Frugal Road Tripping – Meal Planning

As I write on my ‘about me’ blurb I’m a planner.  A planner by profession, but also a planner in my every day life. I love write to-do lists and check them off.  I also love planning our weekly meals.   I grew up seeing my parents make weekly meal plans and have been doing the same since I moved into my first apartment.

For our road trip I decided to go all out and plan our meals for every day that we’d be together (Chris had special food for his big wall adventure and I was on my own for that week).   Breakfasts and lunches were easy as we both don’t mind having the same thing every day for those meals. Breakfast was muesli or granola with soy milk or water and lunches were bagels with nutella and almond butter. We also made sure that we had lots of granola bars, trail mix, and fruit for snacks.

Since we’d be pressed for space and time I looked at backcountry camping websites for inspiration for dinners. I found most of my ideas on the Trail Cooking website. I assigned a recipe to each night and printed out a menu for the trip (all in binder in above picture).

I then made out a list of the ingredients that we would need and noted whether they could be bought beforehand or would have to be bought in the US (either because they were fruits or vegetables that could not be brought across the border or because they were perishables).

To make cooking easier and faster after a long day of climbing when our brains are mush, I measured out the pasta and rice is meal-sized servings and put these in plastic bags. With everything bought beforehand or during one of our four grocery runs, and within easy reach, meal preparation usually only took 20 minutes or less each night.

When he was creating our sleeping set-up for the car, Chris designed it so that the plywood pieces could also be used as a table.  You’ll notice in the picture above the long plywood pieces are the table (attached to cords tied inside the car) and the small plywood piece is the leg of the table (leaning on a few large screws for balance).

Some of the meals we liked best were One Pot Chickpea Pasta ; Spicy Tuna Pasta (our favorite) ; Harvest Pasta ; Herbed Pasta de Provence ; and Thai Style Chicken Curry.  In the end we did not follow the meal plan to a “T”.  We did not like a few of the recipes the first time we made them so we did not re-make them when their second time came around on the menu.  We ended up making spicy tuna pasta those times because it was so good and we had the extra ingredients needed.  A few times we’d pull into our location for the night and wouldn’t feel like cooking so we would eat out, or we’d have cereal for dinner (our normal go-to dinner at home when we’re too tired).

All in all, I think menu planning for our road trip saved us a lot of money and time. We weren’t eating gourmet meals, but they were tasty and filling.   I’d recommend it to anyone going on a road trip.

What are your favorite road trip meals?

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8 thoughts on “Frugal Road Tripping – Meal Planning

  1. Your pictures really paint a picture here. It’s super impressive. How did you keep the car clean on the inside? I would end up rolling onto stray chickpeas while asleep in my sleeping bag.

    • We gave it a good cleaning halfway through the trip – took everything out and swept out the car, but otherwise we just tried really hard to keep stray food out of the car. It wasn’t filthy, but I don’t think Martha Stewart would have wanted to get in 🙂

  2. You should really get Chris to post his design for the bed/table. I could see that being a really useful post for others trying to get ideas on how to live in their little red car.

    Believe it or not, my favorite meal on road trips like this are the opposite of planned. I like it when everyone just pitches in whatever random stuff they have laying around and the challenge is to make something delicious out of it. Case in point: the huevos rancheros we did together in the Crane flats campsite were terrific!

    • That’s a good idea Chris. I’ll have to ask him to draw something up.

      I agree, hodge-podge communal meals are awesome and I loved the Crane Flat meals. When it’s just Chris and I there is no random stuff so it’s easier if I plan 🙂

  3. Thanks so much for sharing! You are an incredible planner. Unfortunately, as much as I like my to-do lists, sometimes I’m not as thorough as I should be! I am definitely going to try some of your road-planning meals.

    We usually hit Whole Foods, and see what we can find (which generally means we spend more than we would at home, but the minute amount of garlic powder, etc. 🙂 instead of bringing it from home).

    I’d love to see the designs for sure! Nice work!

  4. I am referring back to this post as we plan our next campout. Thank you so much for sharing these great ideas. And I agree, I would love for him to post the plans for the car table/bed. Such a great idea!

    • I’m so happy this post is helpful. Have fun on your next campout – I look forward to reading about it.

      When we start camping in the car again this spring, I’ll take lots of pictures of the set-up and then have Chris draw up a few plans.

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