5 Frugal Foodies Secrets to Affordable Eating on the Road

Life on the road is a total blast. You get to see new places, meet new people, and have new experiences. No two days are alike, and it’s the perfect recipe for adventure.

I’m no stranger to living out a suitcase and hitting the road. In 2019, I performed in a national tour of the production Christmas Wonderland that involved traveling nearly 6,000 miles on a bus starting in Myrtle Beach, all the way up to Warren, Ohio, and ending back down in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. In 2021, my fiancé and I ditched our apartment and hired a camper van to travel up the coast of Queensland, Australia for two months (https://thefrugalfoodies.com/2021/02/17/our-next-big-australian-adventure-van-life/).

From hitting the stage to hunting waterfalls, there’s one big challenge that’s hard to overcome when living on the road:

Maintaining a balanced diet that won’t blow the budget.

Particularly on tour, getting in the proper fuel to allow peak performance of a 2-hour show following an 8 hour bus ride can be tough. Ensuring said fuel costs less than your per diem is even tougher. While there are decent macro-friendly options to be found at fast food spots (check out THIS resource from DWL), those options tend to be more expensive. Plus, I can’t say the McDonald’s grilled chicken sandwich tantalizes my taste buds or makes me feel ready to jazz hand and bevel.

Once you arrive to your hotel, cheap nutrition is even harder. Eating out and ordering in will probably set you back at least $15 a meal, and before you know it, your salary can’t even get cozy in your bank account before being transferred right to your credit card bill.

Don’t stress!!!

Over my  time on the road, I’ve picked up  a few tips and tricks on how to eat well without blowing your nutrition goals or your budget.

Before diving into the 5 Frugal Foodie’s secrets to affordable eating, let’s kick things off with your startup costs.

Start Up Costs

These items cost more upfront, but they facilitate smart food choices and will save you money in the long run:

  • High quality, stackable Tupperware that won’t leak all over your bag.
  • If you’re a coffee addict, I’d recommend an aeropress. It’s easier to clean than a French press and makes better coffee. Plus, it’ll save you from spending $4 on Starbucks every day or, even worse, drinking hotel coffee. HERE is a demo of how to use an aeropress (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yd6MvZLTO-w)
  • A fellow cast mate had a blender, which I thought was genius. If my future holds another tour, I will certainly get one.
  • In the camper van, we bought a cheap sandwich press that made boring sandwiches much tastier. Funny how much better cheese is when it’s melted…
  • A blanket, pillow, and noise cancelling headphones/ear plugs. Never underestimate the value of sleep for your total health and wellbeing!

Now that you have the basics, let’s dive in!

1. Become a hotel room chef

Just because you are living in hotel rooms doesn’t mean you should approach each meal like you’re on vacation. Going grocery shopping and becoming a hotel room chef is essential for facilitating frugal and smart choices.

Here are some of my go-tos:

  • A bag of spinach and a bag of frozen veg
  • Hummus or some other type of dip/dressing
  • Microwaveable rice pouches
  • Rotisserie chicken (TIP: take all the meat off when it’s warm!)
  • Oats: Make ‘em hot or throw together “overnight oats” to eat later on the bus. I personally love proats with banana and honey as pre-show fuel
  • Cans of soup, Greek yogurt, frozen dinners, and instant noodles are solid frugal options as well.
  • Sriracha… because it makes everything taste better 🙂

If a simple protein, rice, and veg has you yawning, get creative! Microwaves are surprisingly versatile cooking appliances.  You can make omelets in a mug, quesadillas, loaded potatoes, single serve lasagna, and various egg casseroles.

I’m no Rachel Ray,  but I love trying slightly outrageous things in the kitchen. I read online that a hotel room iron could be transformed into  a cooking appliance. Sold! I whipped up a  grilled cheese (https://thefrugalfoodies.com/2019/12/15/hotel-hacks-iron-grilled-cheese/) and some S’mores (https://thefrugalfoodies.com/2019/12/17/hotel-hacks-iron-smores/). Let’s just say success is the eye of the eater….

Be sure to put that Tupperware to work and meal prep for tomorrow’s bus ride lunch!

Bonus Tip!!! Pick up a bottle of wine, 6 pack of beer, or spirits of choice.

Let’s face it, you’ll want a post-show drink. Having something on hand will save you from paying $$$ at the hotel bar.

2. Stock Up a Small Pantry

Having a “pantry” (aka a food bag) that you can take from hotel to hotel is a life saver. Sometimes the bus will pull into a service plaza that only has one food option. Or you might not get to your hotel until 9pm after the grocery stores are closed. Or maybe your hunger is on it’s own timeline. Having quick, easy food on hand means you don’t have to spend money at Burger King if you don’t want to and that you have the ability to eat on your own time. Plus, a peanut butter sandwich and protein shake are 1/3rd the price of a grilled chicken sandwich.

 My staples:

  • Protein powder
  • Protein bar
  • Peanut butter plus some sort of item you can put it on (bread, wraps, rice cakes, etc.)
  • Fruit and crunchy veg  
  • A can of  baked beans (I opt for the low added sugar variety): I didn’t jump on the baked bean bandwagon until living in a camper van, and now I’m obsessed! It’s a cheap, filling source of protein and carbs. Plus, if you have Tupperware full of steamed veg you made in the hotel the night before, the sauce is a great dressing.
  • Tuna: DO NOT I repeat DO NOT open a tin of  tuna on a bus. Your cast will not appreciate the lingering aroma, guaranteed.  However, it’s a great source of protein when on the go.

Bonus Tip!!!:  Have a treat on hand!

It can be hard to resist splurging on food when everyone around you is dipping waffle fries into thick chocolate milkshakes. Food envy can demolish your budget and upend your health goals if you aren’t careful. As a Dancer Who Lifts, you know you can 100% enjoy a Chick-fil-A milkshake or an order of fries. You also know that neither will set you up for feeling and performing your best. Having a treat on hand is a weapon against the splurge. I LOVE chocolate. Having a couple squares usually puts my food envy at bay while saving major $$$ in the long run.

3. Take advantage of the breakfast buffet

Nothing is more frugal than free! Free hotel buffets can fuel you up all day with a little strategy and Tupperware action.  Fill up in the morning on the hotline eggs, sausage, bacon, oatmeal and whatever else that is best served warm. Snag a couple yogurts and mix them with protein powder for lunch or a snack. Whip up a PB&J sandwich for your Tupperware to have on hand.

Don’t forget about the bananas, apples, and cereal boxes!  Fruits and dry cereal are easy snacks that are perfect for long stints on the highway. 

Bonus Tip!!!  I love having breakfast salads. On tour, I would often steam up  some broccoli in the microwave, throw in a handful of spinach,  then take it to the breakfast buffet to add hardboiled eggs, salsa, and  perhaps some sausage if I was feeling frisky.

4. Pick and Choose When You Eat Out

Going out to eat is  fun, and it’s something you should enjoy!  Budgeting your macros is a great strategy for enjoying that Chick-Fil-A chocolate shake. Budgeting your dollars is  great way to afford a dinner out. Opting for Tupperware meals over fast food on the road allows the financial freedom to check out a cool local dining spot. You’ll remember that epic burger you got at a trendy craft brewery. You won’t remember that Panera panini.

Pro Tip: A money and macro saving strategy that works me on the road and in life is choosing between getting a drink out or getting a meal out. Splurging for a margarita and tacos is a recipe for a $50 tab (you’ll want the guac… let’s be honest.) Having a plan on choosing one or the other cuts that bill in half. Another strategy is to share an entrée or appetizer and to pregame dinner with a snack 🙂 

5. Have an online coach!

Making smart, frugal food choices is important for ensuring  peak performance, but so is sticking to a gym routine. Being on the road means you probably won’t have access to a normal gym. Having an online coach makes it possible to keep up with your fitness goals. Obviously, I’m biased towards Dancer’s Who Lift  🙂 On tour, not only were my workouts designed to help me get through the demanding show injury free, but I could just snap a photo of the (usually crappy) hotel gym and Amber would help me adjust the workouts accordingly. Is having a personal trainer frugal? Well, would you pay, let’s say $200, to reduce your risk of spraining an ankle or tearing your ACL? I know my answer!

Life on the road is fun and exciting, and you can 100% maintain a balanced diet with adequate nutrition without breaking the bank. These 5 tips will set you up for success !

Hungry  for more Frugal Tips? Check out Katie’s previous guest post with DWL HERE, https://dancerswholift.com/2020/04/10/inexpensive-eats/

Cross Training for Dancers: Mastering the Basics

Let’s paint a picture… You log in to Instagram and on your “discover” page you see a snatched, muscular woman in a clean, brightly painted space performing a burpee-lunge-deadlift-handstand.

“That’s impressive”, you may say to yourself.

“I wish I could do that”.

So what happens next?

One of two things…

You’ll spend the next 45 minutes of your gym time attempting this feat of strength… only to wind up twinging your neck, hurting your back, or winded… but not really sure where you’re supposed to be ‘feeling’ it… 

OR

You save the video to a folder full of similar impressive-but-risky moves and workouts that you may (but probably, definitely won’t) attempt at a later date.

Now picture this…

You are sitting in the audience of your favorite dance company (ya know, when theaters were open), eyes wide with appreciation for the artists on stage.

A graceful dancer in nude-colored shorts and a delicate top appears out of the wings- effortlessly transitioning to the floor, turning and stopping on a dime, extending their leg for the gods.

That same thought passes through your mind, “I wish I could do that.”

When you leave the theater, will you attempt the choreography you just witnessed in the hopes of achieving the same level of talent as that professional?

Chances are, probably not.

You recognize that the performer you saw has built a strong foundation of technique and is now able to blend artistry with movement, pulling skills from their dance toolbox. 

 

It may “inspire” you to get in a ballet class, though.

 

So tell me… 

Why is it when we see ~cool ~and complicated workouts we feel that replicating it will be the path to executing it?

More importantly, do we even stop to question what the desired result is from nailing that awesome move? 

 

If you’re familiar with DWL, you know that we are huge proponents of form over just about everything. The way your ballet teacher may be a stickler with how your passé is performed, the same goes for your workouts with DWL.

 

We promise we won’t whack you with a big wooden stick (or was that just my teacher?) but we will emphasize that you have mastered the basic moves before adding complexity.

 

The reason being- form is your technique.

Form is your foundation for everything, and building a house on an unstable foundation… well you get the analogy.

 

Just as tendus and pliés are your staples for ballet, or isolations and step ball changes for jazz, strength training has its staples as well.

 

BUT WHAT ARE THEY!?

 

…I thought you’d never ask.

 

Now while there are many “basic” movements we can talk about, I am highlighting 4 moves below that are essential to your success in the gym (and in the studio!) They also require little or no equipment, so you can practice them practically anywhere!

 

For more info on why training is essential for dancers, read this.

Essential Move #1 

Hinge: Hip hinge

A hip hinge is one of our most important and fundamental moves to master because it is the basis for many movements including RDLs, deadlifts, squats, lunges, yoga poses, picking up your pup, etc. The benefits of a mastered hip hinge help overall strength, hip stability, motor control, and connection between your core and glutes, to name just a few. 

 

What does this mean for you as a dancer?

More controlled adagios, higher developpés, and more refined transitions (again, just to name A FEW).

 

Set up: Find a comfortable stance hip width distance apart, knees relaxed.

 

Cues:

  • Brace the abs and root feet into floor.
  • Think of hips being pulled back with a rope to initiate the hinge. 
  • Think of squeezing a piece of paper between the armpits to keep upper body active.
  • Keep a minimal bend in the knees while maximally hinging in the hips.
  • You can use a wall for immediate feedback by starting with back on wall, takings 2-3 steps forward and performing the hinge. When your butt hits the wall, stand back up.

 

Essential Move #2

Squat: Bodyweight Squat

You are probably familiar with squats and understand them as a basic movement in exercise and strength training. The distinction between a hinge and a squat is the knee involvement- while a hinge has minimal knee flexion, a squat asks for maximal knee and hip flexion. Squats help with overall strength, hip stability & mobility, and lower body muscle definition. Mastering the squat builds a base for other knee dominant moves like lunge variations, step-ups, and single leg squat variations. Unilateral exercises increase our balance, coordination, strength, and power potential.

 

This means higher jumps, cleaner turns, and being “that person” at the barre balancing long after the pianist stops playing.

 

Set up: To find your natural squat stance, lie on your back and bring your knees in to your chest and hip-width distance. Stand up and find this position standing. This is your starting squat stance. 

 

Cues:

  • Root feet into floor, shorten the distance between ribs and pelvis, knees and hips break together.
  • Hips sit back, hips parallel (or lower) than your knees (without tucking).
  • Drive to come up (think about pushing floor away in a plié) and stand straight up.

 

 

Essential Move #3

PushPushup

I’ll bet most of us have been asked to do pushups in a dance class but were never taught how. Pushups are essential for upper body strength and core stabilization, which translates to anything from porte de bras to performing highly athletic choreography. Pushups can be regressed and progressed in countless variations, some beneficial and some mostly just to look badass. 

 

Set up: Feet slightly apart, hands shoulder-width apart with thumbs in line with your armpit, space between scapula to lock position 

 

Cues:

  • Body like an arrow as you bend the elbows down and out (45 degrees with elbows).
  • Lower towards the floor, keeping body in line and chest an inch off the floor.
  • Exhale as you drive back up to starting position.

 

Variations: If the bodyweight pushup is not happening right now, there are many ways we can regress this move to help build up strength (wall, incline, eccentric, etc.).

Check out the pushup highlight reel on the DWL IG for more tips and tricks!

 

Essential Move #4

Pull: Seated Row

Back muscles are truly the backbone of our dancing… I KNOW I KNOW. 

 

But seriously, imagine trying to get through a class (of any genre) without your back.

That is why strength training your posterior chain (a fancy phrase for your back muscle groups) are extremely important for your dance training- these include your lats, glutes, and hamstrings just to name a few players. Seated rows are a great introduction to pulling movements. They help to improve posture, core stability, and a connection between the upper and lower halves.

 

Set up: You will need a band or cable machine to perform this move. Set up the band or cable so that it is directly in line with your arms. 

 

Cues:

  • Extend your arms out like you’re reaching for a hug, arms straight.
  • Retract your shoulder blades.
  • Exhale and pull elbows back and in towards the bottom of your ribcage.
  • Extend back out and repeat.

The base for our strength training is so important because it is also the base for our dance training. Progress in the gym has shown to increase stability, strength, endurance, coordination, and flexibility (YUP) in the studio.  

 

It makes sense to approach your workouts just like dance classes- you can’t do the ending combo full out with feeling until you’ve gone through your basics.

So don’t attempt that move the ~fitfluencer~ posted until you’ve done (and MASTERED) your hinges, squats, pulls & pushes.

 

If you are tired of program hopping or trying to keep up with the workout “trends”, reach out to see if you would be a good fit for our 1:1 coaching. 

 

& Remember: if someone calls your training “basic”, take it as a compliment. 

Xox Coach Marissa Graham

8 Reasons You’re A Bottomless Pit at Night

Imagine this, you’re focused on your goals, determined to make it happen. You’re so good all day long but then, as soon as the full moon rises, the beast within you is unleashed… 
You woof down treats.
Double portions.
And snack until your jaw gets tired… only then, as you lick the Cheeto dust off your fingers with melted chocolate outlining your mouth, do you realize the monster that you’ve become… Here is 8 reason why that’s happening (and 8 solutions!)

5 Home Workouts

I understand that for many of us the next 4-8 weeks come with an uncomfortable amount of uncertainty. But in a time where so much is out of your control there are still many things that are within your control… your attitude and mindset are always within your control.
Good luck with this workout and remember to share the challenge-board on Instagram!

You’re not doomed it’s D.O.M.S.

As a professional dancer, many of us chase the “burn” in our workouts or push ourselves to our physical limit in class.
However that soreness can, and ultimately will, stall your progress or even lead to injury.
Here’s why your muscles ache and what to do about it so you can keep moving and grooving.

Facts on Fats for Dancers

Dietary fats are essential for a healthy body; from vitamin absorption, to joint protection, to hormone synthesis fats are worth their weight in gold in a balanced diet.
So ditch the “fat makes you fat” mentality and check out exactly why dancers need fats and how many are optimal for you!

Dancers and Carbs

Carbohydrates are essential for dancers but unfortunately so much misinformation has been spread that many performers fear or even avoid adequate carb intake.
This article will serve to bust those myths and hopefully excite you to fuel your best dance body with plenty of carbs.

Inexpensive Eats

Life as a performer is expensive. Shoes, shows, lattes, and happy hours are all fun things to drop a few dollars on. But you know what you can’t live without? Food.

Food is a necessary expense, and we have to have it to perform, dance, lift, walk, breath, and, well, survive. You’re a savvy dancer who lifts, so you already know how important fueling your body is, which means you probably know how quickly money can go when you prioritize making healthy, smart food choices. While food may be your most important expense, it doesn’t have to be your biggest. Here are 5 tips to eat well, save money, and get hot.