You are going to love this series! Millie (who blogs at Real Food for Less Money) is a busy mom juggling alot. Yet, she pulled off a 10-day road trip eating pretty nearly 80% real food, and even more inspiring is that she wants to do it again next year!
This post is part 1 of what we’re calling her “Real Food On The Road” series. She shares how she planned and prepped for the road trip, including a very candid assessment of weak spots. Also check out Part 2 or the complete trip notes on her blog. Thanks, Millie! –Wardee
Recently, my family and I went on a 10 day camping/road trip. When we first began planning, one goal was to keep our traveling diet as real food friendly as possible. We know that our bodies do much better with whole foods prepared traditionally as opposed to standard processed food or dining out.
At home we are comfortable with buying and preparing ingredients that make this possible. We are fortunate not to have any serious food allergies and do have the ability to ‘stray’ a bit from our real food diet. I think we are about 80% real food and 20% not so real food (usually, through dining out or the occasional splurge of ice cream). Thinking about how to prepare the food we wanted in order to maintain our 80/20 goal while on the road and cooking of outdoors was a bit challenging for me.
I was comfortable with planning out the first few days. By cooking ahead and stuffing a cooler (or two) we would be fine for two, three or maybe even four days. Planning for beyond those first days is what I wasn’t sure about. I knew I’d need to work off of a menu plan if I had any hope of meeting our goal of real food vs. not real. Because I know myself, without a plan in place the results could be dismal. We had a few months in which to plan for our trip so I used that time to put the menu together and even test new recipes. While putting menu ideas together I found many great ideas on the internet (of course).
Right here at GNOWFGLINS was a post from a couple of summers ago on eating real food while traveling. This post helped me think about how we wanted to eat and what might work. Last year’s eCourse thank you video from Erin — “Sourdough Camping” — was a good review, too. So the backbone of my plan was formulated from these two resources. But also, Katie Kimball’s Family Camping Handbook and the book Roughing it Easy by Dian Thomas gave me some great ideas and suggestions.
In order to really make a menu plan that worked I had to know our itinerary. We would not just be traveling to one spot, setting up a tent, and staying put for 10 days. We were first driving what we thought would be 18 hours straight through (turned out we were in the truck for about 25 hours instead), staying with family one night, going to my daughter’s college graduation (the reason for the trip), staying with different family the next night, camping (in a yurt) at the beach for three nights, driving a partial day and camping (yurt, again) one night, driving a full day and camping (teepee), then driving another day and camping (tent) before finishing with a final eight hour drive home.
With our travel plans in place it was somewhat easy to figure out what kinds of meals would work for each spot we were staying. We were even taking meals to share while we were with our families, since feeding an extra 5 mouths when used to feeding one or two can be a challenge. Plus I did have an ulterior motive of sharing how wonderful our real food items taste.
Food prep began a few weeks before the trip by making a quart batch each of sauerkraut and cortido. I also made sure that I had my menu finalized and my to-do list written out. If it was going to work, I’d need to do a bit of advance cooking but also keep a list of what would need to be done each morning or evening for meals. Just like at home, things may need to be soaked or sprouted. I also planned on when/where I would restock for groceries and made grocery lists to go along with those stops. It sounds like a lot of work but it wasn’t very time consuming.
The week before we were to leave, I bought any non-perishables, and I also bought veggies that I planned on freezing for pizza toppings. I started putting together spice packets. By premixing taco seasoning and salad dressing seasonings for a few different types of salads I was able to leave my spice containers at home. I also premixed any dry ingredients for things that I could such as for Dutch Babies and Oatmeal pancakes.
I took advantage of pre-making things that would be okay if frozen. This would not only help with my meals but also act as the ice for the early part of the trip. I remembered reading a tip once from a full time RVing family that suggested to only buy frozen foods and never ice since the ice melts and makes a mess (boy, does it!) so thought I would utilize that tip with my made-at-home items.
The days before the trip were used to make up many foods like sourdough crackers, clabber cheese, kefir cheese, soft cheese, crispy almonds, sourdough tortillas, cooking 2 chickens in the crock pot (for sandwiches), baked oatmeal, Spice Cake, Impossible Brownies, and several other miscellaneous items. I figure I spent about six hours of hands-on time — and that gave us the bulk of our food for the first few days of our trip!
Our meals at the campgrounds were somewhat ‘typical’ campground foods but with a bit of a twist. We did our best to still use quality ingredients and keep processed items down to a minimum. I will admit that we did eat more S’mores than we probably should have! But to counteract our splurges we tried to have something probiotic with our meals. Sauerkraut was a very welcome addition to our beef dogs and our campfire pizzas. Cortido was wonderful on tacos and eggs, as was kefir or soft cheese. A big jug of kombucha left home with us but was gone way too soon. Store-bought plain yogurt with fruit was also something we had several times and was quite tasty. I had considered taking my dairy kefir grains along but just couldn’t figure if I could make that work so we made do with taking along a quart to use in salad dressings. (Now I think I could have made it work.) We took 2-1/2 gallons of real (raw) milk which stayed good the entire trip by paying close attention to the temperature in our five day cooler.
Our plan had a few weak spots. I packed up very well before we left, but each time we unpacked things seem to not fit nearly as well. And I took many things we ended up not really needing. We stopped once at an Oregon Trail marker that had reprinted letters from the travelers. One lady’s letter commented on how they had to set up camp each evening and break camp each morning. I guess that we had it easy in comparison!
Another weak area: I didn’t plan our breakfast times very well for the mornings that we were packing up to leave. Next time I’ll plan for an extra quick and easy breakfast that we can essentially eat on the road. We would be so excited to get going that sitting down to breakfast was a bit of a chore.
And I hate to admit that even with my plan in place, toward the end of the trip things became more challenging. We had planned on no more than three meals out (including our daughter’s graduation meal) but ended up with a fourth meal out. This occurred because we ran out of propane for the cook stove and I wasn’t able to precook our lunch for the next day. An hour away from the nearest store is not a good place to run out of propane! Next time I’ll remember to check the quantity of propane in the container.
All in all, we had a wonderful trip and are looking forward to a similar road/camping trip next summer that will be even a few days longer. While I think we did fall a bit short of our 80/20 goal we didn’t do too badly for the time we were on the road. I’m happy to say that cooking real food outdoors in a campground is really not much more difficult than cooking at home. I still think I’ll need a good plan in place and this time I have an entire year to work on it!
What real foods work for you while on a camping and/or road trip? Have you ever tried an extended trip lasting a week or more?