How to do Road Trip Picnics – where to stop and other tips to make them easy

Road Trip Picnics


We’ve been talking picnics all month.  We’ve covered Day Trip Picnics and Vacation Home Food.

This week, let’s talk about road trip picnics.  I really like to pack our lunch for our first (and sometimes, last) day of travel.  We prefer our own sandwiches to fast food, especially when traveling.  A couple of my kids deal with car sickness and it really helps to have control of the food choices.  Not to mention that it’s much cheaper to pack.

I won’t talk too much about what to pack.  We’ve covered that pretty well already.

I do want to share some tips I’ve learned and I’d love to hear yours too!

Where to stop for a road side picnic.

When you’re on a long trip, trying to get where you’re going, you don’t want to spend a lot of time looking for a place to eat.  Convenience wins big over scenic views in this case.

Rest stops are an obvious solution.  Many of them have picnic tables.  We’ve found that as you enter most states, there are Welcome Centers that tend to be a notch above regular rest stops.

Tip: It’s nice to have a roll of paper towels to use as place mats or even to sit on if the benches aren’t the best.  Although, the adults tend to eat standing up to counteract all the hours in the car.

Eating in the car.

We’ve found it’s best to get out for a break, but there are times when it makes sense to eat in the car.  If it’s raining, you may want to skip the picnic.  Heavy traffic occasionally makes it hard to to stop.

Just in case you end up needing to eat while driving, pack the cooler where an older child or adult can get to it.  Have that person pass out the lunches and drinks.

Tip: For snacks like boxes of cheese crackers or grapes, small paper cups work great for handing out individual servings.  These are also easy for the driver to eat from.

Strategically splurge on treats.

If you’re looking at 8-15 hours in the car, you can bet you’re going to need a few treats.  Here are a few things that have worked for us in the past:

  • DumDum lollipops and Jolly Ranchers – It’s fun to choose a flavor and the small candy lasts a while too.
  • Planned afternoon breaks that involve purchased treats like soft drinks, coffees, or even ice cream.
  • Treat bags – When the kids were little, I would pack a bag of small games, toys, stickers, etc.  I tried to aim for one treat per hour.  Some of the most successful items were masking tape, pipe cleaners, dry erase markers (to use on the windows),  and blank notebooks.  The car was usually a mess when we arrived at the destination, but everyone was was (relatively) happy.

I’d love to hear your tips!

Many of us will be hitting the road this summer for long trips.  Share what works for you and your family in the comments.

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Take Your Own Food on Family Vacation

Packing Food for a Family Vacation


We’ve got a family trip planned for Asheville, NC.  Instead of eating out every meal, I’ve planned a menu for eating most of our meals at the house we’ve rented.

It’s typical for us to take food on vacation, if we’re staying in a place with a kitchen.  I’ve written a number of posts on vacation food before.  This post tells how to use dry ice to transport food a long distance.  We’ve done this a number of times when traveling to Disney World or the beach.

This time, we’ve got a short trip and it’s not too long of a drive.  We’re going to make do with coolers and plenty of ice for keeping the food fresh.

Here’s our menu:

Day 1: Travel Day

Breakfast at home

Picnic lunch on the way.  I’ll use the ideas I shared last week for packing this lunch.

Dinner at the house:

Day 2: Biltmore House for the girls, Whitewater Rafting for the guys


  • Green Smoothies
  • Toast or bagels
  • Eggs for those that want one
  • Juice for people who won’t drink green things
  • Coffee – of course!

Lunch – This is included in the rafting trip.  The girls will eat at Biltmore House.


  • Slow Cooker Chicken Cordon Bleu Sandwiches – I’ll take my slow cooker and a liner to make cleanup easy.  I wanted something that would cook itself while we’re out enjoying the day.
  • Fruit
  • Salt and Pepper potato chips
  • Any leftover salad from the night before
  • Cookies and/or more s’mores

Day 3: Hiking and Exploring Asheville

Breakfast: Same as the day before

Lunch: Picnic lunch, hopefully eaten before, during or after the hike while sitting outside.  Stay away, rain!

Dinner: Restaurant in Asheville

Day 4: Travel Home

Breakfast: Same as before, but making sure to eat the remaining eggs.

Lunch: Most likely stopping at fast food place.

Four days of travel.  Three meals out.  Lots of money saved.


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Copycat Chick-fil-a Chicken

If you have never had Chick-fil-A Chicken, then I have to say, you are missing out! It is definitely my favorite fast food chicken. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) where we live now is 30 minutes from the closest Chick-fil-A. We are about 30 minutes from everything, but that’s a different story!  I started seeing copycat recipes floating all around Pinterest, and it peaked my curiosity.  Could it possible to make this awesome chicken at home?!  I had to give it a shot, especially since my last restaurant copycat recipe turned out so well! I adapted this recipe from

Copycat Chick-fil-a Chicken
  • 2 lbs chicken tenders
  • 1 cup dill pickle juice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • ½ teaspoon basil
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • Oil for frying (Chick-fil-a uses peanut oil, I used canola)
  1. Place chicken in a plastic bag or covered dish with pickle juice.
  2. Marinate for at least an hour (but preferably overnight)
  3. Beat eggs in a bowl large enough to dip the chicken into.
  4. Mix flour, sugar, and all of the spices in another shallow bowl or plate
  5. Remove chicken from the pickle juice and drain well. (dispose of pickle juice)
  6. Dip the chicken into the egg wash and then into the flour mixture, completely covering chicken.
  7. Fry the chicken using your preferred method. (I used a Fry Daddy, and cooked my chicken in batches.)

Verdict?  This was really good! Of course, I’m a Southern gal that grew up eating fried chicken, and I still love it.  I rarely eat it anymore, but it’s good stuff.  But how did it compare to CFA?  Well, it was close…but not exact.  However, I also did not use peanut oil, and I’ve been told that yields the best flavor for chicken.  Even though it wasn’t an exact match, my family loved this recipe so that makes it a keeper in my book!  I want to make this again, but a baked version.  I know that won’t taste like Chick-fil-a!
What about you?  Do you have any restaurant copycat recipes that have turned out well?
Here are some others you can check out if interested: Goat Cheese Biscuits (these look amazing! Copycat from Table Fifty Two), Bowtie Festival (a copycat version of Johnny Carino’s Bowtie Festival), and Olive Garden Copycat Zuppa Toscana (a lighter version).  Who needs restaurants?! (Okay, I do…who wants to cook ALL the time!)
KimM is a contributing writer for Eat at Home. See more from her at her blog Makin’ it Mo’Betta, and follow along on PinterestFacebook and Twitter!

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More Low Cost Meals – Battling rising grocery costs

If you shop for groceries, you’ve probably noticed that prices are going up.   And up.  And up.

Over 3 years ago, I wrote a post on low cost meals.  I think it’s time for another list of go-to recipes when the budget is tight.

As I said in the original post, some foods tend to make for lower cost meals.  Pasta, rice, beans and eggs are all great items to build your meal on when you’re trying to save cash.  Soup tends to be less expensive per serving, as well.

Here are some of my favorite budget meals:  [Read more…]

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How to Stretch Ground Beef & Bulk Meatball Recipe

The cost of ground beef has sky rocketed lately.  I was shocked to pay $10 for a 2.25 lb. package and my incentive to learn to stretch that burger was just as high as the price tag.

I made a recipe of meatballs for the freezer.  My original recipe makes about 88 meatballs.  I made a half recipe, which would have yielded 44 meatballs, but I used brown rice to stretch the meat.  I was able to get 69 meatballs.  That’s a whole extra meal!    [Read more…]

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How to Save Money on Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

This is a guest post from my friend, Andrea at The Green Backs Gal.  I asked if she would share with us some of the ways to save money on organic produce.

One of the toughest areas to save at the grocery store is in the produce department. This is particularly true during the winter when the growing season here in Colorado is dormant. So how can you pinch pennies but still enjoy fresh and delicious produce? Buy seasonal, buy local and buy organics when it makes sense.

Buy Produce in Season

Why Buy Produce In Season? By purchasing and eating food that is in season, you will not only be saving on your budget, you will be eating better tasting food! Produce that is not in season is grown somewhere else in this world, picked too early, and then is transported to your grocers. That cost is passed on to you! By eating seasonally, you might be eating grapes only in the Fall when the prices are low. But the beauty is, once you have kinda had it with grapes, the oranges will be sweet and cheap! We are all very used to getting what produce we want when we want it. But, if you are serious about saving money, you’ll find eating seasonally will definitely save you on your budget each month. Check out what is in season this month – with Spring here, there are some tasty choices! [Read more…]

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5 Keys to Saving Money with a Pantry/Freezer Challenge

One way to save money on groceries is to shop your own pantry and freezer.  Here are a few tips to help you whittle your grocery bill, while keeping your family fed during your own pantry/freezer challenge.

1. Go on a search and rescue mission in your pantry and freezer.  You need to know exactly what you’ve got in there.  Examine expiration dates, pitching what’s already past its prime.  Make a list of what you find. [Read more…]

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63 Budget Friendly Meals, Meal Stretchers and Desserts

Have you noticed grocery prices racing up?  Yikes!  It’s gotten crazy.

This month we’re going to be focusing on saving money on food.  We kicked it off yesterday with a new Low-Cost Meals Menu.  Today, I’m sharing a list of the least expensive recipes I have.  Nearly all of my recipes are budget friendly, but these really counteract those rising prices.

You may notice a lot of rice, beans, pasta and eggs in this list.  Basing meals on these ingredients is a great way to keep the cost low.

Main Dishes [Read more…]

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Frugal Holiday Cooking and Baking Tips

holiday cooking

Buying extra ingredients for holiday baking and cooking can really add up.  Here are a few ideas to keep Christmas and Thanksgiving adventures in the kitchen affordable.

Make a list of your “must make” recipes.

Make a list of all the foods that you know you want to make.  Start buying those ingredients now a few at a time, until you’ve gathered them all up.  That way you won’t have a huge amount hit your grocery bill at one time. [Read more…]

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Home Canning – Is It Worth It or Will I Just Blow Up My Kitchen?

This is a guest post by Phoebe at Cents to Get Debt Free.  I’ve never done any canning and I asked Phoebe if she would give us an introduction to the topic.  She has a fantastic blog, so don’t forget to pop over and visit her.

canning  Photo credit Renoir Girl

Phoebe and her husband decided 5 years ago that it was time for her to stay at home and raise their children. Through a lot of sacrifices and a lot of learning, they are embracing the frugal life and realizing that the simple life, is the life. Phoebe blogs daily at Cents to Get Debt Free where she shares her family’s journey at cutting costs, living the simple life and getting freedom from lender.

Gardening season is in full force, and this year many stores have seen a 40-60% increase in seed sales.  Being more self reliant is becoming the new normal. In addition to new gardens, many people will be canning and preserving their harvest for the first time this year.

[Read more…]

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