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When you’re on the go and in a hurry, eating food in the car is a convenient way to quell your appetite. It’s also good to have some food for a long road trip. However, a meal in your vehicle can result in crumbs and stains, particularly if driving on a bumpy road. Here are some tips for how to eat food in a car without making a mess. 

Utilize a food bag and trash bag while eating in the car

Woman eating a pizza in a vehicle, highlighting how to eat food in a car without making a mess
Woman eating food in car | gbarkz via Unsplash

When you have multiple items of food throughout your car, the chance of a mess increases. Alternatively, consolidate these items in one food bag or container to limit the crumbs and spills. Also, place the food bag in an area where all of the passengers can access it. Another benefit of consolidating your items in a food bag is it frees up more storage space. 

In addition to a food bag, put a trash bag in your vehicle. To avoid any waste build-up, throw away any trash in the bag as soon as you’re done using it. Also, be sure to empty and replace the trash bag as needed. Additionally, instead of using a large trash bag, you can use a small grocery bag. 

Use a wide surface to eat in your vehicle

While eating, it can be challenging to avoid crumbs and stains in the cramped quarters and unstable environment of a vehicle. However, using a wide surface can help avoid these problems. As detailed by Cook & Hook, the widest possible surface is the best. Examples include Tupperware, a lunch tray, a cardboard box, and a large plastic bowl. Also, make sure not to use anything that can easily break, such as a glass surface. 

Consume only dry food

Driver holding a bagel sandwich, highlighting how to eat in a car without making a mess
Driver eating food in car | Carson Foreman via Unsplash

Another good way to avoid the messes is to consume only dry food in your car. Wet food can stick to your hands while you eat and then spread to other parts of the vehicle. Also, while dry food can create crumbs, the mess is usually more manageable and doesn’t cause stains like wet food. Additionally, in most cases, the crumbs from dry food can be cleaned up with a vacuum. 

Drink only clear liquids

For beverages, it’s best to drink only clear liquids in the car. Doing so will lessen the chance of stains and bed smells in the cabin of your vehicle. While this might mean holding off on drinking such things as coffee, tea, sodas, and sports drinks, the trade-off is a cleaner interior.

Use hand sanitizer wipes


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While paper towels or napkins are good for cleaning messes in a car, it’s even better to use wet hand sanitizer wipes. Along with cleaning your hands and face, the hand sanitizer wipes can be used to clean and disinfect surfaces that you touched or spilled food or drink. The sanitizer wipes also help mitigate foul odors, leaving your car smelling fresh.

Take the ‘leave no trace’ approach when eating food in the car

When camping or journeying out into nature, the ethics of “leave no trace” is often cited. Ideally, you should take the same approach when eating in your car. When you exit your vehicle, be sure to take any leftover food and trash with you. Also, messes are bound to happen eventually, but if you clean them up right away, they won’t build up into a bigger problem. 

Happy eating on your trips — and stay mess-free while on the road!