The 6 Things I Keep in My Car All Summer to Help Us Save Money

updated Jun 5, 2019
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Ah, summer. Even though I’ve long since graduated from school days, the approach of summer always makes me giddy. The days grow longer, punctuated with celebrations of birthdays and graduations. The theater movie selections become more interesting and numerous. The park, lake, and beaches beckon me to sit and rest awhile!

With the sun shining and so many opportunities for fun right at my feet, what more do I need?

Well, I know from experience that a day out can get pretty pricey — especially where food is concerned.

A packed-from-home picnic is the obvious dining solution, but let’s take it up a notch, shall we? When we’ve traveled through France, my husband and I have noticed something interesting. Even when the French pause at a rest stop along the autoroute, their picnics are primo. We witnessed families and couples set tables that might have been perfectly suited for their verandas.

Every meal can, indeed, be memorable.

Having a few creature comforts tucked away in the car helps me elevate the simplest meal to a fun vacation moment. In fact, I’ve got a basic list of six things that I keep in my car (or pack on vacation) to help us save money and still enjoy the al fresco dining that summer naturally demands.

1. A blanket

Perfect for spreading out on the beach or the grass, a blanket can also double as a tablecloth for impromptu picnics. A waterproof one with straps (to secure it when folded) is really ideal.

2. A cooler

With a cooler on board, I’m able to grab a grocery store picnic or simply tuck away groceries on a hot day, so that they can stay cool on the drive home. I’ll grab a bag of ice, too, if I’m going to store food for longer periods. Cooler bags with handles are nice for easy carrying.

3. A prep kit (a knife and cutting board)

Grocery store picnics come together super easily when I’ve got a simple knife and cutting board on hand. Slice bread, meats, and cheeses for sandwiches or chop up veggies to bulk up a bagged salad meal on the go. You can even make a feast of a rotisserie chicken without having to tear it apart with your bare hands. I like to have a lightweight cutting board small enough to slip into a bag or cooler.

4. Serving ware (plates, cups, sporks)

There’s something just a little more civilized in eating food off a plate and drinking out of a cup, even if it is just paper or plastic. Having a small stash of serving pieces in the car makes it easy to dish up a meal on the road that doesn’t feel so transient. These sporks have been all over Europe with us.

5. Hand sanitizer and/or cleaning wipes

Sometimes beach and rest stop restrooms have little to be desired. Keeping hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes on hand makes it easier to enjoy our meals out and about.

6. A jug of water

While it’s one of the most “free” resources on the planet, water can cost a pretty penny if you’re paying for it in a bottle. Lugging a jug around with me, along with the aforementioned cups, makes it easy and cheap to quench one’s thirst on an outing, leaving one free to spend the money saved on some better libations. (Never drink and drive!) Have a good water bottle on hand, too, so that you can fill it up whenever you have a chance.

Do you have a special something to keep on hand for good summer eating on the go?