Dining while driving
August 16, 2012 6:09 AM   Subscribe

What are some dinner foods that I can eat while driving?

I work long hours, and have a long commute, so I am basically away from home from 5:15 am -- 7:00 pm. I already eat breakfast on the way to work, and would like to do the same thing for dinner on a consistent basis. I need help finding good, nutritious foods that I can eat while driving.


1 - I have very rudimentary skills when it comes to eating while driving. My breakfast = dry cereal, and the only dinner food I can do (so far) is a veggie burger and fries, as long as there are limited toppings, so I don't have lettuce/tomato falling out all over. Anything requiring utensils is out, unless you have a technique to share.

2 -- I am a vegetarian.

3 -- I prefer savory food, not a smoothie or a pb&j sandwich (at least, not every day.) I have a refrigerator, freezer, toaster, hot water dispenser, and microwave available for storage and prep at work.

4 -- If possible, I would like this to be low-effort. The benchmark would be "dump cereal in a bowl, carry to car", or "order at drive-thru, get food handed to you", but I realize it will probably be more work than that. If it's anything that I can prep on the weekend and store for gradual consumption during the week, that would be great too.
posted by Fig to Food & Drink (25 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Soup, in a thermos/mug with a top, that fits in your cupholder.
posted by Perplexity at 6:16 AM on August 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Wraps or burritos.

Instead of overstuffing one tortilla, under-fill two. That makes them nice and tight so you won't spill all over yourself.

Taco Bell beans are vegetarian, so a couple of bean burritos may fit the bill.

Their quesadilla may be a good choice too.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:21 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's not totally clear from the way you'd phrased it, but please don't eat while driving. You need to be paying 100% attention. Stop off somewhere for ten minutes on your journey.
posted by pipeski at 6:26 AM on August 16, 2012 [20 favorites]

Expanding on the tortilla idea - my parents taught me that almost anything can go in a tortilla.

When my dad was working, my mom would make a large batch of a beef/potato stew -a really thick one and keep it in the fridge for days. Then, you take a dollop place it in a soft tortilla and wrap it up tight along with all the other tortillas inside a foil wrapping.

You could buy a pre-made stew to make this easier. But the larger point is that almost anything you would eat with a fork could be portioned out into tortillas. And they are easy to pick up and eat.
posted by vacapinta at 6:27 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Why not just eat before leaving work or stop off somewhere on your way home? It doesn't seem very safe to drive while eating.
posted by melissam at 6:33 AM on August 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

Ziti with just a little butter or oil (so nothing that's going to be too messy) can easily be eaten with your hands from a bowl, like eating chips.

Cold pizza (cold so it's not too drippy) is an easy road food as well.
posted by bondcliff at 6:34 AM on August 16, 2012

Best answer: Thin crust pizza with minimal toppings, dumplings, spring rolls, spinach/veggie pies or calzones, veggie sushi (skip the soy), pita with veggies and tofu/seitan (no sauces), mozzarella tomato and basil on bread that's not too crunchy- ciabatta maybe.

Think no sauce, no crumbs.
posted by murfed13 at 6:37 AM on August 16, 2012

Best answer: Would it be possible for you to eat at work before you head out, or in your car before you start your drive? Not combining eating and driving opens up a lot more options.

That said, some possibilities:
Kimbap (substitute meat or fish filling with your vegetable-source protein of choice)
Onigiri (omusubi)

These may be a bit more work than your baseline, but are things that can be assembled ahead of time and stored in your refrigerator, although the rice might become unpalatably hard after a couple of days. Basically these all things that are their own self-contained packets and you won't need utensils to eat them.
posted by needled at 6:38 AM on August 16, 2012

The lunch food that has been trending its way around my office this summer is the kale wrap. Take some kind of tortilla or flatbread (my favorite) and stuff with kale or other greens (we're a bunch of gardener types around here, so we've all been swimming in kale and lettuce). The key is that you can fit a *lot* of greens into a fairly compact wrap, and eat the equivalent of a sizeable dinner salad with no utensils and no mess. If you want, add some cheese, or seitan strips, or something salty and vegetarian in the center; especially since you're having this for dinner, adding a bit of substance is good. On the other hand, maybe you should adjust your eating landscape such that lunch is your main meal of the day (it's often recommended by health-types) and then you've got fewer nutritional constraints on dinner.
Also good for driving and easily transportable: baby carrots, grapes, sliced apple, a banana, etc.
posted by aimedwander at 6:51 AM on August 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have pretty much the same commute as you - leave house at 5:45 AM and get home between 6:30-7:30 PM depending on traffic. I manage to do it without actually eating in the car. Breakfast is easy at the office - I keep a stash of granola bars at my desk. Luckily I have teenagers that can get dinner ready and keep my plate warm until I get home. You can approximate something similar by either cooking on the weekends and reheating in the microwave, or set a crockpot on a timer to turn on at the appropriate time so that you walk in to a savory soup or vegetarian stew. Amazon is full of cookbooks - pick a couple. But please don't eat while driving every day. It's only a matter of time until you get distracted at the wrong time.
posted by COD at 6:55 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Handpies. I make them with those Chik'n strips and pre-made pie dough. Takes about a half hour to make 4 or 5. You can easily make these on the weekend, stick them in the fridge and microwave when you're ready (though I eat them cold too).
posted by Katine at 7:00 AM on August 16, 2012

I always wait until I get to work to eat my breakfast. I keep cereal at my desk, work provides milk (for coffee), and I bring fresh fruit at the beginning of the week. You could bring in a loaf of bread and make toast, too, since you have a toaster. Don't eat dry cereal in the car! If you're starving first thing in the AM and your commute is too long to wait through, grab a banana as you leave the house. Takes about two seconds to eat; you'll finish before you even start the car.

Eat a large lunch. Have a snack in the afternoon. Eat a light dinner when you get home. If you're starving when it's time to leave work, keep some soup at your desk, heat it up and eat it, THEN drive home. If you have time to go through a drive-thru at dinnertime, you certainly have time to eat soup at your desk before you leave.

Driving and eating is a very bad idea.
posted by clone boulevard at 7:38 AM on August 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: To (maybe) assuage concerns -- eating (dinner) while driving is my second-to-last choice, and I only do it about .75 times per week.

I framed the question the way I did to get suggestions for the worst-case scenario, with the thought that if I can eat it while driving with minimal mess/attention, then I can also eat it one-handed at my desk without breaking out utensils, or its something I can eat quickly in my car (parked!) after I am done at the gym, before I head home.
posted by Fig at 7:46 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: clone boulevard -- Great idea for eliminating breakfast-while-driving, thanks! I can even eat a banana while walking the dog, so I lose no time.

I am definitely the type of person that gets stuck into habits/routines, so these painfully obvious solutions are helpful.
posted by Fig at 7:51 AM on August 16, 2012

I have prepared finger foods for myself. Cubed extra-firm tofu, figs, fried tempeh, grapes, sliced fennel. It is like eating a salad one ingredient at a time and requires the same attention as turning on the radio.
posted by munchingzombie at 7:57 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Burger King will let you substitute a veggieburger in any of their sandwiches. Can't remember if there's an upcharge or not.
posted by valkyryn at 8:09 AM on August 16, 2012

My favorite road food: apples!
posted by oceanjesse at 8:23 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Gazpacho? Think of it as a savory smoothie (that's not that smooth). And yes, anything can go in a tortilla, and melted cheese makes a great glue to keep the rest of the fillings from falling out. Maybe cut up some cheese and fruit, then add almonds on the side - finger food is my driving meal of choice.
posted by Lectrolamb at 8:54 AM on August 16, 2012

Got a nearby Costco? They sell a number of excellent vegetarian patty sort of things. Most recently we've had one that's a spinach and chick pea concoction. Would go quite well in a sandwich or tortilla and warm&crisp quite nicely in a toaster.
posted by phearlez at 9:09 AM on August 16, 2012

Hummus, cucumber and tomato in whole wheat pita pockets
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 9:20 AM on August 16, 2012

Wraps and tortillas are going to be your best bet, especially if you can wrap them very tightly so that they don't fall apart while you're driving. Soup in a thermal mug is going to be a good idea, too.

That said, avoiding eating while driving altogether is really a good idea.

I really hope that your comment about pouring cereal into a bowl and heading for the car wasn't a description of something you've actually done. Eating cereal while you're driving is incredibly dangerous! I can't believe that people do this!
posted by asnider at 10:46 AM on August 16, 2012

Response by poster: Dry cereal , no milk, eaten with hand as finger food. Not ideal, but not something I devote attention to
posted by Fig at 11:02 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I keep snack-size baggies of toasted hazelnuts or almonds in my bag at all times. Even when I'm feeling crazy hungry, a 150-calorie serving is oddly filling and keeps me calm until I can sit down for a meal.

I buy them in the bulk bins and toast them on the weekends.
posted by homodachi at 11:14 AM on August 16, 2012

I keep an assortment of chopped vegetables crisping in water handy. I have a small bowl which fits snugly into the cup holder of my car. When I need to eat on the run I fill the bowl with an assortment of veg (baby carrots, radish, jicama, celery, etc.) some Baby Bella cheese, grapes, berries or an apple and perhaps crackers, nuts or bread sticks. Olives are nice too.

I always keep a towel handy for my lap - just in case. Eat olives and apples last and the pit/core goes right into the empty bowl to easily transport into the house.
posted by cat_link at 11:39 AM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Clif bars are a quick healthy 300 calories
posted by jander03 at 6:02 PM on August 16, 2012

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