Guest post from Katey of Having Fun At Home
My husband and I noticed recently that a big drain on our budget comes from quick trips through the drive-thru.
Maybe you know the kind of trips I’m talking about. It’s those mornings or late afternoons when you are running errands, and you find they take longer than you were hoping. The kids are grumpy, and quite frankly, so are you. So you think it’s worth the extra dollars to make everyone happy again. You even restrict yourself to the value menu, and don’t spend very much money.
But over time, these little trips add up.
When our AC system broke this spring, costing us an arm and leg, we realized that we would have to get serious about culling these little extra expenses from our budget.
Here are three things we have done to get rid of drive-thru meals:
1. Pack a lunch.
Even if I think we are probably going to be back to the house in time for lunch, we try to go ahead and pack one anyway. That way, if we get done in time, we can stop to have the lunch at a park as a picnic.
Peanut butter and honey sandwiches, of course, hold up well in the car, but investing in small cooler that can be kept in the front seat opens up a lot of other possibilities.
Tip: Try these Freezer-Friendly Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwiches.
2. Keep an emergency stash in the car.
Sometimes there just isn’t time to pack a lunch ahead of time. Nonperishable foods are not always the healthiest, but many of them are at least healthier than fast food.
Here are some of the items we keep handy:
- Dried fruit
- Applesauce pouches
- Non-perishable hummus
- Protein bars or granola bars (Be careful to avoid the ones with chocolate; they too messy for a hot car!)
- Little peanut butter packets
One key for making the “emergency stash” option work for us involves adding some extra treats. Along with the healthier food, I also include some fun foods that are less healthy and that we don’t normally eat. That makes the fast food option less tempting.
3. Run into the grocery store for a few things.
When all else fails, have in mind a short list of things you could pick up at the grocery store to eat in the car. It’s not fun to haul all the kids inside the store, but if you already know what you are going to buy, it helps a lot.
Some easy combinations that my kids like for a grocery store lunch are:
- Hummus and baby carrots
- Cherry tomatoes and string cheese
- Greek yogurt and crackers
- Pretzels, peanut butter, and apples
Keep a permanent stash of plastic spoons, forks, napkins, and small paper plates in the car in anticipation of this kind of situation.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately for our family, a realistic plan to stop using the drive thru had to compete with fast food in both convenience and taste. We’ve come up with these helpful alternatives and are pleased with how they are helping our budget and our diet.
This is what works well for our family… I’d love to hear what works for you!
Katey is a former teacher, now homeschooling mom to four adventurous (and often muddy) children. She loves reading and discovering new ethnic food. She hates to do the laundry. You can read about all the activity ideas she tries out with her kids (to put off doing the laundry) at HavingFunAtHome.com.
Need A Nap2 says
This isn’t a “keep in the car” kind of tip – but having food in our crockpot keeps me from just going to the drive-thru. On really busy days or sports days, it helps to have something in the crockpot. I know that I’ll be wasting food if we don’t get home to eat it! 🙂
Do you find that keeping a food stash in your car is a problem with food melting or getting too hot?
We just got a minivan so finally have room to have a tub of snacks stored somewhere… but with summer heat, I don’t want to spoil a bunch of snacks! 🙂
Love these ideas! I have the same problem with the heat because my kids love string cheese and apple slices. I do have individual snacks packed before leaving so I throw them into a lunchbox with an ice pack. It saves money and those pre-snack meltdowns that may (do) occur while trying to locate a drive thru.
I do have to be careful what I keep there. Nothing perishable or with chocolate or frosting, yogurt, etc. And summer does make things go bad faster. A small stash that gets replenished is definitely the way to go!
Great post! Very practical and reasonable. We also use grocery stores as an alternative to fast food when we are out longer than usual. Love the food stash idea.
Julie C says
We buy almonds at the Amish bulk store super cheap, so that is my go-to protein to grab. I rarely leave the house without grabbing a bunch or two of bananas for our crew of 9. 🙂
Since many of our family members are gluten-free, I keep extra bags of tortilla chips on hand for “fast food”; when we are home for a meal, I put corn tortillas on pizza pans in the oven and crisp them up for meals. Making your own chips is much cheaper and super fast plus easy!
K. Ann says
Sometimes a store-made pizza is a decent compromise (if you’re heading home), as they usually bake quickly and probably have a few less preservatives, at least. It’s still usually much less than buying pizza out.
Usually my older sons are waiting at home, so if I’m out grocery shopping myself and miss lunch, I’ll just open a banana and/or a cheese stick on the way home or open a bag of “healthy” snacks (pita chips, pretzels, etc.)….but truthfully, I usually go with the banana first.
I also try to keep a healthy granola bar or Larabar in the car for emergencies. It’s great to be prepared!
I do the emergency food stash thing! Have nuts and dried fruit in a bag in my car, the stroller, and my purse. Has come in handy several times.
If I know we are going to be out until around lunch time I will go ahead and stage lunch like 4 pieces of toast with cheese in the toaster over waiting to be made into cheese toast, or soup served into the bowls waiting in the fridge. I will even set the table before we leave in the morning. That way in the amount of time we get home and I send the kids to “wash your hands!” we can already have lunch sitting on the table.
I love the idea of staging lunch ahead of time!