Frugal Meal Plan Ideas for Truckers

We have an extensive food and recipes section on our site. But what about frugal meal plan ideas for truckers, especially for those drivers who want to lose weight?

It is a bit difficult for long-haul professional truck drivers to stick to an eating schedule because of varying schedules. Furthermore, it can be difficult to find time to cook. We know and understand. We've been there.

However, you can eat a healthy, well-balanced diet and (if this is your goal) still lose weight while being a trucker.

Your choice of a meal plan depends on whether you prefer to be more free-wheeling with regard to your food choices or you prefer more rigidity and scheduling.

First, let's address the free-wheeling plans.

We have personally had success in losing weight on the road by following the advice of Dr. Howard Shapiro in his excellent books.

Paid Diet Meal Plans

Then there are paid diet meal plans such as Nutrisystem, Jenny Craig, etc. It may come as a bit of a surprise to some folks that Nutrisystem does not include all of the food that a consumer will be eating. He or she must supplement what comes pre-packaged with fruit and vegetables.

However, you don't have to sign up for Nutrisystem's program to get the benefit of how their system works. On this page of their site, they describe "The Science Behind the System." An image describes:

"Low GI + Portion Control + Frequent Eating Times = Success!"

The "Low GI" refers to foods that are low on the Glycemic Index. The "Frequent Eating Times" refer to eating 5 to 6 times a day (three meals plus snacks).

The names of the foods available through these diet meal plans are published online:

  • Nutrisystem (see foods listed under tabs for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Desserts & Snacks for the Basic, Silver, Diabetic and Vegetarian plans) and
  • Jenny Craig (see foods listed under links for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Desserts & Snacks)

Weight Watchers has a Filling Foods List.

With a bit of ingenuity, you can make your own cloned foods, thereby saving money and still lose weight.

And you can even lose weight the same way Jared did by exercising while being on the "Subway Diet." Don't forget to check out Subway's Menu and Nutrition information.

We also have a page devoted to physical exercises.

Schedules and Meals

For professional truck drivers who have varying schedules, you know it is impossible to plan on having some meals at a certain time of the day or night. There have been numerous days when we've had to sacrifice a sit-down meal and quickly eat a protein bar and piece of fruit.

However, there are times when you can plan better meals. A couple of different scenarios exist:

  • Eat pre-packaged meals (either those that are portioned out ahead of time by your home support team or adding hot water to a pouch of freeze dried food, like the Mountain House Beef Stew)

  • Prepare a meal (whether from scratch or mostly from scratch).

To help you prepare your meal plan, we are providing for you

  • a Meal Selection list with many of our favorite or regularly-eaten entrees

  • a blank Meal Plan Chart that lets you plan a month's worth of meals at a time (just print and fill in for whichever month you want your meal plan to cover).

Here's how we would use the Meal Plan Chart:

meal plan block There is room at the top of the chart for the month and year. Under that, there is a listing of the days of the week.
We've taken a screen capture of the first day under Wednesday as an example.
Each day has a group of five cells to fill in:
1: The date of the month;
2: Any special designations like an event or holiday;
3. Breakfast meal items;
4. Lunch meal items;
5. Dinner/supper meal items.
meal plan block section Assuming that Wednesday is the fourth day of the month on one chart, here's how we might fill it in with selected foods of our choice if there were no special events:
Breakfast: Oatmeal, fruit, yogurt;
Lunch: Sandwich, apple
Dinner: Hamburger w/works, potato salad.

Here is the meal plan chart that we prepared for ourselves for December 2004. You will see some fields highlighted in pink. Those were meals that we ate out. We also gave ourselves flexibility in our eating when we traveled to Florida over Christmas break that year. meal plan block whole


It is a good idea when setting up your meal plan to build in some flexibility. For example, if you think you're going to have time for an hour-long meal but you only have 15 minutes, you may have to switch from fixing pizza for dinner to getting a sandwich on the run.

But if you have a schedule and you are prepared to stick with that schedule, you will find that you can incorporate a good bit of variety (so you won't get bored) and you can save a lot of money by not eating restaurant meals all the time.

Portion Control

One of the things that we found most beneficial for making a meal plan for Mike when he was solo as a regional driver and going out for a week or two at a time was packing meals in small plastic containers (partly for food storage purposes and partly for portion control).

After cooking a large batch of boneless skinless chicken breasts and rice, Vicki portioned them out as evenly as she could in plastic bowls. She would put the lids on and put them in the freezer until Mike was ready to take them with him. Chicken and rice in small plastic containers.

He would pack enough of the pre-packaged foods -- to last for all his dinners during his estimated time out -- in a large sealed plastic container that was down inside his ice chest (so they wouldn't risk getting water logged). When he was ready to eat one, he would microwave or otherwise re-heat it. Very convenient!

Two rib eye steaks wrapped in plastic wrap and labeled. Label on a rib eye steak wrapped in plastic wrap and prepared for being put in the freezer.

At left are two rib eye steaks (a luxury for us) that Mike wrapped in plastic wrap and labeled. The close-up view of the label above reveals the type of meat, the thickness, the date on which it was wrapped and the number in the series.

It works better if all foods that are portioned out have labels, especially so that you can rotate stock, eat it in a timely manner and keep up with the quantity.

Here are two stacks of portion controlled meals. On the left is some kind of chicken dish and on the right is spaghetti with sauce and cheese.

It is so convenient when making a meal plan to just rummage through the freezer for a variety of pre-portioned foodstuffs. Just supplement with the foods of your choice (such as a salad or hot green vegetable to go with the spaghetti).
Stacks of pre-portioned meals in plastic food storage bowls with lids.

Of course, you will need to keep the foods cold until you eat them. Even when stored on ice in an ice chest, after a few days, most freezer-kept foods were thawed enough to warm up fairly quickly.

If you're stumped on where to begin regarding cooking ahead and freezing meals, you may choose a resource such as one of these:

Don't Panic - Dinner's in the Freezer: Great-Tasting Meals You Can Make Ahead Frozen Assets: Cook for a Day, Eat for a Month

The only drawback to cooking large amounts of food is that you need a suitable place to store all of it. If you are limited to the space of a freezer above your refrigerator, you may want to plan less than the largest amount possible. Still, it is quite convenient to have pre-packaged meals at your disposal.

truck drivers money saving tip icon

Money saving tip: Numerous are the joys of being able to eat home-cooked meals for a fraction of what you would pay in a restaurant or could buy in the refrigerated or frozen foods sections of your local grocery store. Not only will meal plan ideas allow you to save money but also eat more healthfully.

Even if your meal plan consists of rotating through a series of canned foods, having the plan in place allows you to remain committed to your savings plan.

In fact, Vicki has often asked Mike as we sat down to eat a meal, "How much do you think a meal like this would cost in a truck stop restaurant?" If we were to take the money that we would have spent on all those meals and put it into savings: Wow! What a lot we could have saved by the end of the year.

Customize your own meal plan to meet your needs. Low fat, low salt, low carb, high protein -- you name it. Set a goal and aim to reach it. You can do it.

Return from Frugal Meal Plan Ideas for Truckers to our Meal Preparation page or our Truck Drivers Money Saving Tips home page.

Mike and Vicki Simons wish you and yours a blessed Thanksgiving.

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