Eating Well While On the Road

Written by monthly contributing writer, Trina Holden.

Summer means road trips and adventures in our family, but along with the fun and change of scenery is the challenge of eating well while away from home. Did you know you can  enjoy the comfort and nutrition of home cooking while traveling with just a little bit of planning? Here are my tips for real food on the road, actually written from our campsite in PA. while attending Creation Festival Northeast. We’re saving money and enjoying delicious, home-cooked meals the entire trip, thanks to these menu ideas…

While on the Road…sandwiches get old fast. I like to packed hearty salads and pepperoni rolls to spice things up. Try these quick and tidy meals for in the car or at a rest stop.

  • Taco Salad To Go: Layer seasoned meat, shredded lettuce, grated cheese, and chopped veggies and beans of your choice in a bowl with a lid. Pack sour cream, salsa, and chips on the side. When you get hungry, throw the toppings on, put the lid on and shake it to mix.
  • Rice Salad: Combine cooked rice, cooked and chopped chicken, sliced avocados, slivered almonds, chopped celery, and dried cranberries. Make a simple dressing of mayonaise, yogurt and a bit of curry powder. Store in the cooler. Refreshing and filling!
  • Pepperoni Rolls: Roll pizza dough out into a wide, thin rectangle. Spread sparingly with pizza sauce, then sprinkle with grated mozzarella cheese, basil, and chopped pepperoni. Roll up jelly-roll style and slice into 1 inch thick sections. Place cut-side up on a greased baking sheet. Brush with beaten egg, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, and let rise for 30 min. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 min. Enjoy fresh and hot OR cold and packed in the cooler – great for passing to kids in the back seat!

At Your Destination...The secret to nourishing, tasty meals on vacation is doing the work before you leave and planning meals you can heat and serve with minimal effort. I begin filling my freezer weeks in advance of a trip by doubling a night’s dinner and freezing half for the trip. Meals that work great for this include:

  • Sloppy Joes: Sauce and Rolls freeze well, and the rolls won’t get crushed as easily if they’re frozen!
  • Pizza Dough: Thaw the dough while you’re hiking or at the pool, have everyone pitch in with toppings for a great family dinner when you get back.
  • Meatloaf: Season and shape meatloaf in advance. Throw it in the oven with a few baked potatoes and serve with fresh, local produce.

Roughing It With Real Food…Camping may be the most challenging place to attempt real food, but again, planning ahead gets you there. Frozen meats and other foods will keep several days in a sealed cooler, so use one cooler as ‘fridge’ and one as ‘freezer’ and only open your ‘freezer’ once a day to pull out dinner.

  • Hamburgers: Make your own hamburger and hotdog buns ahead of time, freezing them to keep them from getting crushed on the trip. Season and shape, and freeze hamburger patties ready for the coals.
  • Marinade: Freeze chicken or steak in your favorite marinade so it’s all ready for the grill.
  • Chili: Don’t overlook the simplicity of a good pot of soup. Choose something that doesn’t burn easily (vegetable beef stew, chili, or goulash). Make ahead, freeze, and it will help keep the rest of your cooler contents cold.

I hope these tips help you realize that “Bon Voyage” doesn’t mean “Farewell” to good, home cooking. You can take your diet convictions and comfort food with you on vacation and get the best of both worlds.

What are your favorite travel-worthy menu ideas? Please share!

For more tips for travel, check out Healthy & Frugal Travel Meals.

About Trina Holden

Trina enjoys offering hospitality from their 1800’s farm house in Upstate New York. She loves to encourage women to nourish their families, celebrate the journey, and choose to thrive at

15 Responses to Eating Well While On the Road

  1. kangkang July 21, 2011 at 4:28 pm #
    I tide fashion Good-looking, not expensive

  2. Marie July 18, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

    I really appreciate this post! We are leaving for vacation on Wednesday and I’ve been busy preparing food all day. Love the pepperoni rolls and taco salad to go ideas. Thanks!

  3. Adica July 17, 2011 at 1:10 pm #

    Eating good food while camping isn’t hard at all, really. Your only real limit is your creativity. My family nearly always eats better while camping than we do while at home. All you need is a barbecue and/or a campfire with a grill surface. Another good tip is to keep in mind where you’re going because you may be able to find local food for cheaper than you would get at home. For example, when my family camped in Acadia National Park in Maine, we bought about 5 fresh lobsters for under $30 and cooked them in a large pot of boiling water over the campfire. When we were out west (I can’t remember where, exactly…), we bought fresh steak and barbecued them. When we’re camping in any area with farms, we’ll buy fresh fruits and vegetables from roadside stands. This last week while camping in northern Michigan, we bought and cooked fresh white fish that had just been caught early that morning.

    Lunches are usually a mix between sandwiches and leftovers from the night before. Breakfast could be something as simple as cereal or some combination of pancakes, sausage, bacon, Canadian bacon, fried or scrambled eggs, English muffins, more leftovers… Usually it’s fried or scrambled eggs with Canadian bacon on a toasted English muffin. Mmm…

  4. sandi July 12, 2011 at 5:12 pm #

    we just got back from a trip and some of the foods we packed were ones on your list. our favorite is meatloaf. i will also scramble eggs (leaving them a little under-cooked) the morning we are leaving and warm those in the microwave the following morning along with fruit and juice. our cooler food can last us up to a week, although we usually like to eat out at least once. another money saver is to google a kids eat free website of the location you are going to see if restaurants in the area offer free kids meals on certain nights.

  5. Jessica July 12, 2011 at 11:59 am #

    Great tips Trina!
    We never manage to go anywheres, particularly places that aren’t family’s homes. I’m not a big camping person…the bugs eat me alive :-) But we do like to go out for the day to places.

  6. Becky July 11, 2011 at 6:28 pm #

    My family and I went on cross country road trip this spring in May. Some of the stuff we got on the road with us were boiled eggs, which come in really handy and are not too messy on the road. We ate them with french bread and some feta cheese and tomatoes. They make for a great healthy snack!

    We also made a lot of marble cake. You can cut it up in pieces in advance and distribute them to the family while in the car or at a road stop. Marble cake from scratch is really filling and delicious. Like a whole food in itself.

  7. Becky July 11, 2011 at 5:19 pm #

    Thanks for posting this! We’re actually going on a trip this week, and I was trying to think of some good ways to eat well on the road (not to mention saving money!) This gives me some good ideas. :-)

  8. Bethany July 11, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

    Before we go camping we prep all the food at home before hitting the road!!

    A popular breakfast dish we make is veggie scrambles. We wash and dice a variety of veggies: tomatos, mushrooms, olives, onion, spinach, bell pepper, etc. Then put in a container and dump in the skillet when ready to cook breakfast along with a little butter. Add eggs, top with cheese

    Fruits and washed, sliced, and packed in little containers for quick snacks.

    If we are doing a chicken dish, the chicken will be chopped or sliced to the size needed.

    We make fresh salsa and bring chips for a snack.

    Again, the idea is to pre-do everything except the actually cooking. Makes healthy meals easy and makes the camping trip more relaxing as the more time consuming tasks (i.e. dicing, slicing, mixing) are already done.

    Happy camping y’all!


  9. Lacey Wilcox July 11, 2011 at 11:45 am #

    This list was so great! And now I’m inspired to try some new recipes for our vacation coming up!!

  10. Sally {with eager hands} July 11, 2011 at 9:06 am #

    I sure do wish I had read this a month ago, when we traveled to the Outer Banks! I have another opportunity for using this information as we travel again this weekend (but thankfully, we are staying with family, so only on-the-road meals need be made!)
    I rarely ever comment, but I LOVE Passionate Homemaking, and have been an faithful reader for several years. I always smile when I see a new post listed from PH on my blog’s sidebar. Thank you, Lindsay and company, for how you bless, and minister to us all!

  11. Jeana July 11, 2011 at 8:42 am #

    I love the taco salad to-go idea! I may have to try that later this week. We’re on the road a lot in the summer, so I really appreciate all these tips for how to stay healthy on the road. Sometimes it’s just so tempting to stop at the golden arches, but it seems to undo much of what I’ve been fighting for in terms of healthy, clean eating. Not to mention that the consequences (grouchiness, stomach ache, to name a few) are definitely not worth it!! Thanks for sharing these tools and your ideas!!

  12. Robin Russell July 11, 2011 at 7:38 am #

    We love hobo meals. They are easy to do on the grill, campfire, or oven. Cooking the veggies and whatever meat we choose from hamburgers to fish in foil packets. Easy to assemble and easier still if you pre cut the veggies at home and all you have to do is assemble! Inexpensive and yummy!

  13. Julia July 11, 2011 at 7:12 am #

    You might look into buying some dry ice for the “freezer” cooler. It should keep things below 32 F. I’ve seen it at the grocery store next to the regular ice. Just make sure that any children do not play with it as can freeze your fingers too.

  14. trina July 11, 2011 at 6:59 am #

    Yes, Katie! Theme park food is SO expensive! I love the bean burrito idea.

  15. Katy July 11, 2011 at 6:17 am #

    My husband and I are going on a trip to Six Flags this week. We are planning on eating out, but the day we’re at Six Flags we’re gonna keep some bean burritos in the car…food at Six Flags is just WAY to expensive! And bean burritos are super cheap to make!