Help with Traveling Food Please!

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by allie, Mar 3, 2011.

  1. allie

    allie

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    My SO travels for his job. It's typical for him to be gone for a few days to a week at a time, every week. During this time, he does a lot of driving each day and it's a different town and motel every night. When he eats at home, he has no tummy problems but when he's out on the road, eating fast food, pizza, and other restaurant food, he has a lot of stomach issues.

    He would like to take food from home but that in itself causes some problems. For one thing, if it needs reheated, not all motels have microwaves. Not all of them have refrigerators or coffee makers in room either. We have a spare coffee maker he can take on the road to make tea.

    Of course, keeping things cold enough while driving each day presents another issue. We have tried hauling food in a cooler and a lot of times, it ended up watery from leaky packaging. Then you have the issue of buying bags and bags of ice in the summer.

    I am very open to ideas to help him out. We do have a foodsaver and I have found a place where I can buy the plastic deli containers at a very reasonable price. Thanks for any suggestions!
     
  2. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    They have refrigerators that plug into your car's electric system. This could be a drain on the system so you'd probably want to talk to your mechanic about a two batter system (deep cycle marine batteries) This is certainly not cheap. But it would treat fruit/vegetables better than an ice chest. Left overs too.

    Immersion heaters can reheat soups and stuff inexpensively.

    Induction cooktops aren't expensive (Max Burton, well reviewed and run off wall current.

    More later.
     
  3. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    Sounds like a plug-in as Phil suggests would be the ideal solution. They come in two sizes, btw, and I think the smaller one will do the job. You can see them at any camping supply store or truck stop. Most of them, incidentally, can be set to either cool or freeze mode.

    Their downsides: They aren't cheap. They're on the heavy side. And, unless he only runs it while the car is turned on, a second battery really is recommended. On the other hand, the cost is a one-time expense that will pay for itself over time, and if he leaves it in the car the weight isn't an issue. As to the dual battery set-up, it's really not that expensive to have installed. If you go that route there is a pretty wide range of plug-in utensils in addition to the fridge. F'rinstance, we used to carry a coffee maker that worked off the cigarette lighter socket.

    For years, before fridges and microwaves were common in motels, we carried a single-burner camp stove and pot as part of our travel kit. Meals were pre-made and put up in boiler-bags. Once settled in a motel we heated the water, inserted the meal of choice, and were good to go.

    Keep in mind that most motels officially do not allow cooking in rooms. But because we were merely boiling the water there were no cooking smells. And, when the weather is clement, he can always do the "cooking" outside.

    Another thing to keep in mind: Instead of fast food, he can stop at a rest area and make lunch, using healtier ingredients. Takes no time at all, for instance, to whip up a chef's salad. Or even to cook something if he wants to take a little more time.
     
  4. allie

    allie

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    He drives an extended cab Sonoma and the front is packed with work stuff.  The back has a capper and has a generator, large truck utility box, and more tools and such for work.  He might be able to squeeze one of those fridges in there.

    I have a couple of electric hot plates that I've cooked on when we had an issue with our gas range in the past.  They are a little slow to heat but I've cooked many meals on them and have loaned them to friends who needed a temporary stove.  I have a feeling the campstove would work out better because it would heat up faster and we could also use it when we camp so it would be dual purpose.

    I was wondering about maybe making things like spaghetti with sauce, chili, soups, etc. and then packaging in the FoodSaver bags.  Then freezing and he could heat them in a big pot.  I just read a suggestion online to fill 1/2 gallon bottles with water and then freeze to put in the cooler instead of buying ice.  We have one of those Coleman seven day coolers to use for camping and it does seem to keep things cold longer than the other coolers we have.

    KY, I was telling him that he could make sandwiches a lot cheaper than eating out and I'm sure a lot healthier!  After he had an accident in Lancaster, KY last summer and separated his collarbone, our son and I traveled with him for about 6 weeks.  We averaged 1500 miles a week in KY and VA.  I got so sick of eating out for every meal.  We did the continental breakfasts in motels when available and I started taking a toaster with bagels and cream cheese (ended up getting water in it and then leaking out in the cooler, yuck), fruit, and a coffee maker for morning coffee and iced tea. 
     
  5. shroomgirl

    shroomgirl

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    things that are decent at room temp....

    Pressed french veg. sandwich, I use fougase flats....tapenade, artichoke, cooked (grilled, sauteed, roasted whatever) red onion, eggplant, tomato, etc...

    There are freeze dried fruits, dried fruits, nuts, etc....gorp....

    Now there are so many just add hot water meals it's not funny, late 1970's I was taking 3 semisters of backbacking and the food was $$$ and not readily available....now there's shelf stable milk.....

    When you pack your deli containers also put them in a plastic bag,  voice of experience.....

    Pasta Salad loaded out....my Italian version goes something like this: 2 shapes of pasta, sauteed: zucchini, red onions, eggplant in season, roasted or dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, feta (optional), lemon-evo-oregano dressing....garlic chicken can be added, I'd have it separate....

    Frittatas good for first couple days

    hummos, can be a dip or sandwich filling....

    meze plates with dolmas (very good ones available), hummos, baba ganoush, olives, pitas, cukes

    The Asian stores here have inexpensive (around $20) butane burners

    You can precook bacon....for sandwiches, salads, breakfast

    boiled eggs ditto

    We used to use frozen peas as ice packs then eat um....
     
  6. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    I know what you mean about eating out, Allie. Friend Wife and I used to average about 45,000 road miles a year. That's when we started exploring ways of eating our own food instead of restaurant fare---particularly fast food. It's not just the money, which can be extensive. After a couple of 500 mile days, back to back, you really don't want to get back in the car to go look for a restaurant.

    What I particularly like about picniking in a rest area is that it forces you to take a longish break, which actually improves your productivity in the afternoon. It is not, as far too many seem to think, a waste of time.

    Typically we'd do some sort of salad, or make sandwiches. If time allowed, we'd even grill something.

    First night out was typically barbequed chicken wings, German potato salad, and cole slaw, all home made and kept in the cooler. After that it was mostly premade meals in the boiler bags. You'd be surprised at what works that way. F'rinstance, we might have sweet & sour meatballs and pasta, one night; chicken & rice the next; pulled pork with beans and corn on the cob the night after that, etc.

    The container of frozen water is a good trick. Even better: use juice instead of water, and you have drinks as it defrosts. And keep in mind that anything (such as a premade meal) that goes into the cooler frozen also acts like ice to keep the contents cool.
     
  7. allie

    allie

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    Where do you get these boiler bags? I have reheated pulled pork and stuff like that in the Food Saver bags dropped in a pot of boiling water, and it worked well every time except one when there must have been a tiny hole in the bag! I think something like that would be a great option for him. That way, I can just freeze servings of what our son and I eat on weeknights so he has some variety! Oh the juice idea is good and he loves iced tea so could freeze some of that, too!

    Shroom, I did not know that about the Asian stores carrying butane burners for that price. Thanks for the tip! Our nearest Asian store is about an hour and a half away but I've been wanting to head over that way and stock up on some items that I can't find in my local grocery stores. This gives me a good reason to go!

    You guys rock!!
     
  8. shroomgirl

    shroomgirl

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    * the $20 burners do not get a good boil....they cook but don't sear.   I used um at the market, for cooking demos...then got some $64 wholesale burners that crank, seriously suck butane but they sear/boil etc. 
     
  9. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    Interesting observation, Shroom. My experience is the opposite.

    My local Asian market has those burners at $25, $45, and $85. Seemed to me the differences were primarily cosmetic. Asked the proprietor and he confirmed that, so I bought the low-priced spread. Haven't found much that I can't do with it. Indeed, in some cases it does a better job than my home range.

    But even at 85 bucks they're a bargain compared to even the lowest-priced induction model.
     
  10. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    Where do you get these boiler bags?

    Good question, Allie. When we were doing it the old-style Seal-A-Meal was still around (the one that used bags with the edge perferations), and they worked perfectly. Presumably the new style (the one that works like a Food Saver) can still produce boil-in-bag meals???

    My understanding was that the Food Saver bags are designed for that purpose. I wouldn't drop the idea because of one mishap, which could have been caused by anything ranging from a manufacturing problem to pilot error.
     
  11. allie

    allie

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    I'll check out those burners and talk to the people at the store.  I have boiled in the FoodSaver bags since that mishap. It takes more than one little problem like that to scare me away!  I was just hoping there might be a lower cost option.  I try to be pretty frugal.  However, since meals are paid for by his boss, we will probably be able to work something out since it's going to cost less overall, I'm sure than restaurants at every meal.
     
  12. shroomgirl

    shroomgirl

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    btu.....the lower priced were 1/4 of the btus of the $$$ ones.
     
  13. chefbillyb

    chefbillyb

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    One time in Mexico I shorted out the wiring on my whole floor steaming Lobster on a electric cooker. We ate the Lobster on the lanai, it was a very romantic evening while I got dirty looks from my wife. My wife asked me if we could have this romantic experience in a restaurant next time. Being a chef and doing demo wok cooking at banquets I have emptied out hotels with fire alarms, I just never did it on vacation..........................Chefbillyb
     
  14. shroomgirl

    shroomgirl

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    I was directing a Food and wine show, when my very experienced exec chef (my sous at the time) of the hotel (after he'd left)....was sauting backstage over high heat and not paying attention to smoke, the whole ballroom of venders had to go outside when the alarms went off....thank goodness it wasn't during the show.  The goofball sous told me it'd happened to him before....NO FRIGGIN' Learning curve?!!! hello?
     
  15. allie

    allie

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    Those are reasons why he hasn't already taken my electric buffet ranges on the road.  When he was in the construction/refurbish side of the business, they would take along a small grill and cook burgers, brats, and stuff like that.  They would buy sides from grocery stores.  With the driving job, it's just him and not a crew of guys so he started just buying food.  His employer does pay for his meals but still, he is so tired of that and it's just not healthy.

    You guys have given me some great ideas and I appreciate all of them!  He is excited about trying them.
     
  16. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    There are also some shelf stable convenience foods that can be worthwhile. My wife stashes some at work for those times she has to stay late or misses lunch or something. These are largely commercial developments of the MRE technology.

    Target is a good vendor for this type of product. Go to the Asian aisle. There will be a selection of shelf stable Indian and Thai dishes. All these need is heating. A little further down the aisle is pre-cooked shelf-stable rice.

    Lay them on the dash  in the sun, they'll be plenty hot in an hour for dinner if it's sunny. Eat right out of the pouch.

    Not what you want all the time and not as inexpensive as some other options, but certainly worth having on hand to fall back on when the other options don't pan out that day.
     
  17. dc sunshine

    dc sunshine

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    Great info :)

    Shelf stable goods are great, as is long life milk, trail mix, all that sort of thing for added variety.

    I was thinking - what about an electric frypan?  You can obviously fry in them, oil doesn't need to be refrigerated.  Set up a little pack of spices, S&P. etc to add flavour.  Mustard and sauce too keep without refrigeration.  The frypan, you can do some rice or pasta/ veg etc in, then quickly fry off some meat you've picked up just before you are ready to cook.  Disposable cutlery and plates & bowls.

    Canned fish of many varieties are handy.  Fruit is good, also small cans of fruit in juice or syrup, 1 serve portions.  Hope some of this helps.
     
  18. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    I'm sure you know this, Allie. But just to reiterate: Read the labels carefully on convenience products. Many of them are the antithesis of healthy, particularly when it comes to salt levels.

    I recently made the mistake of buying some ramen type meals, in foam cups. Was in a rush and didn't read the label. First one I made was, literally, inedible. Turns out it had nearly 1000 mg of sodium per 1-cup serving. Obviously, I tossed the others.
     
  19. allie

    allie

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    Brooke, that's why we haven't really given a lot of though to the convenience foods.  He would not touch ramen with a 10 foot pole.  He would eat CBRD ravioli but knows it's not any healthier than eating fast food.  As far as sandwiches, he  goes to Subway often so dealing with having to keep meats cool, bread from getting smashed for that sort of meal isn't a valid option.  

    He is thinking about all the options we have been presented.  It's difficult when there is no room for a decent sized cooler with all the tools and stuff he has to haul around for his job.  I'm sure we'll come up with some solutions and your tips are very helpful and have given us lots of things to consider!
     
  20. panini

    panini

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    Patch,

    Do the shelf stable meals need to be brought up to a certain temp? to be safe?

    I'm probably not up to date on microwaves, how small are they now a days? I would think they have one maybe the size of a boom box. with a handle um 6x6x6. or do I need to produce one?

    Thought I read everything. I don't recall anyone mentioning dry ice. Our grocers carry it. .99 lb wrapped or 10 pieces for 8.99. We use it for deliveries. We usually pay half price at the ice house to fill it up. No shrinkage.

    jeff