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Don't forget to pack a meal

(ran SPTP, ST editions)

Traveling for business or pleasure has become a way of life, and today many of us face mealtimes on airplanes. Peanuts or pretzels have become a dismal kind of meal substitute for passengers.

More and more, airlines are discontinuing free meal service in an effort to cut costs.

Often it's a choice between grabbing a quick snack fix or _ the latest trend _ purchasing meals offered for sale in-flight.

Why not outsmart the airlines, cut down the cost of an already expensive plane ticket as well as calories, and pack your own food to eat on the plane?

Take along a meal in appropriate plastic containers, square, round or rectangular sandwich keepers, perfect for snacks or wraps.

Make your long flight more bearable by creating fun meals to eat en route.

Try variations. For example, instead of making a plain turkey sandwich with lettuce, tomato and mayo on white bread, make a turkey wrap, and add roasted red peppers or caramelized onions.

If you are watching your waistline, grill some chicken, along with flavorful vegetables and put them in a rectangular resealable plastic container.

Flying across country?

Prepare for the trip by making a portable version of a favorite entree; take along a salad with nuts, and a side serving of vinaigrette stored in a small leak-free plastic container.

Pack a snack of carrots or celery with peanut butter to fend off mid-flight hunger pains. Crave something salty? Pack chips and a variety of dipping sauces such as hummus, baba ghanoush and salsa in small containers.

If you are traveling with kids, tailor your menu for them: Carry cereal, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fresh or dried fruit, and milk, water or juice drinks for the flight.

To keep your food and beverages cold, put them in a cooler tote.

Remember: Preparing your own packed meals in advance is a great alternative to buying costly, fat-laden meals in the airport, and a sensible choice for people with health concerns or finicky kids.