on the road so you don’t need to worry if those online ideas will really work.
Another important thing regarding meal planning is to pre-decide how you are going to handle your food budget. Personally, I am one who plans every meal and only goes out if the food is an excursion in itself (who can go to Chicago and not have Chicago dogs on Navy Pier, go to NYC and not eat in Little Italy, or not have Chinese food from Chinatown in San Francisco?). I also plan for fast food on the road on the last day going home because we’re on the road all day and there’s no food left that’s good anyway. I budget for those meals out and stick to a very strict meal plan, as other than the exceptions mentioned, food is not why I travel.
You however, might be completely different! We have friends who are serious ‘foodies’ and their reason for traveling IS the food, so they eat out strategically nearly every meal and budget accordingly. We also have a friends that feel that keeping a strict food budget is like saying that they are not financially comfortable enough to not have to worry about the cost of eating out on vacation and don’t keep track at all. Most people though, fall into the middle somewhere or just sort of ‘wing it’. It’s vital that you determine where you fall on the scale and how much you are planning to spend on food. However you plan, just make sure that you don’t come back with regrets or feeling like you won’t be taking another trip again any time soon because it cost so much more than you had anticipated!