Thanksgiving is the biggest travel holiday of the year in the United States. Whether by car, train, bus, or airplane, there are steps you can take to save a significant amount of money on food while you are traveling.
If you’re heading out on the ground (car, train, or bus) it’s easy to pack a lunch, including drinks, to eat along the road. A sandwich and soda or water that you bring from home are a lot less expensive than those you buy along the way. Throw it all in a bag and you are set for hundreds of miles!
Things get a little trickier when you are traveling by airplane. The TSA has restrictions on what you can bring through security. Luckily, the restrictions only apply to liquids. So your sandwich (and apple, and chips, and crackers) is fine to go through security. The beverage is the tricky part. When I fly I always carry on an empty refillable water bottle. Most airports have bottle filling stations, so once you get through security you can fill your bottle and be set for the day (also an effective strategy for staying hydrated at the law school!).
Traveling is expensive enough on its own. There’s no need to compound that with the cost of road food!
The week of Thanksgiving always make me think of three specific things: travel, food, and shopping. Since I already waxed poetic over leftovers last week, I’ll take the spotlight off the turkey feast, and instead focus in on the intersections of food and travel as well as food and shopping.
When you are getting ready to drive or fly or bus or train to wherever it is you may be going, start by eating a good meal and then packing some food for the road. Travel food, whether it be airport chow, a roadside restaurant, or a Sheetz stop along the highway, is always going to be more expensive than food you prepare yourself. So make a sandwich. Fill a baggie with chips or veggies. Grab an apple. Fill a travel mug with coffee or a plastic bottle with water. And save yourself a fortune in travel food!
The same rules apply if you are braving the crowds at the stores on Friday morning. Don’t leave home with an empty stomach that will lead you to a mall food court. Make a plan. Pack a snack or even a whole meal. I’m a big fan of Black Friday shopping. I sit down with the sales flyers from the newspaper Thursday night and plan my attack based on the items I am pursuing and what time the stores they are in open. Last year I remember specifically having about 20 minutes in between when I was done getting a great deal on a frying pan at Macy’s and when Bed, Bath & Beyond opened. This was my breakfast window. I sat in my car in the parking lot enjoying the coffee I had brought from home and the granola bars I had in my purse for exactly this situation. It would have been really easy to run to McDonalds or Sheetz for a breakfast sandwich. But I didn’t need to spend that extra money (or consume the extra fat).
When you’re thinking about your Thanksgiving week adventures, plan ahead. Take some food with you. You’ll save a bunch of money. And while you’re at it….don’t forget to think about all the many things you are thankful for.
Leftovers happen. At home. At work. At school. Leftovers simply happen. And if you are prepared for those leftovers they can be a glorious thing that saves you not only some money, but also some meal preparation time.
Everybody thinks about the big leftovers. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, nearly everyone is thinking about turkey sandwiches with cranberry sauce, or whatever your favorite turkey leftover combination is. But what about the unexpected leftovers? The handful of vegetables that could go into the compost….but could also go into the freezer for a future casserole or soup. The leftover potatoes that can make some delicious hash browns or home fries for the next morning’s breakfast. If you have a leftover that you’re not sure how to use, ask Google. There’s an answer for everything.
And then there are the work/school leftovers. Random pizza, salads, or sandwiches leftover from a meeting or event. It’s easy to grab one to eat immediately. But what if you’re not hungry right then and would like to save it for later? If you’re prepared you’ll have the right tools handy to be able to do just that. If you don’t have one yet, you should get yourself a “locker leftover kit.”
Keep these simple tools in your locker and you’ll always be prepared when leftovers present themselves to you!
The best way to save money on food is not to dine out. But sometimes a meal in a restaurant can be a very nice treat. And with a few tricks, you can do it without breaking the bank.
Try the early bird special. Many restaurants offer reduced prices in the early evening. You don’t have to be a senior citizen to take advantage of it.
- Go out for lunch rather than dinner. A lot of restaurants serve similar offerings on the lunch and dinner menus, but at very different prices. The lunch menu is almost always less expensive.
- Order the big portion—and a doggy bag. Many restaurants offer multiple portion sizes on their entrees. In some cases you can get up to twice as much for only a few dollars more. Take the big portion. Split it in half and take the extra home. You’ll get two meals for the price of one!
- Eat out on off nights. Most restaurants are busiest on Friday and Saturday nights. Be on the lookout for places offering special deals on weeknights as incentive to lure customers in.
- Use coupons. Watch the newspaper for coupons for national chains. Find other coupons in the Entertainment Book or buy discount gift certificates at Restaurant.com.
- BYOB. If you like a glass of wine with dinner, look for a restaurant that doesn’t have a liquor license but will allow you to bring in your own bottle of wine.
- Drink water. There is a huge profit margin on beverages at restaurants. The glass of soda that costs the restaurant only a few cents to pour will likely cost you a dollar or two to purchase. But water remains free…and much better for your health!
Follow these tips and enjoy some great restaurant meals without going broke. Bon appétit!