9 Food Prep Ideas For Reducing Plastic Use & Saving Money When Traveling
Last Updated on August 30, 2022 by Kayla
Traveling may be the most exhausting time to try to avoid waste and be healthy. These food ideas for travel will make your life easier and healthier.
It seems like every to-go food item is in a plastic container with a plastic seal with a plastic label. Sustainable travel takes some preparation when it comes to food.
If we’re being honest about most to-go snacks from gas stations or airport shops, we know they’re not ideal adventure fuel. Most healthy snacks are pricey, highly processed and have plastic packaging.
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It’s not a very good choice for our bodies, our wallets or the earth we’re out enjoying.
Before a long flight, road trip or even just a busy day on the go, this is my food prep routine for being full, fueled and frugal.
It’s impossible to talk about reducing your footprint around food without talking about being plant-based. Reducing meat and dairy intake is the single biggest way you can reduce your impact on the environment.
Fellow blogger Plant-Based Cooking has more vegan food ideas for travel.
Drain canned tuna, season it and put in a to-go container. I usually use a mason jar, or for trips in the summer I use an insulated container and leave it in the fridge overnight to make sure it stays cold.
My favorite way to season:
- dollop of plain Greek yogurt
- a chopped tomato
- salt and dried dill
Adding the yogurt makes it less dry and adds protein. You can also use ranch dressing or mayo if you don’t have yogurt.
If I’m flying and I don’t have room to spare, I’ll pack a pre-seasoned to-go tuna packet. The packaging isn’t recyclable so I don’t use these in my day-to-day life, but it’s a handy way to carry some protein on the go and avoid impulse buys.
2. Hard boiled eggs
If you’re not a fan of eggs by themselves, you can sprinkle on some salt and pepper, dry Ranch seasoning, Old Bay, etc.
I carry these in a stainless steel container, small mason jar or a Stasher reusable ziplock bag (which I talk about in the “supplies” section below).
3. Trail mix with nuts
I never depart for a travel day without a big-ass bag of trail mix. Having something to munch on all day makes me feel more relaxed and patient.
This is extra important if I’m flying, because my husband is afraid of flying and snacking helps calm him down.
Plus, who doesn’t love a good trail mix? I store my trail mix in a one-gallon Ziplock bag that I reuse for every trip, or for smaller batches I use a Stasher bag.
4. Dried chickpeas
Crunchy, salty chickpeas are an addictive snack that will also help keep you full. They are super easy and quick to make at home.
One piece of advice for people like me, who can be in a state of chaos before leaving for a trip: do these the day before you leave so you don’t have to worry about burning them in the oven.
These food ideas for travel will make your life easier. I speak from experience when I say that the smell of burning chickpeas adds a smelly element of stress.
Fresh Food Ideas For Travel
5. Fruit and vegetables
A lot of people hesitate to take produce through an airport, but you’re allowed to take fresh fruits and veggies through airport security.
Transporting fresh food only becomes a problem when you’re carrying enough food to be considered “importing,” for example transporting large sacks of dried beans or seeds.
I like to throw in a few pieces of fruit in like an apple or mandarins in my bag. Just be conscious when packing that you don’t squish your fresh items!
6. Glass jar
This has endless uses on the go, for packing snacks, taking food to-go from a breakfast buffet or leftovers from a restaurant, holding rubbish, being used as a cup. I never travel without a mason jar.
Cheap or upcycled: You don’t need any specific size of Mason jar for this tip to work. Look around your kitchen and see what jars you already have around: mine is an old honey jar.
Pro tip: if you’re packing something fluid, check the lid to make sure whatever jar you use doesn’t leak.
7. Reusable water bottle
My one liter wide-mouth Nalgene comes on every trip, on vacation or even just leaving the house day-to-day.
Make sure it’s empty if you’re going through security, and then fill it up inside the airport.
When you’re traveling somewhere that doesn’t have clean drinking water, I recommend packing item #17 on my sustainable travel packing list.
Cheap or upcycled: Thrift stores are an easy place to find reusable bottles. Or you may even have some in your house already: think workout bag, hiking backpack, etc.
8. Cloth napkin
Cloth napkins are endlessly handy to keep in your bag, every day and when you’re traveling.
You can spread a napkin out on a table or airplane tray to create a small clean space to eat. You can clean up spills or use it to keep things together in your bag.
A cloth napkin also serves as a great reminder to refuse senseless waste. Disposable napkins don’t even work well. And while we’re on the subject, I think paper towels are a scam too. I think having a paperless kitchen makes far more sense than using disposables.
Cheap or upcycled: cut pieces of fabric to make your own cloth napkin.
9. Snack bag
Stasher bag is my favorite snack bag. It hardly takes up any space in your bag, and is extremely durable. As in, can be frozen and boiled and is still leak-proof durable. Stasher is a beast.
It’s more expensive than other reusable Ziplock bag replacements, but I find it to be worth every penny.
Cheap or upcycled: sew your own bag out of scraps of fabric; or if you already own Ziplock bags, then you can take them and be vigilant about cleaning and reusing.
10. Travel cutlery
Cheap or upcycled: You can make your own to-go set as easily as picking up an extra fork, spoon and knife at a thrift store and then getting a little carrying case for in your bag. A pencil case is usually a good fit for the utensils and inexpensive, or you can always make your own from fabric scraps.
Do you think about reducing your footprint while you travel? I hope these food ideas for travel will make sustainable travel easier for you.
Remember that you don’t have to be completely plastic-free to still have a positive impact. Start with small, consistent changes and you’;l eventfully be developing new habits that are shrinking your footprint.