Meals & Business Travel |

Your husband takes a job that involves a lot of traveling. You and your children are permitted to go with him, and you are considering it. But you are worried the food budget will make the trip cost more than you earn.

Over the last three months, my husband has been out of town at least every other week, sometimes weekly. As a homemaker, my options are to stay home with our three children (ages 5, 3, and 20 months), all of whom miss him wildly, or go with him and face the wrath of toddlers and hotel rooms. Since we homeschool, we look forward to trips like this for years to come. I’d like to offer a few suggestions for planning your menus throughout the day.

The easiest thing to do on the road is to eat out, especially if you are reimbursed for food. However, if you are already on a tight budget, there are ways to stretch that money even further. The easiest thing to do is to find a hotel that offers a free breakfast; that covers one meal for the day. I have been surprised at the variety of foods being set out. The two I have enjoyed best were both in Athens, Georgia (found on two separate trips): Howard Johnson offered not only cereal and Eggo waffles, along with toast, juice, and cocoa, but also provided my husband’s favorite breakfast food, sausage biscuits. These weren’t big for me, but they were different enough that my husband enjoyed them. Best Western in the same town offered the largest spread I have yet seen, including fruit, donuts, pastries, oatmeal, four varieties of cereal (including some sweet ones for the kids!), toast, cocoa, juice…I’m sure I am forgetting something, but there was enough of a spread to make my mouth water.

Once you have breakfast under control, it’s time to worry about lunch and dinner. Peanut butter and jelly is our regular lunch food anyway, and they travel well, especially if you have yet to open the jelly or can take a small cooler with you. We always get a room with a fridge and a microwave for easier food consumption. PB&J may not be the most tasty treat, but they get the job done. As we do at home, we also pick up a small snack of some sort; fruit is our preference but we’ll also go with granola bars or fruit roll ups occasionally.

For dinner, eating out can be really tempting. I try to limit this, however. I pack a great deal of snack food from home – including peanut butter and bread – and then go to the grocery store within a day or two of getting into town. The ideal room, of course, is a suite with a kitchen, but those can be more costly, and I’ve found ways of ‘getting by’ with just a microwave. We then try to alternate our dining costs. We usually eat dinner in one day, fast food the next, dinner in the third day, fast food the fourth, and then the fifth day – which falls on our date night at home, so my husband and I usually eat out – involves our trip to the restaurant. While we will occasionally hit somewhere ‘nice’, I’ve been pleasantly impressed by the variety, price, and quality of Golden Corral, and think its buffet gives great bang for your buck – especially since children under 3 eat free. Incidentally, IHOP also offers a free kids meal for each adult entrée purchased daily after 4, which means our family only winds up paying for two adult meals; also a good deal. Our dinners in, by the way, usually include a stop at Kroger. We can pick up frozen min-pizzas for under a dollar (usually a better value than the full-size pizzas, and they fit more easily into the microwave). A quick skim of the frozen food section also provides a number of microwave dinners. Now is the best time to use it. The down side is that the hotel freezers are usually quite small. I tend to buy one days worth of frozen food, which we eat for dinner that night, and then go back on the third day to get that evening’s meal.

Eating on the road can be costly, but it doesn’t have to be. Careful planning can keep you in or even under budget. My favorite business trips are the ones we spend less on food than we are allotted, which means we come out ahead!

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