Feeding a family of five reasonably healthy real food on a tight budget can be a daunting task at the best of times. On the road it could become even more of a task as you struggle with more restrictive pantry space, a smaller fridge, fewer gadgets and kitchen utensils, less bench space, greater distances between shops and the list goes on!! It doesn’t have to be an ordeal though, in fact like everything in life if you think outside the box and embrace change, you’re set!! We have received a few messages lately asking us how we approach food on the road, so here it is. We are by no means experts on the matter, nor trying to be; what works for one doesn’t always work for another but this is how we do it.
For the most part, we eat very similarly to how we would have at home. At home I am a crazy list-maker with budgets and shopping lists being no exception. I shopped once a fortnight, to a strict budget, have a well stocked pantry, am a keen baker and our family certainly has always embraced the whole “take it or leave it” attitude in regards to meals. These skills continue to serve us well on the road.
Our number one tip for eating frugally on the road is to only shop at big mainstream supermarkets – and make it a good one! Some smaller more remote communities offer corner stores that charge a fortune for the basics to the unprepared, unawares grocery buyer. We have seen bread as high as the $5 mark and a 2 Litre bottle of milk as high as $7, that’s unaffordable in anyone’s language. When we hit up these aforementioned mainstream supermarkets, it is not unlike us to walk out with two trolleys of awesomeness that will last us for at least a month or more (with a top-up of fruit and salad items, which our kids inhale!).
This allows us to stock up the pantry with staples but also the fridge we are blessed to have which includes a pretty decent sized freezer (you can read more about that in Our Setup). One example of how we utilise the mainstream big supermarkets in combination with our champion fridge is purchasing about 3 hot chooks at a time! We enjoy the legs and wings straight up , before shredding remaining meat and bagging it up into about 9 clip seal bags. That’s about 10 meals from 3 chooks – BARGAIN! Now you are left with shredded pre-cooked chicken to stir through pasta, rice, make sandwiches, serve with salad or vegies or our favourite – make chicken pies! In fact all meat is seperated and bagged into serving sizes before being frozen. Bacon, the king of meats is usually diced and bagged to be used in a variety of ways. From adding crunch to salads when cooked to, popped on top of scones, or in potato and bacon soup and fried rice or on home-made pizzas, also a huge hit in our family.
Which brings me to our next big money saving tip – Takeaway, Not on my Watch!! That’s not to say we haven’t gone absolutely gaga over a mainstream pizza shops $5 pizzas once or twice on this trip (because I mean c’mon, that’s a bargain right!) Generally speaking though we find takeaway over priced and under nourishing. Same goes for icy cold drinks from roadhouses and servos – Nah ah! They look so enticing and delicious and right there… but don’t do it!! We stay permanently organised with chilled water always ready to go. Although we don’t drink cordial at home we have come to appreciate it in cases where the water is warm or funny tasting (it happens on the road). On the occasions we’ve had soft drink on the trip it’s been purchased from a supermarket for about 75c and chilled ourselves – BARGAIN!
Next, take a step back and embrace pantry staples. More than once, we found ourselves without good old bread and instead have whipped up a batch of scones to fill hungry bellies – our favourite are plain with cheese and bacon on top but pumpkin and date are pretty amazing too! Plain dry crackers and flat bread also are versatile and store a treat. We have also made the outright change to UHT milk and even powdered. Our family at home consumed easily 3L a day and would have turned our nose up at UHT. This is simply not feasible on the road when free camping as we do. Already fresh milk has turned into a luxury and sends our kids into rapture overload! All milk tastes delicious if it’s icy cold and we tend to keep ours in the freezer at the moment, due to extreme high temperatures.
On the subject of dairy we love yoghurt, Love it! But like lots of things, it can be expensive on the road. We don’t give plugs willy nilly but get on board this one – before leaving we purchased an Easi-Yo yoghurt maker and could not be happier with the results. So easy to make, sachets come in a variety of flavours and contains all the acidophilus deliciousness required and can be stored completely in the pantry until your ready to prepare it! All you have to do is add the yoghurt sachet to water, shake and put it in the Easi-Yo Thermal pot with boiling water overnight and wham bam presto – you have created yoghurt. It is actually completely delicious!! Our favourite flavour is berries with bits, but they’re all good. We love it by itself but often have it with chopped fruit and or toasted muesli. The Greek Yoghurt sachets are so good too and we’ve used it in place of sour cream many times, along with topping off pumpkin soup, making pizza dough and in delicious orange and greek yoghurt syrup cake! So easy, so delicious, so versatile! get on the Easi-Yo train guys!
Right now we seem to be eating a constant diet of salad – by choice! You don’t win friends with salad…. pffft – who needs em! When we first started our trip we enjoyed soups and pies aplenty; Can’t go wrong with soup and everything tastes better in a pie-crust!
Here is a super simple method of how we make a killer pie-crust on the fly:
- Grab – 1 and 1/2 cups of plain flour, two tablespoons of butter and a teaspoon of salt and rub it together until the mixture resembles bread crumbs.
- Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of water, give it a stir then knead for 3 minutes or until the dough feels like an award winner with elastic qualities.
- That’s it – no really that’s it, wrap it up and let it rest for an hour before you turn it into a pie of supreme awesomeness.
We are gifted with children that are happy to eat carrots unpeeled and whole and call them delicious. They do love eating raw broccoli and consider themselves lucky when they do! Call it learned behaviour, call it luck; either way they are very easy to feed and their fussiness levels (which weren’t very high anyway) have gone down dramitically since being on the road… and I like it!!
Ultimately we have a ‘use it up’, ‘make do’ attitude when it comes to food on the road. One time when we had been without any fresh ingredients until we managed to get to a mainstream supermarket, we have enjoyed apple pie (made with canned apple) and rice pudding (made with powdered milk) for dinner and breakfast – and felt like the kings of the world!! My husband’s deliciously delightful tuna patties were born from limited options and is still a firm favourite. Simply bang a tin of drained tuna into plain mashed potatoes; formed into patties and fried – Amazing.
I hope you manage to get some hints or tips from here and feel free to keep the questions coming – We are happy to share our experiences of living frugally on the road.