If you’re already at the airport, it’s not too late. Truly, not all hope is lost.
There's no world where we think paying $24.99 for two slices of pizza and a coke is okay. Here's how to avoid expensive airport food if you're already at the terminal, and more importantly, how to avoid it in the future.
Hot tip: If you can stave off the hunger for a little bit, wait to purchase food onboard the plane. Besides it not actually being as bad as you think, it’s generally more reasonable—and cheaper—than the food in the airport terminal.
Buy onboard airline food instead.
Here’s something I've noticed over the years: The airline food (that you pay for) is noticeably more reasonable than airport food.
Recently at JFK, at Delta’s terminal 4, two slices of pizza and a drink were $15.99, while a whole pizza cost $20+ at the nearby Pizza Vino. Alternatively, near the gate, there were some unappealing, prepackaged sushi options starting at $18.
Delta’s onboard chicken salad sandwich plate, comparatively, came with some fruit and a sweet treat for $12. It was perfectly satisfying.
Most importantly, it was more than enough to satiate me for the full 5-hour, 43-minute flight time from New York (JFK) to Los Angeles (LAX), which was really the whole point.
Find a Farmer's Fridge at the airport.
No, we are not sending you off on a video game maze in the airport.
Farmer's Fridge is a company that sells fresh sandwiches, wraps, and bowls from a vending machine all at reasonable prices. There's no waiting in line or selling your soul for something healthy-ish at the airport.
For example, the Baja Bowl I ordered from JFK only cost $8.70 total, earned me $4.70 in green rewards, and prevented me from eating my own arm off. (I get hangry.)
Each machine is also staffed with cutlery; though our machine was missing them, it was easily rectified by asking for utensils at a nearby airport restaurant.
(FYI, this is not a sponsored plug! We encountered the company last year at a conference in New York, and were happily reminded of them on a recent flight out at JFK.)
The company started when Luke Saunders, a traveling salesman, couldn't find fresh, healthy options available and was resorting to candy and chips at gas stations to fuel his long drives.
These days, Farmer's Fridge has an app for iOS and the Google Play store. The app allows users to quickly located a vending machine, reserve food, and earn rewards toward their next purchase. (New app users can get $5 off their first order.)
Their main clients seem to be large institutions like hospitals and, of course, airports. They have 70+ airport locations; primarily serving markets like New York, Los Angeles, Dallas Fort-Worth, Cincinnati, and Chicago at the moment.
For the next time, pack your own lunch for the plane.
Flight attendants do it, frequent fliers do it, everyone does it. This isn't the high school cafeteria, and there is no one to impress.
Not only is airplane food prepared much differently than food on the ground (fun fact! our palates change 30,000 feet in the air), it's also just downright cheaper.
In an ideal world, I always swing by the grocery store a day before the flight and pick up something like a salad or sandwich wrap I can throw in my bag for the day of departure.
(This procedure is for morning flights, so you're not rushing! If you have a daytime flight, there are obviously fresher options if you can build some time in at the store before heading to the airport.)
Besides, security and flight crew will likely not blink twice at the food (it's not a personal item, it's your lunch). By the time you hit the ground, it will likely have emptied into the vast expanse of your stomach, anyways.
Grocery ready to-go meals are perfect for the plane.
Generally speaking, grocery store pre-packed meals are better-tasting and healthier than the food offered at the airport or on the airline.
If anything, it’s on par with airline food, which, in our humble opinion, is far superior than anything in the terminal.
Something like this:
Grocery store food > Airline food > Airport food
Even that weird Trader Joe’s wrap for $7? It’s a better option than anything else. (Come on, it's time we admit those things aren't great.)