I know some of you read that title and were like, “yeah, Kathryn, it’s called an oxymoron.” Most of the time when we travel, it’s a combination of food we take, food we buy and food we eat at friends’ houses.
Enter, a global pandemic.
When we decided to embark on a 9-day road trip from Texas to Utah, we felt like it was prudent (and more safe and affordable) to prepare all our meals, or at least take the food with us so we could prepare them while on the road. So, here’s the skinny on how we did it. I pray it helps you, too!
We made this simple: breakfast tacos. What can I say? We’re Texan! Our packing list included bacon, sausage, corn tortillas, shredded cheese, orange juice and milk. We bought the eggs at our first destination because traveling with those just did not sound smart. We froze the meat and thawed it out at our AirBNB. Most nights, we cooked the meat so the next morning all we had to do was heat it up. It made for must less stressful mornings since we were leaving early for morning hikes in national parks. We also brought along bread for toasting and even used leftover hamburger buns one morning. Ha!
Helloooooo, Costco. Seriously, we loaded up on every gluten-free snack they make (one of our kids is GF for medical reasons): gummi bears, fruit snacks, jerky, nuts, trail mix, rice krispy bars (come on, it’s a road trip!), chips, salsa, rice rollers, pirate’s booty, crackers and popcorn. Each morning, the kids each chose 4-5 snacks for the day. That way, I don’t serve as the flight attendant. It worked beautifully.
We made these the night before and just packed the staples: bread, peanut butter, honey, nutella, jelly, lunch meat/cheese, string cheese, fruit and chips. It needed to be easy and portable since we were hiking or driving every day. There was only one day we carried it with us in our backpacks. Typically, we packed it in our van coolers and drove to a picnic spot. I recommend packing a vinyl tablecloth (to cover those gross tables), baby wipes, hand sanitizer, a knife and paper towels.
Our dinner menu included: tacos, tostados, sausage/GF pasta with garlic bread, hamburgers, hotdogs and sheet pan nachos. We ate fast food two nights and sandwiches the other night. We cooked all the meat before we left and then froze it in plastic bags.
With the exception of 48 water bottles and two big water jugs, we brought all this with us: sparkling water, bottled water, four water jugs, Dr Pepper and Shiner beer. You can thank me later for that last one. The kids also brought their water bottles for the van and we used camel backs/water buffaloes for the hikes.
HOW WE PACKED IT ALL
A few years ago, we finally got rid of our cheap coolers and saved for YETIs that actually keep things cold. It was an investment that made sense for us since we road trip often. We brought four coolers with us: YETI 110, two YETI 45s and one Hopper Flip 18. The key to keeping your food cold (or frozen) is to bring the coolers inside your house the morning before you leave, getting them to room temperature. Then, put in a “burner bag” of ice to really cool them down. Meanwhile, either freeze or put the items you’re packing in the fridge to get them cold. The morning you leave, pack the food/drinks, add more ice and lock them down. Don’t open them until you’re ready. The big 110 cooler we used 5 pounds of dry ice on the first day, then added another 5 pounds the following travel day and everything in there stayed ICE cold. We picked up our dry ice at the grocery store. We only opened the cooler to add more dry ice and then we locked it back down. I’m not a brand ambassador for YETI, but I sure could be because these things are legit and I’m a super fan! As for snacks, those just went into soft-sided resusable bags that we collapsed down at the end of the trip.
On long driving days, we tried to stop (or bring) at places for a fun treat, either using curbside delivery or online ordering. These are just a few treats we all enjoyed for great behavior in the van for all those hours!
JUST HOW MUCH?
Every family is different, but I just did a mental check of how much we ate in a single week, taking into account that we would probably eat a little less breakfast and a few more snacks. We’ve done this enough that I guessed about right. We threw out very little perishable food before driving home and we came home with about 10 snacks. My kids cleaned me out!
If there’s anything I missed, or you have other questions, just leave them in the comments. And remember, it’s not about being fancy on the trip, it’s about getting it done.