Author Topic: Cutting food costs while traveling for business  (Read 4325 times)

VeggieTable

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Cutting food costs while traveling for business
« on: February 02, 2017, 08:02:30 PM »
This isn't about me; rather, it's about my husband. He is an airline pilot who recently started a new job that requires 2-3 weeks of travel at a time, mostly international. He used to fly mostly in the US, trips 3-4 days long, and he took almost all of his food with him. He'd bring canned food & food we cooked at home and then froze. Because he's gone for so long, neither of those are options anymore. Customs in most countries won't allow homemade food to be brought in anyway.

DH is not the type to come on a forum and ask for advice about something like this, so I'm doing it for him. He receives per diem, but it's not that much. At his old job we could count on his per diem as extra income b/c he spent so little on food; now that he's having to eat out at almost every meal, that's not the case. Hoping someone has experience with/suggestions for cutting his food budget. Are there grocery stores that sell semi-healthy pre-packaged food that isn't canned?

GreenSheep

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Re: Cutting food costs while traveling for business
« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2017, 09:45:00 PM »
I can only address this as a person who has traveled internationally for fun, never for work. However, being vegan, I try to take as much of my own food as I can when possible. As you/he probably know, what you're allowed to take varies a huge amount by country, and I agree that frozen home-cooked meals are probably going to be a no-go in this scenario for most countries!

I'm not sure if you are referring to buying pre-packaged food that isn't canned in the US prior to leaving or if you're talking about trying to find it at the destination. I'd be worried about packages that aren't something like a can leaking in luggage, and they'd be heavy! I probably wouldn't rely on being able to find pre-packaged food at grocery stores everywhere, but depending on the destination that might work out.

If he has access to hot water (coffee pot or microwave in a hotel room, probably?), he might consider dehydrated foods. He can either get entire meals like what backpackers use (expensive but probably cheaper than a restaurant), or he can do something like take oats, dehydrated fruit, and nuts with him so he can make a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, or dehydrated veggies and beans for lunch, etc. (Not just dry beans from the grocery store, as those take forever to cook, but you can buy previously cooked and then dehydrated beans, which are quick to rehydrate in hot water.)

http://www.harmonyhousefoods.com/ is a great source for entire meals (mostly soups, I think) or individual vegetables or fruits or beans that you can then combine on your own.

If you get really into the dehydrated food thing, you can make your own meals at home, dehydrate them, and take them with you. How DIY you go will probably depend on the planned destination. Some places really want things to be in a commercial package, not in your own Ziplock bag from home. So far, I haven't been to any countries that have had a problem with any dehydrated foods, even those I made myself. I've actually been surprised by what IS allowed. I was even allowed to take nuts to the Galapagos islands, where they're super strict.

I've also taken homemade kale chips, homemade "energy balls," and homemade granola bars to 3 continents without any problems. I'll just eat stuff like that as a meal if there's no better option.

I do make use of local grocery stores or outdoor markets. I've had some great salads, cheese and crackers/bread (back when I ate cheese), peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fresh fruit, etc. For meat eaters, you could add something like salami or some other meat that's already cooked.

And then there's street food, of course! Obviously that will depend on the location, too.

I'm curious to see what others will say, as I'm always looking for better ways to keep up my healthy diet while traveling!

Dicey

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Re: Cutting food costs while traveling for business
« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2017, 10:56:40 PM »
There's already an extensive thread on this topic with lots of ingenious suggestions and hacks. I'll poke around and see if I can find it.

Dicey

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Re: Cutting food costs while traveling for business
« Reply #3 on: February 03, 2017, 12:33:26 AM »
There's already an extensive thread on this topic with lots of ingenious suggestions and hacks. I'll poke around and see if I can find it.
Here it is:

http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/welcome-to-the-forum/how-to-save-food-$-at-a-hotel/

Credit goes to the amazingly awesome ARS for the assist.

ltt

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Re: Cutting food costs while traveling for business
« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2017, 07:40:03 AM »
Honestly, I would, at the very least have him take his favorite snack-type foods with him, such as microwave popcorn, nuts, granola bars, etc.  And then eat small meals out whereever he is if he is hungry.  The other thing he could do is take a small "hot pot" with him to, at least, boil water.  That way he could take and make noodles.  I'm assuming he would have access to a microwave where he stays?  When my husband has or we have travelled internationally, we'd always carry those types of items.  The nice thing also is they are small and don't take up a lot of room.  What area of the world will he be in?

historienne

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Re: Cutting food costs while traveling for business
« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2017, 07:57:14 AM »
What countries is he flying to?  And what is his travel schedule like - when you say traveling for 2-3 weeks at a time, is it hopscotching around to 10 different destinations, or is he going back and forth between two or three main cities?  Does he swing through your home airport at all during that time?  Is it the same set of cities every time, or does it change up completely each time?

VeggieTable

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Re: Cutting food costs while traveling for business
« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2017, 11:24:16 AM »
There's already an extensive thread on this topic with lots of ingenious suggestions and hacks. I'll poke around and see if I can find it.
Here it is:

http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/welcome-to-the-forum/how-to-save-food-$-at-a-hotel/

Credit goes to the amazingly awesome ARS for the assist.

Thank you! I will definitely read through this thread for ideas.

VeggieTable

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Re: Cutting food costs while traveling for business
« Reply #7 on: February 03, 2017, 11:37:44 AM »
Honestly, I would, at the very least have him take his favorite snack-type foods with him, such as microwave popcorn, nuts, granola bars, etc.  And then eat small meals out whereever he is if he is hungry.  The other thing he could do is take a small "hot pot" with him to, at least, boil water.  That way he could take and make noodles.  I'm assuming he would have access to a microwave where he stays?  When my husband has or we have travelled internationally, we'd always carry those types of items.  The nice thing also is they are small and don't take up a lot of room.  What area of the world will he be in?

Yeah, his situation is nuts. He does take some food, like granola bars, with him, but gets tired of them after a while. He also can't take enough to last him 3 weeks because that would be half his suitcase. He has to fit his uniform, extra clothes, all of his other essentials in a standard pilot suitcase. I suggested bringing some kind of small cooking implement like a hot pot, but it just takes up way too much room - plus then he'd have to have an adapter for every country. At his old job, the airline made sure all the hotels provided a micro + fridge, but this one doesn't.

What countries is he flying to?  And what is his travel schedule like - when you say traveling for 2-3 weeks at a time, is it hopscotching around to 10 different destinations, or is he going back and forth between two or three main cities?  Does he swing through your home airport at all during that time?  Is it the same set of cities every time, or does it change up completely each time?

Always different countries/cities, never comes through our home airport. It's cargo, so they fly wherever the customer wants them to go. He's been flying the line less than 2 months and has already been to 5 continents (cue my insane jealousy). His last trip he spent 4 days sitting in a very expensive city, though at least that meant he was able to buy some essentials at the grocery store. At his old job, he was a pro at managing his food - he'd stash homemade items in the crew lounge if he knew he'd have to go out of the country then pick it up when he came back. He brought a lunchbox with freezer packs too, but that's not an option anymore since it would keep only 1-2 meals' worth cold, then he's toting it around for 15 more days.

@GreenSheep, I'm definitely going to suggest he take a look at the soups on the site you posted. That looks like it could be perfect - small, lightweight, and easy to cook if he has access to hot water/microwave. Even if it's $4-5 per meal, that's still way cheaper/healthier than eating out all the time!

GreenSheep

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Re: Cutting food costs while traveling for business
« Reply #8 on: February 03, 2017, 11:59:37 AM »
Regarding the adapter issue, I saw a Belgian using this on one of my trips and I immediately went home and bought it. $25 for 4x3x3 inches and 150 countries seemed like a good deal to me. I have since used it all over the world without any problems.

https://www.amazon.com/Flight-001-Adapter-Blister-Pack/dp/B00K5XM2W6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1486148281&sr=8-1&keywords=flight+001+adapter

Fomerly known as something

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Re: Cutting food costs while traveling for business
« Reply #9 on: February 05, 2017, 05:24:17 AM »
Find a local grocery store in country.  It's going to be a bit more expensive than home cooked but not that much.  I'm vegetarian and when I travel international I often work odd hours so the grocery store is a godsend.  You can get bread and cheese, bread and peanut butter everywhere in the world.

Many hotels internationally include a great breakfast in the price, make breakfast the main meal.  I'd often get by with 2 meals and more of a snack for lunch with the breakfast buffets. 


Fomerly known as something

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Re: Cutting food costs while traveling for business
« Reply #10 on: February 05, 2017, 05:30:38 AM »
Adapter, I have one from target, it is an all in one about the size of a baseball, I have yet to run into a country where it didn't work.  I've had it for years so I'm guessing on price but less than $25.

EXLIer

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Re: Cutting food costs while traveling for business
« Reply #11 on: February 05, 2017, 05:36:57 AM »
Protein powder & bars.

MRE's maybe?

Goldielocks

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Re: Cutting food costs while traveling for business
« Reply #12 on: February 06, 2017, 12:30:18 AM »
The problem with international flying with food is that you can't bring along any produce items, and get inspections for things like hard cheeses, salami, and tinned meats (because you declare them).... so I end up bringing very little food from home.

Note -- I am generally a carry-on baggage traveler, so can't pack food for more than a couple of days.

Here are a couple of items that I do:
1)  I bring along powdered milk and instant coffee from home.  Helps a lot with incidental fees.   
2)  I bring a metal coffee mug with locking seal.   Also bring drink powders to add to water.
3) Nuts.   Some granola or energy bars, or other snacks for the "i am hungry and it is 30 minutes to find a reasonable meal" ie  I need to tide myself over.
4)  At my airport, I buy Subway wraps pre-security and bring them through.  Many airline staff do this, and it is by far the cheapest option.
5)  Once I land, the convenience store (often in the airport after security, or walking distance from hotel) will sell tinned soup, other items... but the cheapest do not include bowls / single serve.  So I bring a plastic bowl, spoon.   I also buy frozen veggies and other foods, if there is a microwave at the hotel.


If staying more than a 3 days at one location, I make an effort to get to the grocery store, even if I need a taxi.  BUT  Asian countries often have very good low cost fast restaurant meals, so to each their own.

VeggieTable

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Re: Cutting food costs while traveling for business
« Reply #13 on: February 07, 2017, 12:45:18 PM »
Regarding the adapter issue, I saw a Belgian using this on one of my trips and I immediately went home and bought it. $25 for 4x3x3 inches and 150 countries seemed like a good deal to me. I have since used it all over the world without any problems.

https://www.amazon.com/Flight-001-Adapter-Blister-Pack/dp/B00K5XM2W6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1486148281&sr=8-1&keywords=flight+001+adapter

Thank you! Will check this out.

VeggieTable

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Re: Cutting food costs while traveling for business
« Reply #14 on: February 07, 2017, 12:52:23 PM »
Thanks for the suggestions, everyone. Obviously DH has thought of eating the free breakfast, that is a no-brainer. Most of the hotels he stays in now do not have them. He also obviously knows about going to grocery stores. However, he may not have a lot of time on the ground, and due to the crazy time-zone-crossing flying, he often has to sleep during the day. Since he is a member of the crew, he is much more likely to have his bag searched at customs than the average person. It's a waste of money to bring any kind of fresh food out of any country since he will just end up having to throw it away.

(Also, I asked him if he could take meals off the airplane. Apparently that is very much not allowed due to customs.)

We will definitely look into some dried soup packets from the website @GreenSheep suggested or a similar one. I think that could be a great solution and give him at least a little variety.

FerrumB5

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Re: Cutting food costs while traveling for business
« Reply #15 on: February 07, 2017, 01:01:58 PM »
I think this adapter is better than the "cube" mentioned above: https://www.radioshack.com/products/radioshack-multi-nation-travel-adapter

GreenSheep

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Re: Cutting food costs while traveling for business
« Reply #16 on: February 07, 2017, 03:19:51 PM »
Since he is a member of the crew, he is much more likely to have his bag searched at customs than the average person.

Wow, that's really interesting. I would have thought crew members would be less likely to be searched. (Also, I didn't mean to imply that I take food into countries while disregarding their laws. I typically carry my food so that it's visible, so I'm not hiding anything.)

mm1970

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Re: Cutting food costs while traveling for business
« Reply #17 on: February 08, 2017, 10:59:46 AM »
Along a similar vein to the backpacking food is "food storage" - aka, disaster food.  Which is something that Mavis at onehundreddollarsamonth did for fun.

https://valleyfoodstorage.com/products/1-month-food-supply-value-kit/?avad=165739_fdb5a5cb

I'd go for "Just add water" type foods.  And plain fresh fruits and veggies when you can get them.  Sure, it's going to get boring.

WildJager

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Re: Cutting food costs while traveling for business
« Reply #18 on: February 08, 2017, 02:06:08 PM »
I fly international ally a lot, but in the military so we usually avoid customs overseas.  Most of my travel hacks are null and void based on some of the restrictions you mentioned.  For the cooler and freeze pack issue, if he can get past customs, I usually put the food in the hotel fridge at night and refreze the pack if there is a freezer to extend the life of the food.  However, there have been plenty of trips where that didn't quite work out.

At this point, I agree with the other posters.  Camping (dehydrated) food, MREs (prepared food for military folks that basically never expires), and dry home made food if he can pass customs.  It's boring, but welcome to the world of international travel on a budget.  At least he can hit up a restauraunt occasionally to break up the monotony.