This summer, I spent 6 weeks traveling to America's national parks in an old VW bus. It was a great experience to disengage from the comforts of home and learn how to live in a different environment. It was also a great way to really connect with the food you're cooking, because you know you earned it after each day. Ever wonder how people are able to take road trips and not eat out for every meal? This is how I did it on a college budget, and you can too.
1. Ditch the fast food
Forget about the McDonald's or Chipotle on every corner. You don't need it (maybe it's really hard to live without, but you'll survive). There is no reason to eat every meal at a restaurant because 1. ewm and 2. $$$$. Trust me, home-cooked meals (or van-cooked) are way more rewarding. Your wallet and tummy will thank you.
2. Find your style
Figure out how you want to cook or prepare your meals. Keeping food fresh while living on the road can be tricky, especially if you love your meats. Definitely get a good cooler, or you'll find your food swimming in melted ice every day. For cooking, I used a propane powered Coleman camp stove with two burners. But, if you're down to get dirty, most campsites have a coal-grill. Doesn't everyone love the smell of a campfire?
3. Shop 'til you drop
Grocery shopping can be pretty annoying when you're trying to do super fun stuff all day. It can also be hard to find good produce in the middle of nowhere, unless you feel like grabbing one of the 3,000,000 ears of corn that grow in the Midwest. I stocked up whenever I could find a regular grocery store, which was usually once a week. It can be super easy to eat PB&Js for every meal, but your body deserves more nutrients than that. Treat yo self.
You can usually find any food you need at a regular supermarket, and you will pay 1/3 of the price than you would at a health food store. You can start shopping at Whole Foods once you return to civilization again. Try to buy simple items like bread, nut butters, fruits, and veggies to avoid feeling like poop when you're adventuring in new places.
4. Get cooking
Now, it's time to cook. Well, almost. Meal prep is so important on the road, especially when you get #hangry after a long hike. Your hungry body will thank you come dinner time when you have all your veggies sliced and ready to go. There are so many great recipes for camp food that are more fun and nutritious than ramen. My personal favorites were quesadillas and Tex-Mex bowls. They're super easy, cheap, and quick to make. Plus who doesn't love refried beans?
So now you're ready to hit the road and feast on a college budget. Whether your trip is for four days or four months, knowing how to prep your food and eat healthy can make a big difference. This road trip changed my life, and it can for you, too. Experience the wonders of nature and allow yourself to appreciate your daily meals. It's possible to cook it all, and you will be so much happier in the end (and so will your bank account).