Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
14 Jul

What to Eat When Traveling, On the Road, Camping, or in the Middle of the Ocean

cafeThe dedication of my readers to maintain the Primal lifestyle through thick and thin never ceases to impress me. They fly halfway across the world just to go barefoot, eat turkey skin, crawl around on a jungle gym, and hunt for sandcrab carcasses in Oxnard, CA. They research, shop for, and eventually purchase entire chest freezers and then fill the interiors with cow, lamb, and pig pieces. And, if a slew of recent emails is indeed representative of the community at large, they’re deeply committed to eating Primally when traveling, on the road, camping, or in the middle of the ocean. (In the last week I’ve received emails from a band member, a truck driver, a backpacker, and a naval officer.) That’s great, and I’m happy to hear about the dedication, but they weren’t writing in for virtual pats on the back. They wanted cold, hard advice for staying dietarily true in unfamiliar, potentially unfriendly locales, and I thought I’d help out.

So, what is one to do without access to the local grass-fed beef guy, cast iron skillets, bug-eating chicken eggs, and the diner that cooks everything in bacon grease?

Invest in a Cooler and Fill it with Perishable Food

If you don’t want to be relegated to canned items and dry goods on your road trip, this is a no-brainer. Get a medium- or large-sized cooler and two gallon-sized ziploc bags full of ice, plus two more spare bags. When the ice melts, stop at a gas station or fast food joint, dump (or drink) the water, and refill the bags with fresh ice. If a bag breaks, pull out a new one. You’ll have a portable fridge and a constant, inexpensive way to keep it, and your food, cold.

The day before your departure:

Hard boil at least a dozen eggs per person. My method for large eggs: put eggs in pot, cover with two inches of cold faucet water, bring to a roiling boil, turn off heat, put the cover on, and let sit for seven minutes. After seven minutes, dunk your eggs in an ice bath to stop the cooking. This leaves the yolk slightly soft and still creamy. Add 30 seconds to the cooking time if you want a drier yolk. Place eggs in gallon ziploc bags. Keep the shell on and a steady supply of ice in the cooler and they’ll last up to a week. Take some salt and pepper, too.

Cook two or three pounds of meat per person. Be it a roast or a bevy of steaks, get your hands on the best meat you can and grill it, roast it, or sear it. Stick to ruminants (beef, lamb, bison), since they keep better than chicken, pork, or fish (less delicate polyunsaturated fats). Stick to singular hunks of meat you can conceivably eat cold with your hands, rather than stews, chilis, or soups that require utensils and heating. Keep the sauciness to a minimum and stick to simple flavors, like salt, pepper, and a few herbs.

Roast, grill, or bake a bunch of veggies. Cook some sliced carrots, onions, peppers, cauliflower, zucchini, and asparagus – or any physically large vegetables that taste good cold – and pack them away. The easiest way is to throw them in a roasting pan with some salt, pepper, and fat (olive oil, coconut oil, macadamia oil, or palm oil all work great). The tastiest way is to grill them over open flame, seasoned similarly. Include a few baked sweet potatoes, too, which taste incredible cold.

Consider quality cheese, cured meats, smoked fish, and full-fat yogurt. These are worthwhile foods that also do best when refrigerated. You can technically get by keeping them at room temperature, but I’m not a fan of sweaty meat and cheese or warm, runny yogurt. If you like your gouda to perspire, go for it.

Take some fruits and vegetables that are commonly eaten raw. Carrots, berries, bananas, tomatoes, avocados, apples, plums, peaches, and jicama can all hold up for a couple days outside the cooler, and for quite longer within it.

If your trip is long and your supply of food begins to dwindle, you can easily restock at grocery stores with hot bars along the way. Rotisserie chickens will last at least two days in the cooler; disassemble for efficient storage. Keep your eyes out for barbecue joints, as ribs, pulled pork, and brisket will all keep if kept cold. Just be sure to keep those ziploc bags full of fresh ice.

Stock Up on Non-Perishables

There’s nothing wrong with a can of sardines or a handful of macadamias, and not every car, boat, or bindle can accommodate a cooler. In these situations, knowing which foods are both non-perishable (or at least have a decent lifespan out of the fridge) and Primal can help you decide what to buy and bring on the trip.

Get a wide variety of canned seafood. This is arguably your most nutritious, dependable option, with plenty of omega-3s, protein, minerals like selenium, magnesium, zinc, and iodine, and if you choose wisely, bones, skin, and connective tissue. Sardines, herring, mackerel, trout, oysters, clams, tuna, and salmon are all relatively common items. Restocking can be a cinch, since you can find canned sardines and tuna in most places. Keep a jar of Dijon and buy cherry tomatoes when they’re available. Mix the Dijon with a couple cans of the fish of your choice and toss in a handful of tomatoes for a quick and dirty salad. I’d avoid canned meats, however. Maybe I’m not being fair, but something about canned shredded beef creeps me out. And for those of you worried about BPA, I’ll take trace amounts of probable endocrine disruptors over week old soybean oil and deep-fried chicken extrusion encased in wheat flour. Speaking of which, make sure your seafood comes canned in olive oil, its own oil, or water.

Buy, or make, jerky of all types. I recommend taking the extra time to procure a large slab of lean meat so you can choose your marinade and save incredible amounts of money and make your own jerky.

Buy, or make, pemmican. Man cannot live on lean meat alone. No, he needs fat, especially animal fat. Pemmican provides both protein and saturated animal fat, but it takes some getting used to. I still haven’t full embraced it myself… but there’s no denying its ability to nourish and sate. And if you’ve already made jerky, making pemmican is the next natural progression.

Bring some nuts. Nuts get kind of a bad rap for their caloric density and tendency to stall weight loss in some folks, but caloric density in a small package may be what you’re after. If so, take your favorite nut. I like macadamias, for the buttery smoothness and low omega-6 levels, but even walnuts are better short-term feeding options than your average fast food menu item.

Make some kale chips. Not much more needs to be said. Watch the vid and follow along.

Make a Primal energy bar. Honestly, you could probably get by on this bar.

Want more? Browse the Primal snack list (and be sure to read the comments, where readers included their favorites).

Forage

No cooler, no canned goods (cause maybe you just don’t feel like all that prep work), surrounded by chain restaurants and fast food joints pumping the area with potent smells, hunger scratches at your belly. You would go without, except it’s been hours and you have several days left on the trip. You’ve gotta eat. There are “choices,” like fast food spots, but not any you feel like acknowledging. This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where boys become men and girls become women. It’s a test, of effective foraging in a suboptimal environment, akin to looking for fruit during a nasty drought or berries in the dead of winter. Can you do it?

You may want to bone up on your modern foraging techniques, beyond the basics (“hold the bun,” “cook that in butter,” “no beans or rice, please,” or “can I substitute extra vegetables instead?”):

Scan the menu and identify the biggest immediate threats – grains (especially wheat), seed oils, and sugar – and eliminate them from contention. No buns, no stir fries, no deep fried items, etc.

Run reconnaissance. Does this Mexican place cook in real lard? Does this burger joint grill over open flame (good; slim chance of added oils) or fry on the range (maybe not good; watch for liberal oil usage)? Does the restaurant make their own dressings fresh? Don’t take “reconnaissance” literally and go sneaking around in the kitchen. Instead, ask the head cook or manager those basic, pointed questions to get real, honest answers.

Keep a tiny bottle of extra-vigin olive oil holstered at your side at all times. Salads are the classic go-to Primal compromise, but the dressing can be a deal breaker. Bust out your olive oil and ask for some balsamic vinegar (which is never, to my knowledge, adulterated like restaurant “olive oils” are). Keep the bottle tiny and you may avoid being pegged as the weird guy or being thrown out for “outside condiments.”

Forget celiac; you’re allergic to whatever ingredient they derive their oil from. Is soybean oil used, like at Chipotle? You are allergic to soy. Canola oil? You’re allergic to canola. A Worker Bee even convinced an Indian restaurant he frequented that he was “allergic to vegetable oils of all kinds” and that his doctor “forbade him from eating anything made with vegetable oil.” And it worked. He got everything made with real ghee and butter.

Fast

If foraging conditions prove way too harsh, I’ll just not eat and chalk it up to an impromptu, truly random intermittent fast. This is pretty standard for me. I can handle not eating for a day and maintain energy without going too crazy. But that’s me – I’ve been doing this for years and I’ve built up a strong tolerance to going without. You may not, and that’s cool. Just know that it’s a viable option, and often a better one than eating junk.

I’ve found that things change when I’m traveling with family or friends. If it’s just me on business, alone, I’ll often skip meals, but if I have my wife or kids along, or I’m traveling with friends for pleasure, I generally will not skip meals. I’m there to be with them, to enjoy their company, and if they’re eating, so am I. If I have to meet someone for a business lunch, I’m not going to sit stone-faced and staring as the other person wolfs down a plate. That’s just bizarre. For all you parents, I’d strongly recommend not forcing your family into an IF against their will.

I’ve been pretty successful following these general guidelines over the years, but I’m interested to hear what works for you folks. How do you cope with unfamiliar, unfriendly food environments? Do you abstain from food altogether, do you dip into the 80/20, or do you somehow maneuver your way around the dietary landmines to get a full stomach?

Let me, and everyone else, know in the comment section!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. We travel a lot, and my husband is still eating the usual diet. I love those little foil packets of salmon. Little lemon juice and pepper, YUM. Hard boiled eggs, and I like plain yogurt with some berries. I made the primal protein bars, oh yeah, I could survive on those.

    Mary Hone wrote on July 14th, 2011
  2. I do historical re-enactment camping from March to October, up to 25 weekends a year. You get a lot of practice figuring out what to pack. First we use 2L soda bottles filled with water and frozen for ice. It doesn’t make a lake inside the cooler. It also lasts longer than blue ice packs. On longer trips we have two ice chests, one for mealtime things(the cold chest) and one for munchies and drinks(things that require less chilling). For munchies, sliced meat and cheeses, cream cheese, less fragile fruits like oranges, grapes, apples, dried fruits and fruit leather and even yogurt leather(I have a dehydrator). Also carrot sticks and other raw veggies munchies and salad makings work well with the salad dressing or dunkings of your choice. I’ve also done boiled eggs, dried smoked fish and jerky as well. Our 5 gallon water jug has a wide top that we put a block of ice in then fill with water for ice cold water all weekend on a hot summer day. On dinner type things we either precook and freeze in ziplocks or pack it rock hard frozen and cook it on the campstove. I’ve also done a dehydrated stew of home dehydrated meat(jerky) and veggies and the seasonings. I usually limit canned items to things that will be eaten in one meal. As for foraging, summer definitely is better for berries and such, but even in the winter you can usually find greens and if you are lucky, nuts. If you have a fishing license then fish and shellfish open up for foraging and in our area seaweed(Washington coast).
    As someone with a severe allergy(sunflower seeds) I have had to send food back at a restaurant. I hate doing it, but I am so severely allergic that is not something I can cheat on. I am also diabetic, so it actually helps when trying to eat out and keep primal. Allergies and special needs diets are diets you can’t cheat on, unless you want to suffer the consequences. I try to pick a restaurant on the basis that they may have more choices I can actually eat. Many places have a lite menu, and as always, salads. My son has an allergy to all forms of corn and corn based additives. Eating out for him is usually unbreaded meat, no sauces, fresh fruit, plain vegies and milk. I try to ask in advance and ask for substitutes when I can, but I find I seldom eat out anymore.

    Ingvildr wrote on July 14th, 2011
  3. I recommend eating pemmican at room temperature. Makes it much better. Of course for storage you have to keep it cold, but let it sit for about fifteen minutes or so and then eat it. Much easier to eat

    Jerry wrote on July 14th, 2011
    • My husband makes pemmican with the fat a mixture of half beef tallow and half pork lard. That greatly improves the flavor!

      Nancy wrote on July 15th, 2011
  4. In September I’m going to be on a small sailboat in the
    Caribbean (barring hurricanes) with several people who do not eat the way I do, nor do they understand why I’ve given up my beloved baked goods. Luckily, we have a fully functioning galley, but our meal choices will be predicated by what we can get in the stores on the small islands we’ll be sailing around. Hopefully, the fishermen in the group will be able to supply enough fresh fish that no one will question my food choices. I’m not sensitive to it and I’m happy to fill anyone in on why I eat the way I do. However, that being said, one of the places we’ll be visiting is Culebra off the coast of Puerto Rico and you can bet I’ll be having Mofongo. Although now that I think about it, Mofongo isn’t that bad of a choice. It’s made from plantains, lard and seafood. I have dreams about Mofongo often. If all else fails, there are always coconuts. Lots and lots of coconuts.

    kiss wrote on July 14th, 2011
  5. I’m taking a road trip at the end of the month, got some great snack ideas from this post.

    bleu wrote on July 14th, 2011
  6. A salad is my go to meal at any restaurant!

    I ask for my dressing on the side so they don’t pour on 500 calories of dressing :)

    Mark wrote on July 14th, 2011
  7. We are going to Peru in September and will be staying in a lodge in the Amazon for 10 days. The lodge provides all of the meals as we will be exploring the jungle ect. I don’t want to be a pain in their ass but I don’t want to consume mass quantaties of carbs either. Any suggestions on what types of foods would be better than others. I saw an example of a meal and it did look like there was some type of protein and fruit but there was also rice, beans and potatoes. Would if be best just to go for the potatoes and skip the beans and rice or skip the potatoes too? I’m sure we won’t starve and they do ask if there are any dietary restrictions but I’m not really sure how to proceed without being a snob. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    Terri wrote on July 14th, 2011
    • I’ve lived in Peru for a couple of months so I can tell you on that one : just forget about it ;) Basically what they give you as meals are very little deep fried meat/fish/chicken, with little vegetables/beans/potatoes, and then an enormous quantity of rice to fill the stomach…

      If you’re lucky they make awesome soups also so try to feed mostly on that ^^

      As for myself : I gave up and just went with the rice thing. It’s good to sometimes be reminded how it feels to eat like other people, and all the bad stuff that go with it (heavy stomach, sleepiness, low energy…)

      Thomas G wrote on July 15th, 2011
  8. COME ON MARK….you can handle that cold fat if its good cold fat..PEMMICAN is super food>>>
    I make the best grass fed fat and deer /steer/bison pemmican around ..all done at low temps to keep all the nutrients intact..total yellow fat and some good quality dried meat cant be beat…I always carry jerky too..and hunting in small country grocery stores is a great way to find some local BA-CON!! I NEVER TRAVEL without a stash of Davechow and or a COOLER full of good stuff to eat…..HAVE COOLER_WILL TRAVEL>>GROK ON>>>

    Daveman wrote on July 14th, 2011
  9. As Ingvildr notes, it’s best to fill a plastic container with water and freeze it, which is much easier than dealing with Ziplocs full of ice. Milk cartons, 2L soda bottles, empty protein powder vats…all make good ice containers.

    J. Stanton wrote on July 14th, 2011
  10. I usually carry a small bottle of olive oil and salt/pepper to use as salad dressing. Everyone has salads, but the dressings are usually questionable.

    boo wrote on July 14th, 2011
  11. For storing stuff in the cooler. The ice packs will last longer if you pour some alcohol in there with it. I’d recommend vodka or rubbing alcohol. It will keep the temperature of the cooler lower for longer and ultimately save you from having to refill those ice bags.

    Ben wrote on July 14th, 2011
  12. As a long time restaurant veteran, (hubby, too) and as someone who carries an Epi pen (fish allergy), as well as my Dad, my brother, and my cousin (nuts)..I am well versed in how to avoid disaster.
    On the other hand, these days I wait on people who claim to have an allergy to wheat,dairy, eggs, soy, nuts and God knows whatever else,(don’t go to an Italian restaurant if you are truly allergic to garlic and onions) but will then order something else with those ingredients in it. After letting them know that “xyz” does in fact contain eggs, it’s always “ok”. REALLY? Because I just caused a disaster in the kitchen on a Saturday night because I understand a true food allergy, so I made sure the kitchen took every precaution. Then you order something and say its ok. Every chef hates me. Don’t be a dick.

    juliemama wrote on July 14th, 2011
  13. What a great article! Full of fantastic tips! When I am traveling – be it for a day trip with the family on a weekend, or camping for a few days, or on any other trip, I always pack my own food. Lots of dry goods. However, inevitably we (not all in my family are Primal) end up at restaurants, though 99% of the time there is no “fast food” (I do draw the line somewhere). I have gotten very good at picking mostly Primal items off restaurant menus. No grains. No deep fried. But… then I pull the 80/20 and I don’t make a big deal of ‘is that real butter’ or ‘omg i have to have my own olive oil.’ I don’t eat out at restaurants very often, so I simply choose to do the best I can — avoid most of the poisons and know that my body will deal with the others. (After all, I have seen the movie “Waiting,” and I have worked in the restaurant biz in earlier years, and I know that all kinds of special requests are treated in an…um…very ‘special’ manner. I’ll take my steak without the spit thank you).

    Dawn wrote on July 14th, 2011
  14. I do have a friend who is true Celiac and also very allergic to soy, and even the slightest bit of cross-contamination will screw with her for a long time and make her horrendously sick, and she is really not a fan of people claiming allergies they do not actually have, as it makes her life a lot tougher, since her issue is immediately life threatening.

    But I dunno.

    That’s a tough one.

    shz wrote on July 14th, 2011
  15. All I can say is if I had an allergy to a food be it nuts, gluten, soy, dairy, eggs, grains, or whatever, there is no way in hell I’d eat out or in a restaurant where I didn’t know for sure that my needs were being met. I worked in a restaurant as a short order cook and I know for a fact that what you think you’re eating verses what they tell you you are eating are 2 completely different things.

    Get over it people – the bottom line is the dollar sign. Almost all the foods in most restaurants are already prepared or purchased that way from a restaurant food supply company. You might luck out with a Mom and Pop operation that is willing to cook to order, but otherwise don’t even begin to count on it. The chef isn’t going to change out the frying oil from crap to something that will accommodate you for your one special order.

    If you’ve got a problem, then stay home and do everyone else a favor. If you insist on having the restaurant change it’s menu just to suit you, then you’re allergy or whatever problem you have isn’t as big a deal as you make it out to be — because if it was a big deal or was even remotely life-threatening, you wouldn’t put yourself in the position of maybe the food not being exactly what you specified.

    Cross contamination is a whole other problem – what are they going to do? De-contaminate all the pots, pans, utensels because of one lone request? I hardly think so.

    I;m sorry if you have an allergy, I have my issues as well, but I don’t expect the food industry to accommodate my particular problem – mainly because it just can’t. I’m responsible for my problems, not the restaurant.

    When I was a cook and a special request like that came in, we’d just have to tell them that we couldn’t accommodate their request and please feel free to try another place to eat.

    PrimalGrandma wrote on July 14th, 2011
    • I’d like to point out that those restaurants that DO cater to certain allergy needs, gain a fervent, cult-like following. Especially now that there are online reviews for the allergic. Word gets around quickly, and brings in lots of business.

      Our local Thai place will never close due to lack of business, due to great food, but also a commitment to gluten- and dairy-free. They’ve even done well with my mom who’s anaphylactic to legumes (aka beans and peanuts), which really limited what she could order. The trick is finding places that care about something other than just $$.

      Elisabeth wrote on July 15th, 2011
  16. What a timely topic. I live in Japan and I’m about to go to an uninhabited island with some non-Primal friends. I can already hear, “Hey Jay (me), get some of these vegetable oil fried noodles (yakisoba)! They rock!” Okay, I did used to think they taste good… I’ll have to do the boiled egg thing when we aren’t BBQ-ing and bring some locally-grown yams for desert.

    TokyoJarrett wrote on July 15th, 2011
  17. Great list of tips you have here, I especially like the IF one, becomes very handy on trips.

    Ahmed-LivingNotSurviving wrote on July 15th, 2011
  18. What a coincidence! I just stated a blog Monday on the same subject. I am always on the road for work and have hard time finding suitable food and time/place for physical activity. Just started!I want to blog on this to help me and other who face simular challanges.

    Rollo wrote on July 15th, 2011
  19. For school lunches, check out Sarah Fragaso’s Everyday Paleo cookbook. (Hope I didn’t butcher her name!) She’s got three kids and has a whole section on school lunches that’s great, and even addresses the nut-free school issue. I think it’s worth paying for a good quality insulated lunch box so you know stuff is staying cold. Meatballs, cold, lunchmeat or lettuce wraps with quality cold cuts, and salads are great. She’s got a recipe for sun-dried tomato chicken that’s great as a salad topper since the sauce is like a dressing. That will be in my cooler next week for our vacation!

    Dtnmommy wrote on July 15th, 2011
    • Two thumbs up for Fragoso’s Everyday Paleo book and website, especially for people with kids since that is a focus of hers.

      Carrie wrote on July 16th, 2011
  20. Understandable while traveling domestically to be picky as the States is a wasteland regarding food but part of REAL international travel is the food and not to partake in local culture fully is well, rather American. But then, other than Cancun for spring break and a quick honeymoon trip to Europe Americans don’t really travel. I was lucky to spend 15 years abroad and there aren’t many Americans out there.

    Dirk wrote on July 15th, 2011
  21. Great post Mark!

    Rocky Dean-Shoji wrote on July 15th, 2011
  22. I love this post! I’m always looking for great snack/travel foods. My kids and I bike for transportation, and the longer trips require a lot of food planning.

    My go-to travel foods:
    homemade beef jerky
    boiled eggs
    cheese cubes
    bottled water and whey protein powder
    tuna in an easy-open packet

    I don’t do well with fruit sugar or nuts, so I always have one of the previous items on me.

    For “foraging”, I will get cheese and Applegate Farms lunch meat, sushi, or smoked salmon. If I can bring my own food to be cooked, I’ll bring uncured, un-yucky hot dogs or any grillable meat in the summer. In winter, I have to stick with my travel foods. Sometimes, I’ll be able to eat the spaghetti sauce, turkey, or one of the sides at a party.

    I’m getting better at IF-ing it when there is no other option. I drink a lot of water and take small portions, move them around on the plate, and talk a lot so people don’t notice I’m not eating.

    My own parents have noticed how successful I’m becoming with this way of living, and they’re actually PROUD of me when I refuse and IF in their presence. My FATHER is PROUD of me. If only I’d known that the only thing I needed to do was lose weight….

    I love the idea of eating coconut oil for fuel on the road. I’m adding that to my arsenal. I haven’t tried sardines yet, but I’ve got a tin in my emergency kit.

    Anna wrote on July 15th, 2011
    • Anna: There are some really good canned sardines out there and some really awful ones. You should try a few different brands and see what kind you prefer and then you’ll have a good, shelf-stable snack that can go anywhere. I like the Portuguese sardines from Vital Choice and the tiny Norwegian sardines (like the King Oscar brand). I can’t stand the large Atlantic sardines. Of course they are the least expensive.

      Nancy wrote on July 15th, 2011
  23. I have been backpacking for a couple of months now and have found it hard to stay primal while on a budget. bad timing i say, as i just started being primal 2 weeks before i left (and i was doing really well). a cooler is not really a practical thing to carry around (especially if you are by yourself and already carrying 30kg of gear around) so you are basically left to forage at the supermarket or eat out all the time. and you can not eat out all the time on a strict budget or for language barriers. some hostels don’t have proper kitchen facilities (for instance, i just stayed at one where they said fully equipped kitchen, when all it had was a microwave, a fridge and an electric kettle. i really really looking forward to some fried eggs). and the breakfasts most hostels provide (assuming they provide them) are just cereals and toast, and sometimes yoghurt and even rarer hard boiled eggs. So i find fruits are easy and portable, eggs when you can cook them, delis and cheese for something quick and cooking-free, even roast chickens (many supermarkets sell them cooked) with some raw vege. and a lot of IFing

    Tanya wrote on July 15th, 2011
  24. I am surprised no one has mentioned an eco pot – one of those where you start the meal off on your cooker and then pop it into the sealed container where it cooks while you travel. We travel all over Western Australia by caravan and usually set up a stew, chilli or soup (made to primal specifications)in the eco pot and have a hot meal ready when we arrive at our next destination.

    Primal Heart Attack wrote on July 15th, 2011
    • These don’t seem to be available in the US. Is it possible to get them outside of Australia?

      Karen wrote on July 17th, 2011
  25. Mark, I can’t thank you enough for this post. In three weeks, I’m moving to Oakland, CA from Orlando, FL for graduate school – a drive that will take five days to accomplish. My husband and I were really concerned about what we were going to eat on the road, but your post has inspired us. We’re stopping in Memphis on the way, so we’ll use the opportunity to stock up on barbecue.

    Katie H. wrote on July 15th, 2011
  26. I can vouch for the great taste of sweet potatoes cold from the fridge. I usually bake a half dozen in our electric roaster, then store them in the fridge until needed. Had one today,for a quick snack: just wrap it in a paper towel to keep your hands from becoming sticky and “chow down”…even thought about adding the liquid produced from baking to my protein shake but haven’t tried it yet.

    skeedaddy wrote on July 15th, 2011
  27. When my husband and I travel we usually pack an assortment of non-perishable snacks such as nuts, fruit, veggies and lara bars. I know these are not ideal choices, but I think they are the best you can do in some circumstances short of lugging a cooler around with you. I am also a big believer in taking in the local cuisine and living by the 80/20 rule while on vacation. In this regard, I watch my portions, try to make the best choice possible given the menu selection and fill up on salads and lean protein. I do not on any level advocate fasting and no offense, but I believe this to be poor advice that will only backfire. You’ll fast then be starving an hour later which will likely lead you to eat the most readily available glucose source – bread. I think we all need to get some perspective, as well, and realize this is a lifestyle choice NOT a diet, so things will get right back on track once the trip is over.

    As for family functions and holidays, well that’s easy enough, go to the grocery store and make something or a few things you can eat and offer to bring them to the dinner. The host will love you for helping out and you get to stay on track. Problem solved!

    Carolina Hurant, MS, RYT, CPT

    Carolina wrote on July 16th, 2011
  28. Tanka bars from http://www.tankabar.com are a travel staple for me. Buffalo and cranberries a wee bit of sweet something and spices. NO gluten, MSG, hormones, nitrates or nitrites. And NO refrigeration needed.

    Carrie wrote on July 16th, 2011
    • I tried a Tanka Bar, Tanka Bites, and the a “Hot” Tanka Bar for a recent trip. The Hot is not that Hot to me. On a long trip I would take both flavors, but I think I like the original better.

      Now, I just need to figure out how to buy them in bulk at the best price. I was happy to find them at my local REI, but I wouldn’t want to stock up at that price.

      Philmont Scott wrote on March 26th, 2012
  29. I rarely have dressing on my salads. My mother taught me long ago that cottage cheese is an excellent salad dressing. I have since learned that shredded or chopped meats, cheeses and boiled egg are excellent dressings, especially in combination. Sunflower seeds on top of cottage cheese on top of the salad is fabulous.

    Salads are really great without dressing, provided they have enough fat ingredients.

    sally wrote on July 17th, 2011
  30. All I can say is thank god for my Tanka bars! Buffalo and cranberries based on traditional Lakota food practices make a better-than-jerky fast food option.

    I tried, I really tried, fish in a can but NO.

    Hayden Tompkins wrote on July 18th, 2011
  31. Good list!

    Two items I would add:
    – Dried fruits
    – Plantain chips, fried

    Tony Mach wrote on July 18th, 2011
  32. My wife and I are planning a canoe trip to the Sylvania Wilderness, so this post comes at a perfect time! I had thought of a few of these ideas myself (eg., hardboiling your eggs the night before you depart) and used them successfully on a recent stay in the SD Badlands, but much here is new to me. Thanks, Mark! PS., We love your cookbook too!

    Lester Hunt wrote on July 18th, 2011
  33. This is absolutely true. I have tried some of your tips while me and my family went on vacation recently. I have learned my lesson before when we traveled and haven’t prepared any food or water along with us hoping to reach our destination early but along our way our car got some problem. Hmm… I don’t want to experience it again. Better to be prepared than be sorry.

    Accountant Melbourne wrote on July 20th, 2011
  34. Easier than a bag of ice is 2-liter bottles full of water and frozen. When they melt, your cooler doesn’t end up with inches of water at the bottom with your food getting all soggy.

    They only last 2-3 days though; for slightly longer periods, you can go with full gallons. Full gallons last close to a week.

    We always have them. Freezers are more efficient when full, so we fill them up with water as the meat is used up. Last time we lost electricity, for 5 days, all the meat chunks stayed totally frozen with all that ice in there, only stuff that thawed was small packages of cheese and pepperoni in the baskets.

    Also, take foods for 2-3 days into the future frozen also. The more frozen stuff, the colder the cooler stays.

    For truck drivers, if you’re on the road 2-3 weeks at a time, you need strategies beyond this though as your fresh foods are not going to last into a second week, let alone a third.

    The standard truck fridge doesn’t work too well in summer, so add a frozen gallon to help just as for a non-electric cooler. Load up halfway with fresh food and half with frozen meals which will get you through the first week.

    Include torn greens and sliced tomatoes, cukes, etc in a large tupperware. You can build salads or add to sandwiches as you wish if the stuff’s precut. Also, containers of fresh berries and cherries. Apples work well as they don’t bruise when bouncing and last a while.

    Nuts and nut butters are a must, there are days they may be your only protein. Not ideal, but better than hitting Taco Bell.

    Most important one IMO is learning to pressure can foods at home. You can make a lot of yummy foods at home in big batches and can for the second or third week – stuff like chili, corned beef and cabbage, beef and lamb stews, etc. Because they cook more when processing, you can undercook them and then process. We found home-canned foods indispensable when we were driving OTR… you are going to get stuck eating canned food sometimes, so might as well be yummy homemade stuff instead of Hormel.

    If you make a big recipe and can it each time you’re home, you eventually wind up with a nice variety of home-canned foods.

    Home-canned foods are in Mason jars, which bounce around in the truck. We made “belts” for them, just strips of cardboard duct-taped around the middle, so the glass didn’t bang together in the truck. Never lost a jar and we usually left home with 10-20 quarts.

    The sad thing when we drove… the BEST thing was Walmart. I wrote down every Walmart I ever saw in my truck stop directory to keep track of them and always tried to hit one the second and third weeks.

    You can get in and out easily in a truck, if you park far enough from the store to not get blocked in by cars.

    And though it’s not good organic stuff, you can buy fresh fruits and veggies – replenish your salad ingredients, berries and such.

    Also, dairy products if you do them – I did a lot of yogurt, cottage cheese and block cheese on the road. I kept flavored syrups in the truck for yogurt so I could buy plain organic yogurt.

    Also, pick up stuff at Walmart like a whole rotisserrie chicken – mostly just plain meat and herbs, one of the best food options out there. The package takes up a lot of space in the fridge, so plan to eat nothing but chicken until it’s gone, about 2 days.

    Why I say it’s sad is… at home, Walmart is the worst food choice, I never buy food there.

    But it was the best food available on the road as it WAS actual food, a darned good option compared to truck stops which mostly just have chips and candy with fast food joints attached.

    Many of the fast-food joints have salads of the chicken or beef on top of fresh veggies variety – when you have no choice but a truck stop.

    In a pinch when that’s not available, you can always buy a half gallon of milk and drink your dinner – it’s crappy milk, but at least it’s food as opposed to chips and candy bars.

    We rarely did the actual restaurants at truck stops, as the food was always of the overcooked and soggy variety, especially buffets. A truck stop buffet is where I discovered that someone thinks sugar is a needed ingredient in potato salad – that stuff was just inedible.

    However, breakfasts can be decent as they have steak and bacon and such and eggs. Most of the truck stop restaurants serve breakfast 24-hours, so we usually got that.

    Also, you need protein powder in the truck. I used an unflavored and unsweetened casein-based powder. With a jug of water, and flavored syrups or berries or a banana, you have some protein when needed.

    jpatti wrote on July 26th, 2011
  35. Many rest areas and city parks have grills free for the using. A bag of charcoal, and you are good to go. Should be able to cook anything you can do at home.

    If you flew in, you can buy cheap pans (check the camping section if you want to avoid Teflon) and throw them away when you leave.

    Henry Miller wrote on July 26th, 2011
    • If you are going to use charcoal, consider Cowboy Charcoal. Cowboy Charcoal is to briquettes as a juicy T-bone is to bologna.

      Cooking with real charcoal takes a bit of getting used to because it burns hotter, but it seems to provide a lot more energy for a given weight. (I have even taken it canoeing so that we could grill Bison steaks on an island with limited good firewood.)

      Philmont Scott wrote on March 26th, 2012
  36. Three years in a row I’ve gone to the same 4-day conference. The 1st year I thought the food was great. (I didn’t eat primal yet.) The 2nd year I planned to “make good choices” and ended up starving the whole time. The 3rd year I packed my own food, was satisfied, and learned more than any previous year. I made whey protein, coconut oil, blueberry, and raw egg (from my own chickens) smoothies in my Bullet blender for breakfast. Then packed a lunch size cooler for the rest of the day with roasted meat, cheese, raw veggies, whole fat yogurt, jerky and some nuts. Sometimes I made a salad from the salad bar and used my own oil and vinegar dressing, (double ziplocked in the cooler.) It was stuffed full in the morning and empty every night. I felt so good about being prepared, but I felt even better physically!

    Nicole wrote on July 27th, 2011
  37. I fly a lot and I just pack a lunchbox. I usually pack a fresh salad, and butter-roasted chicken (skin on! Nom nom nom…). Anything works for flights, a few hours won’t make cooked chicken go off. I even took my home-made nut bread with caviar (they had butter on the plane). If, for some reason, I can’t get my own packed lunch, I can forage (it’s pretty easy to find relatively primal stuff like chicken salad around; it’s good if there’s a Fridays’ at an airport (steaks!))…or I just IF. I can go without food for a day or two – works especially if I’m tired and have to sleep on the plane.

    Milla wrote on September 21st, 2011
  38. Ziploc bags for EVERYTHING when traveling
    Kerrygold butter in a ziploc, add it to steamed veggies
    Light My Fire Spork, is a durable spoon/fork/knife

    Elaine wrote on December 9th, 2011
  39. This is a great article and so very helpful. I actually stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last week where I noticed they had a grill outside. So, in the middle of February in Michigan I asked if I could use their grill. It worked perfectly, well minus the fact that they had to go get more propane for me. ;)

    Corin wrote on February 5th, 2012

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