Traveling with kids and a real food goal isn’t easy, especially if you have any who get carsick (we have two!).
Throw in trying to be on a budget, and everyone who does it deserves a blue ribbon “Super Parent” award!
Hotel Rooms, Swimming, Real Food, & Kids
We’re not really regular spring break travelers, but this year we thought we’d do a “mini vacay” and stay in a hotel overnight so that the kids could escape the grayness of April and swim in a pool and have fun.
We had a baby shower to go to about two hours away and figured it was a perfect time to do it, but we knew that one night goes FAST! No way did we want to spend 1-2 hours at a restaurant (with kids) and even ordering in would be tough to time perfectly with all the swimming my kids wanted to do.
For the record, we checked in at like 5:00 (the baby shower was long!), swam, ate dinner, went to sleep, woke up, at breakfast, swam, ate lunch, and swam again. We got an extension on checkout time because it was a Monday. They were fish!
And what did we have for dinner, you ask?
It took me about 10 minutes, tops, to throw it all together once we arrived, and then we jumped in the pool while it cooked itself, returning to the room famished. Ta da! A real food dinner was perfectly ready to eat.
No way could we have timed even pizza delivery that well! And our meal was so much more nourishing and frugal.
Packing for the Instant Pot in a Hotel Room (or any on-the-go opportunity)
It definitely takes some planning ahead, but it wasn’t difficult. I was able to prep for the away-from-home dinner during dinner prep time two days before we left when I was team-working with my kids on a meal (they know how to cook!).
We used this boneless pork BBQ rib recipe, and here’s what I did to prep half a batch, because I didn’t want leftovers to deal with:
- Sliced the onion and put in a disposable cottage cheese tub with the 1 Tbs. solid fat (coconut oil or lard) right on top.
- Measured the “rub” spices into a small baggie.
- Measured the “sauce” spices, vinegar, and tomato paste into a one-cup watertight container (the metal one in the photo). The recipe calls for 1 cup tomato sauce and 1 cup water or broth, but since I was cutting it in half and I know the IP requires a full cup of liquid, I decided to use half a can of tomato paste and the full cup of water.)
- Opened a package of Costco boneless ribs and put just enough for our family into a large-sized yogurt tub and froze it. The rest of the package of ribs was frozen for another meal or two.
- Packed a long wooden spoon, the Instant Pot, and some paper plates and real utensils (in a reusable sandwich bag).
To complete the meal, we made a batch of potato salad, one of our favorites, and we knew it would be ready-when-we-are, plus cut raw veggies and homemade ranch dressing dip (just enough for one meal, no leftovers hopefully!).
Storing Food for the Trip
We had a full-sized cooler with some heavy-duty ice packs and all this stuff in it, and it was plenty safe for a full 36 hours, because we went to a museum (and got caught in a freak April snowstorm walking back to our van!), visited a friend in the area, and stayed overnight with family the night before the baby shower.
Note: Obviously we weren’t battling heat outdoors like you might in the summer. But we have a really good cooler that we take camping, and I’m sure it would have been okay even in high temps with all the ice packs.
Did our hotel room have a fridge? Only a tiny mini-fridge that we could fit a few items in. Freezing the meat was key for food safety, and in case it hadn’t thawed completely, the Instant Pot can totally handle frozen meat safely as well.
Making Food in a Hotel Room with the Instant Pot
I have to admit: I was a little nervous that the delicious smells would bring hotel management knocking and telling me I couldn’t cook in a hotel room, but thankfully, it didn’t happen!
I was able to dump the onions out, fat first, into the IP on Saute, stir them around until browned, and then simply follow the easy recipe the rest of the way. I used the one-cup container to measure the water for the Instant Pot and added a tiny bit extra just to be safe.
We did pretty well not having any leftovers, and I had packed a double of potato salad because I knew we needed lunch the next day:
Yum. We love that stuff so much.
Yes! Real Food is Possible While Traveling!
We packed food for lots of snacks, one or two lunches, two breakfasts, and one dinner (and ate out with our relatives for the other), and it looked something like this:
- Lots of whole fruit
- some Larabars (which I can make homemade but didn’t find the time)
- homemade yogurt (one quart jar in the mini fridge)
- natural applesauce cups
- potato salad
- cereal (because Sunday is cereal day) and a small amount of milk
- gluten-free crackers and cheese
- homemade gluten-free pumpkin muffins for breakfast and snacks
There might have been a few other items in the dry goods bag, maybe some organic tortilla chips (thank you, Costco!) and salsa to round out lunches or some hard-boiled eggs in the fridge.
Simple fare, but nourishing, simple, budget-friendly, and on our time, not a restaurant’s.
I was so pleasantly surprised at how easy cooking with an Instant Pot in a hotel room (of all places!) could really be. You can get the Instant Pot I have on Amazon – I recommend watching the price using camelcamelcamel.com because it will fluctuate and can hit very nice lows on Prime Day and before Christmas!
Cleaning Up Was Easy Too
I just used some dish soap that we have in a small container for camping anyway and did a small batch of dishes in the bathroom sink, laying out everything to dry on clean towels on the counter.
There wasn’t much to bother with: some utensils, the pot itself + lid, and the bowl from the potato salad. I tossed the plastic containers (actually I think I brought all the “juices” home with me in one of them and made BBQ rice for an easy side the next day). It took about 10 minutes after the kids went to bed, when the parents are stuck in a dark hotel room trying to be quiet anyway. 😉
What ELSE Can You Do with Your Instant Pot?
- 10 Basic Techniques (rice, eggs, squash, chicken, potatoes and more!)
- How to Make Slow Cooker Recipes in the Instant Pot (just use your favs!)
- How to Cook Frozen Ground Beef in the Instant Pot
- Paleo Cauliflower Rice in the Instant Pot (so quick!)
- Mexican Lentils and Rice, an easy main dish (vegetarian or chicken)
- 10 Super Easy IP Recipes (even my husband could make them!)
- Smoky Mexican Chicken Soup
- Curried Lemon Coconut Chicken
- Italian Lentil One-Pot Meal
- Apple Cranberry Steel Cut Oats in the Instant Pot