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Jacob and I have been on dozens of road trips since we got married. We’ve done everything from traveling cross country (in winter, no less) to short weekend trips--which means we’re great at packing light and keeping ourselves entertained on the road.
But food? Not so much.
We still struggle with making healthy choices on the road, and never prepare ourselves with the right keto snacks for a family road trip: either we pack too little (and end up hungry), or we pack things we wouldn’t normally want to eat (and end up wasting food), or we pack nothing (and end up buying overpriced or unhealthy food).
Road trips on keto are generally out of the question--but since we had to make a 12-hour trip so Jacob could be in Wisconsin for half a week, we decided to give it another shot.
The Game Plan
We already had to do some shopping at Walmart and Aldi (the grocery stores where we usually shop), so I made our list based on what I knew we could find there. I took stock of what we already had on-hand so I could supplement our list with new items and add some variety.
Normally we shop on a budget, but for this trip I gave ourselves a little slack. Why? I was willing to spend a little extra money to get snacks we’d genuinely enjoy if it meant we would be less likely to eat road food. Good snacks keep everyone happy in the car, and if everyone’s satisfied we wouldn’t even have to stop for a meal and deal with herding two kids at a restaurant.
I kept a more keto-friendly focus on snacks for Jacob and me, but for our son I got him a few things that are higher in carbs. Kids burn off so much energy that it’s healthy and necessary for them to have more carbohydrates (more on that in another post). Some of the food I chose for him was just based on road trip strategy: he never gets fruit snacks from us, for example, so he might be motivated to behave more if they’re an incentive.
And while budget was a less important factor, we decided to see which option was more expensive between loading up on keto snacks and going out to eat:
Grocery prices (per unit):
The keto-friendly stuff:
- Organic coffee K cups: $4.99
- Organic baby carrots: $1.49 x 2
- Cello Whisps: $2.98 x 2
- Roasted seaweed snacks: $0.66 x 8
- Bottled water: $2.98 x 2
- Epic pork rinds: $3.69 x 3
- Turkey pepperoni: $4.69
- Plus jerky, pistachios, and Bulletproof bars we already had: $0
The less keto-friendly items:
- White cheddar popcorn: $1.48 x 2
- Fruit snacks: $4.99 x 2
- Applesauce pouches: $1.89 x 2
- Baby food pouches: $1 x 4
- Salami and cheese snack trays: $2.78
Grand total: 40.93 + 23.50 = $64.43
That’s a lot of money for snacks. But hear me out: we had enough food for this trip to skip at least one meal on the road, and it lasted through the trip back home as well. Compare this budget to what we’ve normally spent during a trip:
I looked back on our records for what we’ve spent on food during past road trips. For the average 12-hour trip, broken into two 6-hour days, we might stop 2-3 times for each leg. One of those stops would probably be a meal, while the other one would be for snacks/gum/water.
For just one 6-hour leg, we would spend up to:
- $13.34 for snacks
- $15.93 at Steak n’ Shake
- About $8 at Starbucks (maybe more if we bought snacks/lunch)
… for a total of $37.27. Which means we would spend up to $74.54 for the full 12-hour trip, plus more snacks on the way back.
You can cut costs more by avoiding organic foods, buying store brands, shopping sales, or even fasting, which we did in part--but if you plan even more, the savings difference has potential to be higher. The fact still stands that we got to eat higher-quality food and save a little money at the same time.
There’s no reason why you can’t stay keto on a road trip if you commit to it--which we found out the hard way after way too many trips that ended in carb comas.