Saving Money on Travel: Food for the Road

A road driving into a storm with green grass on both sides

It’s summertime and the living is easy, or at least it should be. It’s time to hit the road and see everything there is to explore in Ohio and beyond.

And in order to take more road trips, we need to do what? That’s right! We need to save some money! Chances are you’ve already found my previous post, where I tell you some of my secrets for saving money on the road, including gasoline. But there are more ways of saving money on travel. We can save a lot on food for the road.

Saving money on the road is important so we can take more trips - this photo is of a red round barn and pumpkin shaped water tower in Circleville, Ohio
So much to see in Ohio, like the round barn and pumpkin shaped water tower in Circleville.

We’ve all got to eat, don’t we? And chances are you’ll be too busy exploring to eat every meal at home. Let’s take a look at how we can save some money on this necessary expense.

Saving Money on Travel

If you’re a spur-of-the-moment traveler, you’ll want to keep on hand foods that you can pull together at the last minute. You’ll also want to have containers that will make packing those snacks easy. If you have reusable containers, that’s the best thing for both your wallet and the planet.

A good middle of the road choice is the disposable food prep containers in the grocery store aisle. These containers are reusable and you can easily get 20 plus uses out of each one. On the other hand, they’re also disposable and fairly cheap. This way if you lose one (or it gets really cruddy), you’re not out that much money.

Food for the Road

Next, we need to take a look at the foods we’ll pack. Does your crew eat sandwiches? Or do they prefer salads? Will you be eating snacks as you drive or will you be pulling over for a picnic lunch?

Think about the types of food that you will actually eat. This is not what you should eat, but what you actually will eat. It’s great to pack salads and health foods, but if you know that will leave you tempted to instead go through a fast-food drive thru then you haven’t done yourself any favors.

Food for the road: a sandwich, strawberries, cucumbers and grape tomatoes.
I often pack meals that look like this: a sandwich and some finger foods like strawberries and veggies.

Some of our favorites to keep around include sub buns, lunch meat and cheese for sandwiches. Fruits are always popular and some, like apples and grapes pack a little easier than others. We also love packing pickle treats. They’re really a party appetizer, but they’re a special treat and easy to pack.

Small crackers, like Goldfish or Cheezit, are always popular. Occasionally we do cut up veggies with ranch for dipping. And as a last resort we can always rely on good old peanut butter and jelly.

If you know you’ll be adventuring a key is getting everything pulled together, along with some water bottles, and stashing the in the fridge overnight. You’re much more likely to grab them if you don’t have to reorganize your kitchen on the morning of your trip.

Eating Out

Packing your lunch or dinner won’t work for every trip. I mean you’re going to want to sample some of the local Ohio cuisine. Let’s not break the bank, though!

One of the best tools for managing your travel budget is the internet. Plan ahead for where you’ll want to eat!

First, are you traveling alone? If you’re traveling with a group, will you be responsible for just yourself or for yourself and the rest of the party (i.e. your kids, grandkids, etc.).

Two baby deer in the foliage. They are brown with white spots.
It’s amazing the things you can see on an Ohio roadtrip.

Take a look together at the menu online ahead of time. Have everyone decide ahead of time what they will order.

If you’re paying, this is a good time to manage expectations. You might want to guide everyone towards the sandwich or appetizer section which is usually a bit cheaper than the full price entrees.

You may consider splitting entrees. Two people can split an appetizer and a sandwich platter, or just split an entree and still have plenty of food. This is a considerable cost savings and can be a bit easier if you arrange it ahead of time.

Pop Money

If you’re dealing with children or teenagers, you can steal my little trick. I always told my girls when we travelled that I would pay them $3 for every restaurant meal that they ordered water instead of soda. This was great because it kept them from guzzling sugary pop at every meal. It didn’t save me money at the time, but later when we were at little souvenir shops they would use their “pop money” instead of begging me for things!

Chain Restaurants

Of course we love it when you try our local mom and pop restaurants and chains. But sometimes, you’re likely to find yourself at a national chain restaurant.

Purple flowers with green leaves and stems.
Keep your eyes open for all you can discover.

You might recognize that some of them are actually based in Ohio! Wendy’s is based out of Dublin and White Castle is head quartered in Columbus. You can find the original Bob Evans restaurant on the homestead in Rio Grande, though it’s currently managed out of the New Albany office. Arby’s originated in Boardman and of course, Skyline Chili is a Cincinnati favorite.

If you plan on eating at a chain restaurant, check ahead to see if they have a rewards program. Signing up ahead of time might get you a free dessert or appetizer. You might also check for coupons or online specials.

Credit Card Rewards

And, of course, no matter where you eat be sure to put all of your travel purchases on a rewards credit card. If you’re going to spend the money anyway it’s best to get points or cash back for your purchase. Just be sure to pay off the balance each month before you accrue any interest.

Saving Money on the Road

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our previous article on saving money on road trips. Keep checking back for more on this series. We’ll have an article on where to stay and maybe even a few tips for air travel.

A black buggy, stocked with produce, is hitched to a black horse.
This buggy is taking produce to market in Ohio’s Amish country.


Thanks for FindingOhio with us today. There are so many amazing road trips in our beautiful state. Looking for suggestions? How about renting a boat for a day on the lake? Do you love the Buckeyes? Consider taking a tour of the ‘Shoe at The Ohio State University. Check out farming from the late 1800s at Slate Run Metro Park, walk the flood wall in Portsmouth or pick a bouquet at one of Ohio’s lavender fields.

Whatever you plan for this summer, be sure to check back with FindingOhio as we’ll be posting content frequently. We also appreciate you sharing our content to your social media. Let’s get the word out that Ohio is a great place to work and play!