Weekend Food Prep: Travel-Friendly Foods that Support Your Goals on a Road Trip

Warm weather, COVID vaccines and the wide open road!

My spouse and I have decided that the safest way to enjoy summer travel this year is to keep to our car and explore the outdoor spaces in driving distance of our home. Lucky for us, we live in a beautiful part of the world! But what to do about food? We’re not ready to eat indoors with strangers of unknown vaccination status, yet. So, I went on a shopping trip, and the plan is to mostly eat picnic-style, supplementing with take-out when that stuff gets too monotonous or when the local specialty–wild huckleberry pie!!!–is too good to pass up.

My biggest priority for healthy eating while traveling is making sure I get in my protein and maximize opportunities for fresh fruit and vegetables. Available carbs and fats may be lower quality than I prefer, but they are easy and plentiful at any convenience store or restaurant meal.

Proteins: (no refrigeration needed) Jerky; canned or pouch fish–sardines, tuna, salmon; hard salami; canned chicken; canned shrimp; shelf-stable tofu; protein powder and/or protein bars; single serve soy milks or shelf-stable dairy milk

Proteins: (for the cooler) Individual cups of plain Greek yogurt; hardboiled eggs; low fat breakfast sausage; sliced roasted turkey or other lunch meat; refrigerated tofu, tempeh or seitan

Fruits and Veg: (no refrigeration needed) Individual cups of fruit in juice, canned vegetables, dried fruits, homemade “freggie” roll-ups (recipe below), fresh fruits and veggies that travel well (I prefer harder produce that can be eaten uncooked if it’s going to be a few days or more–apples, carrots, jicama, radishes, celery, cucumber, etc. All of these will be crisp longer in a cooler, but they survive a few days without it, especially if you don’t cut them first.)

Fruits and Veg: (for the cooler) Any fresh produce you like raw and have room for, however note that lettuce, spinach and other greens can easily freeze and become unpleasant when stored in ice; frozen cooked vegetables (leave in their bag and heat in a hotel microwave or eat cold)

Starches: Canned beans and bean salad, rice cakes; whole grain crackers; whole wheat bread or wraps (best the first 2-3 days, if it’s being stored in a hot car); microwave precooked rice (frozen, stored in the cooler, or shelf-stable); oatmeal; granola and granola bars; whole grain cereals

Fats: Nut butters, hard cheeses, nuts and seeds, individual half-and-half creamers (no cooler needed)

Premade foods for the hotel microwave: Couscous mixes, precooked noodles and noodle soups(1) (ramen, soba bowls, etc.), curry sauces (to enjoy with protein and rice), pasta sauces, canned soups and chili

Condiments and beverages: Coffee, tea, salt and pepper, hot pepper flakes, whatever spices you habitually use and would miss; this is a great way to use up those random leftover packets from your take-out meals–soy sauce, spicy mustard, ketchup, etc.

Don’t forget a can opener, forks, knives, spoons, microwave-safe bowls and plates, and a mug!

(1) I recognize that these are far from the healthiest options. I don’t mind having one meal a day that is a bit less than optimal than I’m used to. I try to eat them with lots of veggies and protein, and since they are cheap, I have no problem throwing out half of it after dinner, if it’s more than I need. Besides, it’s good to have something around that can sit in the car forever and fill your belly.

Homemade “Freggie” Roll-ups

  1. Blend together: 1 cup applesauce or homemade apple puree, 1-2 ripe bananas (depending on how sweet you want the final product), plus 1/2 – 1 cup (total) of one or more of the following

cooked hardy greens (like kale) or raw spinach

boiled or roasted carrots, yams or sweet potatoes, beets

frozen veggies (you can just throw in frozen) (I find broccoli and brussels sprouts too bitter for this use, but cauliflower, green beans, peas, and similar “sweet” vegetables work well)

You can make the final product even sweeter by including some berries, grapes, a few dried dates, or other sweet, low-pectin fruits.

2. Once you have a puree with uniform texture, place on a lightly oiled fruit leather tray and follow the directions of your food dehydrator until dried but still flexible. For mine, this is about 12 hours at 135oF.

3. Place finished roll-up in plastic wrap, roll and store in a plastic bag in the fridge until ready to travel. I have had these up to a year after making them, and they’re still delicious.

Do you plan on traveling with some or all of your food this summer? What foods will you be taking with you?

Photo description: an oddly blurry photo of some of my road foods ready to go–noodles, jerky, rice cakes, cans of shrimp, peanut butter and peaches. Maybe I need to buy a new camera?

Feature Image Credit, Dino Reichmuth, via Unsplash

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