Amanda Leahy (Instagram @livelaughmiata) messaged me a while back with a great suggestion to post with strategies to save money at the track: by bringing your own food. With Trackday norms changing so quickly due to Covid-19 (bans of large gatherings, closing of some on-site food facilities) I thought this could not only be a good way to save money, but a necessity to many of us used to buying lunch and big BBQ’s.
Secrets to Saving Money at the Track – Bring Your Own Food!
by Amanda Leahy
Track day expenses can add up quickly. From registration costs to track insurance, to lodging and consumables, to last minute fixes to fuel (and that’s not even counting the mark-up for on-site gas pump!).
Food at the track is an expense that can creep up on you faster than you realize. On-site food is basically highway robbery, but that’s the price you pay for convenience.
One way I like to save at the track is to plan meals ahead and bring food with me to avoid eating on-site and at restaurants as much as possible. While I still do enjoy grabbing dinner with my friends, eating out for every meal at every event adds up fast.
Below are some of my favorite meals for track days that are low cost, easy to prepare, and include options that don’t require refrigeration or microwaves.
1. Fruit – Easily my favorite go-to breakfast food, even when I’m not at the track. Bananas, apples, and oranges are all great options that don’t need to be refrigerated and also double as a great mid-day snack. Plus, they are all generally under $2/lb. If fruit alone isn’t enough, I recommend pairing it with another option or two below.
2. Granola, Granola Bars, Breakfast Bars, and Protein Bars – Any of these are great on their own or paired with other options. If you have access to a fridge, add granola to a single serve yogurt for a trackside parfait. Just be sure to check the ingredients in these and be sure to keep anything with chocolate out of the sun and heat to avoid a mess.
3. Microwave Option: Instant Oatmeal – Another personal favorite, instant oatmeal is quick, easy to customize, and filling. You can opt for the individually packaged servings or the big container and measure it out yourself. Add in your favorite toppings and spices to make it one of a kind. I recommend chocolate chips and mini-marshmallows for s’mores oatmeal! (Just don’t leave the chocolate chips or marshmallows out in the sun, or as stated above, you’ll end up with a mess!)
1. Tuna Packet Sandwich – Tuna in single serving packets is both really cheap and full of protein. Most grocery stores even carry flavored versions like BBQ and Buffalo tuna. For a simple and cheap lunch at the track, just add the tuna to bread, such as a hoagie roll, and your done! You can keep it simple or dress it up, and may even be able to snag condiments from an on-site grill.
2. Nut Butter Sandwich – Sandwiches are quick to prepare and are great options for when you don’t have a fridge if you avoid toppings that will spoil. If tuna isn’t your thing, you can always go for a simple nut butter (peanut butter, almond butter, or if you’re adventurous Nutella!) sandwich. Some companies, such as Justin’s, sell single serving packets. You can also get single serve jelly packets, like those at breakfast diners, to dress up an otherwise plain sandwich. If you bring fruit for your breakfast, you can add banana slices to a peanut butter sandwich, just like Elvis! I also recommend bringing a sleeve of bagels – easy for sandwiches at breakfast or lunch, or just eating on their own!
3. Microwave Option: Mac & Cheese – Easy Mac, or the like, is a quick lunch option if you have access to a microwave. Additionally, you can add in a protein (see tuna packet from option 1) to make it a more filling meal. If Mac & Cheese isn’t your thing, Cup of Noodles is another microwave lunch option that stores well without a fridge.
1. Crackers and Chips – There are a million options out there for different crackers and chips. Find some you like and bring a box/bag/canister or two – buying a family sized bag at the grocery store ahead of time will be significantly cheaper than the bags of mostly air you would get on-site. Just remember, crackers and chips tend to have a lot of salt, so be sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
2. Fruit Snacks – A favorite of kids and kids-at-heart. Family-sized packs are affordable, and if you have self-control, can last for multiple events. If you are looking to get more energy from your snacks, look into running gels or gummies. While these can be more expensive, they are designed to give you an extra kick during a high-energy activity.
3. Hydration – Don’t forget to hydrate – especially in the summer. Bottled water at the events is way over priced. I recommend investing in an insulated water bottle (I got mine for ~$10) and refilling it throughout the day. Additionally, sports drinks are great to up your electrolytes if you’ve been sweating in your car during sessions (looking at you Miata drivers that can’t run the AC without sacrificing power!), just look for the ones with less sugar or water them down.
If anywhere in your track day meals you want to splurge a little, I recommend doing so at dinner. Treat yourself to a nice hot meal at a local restaurant, order pizza that delivers to the track, or if you really want to save, grab fast food. It’s a great time to unwind and debrief, and if the restaurant is a track favorite, you are sure to meet other drivers happy to talk about the highs and lows of the day.
If you are looking to save on dinner expenses, I recommend planning ahead with friends to host a potluck in paddock or a camping area on-site. One of my favorite memories from my first track day was being invited to join the potluck one of the families was hosting. I was new to the club, was a volunteer, and I had no idea what to expect being at a track. The family and the rest of the club were so welcoming that I just had to go back and drive at the next track day a few months later. Potlucks are a great way to spend time with friends, make new friends, and reduce the cost of your track day meals. Personally, I like to make brownies ahead of time and bring dessert. Some easy potluck meals to feed a crowd include:
- Build your own tacos.
- Hot Dogs and burgers.
While these do take a little planning and some resources (fridges, Crockpots, etc.) they are very rewarding and make people want to come back to events.
Track days are filled with tons of unexpected costs, don’t let your meals be one of them! While on-site food is convenient, you can skip the line and keep your wallet happy by planning ahead and bring food with you. If you do plan to eat on-site or at a nearby restaurant during your event, try to check out the menu ahead of time to get a feel for the cost and set a dining budget for yourself. Track days can be expensive, but food doesn’t have to break the bank.
Thanks again Amanda, for helping contribute to No Money Motorsports.