5 Tips to Avoid Food Waste While Traveling

Traveling is supposed to be a time where we relax and experience new areas and things, but it doesn’t have to let loose and be wasteful. Be sure you waste as little food as possible on your vacations with these 5 tips.

Amanda Thomas
5-minute read
Episode #178

Last month, I had the opportunity to go on a ten-day bus tour around New England with my mom. The trip was coordinated by a bank in my hometown, and was attended by about 40 retirees from South Dakota, North Dakota, and Iowa. There were so many great things about the trip, but there was one thing that bothered me: the amount of food that was wasted.

Here’s the thing, Mr. DCeo and I both like to cook, and we have a tough time justifying spending money at sit-down restaurants that we could make at home for a quarter of the cost. Not only does this keep our food budget in check, but it’s also a healthier option for us because we know exactly what is in our food (lots of veggies) and what’s not (added fats and sugars). We cook when we are at home and also when we travel, so seeing the amount of wasted food in these restaurants came as a bit of a shock to me.

I knew that eating out for ten days was going to be a shock to my digestive system, but I hadn’t thought about how eating in restaurants three times a day would affect my conscience. Almost every single meal that had been prearranged by the tour company was a huge meal. For example, we ate at a great Italian restaurant in Boston and the meal included salad, soup, then three different entrées served family style—plus dessert. I was sitting at a table with seven older ladies. They did their best to try and not waste the food, but they ended up leaving about 2/3 of each entrée because they simply couldn’t eat that much food.


This situation repeated itself multiple times over the course of the trip, and I often saw plates half-full of food being returned to the kitchen. Believe me when I tell you that the people on this trip were your typical Midwesterners, which means they are not the type of people who like to waste food. The problem was not that they were picky or were counting calories. The problem was that the portions were often huge and it wasn’t practical to take food back to the hotel room because most of the rooms didn’t have refrigerators.

If you’re traveling and hate to waste food, there are a few things you can do to make sure the food is going into tummies, and not into the trash.

1.) Share Entrees

The first thing you can do to prevent food waste is to share entrees with your travel buddy. My mom and I did this as often as we could when we ate meals on our own. Most times we would order an extra salad and share the entrée to make sure we could clean our plates. If we were still hungry, we would find something sweet after the meal. Between the extra salad and the split plate charges, we discovered that this option wasn’t much cheaper than ordering two meals, but it did ensure that we weren’t tossing extra food in the trash, and neither of us was super stuffed from trying to finish food after we were already full.

2.) Order Half Portions

The next thing you try is to order half portions when you go out. Some restaurants are accommodating and allow guests to smaller portions, even from the lunch, senior, or kid menus, but it’s not an option that every restaurant will allow. Some really stick to their guns and only allow ordering from the dinner menu after 3pm or 4pm, but it never hurts to ask.  

3.) Take Half To-Go

If you can’t order a smaller portion, you can almost always order half the order to-go. If you know you aren’t going to eat the large portion, ask the server to package half the meal up before bringing it out to you. This allows you to clean your plate and easily take the rest to go. If there is a fridge in your hotel room, you can easily eat that meal later. If not, I discovered that you can keep it on ice overnight. Simply ask for a couple extra plastic bags that you can use to hold the ice overnight and keep the bagged goodies in the sink to catch the melting water. The next day, as soon as you find a microwave you’re set for lunch. Bonus tip, there’s almost always a microwave in the hotel lobby or breakfast area, even in fancy hotels.

4.) Give Away Half

Another option if you have half the meal packed is to give it to someone on the street. In large cities, it’s not hard to find someone who could use a free meal. Ask the restaurant for a fork and napkin to be included in the to-go bag, and you can hand a great meal to someone who is down on their luck. Just make sure and respect the person you are offering it to and give them the option to take it. When I do this, I’ve gotten good responses by approaching people near public transportation and saying, “Hi there. Would you like a (fill in the blank) dinner? I had the restaurant pack up half before I ate.” Most times people will eagerly accept the meal, but I’ve also had people turn it down because they feel that someone else could use it more, or they are allergic to something in the food. It never hurts to offer as long as you respect the answer the person gives you.

5.) Stay in Places with Kitchens

The last way to avoid food waste while on vacation is to stay at places that have kitchens. By having a kitchen, you can prepare some of your own food and not be reliant on restaurants for all your meals. Even having a small kitchenette with a fridge and microwave allows travelers to store leftovers and eat them for a meal later in the trip. It will not only prevent food from going in to the trash, but it will also usually save at least $10 per person per breakfast or lunch, and about $20 per person per dinner. Eating out is one of the highest costs when traveling, so every time you can eat a leftover meal can allow you to save money, or spend it on more fun activities on your trip.

Traveling is supposed to be a time where we relax and experience new areas and things, but it doesn’t have to let loose and be wasteful. By making sure you waste as little food as possible on your vacations, you’ll be helping to keep food out of the landfills.

How do you combat food wasted when you travel? Share in the comment section below, or on my Facebook page.

Until next time, I’m the Domestic CEO, helping you love your home.