Family road trip food does not have to mean a messy, junk-food, free-for-all. There are ways to pack snacks and meals that save money, time, and mess!
For about a decade our family of 17 traveled frequently with our Daddy for His work. Over the years I learned, with a whole lot of prayer and a bit of ingenuity, just how to keep us all satisfied and happy while keeping mess and expense to a minimum.
Here are a few practices I put into place:
1.Brown Bag it
Snag some cheap lunch bags and fill them with frozen sandwiches (that will thaw as you ride, click here for guidelines and ideas), cut veggies (the sandwiches keep things cool), a salty snack that is not too messy such as pretzels, and a pre-baked cookie or two that is not crumbly (fig bars are great for this, and you can purchase them in healthy configurations). You could even include a “prize” in each sack, such as a page of stickers or a balloon to blow up–you could purchase a whole bag of party favors for a dollar and place one in each bag, or you could keep these as a reward for any child who eats quickly and without mess.
2.Keep Loose Snacks
This is best when dealing with very small children. The trick is to keep a cooler easily accessible (we kept ours between the two seats in the front of the van) that is filled with things like cheese sticks, baby carrots, wrapped sandwiches, grapes, milk for the tiny ones, etc. Another box can house dry snacks such as stick pretzels, beef jerky, dried fruit, and some home-baked treats.
Purchase your special snacks in advance locally so that you aren’t tempted to buy some along the way. This is when your shopping skills can come in! If you have time to plan ahead, watch for those sales after holidays and squirrel some special treats, like chocolate, away. Look for coupons, buy in bulk, watch the mark-down bins. Make sure and include a few yummy treats that are special to your family (such as a bag of mini candy bars or some licorice sticks or fruit leathers, and sugarless BUBBLE GUM!) so that no one feels deprived; after all, it is supposed to be FUN!
3.Only Buy the Main Part of the Meal
If you find you need (or desire) some fast food, try purchasing only the burger or the taco or the chicken and use your own drinks and sides (such as chips). This way you will still enjoy the benefit of some warm food while saving a bunch of money on over-priced soft drinks and other unnecessary items.
3. Keep it Even-Steven With Baggies
Prepackage everything in small zip-style bags so that you can pass them out evenly among your children. There is something about divvying up a bag of pretzels on the road that brings out the monster in siblings!
4.Cool, Clear Water…
While traveling (actually at any time) this is our preferred beverage–if you have a spill, you don’t have to worry about sticky messes, and it doesn’t add extra sugar, etc. into the mix (even juice and milk, except for babies, are no-no’s). You can purchase bottled water enough for everyone, which can be just another huge, heavy item to lug around, or you can purchase sippy-cups and water bottles enough for everyone and simply fill them up as you go along (the dollar store usually has such a variety of these that there should be a way to ensure that each family member has his/her own distinctive color and style).
5.Keep Cleanup Easy
If you can, cover the seats with old sheets that you don’t mind putting holes in for the seat belts. This way you can just take the whole sheet out and shake it when you need to.
6.Bring Along a Broom
Pack a small broom in the car for sweeping it out as the need arises. Car vacs are great on TV, but usually not powerful enough for a whole cup full of Cheerios. Besides, most brooms slide in easily along the seats or other storage areas so they don’t take up precious cargo room.
7.Don’t forget wet wipes, paper towels, and old grocery bags…
When you have 15 children you can never forget these essentials. They cover everything from bottom cleaning to nose cleaning to fixing the car up after an unfortunate bout of motion sickness (yech!)
8.Don’t Forget the Trip Back
Having an extra stash of pre-packaged dry snacks in a box sealed with tape is a good idea (you may need to keep this one inaccessible to those who would sneak).
9.Remember, You Can Pick it Up Later
Unless you are traveling to some remote part of the country, you can shop at your destination for the necessary chilled items such as milk, etc.
10.Don’t Forget the Parents
Yep, that’s YOU and YOUR HUSBAND. After you’ve passed out the animal cookies and apples, surprise your man with a bag of his favorite chips or some other fancy-schmancy (healthy, of course) treat for yourself :).