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5 Things I Learned From Feeding My Family Real Food On The Road

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Once upon a time my husband and I flew from Missouri to Maryland to look for houses for a week, followed shortly by taking our family on road trip down to Colorado, followed almost immediately by us moving halfway cross country.

Out of four weeks, we were on the road (or plane) for a total of 6 days, and otherwise away from our house for about three weeks.

We needed to eat a lot of food on the road.

Not just any food. While we were doing this we were eating allergy-friendly real food, and doing the GAPS diet?

Yeah. It was a bit crazy, even if you don’t count the day that involved two emergency room trips and our car breaking down.

But, I digress. Back to the food.

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Even if you don’t have allergies or are doing GAPS, I am sure you can agree eating real food is a really smart idea. But, how do you do it when you are on the road and do not have access to the kitchen? 

Through trial and error, lots of trying to convince my kids to eat jerky, and tips from other real foodies, I learned a lot about how to do just that.

In the end eating real food on the road, was totally doable. Much easier than I thought it would be. It just takes some planning, creativity, and lot of ice in your cooler.

RELATED: Do you have to love cooking to eat real food all the time?

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1. Muffin Tins. Muffin Tins. Muffin Tins.

*Angelic Music* Muffin Tins.

I can not take credit for coming up with this idea. I have seen it all over pinterest and a similar idea on instagram. It works like a charm.

Whoever originally come up with this idea deserves the nobel parenting prize. Even my two year old doesn’t make a mess when eating in the car with these.

Simply fill with an assortment of finger ready foods. We would stop by the side of the ride and I would fill them up and hand them out. At our next stop I would wash them to be ready for the next meal.

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2. Rethink The Cold Cuts When it Comes to Protein

Cold cuts are classics for on-the-go and easy meals. Sadly, they are usually filled with less than idea ingredients and/or are priced a less than ideal price.

However, any meat that tastes fine cold, and isn’t messy, will work. This can be things you buy from local farms (such as natural sausages), things you make (such as sliced or shredded chicken), or even things you can get at the store (such as smoked salmon trim or prosciutto as those can usually be found with just 1-2 natural ingredients).

Beyond meat, hard boiled eggs and slices of cheese are good low-mess ideas for protein as well.

Buy and prep ahead of time. If you are taking sausages, slice and bag. You want to be able to just reach in a bag or jar and grab them. If you are buying things in plastic pouches take them out and put them in a resealable bag beforehand.

Trying to open a package of smoked salmon, while you are parked on the side of the highway, without scissors is just the type of scenario you want to avoid.

To recap, some good protein for on the go is:

  • Slices of Chicken
  • Shredded Chicken
  • Chicken Patties made from Seasoned Ground Chicken
  • Slices of Natural Sausages (ones that taste good cold)
  • Smoked Salmon Trim (check for preservatives)
  • Prosciutto (check for preservatives)
  • Hard Boiled Eggs (sliced if desired/you have a little one eating them)
  • Slices of Cheese
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3. Take Finger Ready Fresh Fruits and Veggies

Ok, so this might seem like a complete and total “duh” but I did not think of it until the third stretch on the road. Until then we did not have a lot of freshness in our on-the-go meals and the dried foods and sausages were getting a bit old.

I took an afternoon and prepped a ton of fruits and vegetables for the last few legs of the trip.  I was a little afraid about lasting, but in little baggies in our well iced cooler the fruit and vegetables lasted the 5 days we needed them to.

Basically anything that won’t be messy to eat (i.e. no mango which is slimy or cherries which stain) or will last well (i.e. no avocado or banana) works. 

Finger Ready Fruit and Veggie Ideas:

  • Broccoli (steamed or fresh as prefered)
  • Cherry Tomatoes (halved if you have a toddler)
  • Apple Slices sprinkled with lemon (will brown some if you have them in the cooler for a few days, but still taste fine)
  • Roasted Asparagus (to eat cold)
  • Roasted Carrots (to eat cold)
  • Steamed Carrots
  • Cantaloupe
  • Mushroom Slices
  • Sweet Pepper Slices (we like mini peppers cut into chunks)
  • Lacto-Fermented Dill Pickles (cut up if needed)
  • Lacto-Fermented Carrots
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Planning out your road trip? Make sure you have your road food ready by creating your meal plan in Plan to Eat. Plan to Eat makes it really easy to pop in any internet recipe (like the links in this post!) and then you will have your shopping and prep all ready to go.

4. Food Pouches Rock…

… and I completely underutilized them.

I took a lot of chia pudding, applesauce, and yogurt with us but as we weren’t stopping for most meals we couldn’t really eat them. I wish I had used food pouches. They turn just about any squooshable food into no-mess travel friendly foods.

Even my husband got in on the squooshi action.

Fill them up ahead of time of course, because you don’t want to try to do that on the road. Rinse as soon as you have a chance as dried food in pouches is hard to wash later.

A Few Ideas for Putting in the Pouches:

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5. Take Some Special Treats

Treats aren’t exactly necessary, and you do want to keep it simple, but a few are so worth it. 

When my road weary children found out chocolate was to be had they squealed with such delight it was a pleasure!

We also took some special foods such as fruit leather and dried fruit which they got more frequently.

What We Take for Treats:

So, what about you, have you ever eaten real food on a trip? What are some tips you have to share?

Plan to Eat is a June sponsor receiving their complimentary mention.

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

About The Author

12 thoughts on “5 Things I Learned From Feeding My Family Real Food On The Road”

  1. Do you consider dried fruit such as raisins,prunes or apricot as real food ? Peanut butter now comes in squeeze tubes so easy to serve on crackers , celery , apple ,or carrot slices. I always travel with peanut butter or cheese and crackers due to chronic health issues. Muffin tin use is awesome.

  2. I really appreciate your suggestions. Anything extra for extra long trips? We’ll be driving for a whole month, 21+ stops, with occasional access to a fridge or kitchen, and a 1.5 year-old.

  3. So timely as we are about to take a road trip! We always bring a cooler full of food but we have never used muffin tins – what a great idea! I think I would even brave putting yogurt or applesauce in the tins for the older kids. something our kids love is jicama, which is easy to cut up beforehand, as well as fresh green beans. I can’t wait to read other comments and ideas!

    1. Gisrose, we love jicama too! We sprinkle it with a seasoning mix (like mexican or ranch) and have it as an afternoon snack. It’s too starchy for GAPS so we personally aren’t eating it right now, but that is a really great idea. If you had cups or silicone muffin liners that would make clean up from yogurt and applesauce easier (for older kids! I wouldn’t dare with my 6,4, and 2 crew)

  4. Great Ideas! I will definitely try it when I need to be on the road.
    By the way, you mentioned that you would wash the muffin tins at your next stop to be ready to use for the meal time. It may be seems a silly question, but how do you wash them? in the sink of public restroom? so you brought dish soap and sponge too?


  5. Bananas and avocados can still work if you (a) get them a little bit greener than you normally would (they will ripen in a warm car) and (b) cut them immediately before eating rather than peeling and cubing ahead of time like you would apples and hardier fruit. Bananas are great with peanut butter on rice cakes. But get the brand name rice cakes, as the generic tend to crumble.

    1. Debra @ Worth Cooking

      Oh, I could see that working. I was just trying to avoid cutting in the car, but if you were stopping for meals that would work great. I did take a knife and cutting board with us.

  6. My husband and I have a weekly 12 hour car trip and I always take real food. Even without kids it requires planning. I like fruit, yoghurt and salami and cheese as staples and then try and make a salad, but it’s often bread and tinned sardines. Still a lot better than road house food!

    1. I agree Lucy! Bread is great and salami and cheese sounds great! We took salami and cheese when my husband and I flew to Maryland, and I was going to take crackers for our family trip (easier then bread with out allergies) but we ate them all before we got out of the house!

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