Easy and Healthy Meals to Bring on a Trip to Save Money!

Eating out is such a fun way to discover a town. There is always a lot to learn about a destination through its food. But sometimes…eating out is a little painful on the wallet. Which is why I’ve organized a few easy road trip meals you can prepare and bring along. If you’re wondering how to make travel more affordable, this is an easy way to start.

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We love to take weekend getaways and rent a condo up in the mountains. We have found that if we cut out restaurants as much as possible, we are able to have these getaways more often. Recently, we went out of town and ate out only 1 time. It cost us almost $100. It wasn’t a fancy restaurant and we didn’t order drinks or appetizers. Ouch. We’ll eat out once or twice as a special treat, but we’ve found that packing easy meals to make or heat-up at our rental is way cheaper!

Here are a few easy meals to make ahead and bring on vacation!

easy meals to take on a road trip pin

(Note: obviously this is only possible if you are staying close, or in other words driving and not flying. Also, a rental home or condo is best so you have a full kitchen to work with, though some of these can work at a hotel with a microwave and a mini fridge!)

Check out more tips on saving money when you travel with the whole family.

Breakfasts You Can Take on Vacation to Save money

To make breakfast easy on vacation at a rental home, you could grab frozen waffles, bagels, cereal and milk, or other quick items. Here are a few other options for slightly more homemade taste in the morning!

stack of pancakes

Banana Pancakes (make ahead)

I like to make these from scratch (using this banana pancake recipe that is oh so good), but you can also use a box mix if you prefer. Make the pancakes completely ahead of time, then cool them and put them in a freezer bag (Ziploc or reusable). When it’s breakfast time, it’s so easy to pop one or two out and stick them in the microwave. It’s cheap and saves a ton of time when you really just want to be out exploring!

chocolate muffins

Make your favorite muffins and freeze them!

Breakfast Muffins (make ahead)

My kids love these chocolate zucchini muffins (and they usually hate zucchini). I make them in mini muffin pans. Then I freeze them. Once they are frozen, throw them into a container or Ziploc bag and keep them frozen. By the time you get to your destination, they will be thawed and fresh tasting. It’s a perfect breakfast because kids like that there is chocolate in them; mom loves that there is a vegetable in them.

Really, any of your favorite muffin recipes should work fine. Or just buy some muffins from the bakery and bring them. Either way is a great way to save money on a trip.

Grocery Store Breakfast (purchase)

Yep, we’ve done this many times. Even if we have taken a plane somewhere and are staying in a hotel with nothing but a microwave, we go to the nearest grocery store (or go before you leave town if you’re driving) and pick up a pack of Jimmy Dean Sausage Sandwiches for the kids. They love these things, and all you need is a microwave to heat them up. It fill them with protein for the morning.

I’m not a huge sausage fan, so I will grab a yogurt and some oatmeal cups for the trip. There are plenty of grocery store items that are healthy (or healthier) that you can easily take back to your rental, or in this case, even your hotel room.

Check out more ideas for meals at your hotel with just a fridge and microwave!

Lunches You Can Take on Vacation to Save Money

girl eating a turkey sandwich

Photo by Hillshire Farm on Unsplash

Sandwiches (pack and make fresh)

Whether its PB&J or deli meats and cheese, it’s easy to throw some bread and fixings into a cooler for the ride. Making sandwiches is quick and easy. Plus, what you spend on making sandwiches for a week for the whole family is going to be a lot cheaper than just ONE meal out. If we plan on being out for the day, we make up some sandwiches in the morning, wrap them and throw them in a cooler. They are still plenty fresh by lunch!

Hack: Some grocery stores will sell tomato, lettuce, and onion already sliced and wrapped on a small platter. This really helps, especially if you’re in a hotel, so you don’t have to cut anything. Or of course just slice all your fixings at home before you go and put them in a container.

Favorite Lunch (make ahead)

My kids named this, not me, so you know it’s kid-friendly. Plus, it’s really healthy. Here’s how I make it:

  • 1 chopped up cucumber (small diced)
  • 1 container grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • 2 avocados, diced
  • 1 ball fresh mozzarella, diced
  • olive oil and balsamic vinegar
  • Garlic powder, salt, pepper

Put the first 4 ingredients into a large bowl. Drizzle on oil and vinegar to your liking. Mix well. Give a few shakes or garlic powder, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix again. Done.

To take this on the road, put it in a large container and throw it in a cooler till you arrive. It’ll be even better by then because the flavors will all soak up and marinate.

Vitamins, protein, flavor, fresh mozzarella…what’s not to love!?

plate of nachos

Photo by Herson Rodriguez on Unsplash

Loaded Nachos (pack and make fresh)

This meal can include so many food groups and feed a ton of people with minimal effort. For it to be a true lunch, just make sure you do more than just chips and cheese. Chop up a few ingredients and put them in containers and in the cooler/fridge. Then when you’re ready for lunch, throw the toppings on the chips on a large plate and microwave (or stick it in the oven on a cookie sheet) Here are a few suggestions:

  • Tortilla Chips
  • Shredded chicken, cooked
  • Ground beef, cooked
  • Diced red onions
  • can of green chiles
  • Corn
  • Olives, sliced
  • Refried beans or Black Beans
  • Shredded cheddar or colby/chedddar blend

To add after it’s heated up:

  • Shredded Lettuce
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Sour Cream
  • Green onions, chopped

Grocery Store Lunch (purchase)

While you’re at the grocery store picking up easy breakfast items, you can also head near the deli where you’ll most-likely find pre-made hoagies. My kids love being able to pick their own type of sandwich. It’s such a special treat, and only around $3-4! Just another great way to save money on a trip.

The produce section also has lunch packs in the refrigerated area. Usually there are crackers, grapes, apples, cheese, carrots/ranch, or other healthier options in these packs. We’ve seen generic packs, Mickey Mouse packs, and Paw Patrol packs.

One thing my kids really look forward to on vacation is that we usually let them pick out a Oscar Meyer Lunchable for one lunch. These are usually 2 bucks or less and wow does it make them happy. A couple dollars can buy you parent-of-the-year.


Looking to travel on a budget? Check out these posts!

How to travel on a budget with a big family

Affordable vacation spots the family will love!


Make Ahead Dinners to Take on a Trip to Save Money

The really easy, obvious meals that are affordable and quick to make at a rental would be spaghetti and sauce, chicken nuggets, taquitos, frozen lasagna (maybe not quick, but easy), or frozen pizza with a bag salad. But if you’re wanting something slightly more homemade, check out these easy meals to bring on a trip.

cheese, broccoli, and rice in a dish

Cheesy Chicken Broccoli Rice (make ahead)

This one-pot dish is so simple to make. I use Together as a Family’s recipe, but I use shredded rotisserie chicken to make it quicker and much easier. You’ll need:

Rotisserie chicken, shredded (Costco and Walmart sell it already shredded, and I assume many grocery stores as well)

Broccoli (the link above calls for frozen, I just use fresh)

White Rice

Cheddar cheese– shredded

Chicken Broth

salt and pepper

See here for the full instructions. It’s really easy to make, and once it’s cooled down a bit, just load it into a couple large containers. Pack it in a cooler when you’re ready to go, and simply heat it up in the individual dishes in the microwave when you’re ready to eat!

One Pot Chili (pack ahead, make fresh)

This meal is easy to take on vacay because it hardly requires any preparation beforehand or when it’s time to eat! I’m not big on beef, so I make a bean chili that the whole family loves. Here’s all you need:

  • 2 Cans of Beans
  • 2 Cans of Tomatoes
  • 1 Can on chopped green chiles (the little tiny cans)
  • 1 can of corn
  • Cumin (a few shakes)
  • 1 chopped onion and 1-1/2 to 2 Tbsp Olive oil

I chop the onion before we leave and put it in a container with 2 tablespoons of oil. I throw everything else in a bag, still in the cans. When you get to your destination and are ready for dinner, dump the chopped onions and oil into a large pan. Sauté until onions are tender. Then open all the cans and throw everything remaining (including cumin) into the pan and stir. Let simmer for about 20 minutes, and you’re done!

I’ll make this when we come back to the rental for the day and my kids go to shower. By the time they’re done getting jammied, I’m done making dinner! It’s a quick and easy meal to make on vacation.

pot of noodles and veggies

Noodles and Veggies (make ahead)

Before you head on your trip, grab some Rice or Ramen Noodles (in the Asian Food section, not those little packs of Ramen soup). Cook the noodles according to the box. Then cut up whatever veggies are left in your fridge and cook them in the stove top with some oil. Add 1/2 cup to 1 cup broth and a couple shakes of soy sauce to the veggies, then add the noodles. Mix everything together well, then let cool. Put it in a container, then into a cooler for the ride up. Refrigerate when you get there until you’re ready to eat. Then just portion it out into bowls and microwave!

This is another easy meal to make for vacation, as well as being easy to transport and re-heat.

This meal was inspired by a recipe in this cookbook, which is all about eating vegetarian on a budget. There’s plenty more recipes in the book that are easy and yummy…and cheap!

Grocery Store Grab

Frozen Single Entreés

While you’re at the grocery store for breakfast and lunch items, you might as well round it out with dinner. My kids love heading to the frozen section to pick out an Amy’s Entreé. Amy’s is our personal favorite brand as their options are a bit cleaner and healthier. But it’s vacation, so pick to your heart’s choosing. At just a couple dollars per person, this is a super easy way to travel on a budget. The Amy’s enchilada which is so good and comes with rice and beans? About $4. At a sit-down restaurant? Probably closer to $15. Multiply that by 6 people (which is how big our family is), and that’s a savings of over $50 for just ONE meal (when you figure in tip as well.)

Saving Money While You Travel with Meals

Some people travel and really put emphasis on food. If that’s you, that’s totally fine and really, it provides so many great, enjoyable experiences. But if you are on a tighter budget and your kid doesn’t know the difference between a tamale and a chimichanga at the restaurant anyway, why not try some easy meals you can take on vacation to save some money. After all, saving money means more opportunities for later!

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easy meals to bring on a road trip pin

Looking for road trip inspiration? Check out these itineraries:

Road trip through Washington

Family things to do in Oregon

Road trip through Colorado

22 thoughts on “Easy and Healthy Meals to Bring on a Trip to Save Money!”

    • I dream of being a foodie in place we visit, but it just adds up so quickly. We’ll sometimes do the same as you…try and eat out once!

      Reply
  1. I love when you have a rental house with a kitchen and can make some of your meals. It does save money and usually it is healthier than eating out.

    Reply
  2. Whenever we road trip, we always take advantage of grocery stores for meals. Whether its food from a hot table, salads, or even cans of soup or micrwaveable dinners, its a great way to save money.

    Reply
  3. Great ideas! I prefer an apartment or Airbnb with a full kitchen when I travel so I can prepare my own meals. It saves so much money plus I’m vegan so it makes it easier for me to stay healthy.

    Reply
  4. Great ideas! We travel with our own kitchen (fifth-wheel) and it is so much fun creating new and exciting meals in the kitchen, on the grill or using the smoker!

    Reply
  5. Awesome guide! I always pack food with me for trips. I even make lunches on backpacking adventures. I’d rather save the money for experiences!

    Reply
  6. Eating out gets expensive when you travel. And sometimes we just want a simple meal. There are some good options here. I love the idea of making pancakes in advance. And chili is a good option because we can have it for more than one meal.

    Reply
  7. When my boys were small, we took a trip to the beach. I told them if they were ok eating in our room all week, we would go to the all-you-can-eat seafood buffet as a treat on our last night. They all agreed and we had a blast. There would have been no way to pull off the buffet if we had eaten out every meal.

    Reply
  8. These are all great ideas! I always try to make breakfast and have my first cup of coffee at my AirBnb/hotel so save money. Packing sandwiches and snacks for the day is also a great recommendation. Thanks for all your great tips + recipes!

    Reply

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