Sandwich from St. James Cheese Company in New Orleans
Let's talk a bit (okay, a lot) about food on our trip. A lot of people joked about how we were really doing a food tour of the country, based on the food and drink pictures we posted on facebook and instagram. We generally posted a food/drink picture once every one to three days, which is fairly representative of how often we ate a post-worthy meal or enjoyed some local drinks. Of course, in cities, it was more like three times a day. ;)
First, I want to share that our food philosophy in every day life is to eat healthy but to let ourselves indulge in what we love most: eating out at great, local restaurants. We don't drink soda or eat fast food and junk food (yes, the occasional sweet does get devoured), and I watch how much sugar, gluten, dairy, and meat I eat.
All that being said, we knew that during our trip we would be indulging a lot more than in every day life. We were comfortable with this because a big part of travel for us is to experience a place through its local food - barbeque in the South, Mexican food in New Mexico, steak in the Midwest... you know? But at the same time, we couldn't go all out every day for six months, so we had to pay attention and not go overboard.
Courtyard dining in downtown Dothan, Alabama
Here is how we approached eating on the road:
> We did often indulge in local cuisine: chef-made meals, beers, wines, and some sweet treats. And we are always suckers for meat and cheese plates. My general rule of thumb was to indulge in only one meal a day... so if I ate a healthy breakfast and lunch, I felt okay eating a dinner that was smothered in butter. Haha, that's logical, right?! Generally speaking, we would have one drink a day, if that.
Meats and cheeses at Bin 152 in Charleston, SC
> We made sure to have a healthy breakfast every day, and hardly ever ate breakfast in a restaurant. Most days for breakfast we had oatmeal, fruit, and coffee/tea. Oatmeal was so easy because we could use the coffee maker at the hotel or the camping stove when camping to heat up the water. When we stayed at a hotel with free breakfast, Taras would go eat the eggs or whatever they had available and I would stick to oatmeal and fruit.
> Keeping a lot of food in a cooler for lunches and dinners didn't work out well for us. We would take that approach for a couple days at a time, but more regularly we would stop to eat lunch as a pit-stop en route to the next destination and then have dinner each night in whatever town we were sleeping. We often grabbed prepped food from the grocery store as an alternative to eating at a restaurant.
Food trucks in Portland, Oregon
> When we camped we handled food differently. We would get vegetables and sometimes meat from the grocery store (we kept quinoa and cous cous, etc. stocked in the car) and cook all meals at the campsite. We expected to camp a lot more often than we actually did so, overall, we ate at restaurants a lot more than we had originally planned.
> We kept nuts, fruit, granola bars, and two gallons of water in the car at all times. There was never a time that we grabbed junk food from a convenience store (okay, there was the occasional bag of potato chips that made its way into the car!). We found that convenience stores had decent options if we ran out of car snacks - yogurt, fresh fruit, nuts, and healthier granola and power bars. We would fill up our water bottles each day at the hotel or campground, and found that some convenience stores have a pump with water that we would use to fill up our gallon bottles if needed. We kept the car snacks stocked with near daily stops at the grocery store.
Delicious Mexican dinner in Taos, New Mexico.
> We had fast food five or so times. The fast food count could have easily been zero (I think only once we found ourselves in a position where fast food was the only option available) but what is a road trip without at least one Dairy Queen Blizzard and how could we not try an In-n-Out Burger?! This count does not include Subway - we ate there quite a few times as a compromise for fast, but healthier than fried, food. Prepped food from the grocery store was really our go-to for food on the go.
coffee from Stumptown at the Ace Hotel in Portland, Oregon.
> Coffee, usually a decaf Americano, was Taras's guilty pleasure of the trip. Usually we'd stop at Starbucks because they are quick to find off the highway. He loves driving with coffee and who was I to deny my chauffeur his coffee?
In Part 2 I'll talk about how we budgeted for food, our tips for saving a few bucks, and how we found the best restaurants to eat at.
Psst - find more insight about our travels here!