The Frugal Traveler: Road-Warrior Dining Tips

A family emergency forced a last-minute road trip. Time was limited, and restaurant stops were not on the itinerary. Our solution? Swap out driving legs and take turns eating while in the passenger's seat.

Whether you are dining in your car because of business or family matters, there are ways to pull it off with minimal mess and maximum nutrition.

Kitchen prep: Packing chores should include meal planning and food preparations. While one person handles clothing and shoes, others can assemble portable meals, snacks and beverages. For example, a thermos of brewed coffee will reduce road stops and save money. Other easy-to-pack meals include grilled sandwiches, fruit slices, chopped veggies and baked potatoes. Trail mix, protein bars and apples can all be eaten in the car with minimal fallout. Protein shakes provide energy along with recyclable packaging.

Hot dog rolls: Hot dog rolls are practical for movable feasts because only one side is susceptible to leaks, compared with the four sides of a standard sandwich. With the roll's opening facing straight up, it's possible to easily grip your sandwich from all sides. Stuff tuna salad or falafel balls into a hot dog roll and your meal is easier to eat, with fewer dry cleaning bills.

Auto toolkit: Keep your vehicle neat and clean by carrying travel mugs for coffee and reusable water bottles. The packing list should include eating utensils, napkins and plates. Use a carabiner clip to attach small trash bags with handles to head rest poles and a small cooler to keep meal items organized.

Pullovers with purpose: Road trips with time crunches are stressful. When you must stop, make it count. Stopping at a rest area? Make sure to give your pet some romp time and grab a power snack. Pulling over for gas? Make sure to hit the restroom and recaffeinate. On multi-day road trips, look for gas station signs from the highway that are posted with numerous other resources. This is a good indication of a more populated area, with a high probability of finding a grocery store. Stocking up on healthy grocery items during a mid-day gas stop will save you having to deal with it at the end of the day, when you're tired and hungry.