The Snack Bag – Playing The Spend Nothing Game On The Road

by Randy Murray on March 16, 2010

It was Friday night just after midnight and I stood in the brightly lit gas station store looking at the array of drinks and beverages in the cooler. I’d been driving for nearly eight straight hours and had two more to go.

But nothing looked good. I turned and looked in the other direction. Candy bars, chips, snacks of all kinds. After a few moments, I went back to the car. The guy behind the counter looked confused.

Behind the front seat I found the last bottle of water and one of the bags of roasted edamame I’d put together before we’d left on the trip. As an old farm boy, I’m still getting used to the idea of eating soybeans. I never was quite sure why we grew them in first place, but now I know they’re tasty.

Before we’d left on our fast trip to NYC and back I’d prepared a bag full of snacks. I filled individual zippered bags with either a quarter cup of the roasted edamame or cashews. I also included bananas and the power bars we buy in bulk at Costco.  And I filled another insulated bag with bottled water. We rarely use bottled water anymore, but it’s handy for travel like this. There’re usually gum and mints, too. This bag and others like it make it possible to travel, eat healthy, and keep moving.

It’s easier to play the Spend Nothing Game when you’re close to home. The only way you’ll have success when you’re on the road is to be prepared.  You can’t avoid paying for gas or transportation and you may need to pay for meals and lodging, but the incidentals are what sneak up on you.

In addition to your snack bag, here are my recommendations to help you avoid spending when on short trips:

  1. Always, ALWAYS, have a book with you. Probably at least two. Reading material is essential for travel. You never know when you’ll be delayed, stuck, or be forced to wait. Having a book with you is a great way to keep yourself entertained and engaged AND to keep yourself from being tempted into spending money on other entertainments or distractions. There’s never enough time to read, so why waste an opportunity?
  2. Prepare your travel plan. Know where you’ll be in general for meal times and pre-select options that are both healthy, fun, and inexpensive. Use services like Yelp to help you find interesting options.
  3. Don’t be forced into a four-course meal. Restaurants plan to strike when you’re hungry and weak. But do you really want an appetizer, salad or soup, entrée AND desert? Before you sit down, don’t think about how hungry you are, but instead, try and imagine what you’ll feel like AFTER the meal. How often have you gotten up from the table stuffed and uncomfortable, regretting the food you’ve left behind, that desert you shouldn’t have eaten?
  4. Consider splitting your food order with your travel companion, if you have one. Restaurant portions are too big, and if you’re on the road, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to package it up to take with you as you could if you were near home. But most places will happily split the salad for you, divide an entrée into two separate and still satisfying portions.  Even if they levy a fee, it’s usually cheaper than ordering a second entree. And you might not feel so guilty about ordering that dessert, too.
  5. Consider taking items so you can have breakfast out of your snack bag. Eating breakfast while you’re on the road at a restaurant is expensive and takes up valuable time.

The key to it all is planning. Don’t use travel as an excuse to suspend the game. You’ll feel better if you keep up the game when you’re on the road. And when you’re in that gas station after midnight, you’ll be glad you have your own snack pack.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 jakyastikpress March 16, 2010 at 10:24 am

It’s hard, tough enough to make you shout when you can’t spend money. That’s why I never leave home probably, to survive in my comfort zone..


2 Randy Murray March 16, 2010 at 10:31 am

Go ahead, get out there. Just pack a bag - and enjoy yourself!


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