It all started when we wanted to pay off our debt.
But we also wanted to travel.
Must figure out a way to cut expenses….eating out was so expensive….home cooked meals were so much cheaper! What if we took our food with us? There were logistics to work out, I had to get to know my crockpot more personally, I had to find foods that reheated easily and could be neglected for long periods of time while we attended sessions at the conference we attended…
But, it worked. We were gone 5 days and only ate out 3 of our meals. Score! Now we bring most of our food whenever we travel anywhere–including by plane, and even with 5 kids!
Here’s a video explaining just how I go about choosing which meals to bring and how to pull of this feat without stress.
3 Tips for Travel Food
Here’s a recap of the video:
Choose meals you know your family will love. This is not the time to make massive strides toward micro managing your carbs or going sugar free….the whole point of taking your food with you on the road is to save money and eat healthier. Almost anything you make in your kitchen is going to be healthier by far than fast food, so relax and choose meals that will be gobbled up so you have no waste. This doesn’t have to mean a complete compromise–I’m just asking that you not stress out about your choices, because you’ve already made the healthiest choice in choosing to cook from scratch!
Choose meals that are easy to heat and serve. Sure, you can do cold cuts and sandwiches all week, but I’m talking about taking REAL meals with us, people! Hot, nourishing, yummy, and filling. But you want meals that aren’t too complicated: choose meals with only one element that needs to be heated so that you don’t have to bring multiple crockpots. Choose meals without fancy layers or condiments so you can just scoop and serve and devour. (Especially important if you have kids. You can get a little more gourmet if it’s just you and/or your spouse, but how much time do you REALLY want to spend cooking while on vacation, or rushing to eat between sessions at a business conference?)
Begin prepping 3 weeks out. I’m not kidding–this is the true secret to doing this without losing your mind, from one who’s been there. Decide what you’re having 3 weeks in advance of your trip, then plan each of those meals into your menu in the following week. Then, each time you make it, double it and freeze half. If at least one meal a day is a ‘double and freeze’ meal, you will painlessly stock your freezer without feeling like you did any extra cooking!
Best Real Food Meals to Freeze and Enjoy on the Road
- Baked Oatmeal*^ (make ahead in muffin form, reheat on low in a crockpot)
- High Protein Muffins (These freeze well and are good hot or cold)
- High Protein Pancakes (yummy even cold, slathered with peanut butter, jelly, or topping of your choice!)
- Scrambled Egg Casserole* (I make this in a loaf pan and heat it by setting it down inside my crockpot. Freezes well.)
- Sloppy Joes* (we do this meal on ‘arrival night’ when we haven’t had long to have the crockpot plugged in. The sauce heats up quickly while stirring at high heat.)
- Cheeseburger Soup*
- Ham and Cheese Casserole^
- Taco Salad^
Once I found the recipes that worked, I basically use the same menu each time.
Freezing and Traveling: I usually pack everything in vacuum seal bags to avoid mess. (You can also use ziplock, but be sure to double bag liquids!) The morning we leave I throw all the frozen stuff in the bottom of a cooler, and the fridge condiments and foods on the top, and it’s usually safely cold for up to 10 hours. When we fly, I put the frozen items in a collapsible freezer bag (like the ones you get at Costco or Sam’s) and pack it into a suitcase as checked luggage. We buy things like lettuce and yogurt once we get to our destination.
Reheating and Serving: Small, hand held foods like egg muffins or baked oatmeal muffins can be heated on low in a crockpot in about the time it takes to wake and dress a family of 7, or shower and curl my hair. Soups can heat within an hour on high, or be ignored while you’re out having adventures for 4-5 hours on low.
I also pack:
- Paper bowls
- Plastic utensiles
- Dishsoap and a dish scrubby
- Serving Spoon
- Salt and Pepper
Equipment you’ll need:
- Crockpot–I use a 4 quart when I’m only eating and serving one meal at a time for our family. This is the exact crockpot I use when we go on road trips.
- Hot Plate–When flying, this is a slimmer, lighter option for a heat source. Don’t forget a skillet to heat things up in!
- Vacuum Sealer–I absolutely love the one a friend gave me last year–totally makes the whole process tidier! This one is similar to mine.
We have traveled as far as L.A. this year, and been on the road for as long as 2 weeks at a time with 5 kids and have saved $100’s (and eaten healthier!) by taking our food with us. In the last year we have traveled to 15 states and still managed to pay off early $40,000 of debt while doing what we love to do…travel!
Travel doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. Save big by bringing your own food. Share in the comments what YOU do to eat well and save while traveling!
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