Eating well at home can be challenging enough. But what do you do when you are hungry on the go or need to plan for an out of the house snack time or picnic lunch? I recently had a friend ask what are some of my best ideas for portable food. I have to be honest. I am a busy working mom so for food on the go I try not to over complicate things. I use a lot of thing that require no cooking at all, focusing on simple nutrient dense foods that can be packaged in advance for easy use and transportation. I like to keep it clean, simple and healthy. Here are a few of my favorite ideas for eating well on the go and how to do it easily.
Stock your pantry: Save time and money by stocking your pantry well. If you have items pre packaged and easily accessible it makes packing for the day much faster. Think of foods that are shelf stable and nutrient dense for the most versatility and ease of use.
Trail mix, nuts, seeds, or nut butter packs
Dried or freeze-dried fruits and veggies
Granola or nut/seed based bars
Poultry, salmon or meat jerky
Crackers, pita breads or dry cereals
Fruit or vegetable puree in squeezable pouches or items that can be eaten out of hand like apples, clementine and bananas.
For things that are more perishable freeze them if possible, things like muffins, homemade granola bars, pouches with puree like fruit, vegetables, smoothies, hummus and yogurt act like mini ice packs and thaw for use later in the day and keep other items like the ones listed below cool.
Cheese, cut in slices or cubes or use packaged string cheese
Sliced meats like turkey, ham salami or other cured sausages like peperoni
Cut fruits and veggies like peaches, pears, carrots, sliced bell peppers or roasted squash
Preserved items like olives and pickles.
Cold salads with hearty bases like grain, pasta or kale salads
Fruit/vegetable/nut breads like banana, carrot, zucchini, or cashew bread
Also try freezing fresh grapes. These are a wonderful summer treat that act like a little ice pack as well.
Stock your car for success: Eating on the go can be a bit messy. Stock you car with a few essentials to make easting on the go clean and easy.
Keep a few bottles of water for hydration or lightly rinsing hands or dishes if needed.
Wipes, moist towelettes or a small towel to clean hands and wipe up accidental spills.
Few small garbage bags are nice to have to catch trash or dirty dishes you want to clean later.
If you have young kids I also really like the disposal bibs and place mats. I love the place mats especially for tables because they have double-sided tape that sticks them to the surface. This way you can put food directly on it. With these you don’t need plates and no worries about your kids food touching a dirty table.
Choose the right container: I think a huge part of eating on the go well is packing wisely not only to keep food cool and safe but also for easy of use to eat and dispose of. When packing food on the go here are a few of the thing I take into consideration.
Try to pack items in individual servings with the least amount of waste and easily disposable packaging. For items like granola bars or muffins a light plastic wrap works fine. I love to use my reusable glass containers but they can get heavy if I want to bring a lot of items. I especially love these Wean Green ones as they are great sizes with easy snap on lids that don’t leak.
What needs to be cool and for how long? Can I just take a frozen item and let it thaw or do I need ice packs and or a cooler for longer trips?
If I am going for an extended day I like to keep things simple with everything all in one storage piece like this lunch box from cool gear. It has individual sealed spaces and a built in ice pack. The center blue try can be taken out and frozen! When finished everything great sealed back in the container so no messy smelly dishes floating around the car.
For longer trips or traveling out of town I make it easy on myself and worry less about reusable containers that I have to keep with me for days and clean later. I will often look for small plastic items that I can fill and recycle later when we are done with it.
Keep is safe:
Remember that food safely is important both in an outside the home. If you are going to be away for a while pack items in a cooler with ice packs and keep it out of the sun.
Always follow good food safety practices. Remember that perishable food cannot be kept out in hot weather (90°F or higher) for more than one hour; in mild weather for more than two hours. Foods should be kept out of the “Danger Zone” Bacteria, need time, food and moisture to grow; but they won’t grow when the temperature of the food is colder than 40º F or hotter than 140º F. The temperatures in between 40º and 140º are in the “Danger Zone.” Keep potentially hazardous foods out of the “Danger Zone” by keeping them well chilled, heated properly and cooked thoroughly.
If you want to be more adventurous and pack items besides simple dried fruits, veggies, nuts, cheese and bars. Here are a few recipes to get you started. Looking for other ideas or inspiration just let me know. I am happy to help.
Smoked Salmon Spread, perfect with pita or crackers.
Simple Banana Bread, great for breakfast on the go or afternoon sweet snack.
Quiche, high in protein and good warm or cold great for breakfast or lunch on the go.
Hummus or Beet Hummus, good for sandwiches, or dip for crackers, bread or vegetables.
Marinated Quinoa Salad, I love this one for lunch on the go.
Italian Sun-dried Tomato Pasta Salad is a great addition to summer picnics.
Peanut Pasta Salad, is a great lunch or side item you can make it with out without the chicken depending on how hearty you want it.
Fruit and Nut Bars, these are perfect any time of day snacks that are so versatile mix and match to make your favorite version. They are best keep frozen for food on the go.
Looking for more easy food on the go ideas? You might also like The 6 Top Store Bought Time Savers.