10 make-ahead road trip meals to save money

You’re meal planning for your road trip, and discovering how difficult it can be to stay frugal while on the road. Eating out during your trip is an easy way to watch your travel budget disappear. Even fast food restaurant meals can add up.

However, setting aside some time to prepare make-ahead road trip meals can ensure you (and your hungry family) stay full and satisfied for less. The best recipes are one that taste delicious cold or at room temperature, require minimal utensils and mess, and can be eaten in your car, at a picnic area or rest stop, or once you reach your campsite or motel.

Use these 10 recipes to prep easy road trip meals that will cut down on costs and keep your traveling tummies full. 

1.  Salad in a jar 

Combat any heavy sweet treats you grab on the road with this simple salad in a jar. Mixed greens, your favorite veggies and a little bit of salad dressing is all you’ll need for this light lunch. Store it in a cooler to keep it fresh and eat it right out of the jar when hunger strikes. Worried your greens will get soggy? Put the dressing in your jar first, followe by the veggies. Only shake it up when you’re ready to eat.

2. Mini pepperoni calzones

Portable pizzas are the perfect road trip meals to pull out at a rest stop or while cruising down the highway. Wrap these pepperoni calzones in foil after cooking and throw them in a cooler. When you’re hungry, pass them out and enjoy! 

3. Tuna salad 

One of the best things about tuna salad is that you can enjoy it any way you like, and it still tastes delicious. Have it slathered on some bread, mixed with pasta, or even wrapped in a piece of lettuce. This tuna salad recipe is a classic. If you’ll be using it to make a sandwich or wrap, store the tuna salad in an airtight container in a cooler and pack some bread or wraps. If you’re mixing it with pasta, combine after making and then keep cool until you’re ready to eat. 

4.  Vegetable frittata

Frittatas aren’t just for breakfast anymore. Easy to make, packed with veggies and flavor, and just as tasty cold as they are warm, these eggy meals will be the surprise hit of your road trip. This vegetable frittata only uses five ingredients, so it’s cheap and vegetarian-friendly. Meat-lovers can throw in some diced ham. 

5. Bowl meals 

Bowl meals are completely customizable and perfectly portable. And they’re healthy, too! All you need is a starchy base, protein and veggies, and a little sauce for a meal that’ll satisfy both your stomach and your wallet. Make several in advance using this bowl meal guide, and you’ll be ready to hit the road.

6. Hawaiian ham and cheese sliders 

Elevate the standard ham sandwich with this ham and cheese slider recipe. Use Hawaiian rolls and a special sauce to pack these little sandwiches full of flavor. After they’ve cooked, wrap them in plastic wrap or foil and them keep in a cooler for lunch or dinner on the road. If you’re not a fan of ham, use any deli meat in its place for equally tasty results. 

7. Antipasto pasta salad

Mix salami, parmesan, and fresh vegetables together to make this convenient antipasto pasta salad. Eat this on its own, or make it a side dish paired with a sandwich or wrap. For a meatless version, try this classic pasta salad recipe. Keep it cold and it’ll be ready to go for your next road trip meal. 

8. DIY lunchables 

Lunchables are a lunchbox favorite for kids, and adults find they’re a convenient and healthy make-ahead road trip meal. If you’re not in the know, Lunchables are pre-packaged mix-and-match lunches, often featuring proteins (deli meat, cheese, hard-boiled eggs), fruit, something crunchy (crackers, pretzels) and often a sweet treat that you can eat separately or put together into mini-sandwiches.

Making them yourself will save you money and let you choose healthier options than what’s included in the prepackaged ones. Use this DIY lunchable guide for inspiration on how to build your own for your next trip.  

9. Spicy peanut sesame noodles 

Mix up your standard road trip lunch with these cold spicy peanut sesame noodles. These come together quickly and are meant to be eaten chilled, so they’re perfect for dishing out while traveling. You can also customize the spice level to your personal taste, or substitute in cashew butter if you’re looking to avoid peanuts. 

10. Sandwiches 

You can’t go on a road trip without making a good, old-fashioned sandwich. But you don’t have to resign yourself to a PB&J just yet. Use the preparation time before your trip to build delicious, deli-worthy sandwiches, then wrap them up and keep them cold. Try making this club sandwich or this picnic sandwich packed with veggies. Throw in a jar of pickles and a can of cream soda to give you that gourmet deli vibe at the roadside rest area.

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