GAPS Travel Food: How to menu plan and my menu.
Summer is the time for road trips! On GAPS or any special diet you may feel like you need a truck like this one to carry all of your food for a trip away from home. That isn’t so! My family is taking 2 long ones this summer and we took one last fall. It is a bit more complicated than the old days when we could just stop for fast food along the way but depending on your destination and length of travel you may be able to get away with just a cooler or two and some shelf stable food storage. This post is mostly about food. If you want to know about the tools we used to make traveling away from home much easier check out this post I wrote last fall. Traveling on GAPS
I’m going to share some principles that I follow when planning the food for a road trip and also my menu from one trip. I hope that this will help some of you. When planning the food for a trip I follow a few principles.
- Food that my family will eat.
- Food that is easy for me to make.
- Food that I can make ahead.
- Food that is easy to transport or find raw ingredients for.
- Food with as few ingredients as possible.
- Food that will do double duty.
- Food that is shelf stable.
- Food that helps my family be at it’s best
So let me break that down.
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1. Food that my family will eat.
This means that when I serve a meal they are eager and willing to eat what is before them. Vacation is not a time that I want to be spending arguing about what is served for dinner or cajoling my child to consume a food that they hate. I won’t serve their favorites at every meal but I also won’t serve foods that they hate with no options. I save that for when we are at home and I have the luxury of time. I also look at what battles are worth fighting. Broth is worth fighting for. My family does better when they get plenty of broth in and vacation is fun but stressful. I know that skipping broth will make it more stressful and less fun so I make sure it is included. Soup on the other hand is an even harder sell than broth and I skip it on vacation no matter how easy it is for me to make. Just not worth it. This brings me to number 2.
2. Food that is easy to make
I don’t want to spend my vacation cooking. While I enjoy cooking, I need a break too. One way that I make things easy is to do some cooking ahead of time and freeze it. Another way is by simply choosing easy recipes and leaving off the flourishes that make them extra good. A roast sprinkled with salt may be a little plain but it is still tasty and will be gobbled up by my busy hungry family. I save the special recipes for when I’m at home. Also any foods that require a special tool to make them get skipped. Spiralizing zucchini, peeling and cutting up squash for fries, whatever it is I want to keep my tools to a minimum so I pick recipes that are simple to make. We like mashed squash almost as much as squash fries and it is much easier for the cook. Also in this category I’ll put foods that require little prep like breakfast sausages from our farmer and Organic Prairie ham. These foods are a bit more expensive but make up for it in how little work I need to do to get them to the table and into my family. This brings me to my next point.
3. Food that I can make ahead.
Before I go on a trip I bake bread and muffins, brown meat, shred cheese, do whatever steps I can do to prepare food ahead of time so that while on the trip I can just heat and go (or eat cold). Lots of foods can be prepared ahead of time like this and be just as tasty and save you effort while traveling. I spend the couple of weeks before our trip making double (or more) batches of various foods and freezing them so that I don’t have to spend a separate time cooking for our trip. It takes a little longer but there is just one clean up time and I am so glad for it when we get where we are going and I can just pull out supper ready to go. One bonus to these frozen meals is that they help keep the rest of the food cold in my 5-Day Cooler.
4. Food that is easy to transport or find raw ingredients for.
I love avocados but they are tricky to get home from the grocery store without bruises, much less transport in the car for several days. I know that at my In-Law’s it is nearly impossible to find safe foods so I bring absolutely everything with me. My parents however live near several sources of safe foods and they regularly shop at the farmers market and drink raw milk. We talk ahead of time about our needs and I can get away with bringing little but travel food, recipes and a couple of specialty ingredients from home.
5. Food with as few ingredients as possible.
When I am planning the food for a trip I look at recipes and consider how many different specialized ingredients I will have to bring along for each dish. When I made sausages from scratch at one point I had a very complicated recipe that I was following with about 10 spices in it. When I traveled I would mix up the spices ahead of time and put them in a baggie so that was all I brought. When I roast meat away from home it generally just has salt on it and nothing else to keep my life simple and bring as little as possible with me. If a recipe is a favorite but will necessitate lots of different ingredients (esp if they are perishable!) I will not put it on the menu.
6.Food that will do double duty.
On this last trip before we left I made 5 lbs of taco meat. 1 lb was liver and the rest was ground beef. Because of oxalate issues it didn’t end up being very spicy (I’m still working on a good, low oxalate taco seasoning recipe). That ended up being perfect. We had it one night as taco salad. I also used it as the ground meat in spaghetti sauce one night. And one night I used it as topping for a pizza (and I filled the pizza with the meaty spaghetti sauce, not perfect but close enough for my kids). That 5 lbs of ground meat filled many roles. On another night I made oven fried chicken. We had enough for dinner that night and then we ate them cold at another meal. I could have made those up ahead of time but I ran out of time. I roasted a chicken at home and then froze it for the trip that we had one night hot as roast chicken and another day as the cold meat on a salad. The cheese that I shredded before we left was used in our taco salad meal and our pizza. The ham was filling for sandwiches, cut up in an omlette and sliced and fried for dinner one night.
7. Food that is shelf stable
I do have a great cooler but it has limited capacity. Plus if we are traveling over more than one night all of that cold food needs to be brought into a hotel room and packed into the fridge overnight and packed again in the car in the morning if I have any hopes of it being cold for the whole trip. Finding foods that are shelf stable eliminates that problem. It also allows me to pad my food (in case I underestimate our appetites) without taking up a lot of extra space. When we travel I always throw in a few cans of Sardines or Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon. On all but one trip we have brought those cans home untouched but I was sure glad for them on that one trip and I continue to do it every time. There are alsoLÄRABAR, Go Raw Bars,Coconut Butter Packets,, Grass-Fed Beef Snack Sticks, RawRito Flaxseed Crackers, and of course dehydrated broth. Eggs also do not need to be refrigerated when raw.
8. Food that helps my family be at it’s best.
This final principle is key to having a good trip. If certain foods help maintain daily emotional stability or prevent discomfort then no matter how hard they are to transport make it happen. Other foods might be easy to transport or find at your destination but if they are going to cause tummy aches or melt downs in public places then they just aren’t worth it and might ruin your vacation. As fun as it is to visit relatives or theme parks that fun also causes stress that the body needs to be at it’s best to cope with. As we learned in my Adrenal Fatigue posts stress isn’t always caused by bad things.
Each families travel menu will look different, esp because of principle number 1. You need to bring foods you know your family will eat. I know that after a couple of meals of the same food my family would start protesting so it is worth more to me to bring variety than to make my life that simple. Some families will just bring a lot of the same couple of things to serve every day and that works for them. If we will be eating meals with others very often it is even more important that my kids food appeals to them so that they aren’t complaining and longing after what others have. I also plan for treats. Deserts and snacks that they don’t often get since we are on vacation after all, but I keep them simple to keep my life simple. This last trip I brought theseSilicone Ice Pop Makers. I could easily freeze yogurt or lemonade in them and have a frozen treat for my children and the lid makes them easy to transport in the cooler with frozen yogurt inside. They also are quite small and easy to pack empty to use at your destination.
At least a week before I leave (2 weeks is better) I sit down with a spreadsheet and begin filling in meals. I consider the plans for each day to know what to make when. I also consider what facilities I will have for meal prep each day as that can change. Once I have made my plan I figure out what I can make ahead and what I still need to buy. My week leading up to an out of town trip is always busy with food prep.
We recently came back from a 9 day trip. The first and last day’s involved 12 hours in the car. The rest of the time we had a home base with our own full kitchen and refrigerator. We generally stayed pretty close to our home base and were able to eat most of our meals there. All of those facts impact what we brought for food and planned to consume on our trip. Below I have shared our menu.
||hard boiled eggs, muffins,
||hard boiled eggs, donuts
||Ham sandwiches, veggies,
||Sandwiches, veggies, fruit
||sandwiches, veggies, yogurt
||Sandwiches, veggies, bars
||hot dogs, burgers, watermellon, veggies
||cold chicken, salad,
||chicken legs, oven roasted zucchini
||Spaghetti squash with meat sauce.
||Sausages, mashed squash, salad
||pizza (zucchini, crust, topped with ground meat)
||Chicken, ratatouille, squash
Breakfasts- The first and last days were travel days so we ate in the car while driving. Muffins and pancakes were packed frozen and thawed when needed.
Lunches- These were flexible and when we consumed some of our left overs.
Dinners- These were the most work of all the meals but still pretty easy. I planned the easier ones for the days when we would be running around all day and get home just in time for dinner or when we had somewhere to go afterward.
Snacks- I brought a lot of snacks. Some were just what I had on hand. Others I got specifically for this trip. We brought 5 kinds of jerky, Nick’s Sticks*, US Wellness jerky, snack sticks and pemican and Bison Snack Sticks from Tropical Traditions. (We had them all on hand so I brought them all.) raw veggies, yogurt, Go Raw Banana Bread Flax Bar*, Dried Snacks, Apple Harvest*, popsicles made in these Silicone Ice Pop makers.
*These foods also available at The Green PolkaDot box.
We were also able to eat out at Chipotle twice on this trip without any bad reactions and it was very filling! I often find that eating out on GAPS means that I am hungry at the end of the meal since so many restaurant meals depend on a starch to fill you up. At Chipotle we each got a bowl with carnitas, mild salsa, cheese and guacamole. I am allergic to corn and did not react to this meal. I like that I can feel good about how Chipotle is sourcing their meat and veggies as well as feel good eating them.
So have you taken a trip away from home on GAPS or another special diet? What tips do you have to share with others to make it easier to do?