Food for the road. Not road food.
December 10, 2009 11:27 AM   Subscribe

-t and I are driving across the country to see the home folks! We'd like your suggestions on food to take on a road trip.

While we'll probably eat a handful of meals in restaurants, we'd like to pack plenty of food, too, and keep gas station/fast food feedings to an absolute minimum. Specifically, we want:

- foods that are mostly portable/not too messy;
- shelf-stable or at least not-too-delicate;
- stuff that could be pulled together for an improvised meal, not just snack stuff;
- maybe ideas for things that can be prepped with just hot water

Ideas we've got already:

- we'll bake a bunch of filled breads (-t makes these amazing loaves filled with savory goodies)
- we'll bake some pound cake or banana bread or some other sturdy dense energy-packing sweet thing
- grab a bunch of good hard cheeses and sausages, olives, hummus, tapenade, etc;
- maybe carry some things that could turn into salads - greens in a tub, cut-up raw veggies, roasted vegetables, nuts, dried fruit, olive oil and lemons
- lots of apples, pears, other sturdy fruit
- an electric kettle, loose tea, dried dashi stock and miso paste for soup, dried rice noodles, instant oatmeal and farina

We have (limited) cooler space, and we're looking at a 3-day drive. All my stuff so far feels snacky - do you have ideas for more meal-like things that travel well and can be eaten cold or at room temp in a pinch? We like things on the not processed end of the spectrum, don't need to eat a lot of meat, and are always willing to spend some time prepping/cooking/generally keeping up with a food situation if it helps us feel like human beings.
posted by peachfuzz to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
as a slight alternative to the instant oatmeal and farina, i also like instant quinoa. super yummy with dried fruit and honey. or you can add veggies, and tamari sauce, etc.. pretty good for adding in some protein, too.
posted by anya32 at 11:43 AM on December 10, 2009

I actually find that hard cheeses get 'greasy' on road trips. So we usually take a bunch of individually-wrapped string cheeses - they're easy to eat, and not as greasy.
I also find that snacking is just how it goes on trips.
That said, we always bring a small cook-stove (from our camping gear) so we can have a cup of hot tea, and some soup or somesuch.
Our other favorite snacking item is 'home-roasted' almonds. Just buy bulk raw almonds (we get ours cheap at Costco), spread a single layer on a pan and pop in the toaster oven (on broil) for about 6-8 minutes (watch it though - they're no good if they burn!). Spread out to cool and put in a glass jar - they'll keep for quite a while (although we usually munch our up pretty quickly).
Parmesan cheese also goes well with the roasted almonds.
Your thoughts for salads are good, but I find they just don't keep - so we generally take fruit instead (constipation is a near-given on road trips). Apples and oranges do better than bananas (and they're not as stinky in the car, either).
If you can get off the Interstate at all, you may find some good local stores to replenish supplies. Back when I was a salesperson on the road, I would always look for the local health-food store/hippie co-op for wholesome road food.
Have fun! (I *love* road trips!)
posted by dbmcd at 11:50 AM on December 10, 2009

Hard boiled eggs.
Pita Sandwiches.

Our last road trip we took bagels and whipped cream cheese. The bagels were good because they didn't get smushed easily, and the whipped cream cheese was easy to spread. Also, the cream cheese won't take up too much space in your cooler.

Don't forget that most gas stations have microwaves. If you stop for gas, they'll usually let you nuke your own food. If you make soup ahead of time, you could drink it from a cup or mug while you drive.

Don't forget to take a roll of paper towels, and pick up a package of baby wipes they're really handy on a car trip.
posted by TooFewShoes at 11:51 AM on December 10, 2009

Clementines/mandarin oranges. Durable, easy to peel, delicious!
posted by FergieBelle at 12:36 PM on December 10, 2009

Are PB&Js too obvious? (See also: nutella, honey) Bring a nice loaf of multigrain bread, a few knives, a jar of peanut butter, and keep a small jar of jelly in the cooler. Alternatively, snag packets at rest stops.

Or make a big batch of granola--gotta stay regular!--and have that as a nice meal, perhaps mixed up with yogurt that you've kept cool. There may be other good granola-mixers that aren't refrigerated that I can't think of. Why the limited cooler space?
posted by knile at 12:46 PM on December 10, 2009

Canned fish (tuna, sardines) is easy, satisfying, and healthy by itself or in combination with other stuff (sandwiches, salads)
posted by rabbitrabbit at 12:49 PM on December 10, 2009

If you are not opposed to preparing some more food ahead of time, I've found that making up some cabbage & carrot coleslaw with some vinegary, non-creamy dressing works and holds up well. It fills the need for something crunchy once you are tired of veggies and dip.

Couscous is also practically instant - just mix with boiling water - and with a can of chickpeas and some miso or other flavours, it was the meal possibility that I looked forward to the most on my last road trip. You can also get preboxed couscous mixes to which you can add a can of beans, and they are pretty tasty, but also salty, and that might be too processed for what you are hoping for here.

Have fun. :)
posted by onoclea at 2:53 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


To be more particular, Shelton's Turkey Jerky, in any of the flavors.
posted by Nameless at 3:01 PM on December 10, 2009

wraps! whatever you like in a sandwich, wrapped into a tortillia - compact and easy to eat. I make them whenever I go on a road trip - faves are :
avocado, tomato, lettuce and a sprig of cilantro
olice, cream cheese and romaine lettuce
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:40 PM on December 10, 2009

I always refer to this thread about food for an airplane trip when I'm going on a long trip, even in a car.
posted by vytae at 4:47 PM on December 10, 2009

Response by poster: Awesome so far, guys, thanks - the couscous idea is brilliant! I'm thinking plain couscous, some canned garbanzos, lots of herbs, to be combined at will. Yum!
posted by peachfuzz at 8:29 AM on December 11, 2009

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