Friday, September 04, 2009

How to Find Cheap Food at Airports

Stormy weather delayed my flight plans and prompted me to spend over 10 hours traveling through three airports. My growling stomach felt like extra baggage as I tried to find a frugal meal plan. I fed my appetite without starving my wallet with the following steps:

Find a drugstore. Many airports have vast shopping malls, which include national or regional drugstore chains, where prices are competitive. At a chain drug store in Pittsburgh International Airport, snacks and beverages were cheaper than comparable items at other shops in the airport mall. For instance, a package of two large peanut butter cookies was 79 cents, compared to prices of $1.50 to $3 per cookie at other vendors in the food court area. Yogurt, iced cappuccino, crackers, nuts and other food items were also good bargains at the drugstore.

Drink tea. Beverage carts, cafes and specialty stores sell hot coffee and specialty espresso drinks for $3 to $4 per cup. In contrast, from one high-end coffee stand, I purchased a large cup of Earl Grey tea for $1.80. With cream and a dash of cinnamon, the tea was a taste of luxury.

•Go green. Basic green salads are reasonably priced at many airport food courts. Veggie-only salads cost $2 to $4 at fast-food restaurants. What's more, packets of mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard can be mixed with pepper to create French dressing. Ask for crackers.

•Pack food. I often carry small bags of baby carrots, single-serving cans of tuna fish and snacks when I travel. This survival kit becomes valuable when late afternoon travel plans stretch beyond midnight.

Sharon Harvey Rosenberg is the author of the "Frugal Duchess: How to Live Well and Save Money" — a coming of age memoir about money — and a contributing writer in Wise Bread's "10,0001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget," both available on


Amy Lynn said...

I wish I seen this post a few weeks ago! But, I bookmarked for my next trip! Thanks :)

basicmoneytips said...

I travel a lot with work, and I agree with most of what you are saying.

Airports are the worst for prices, I have not really noticed what you mentioned about a drug store. Next time I travel thru an airport that has one, I will check it out.

One other thing to note - if you do order food, sometimes you can ask for a curtesy cup of water. That will at least offset some of the cost, and it is much better for you than a softdrink.

Chapter 7 said...

Great tip on packing your food when traveling through the airport. I find that a salami sandwich on a tortilla travels and keeps well.

Also, I hate paying so much for bottles of water. However, I've found that most security guards will let you bring in an empty water bottle. I got with an empty soda bottle so if they are angry that day they don't confiscate my more expensive Nalgene bottle.