Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Ask the Internet: Eating During a Move?

Today’s question comes from Holly, who is soon moving to the greatest city in the world. (Besides NYC, of course.) (If I don't say that, they throw me out of the state.):

Q: So, I will be getting in the car in a few weeks to move from Boston to Seattle. I'm thrilled at all of the people and places I will get to visit along the way for a 1-2 week roadtrip. My cat will be considerably less thrilled, but she'll live.

The dilemma that I'm facing is that I'm poor as a church mouse already, and the added expenses of moving make eating good healthy food along the way pretty tough. Add to that, who knows how many weeks I'll be in Seattle before my belongings arrive, so I can't even cook up something tasty when I arrive!

I'm desperate to not be eating fast food/takeout/pizza for a month or longer! Please help!

A: Thanks for writing, Holly! Alas, since most of my moves have only been between neighborhoods, I don’t have much experience with extended on-the-road/where-are-all-my-things eating.

Howevs, raw fruits, veggies, and dips seem like good places to start. I might invest in a huge bag of granola or whole-wheat bagels for breakfasts – or really, any fairly good-for-you food that doesn’t involve cooking (for which you don’t have any/many implements.)

I mightn’t dismiss takeout entirely, either. Sometimes, a big ol’ order of Chinese food can give you leftovers for several days. (Steamed for the health benefits, of course.)

Readers, how about you? How did you survive after a big move? What saved you cash and kept you nutritionally balanced? What are your favorite no-kitchen-equipment-needed foods? The comment section, she is open.

Want to ask the interweb a question? Post one in the comment section, or write to Cheaphealthygood@gmail.com. Then, tune in next Tuesday for an answer/several answers from the good people of the World Wide Net.

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Krista said...

I have moved long distance twice and have always had a small box in my car with essentials - coffee pot, a pan or two, a few cooking utensils, crockpot, rice steamer, etc. If you have access to a stove, there is no reason you shouldn't be able to cook until your belongings arrive. They may not be 4 star gourmet meals, but they will feed you much healthier and for far less money than take out.

As for the trip, I a a gluten free celiac so I always travel with food. You can stop at grocery stores and replenish along the way, and any hotel will have ice that you can fill your cooler with.

Have a great trip. Long distance moves are stressful but exciting!

Fuzzyorb said...

This may not help for the road trip portion of the move, but I would recommend packing one small box of kitchen essentials with you to help you survive in your new place until all of your belongings arrive. We did so on our last cross country move and we're surprised at how much we could cook with one box of kitchen stuff. I packed one pot, one pan, a chef's knife, a spatula, one set of dishes and silverware per person, a french press coffee maker, a coffee grinder, and a corkscrew.

Barb, Diabetic Snacker said...

Here's what I did once when we moved & it was great! I fixed up all the componets for a beef stew & threw them in my crockpot. That crockpot went to the new house the very first trip & was plugged in on low & forgot about it. At the end of the day when we were dead bone tired we had a great beef stew dinner waiting for us! It was so great we just had sliced bread with it & we were happy! You could do that with any other meal if you just think ahead.

DownDoggin in MN said...

I say definitely a big bag of granola, homemade for me. I also take a big batch of pasta salad packed in a cooler for road trips. It's easy to eat any you can make your own so it's delicious and nutritious. Don't forget your water bottle, you will want to drink a lot of water. You can fill you bottle up at the gas station using the pop machine, there's always a water tab, cheap, healthy and good for the environment. Good luck with the move!

Anonymous said...

Pack a jar of peanut butter or almond butter, some bananas and a bag of whole wheat english muffins! Nothing has to be refrigerated, all are cheap (plus you probably have leftover PB or almond butter anyway) and a quick pb/ab and banana sandwich on a whole wheat english muffin has enough fiber and protein to keep you driving straight until the next meal!

Barb, Diabetic Snacker said...

Oh, I thought of something else we did another time we moved. I threw together a deli lunchmeat type picnic "box" & we ate that at the new place for lunch in between moving with no cooking involved. That was the best bologna sandwich ever! Peanut butter sandwiches will even work great in a pinch!

Cindy said...

I second the fresh veggies and fruit. I also take food when traveling (which I know isn't quite the same as you are talking about) like hummus, pitas, sandwhiches, PB&J. We often have dinners that consist of a salad and pickings...olives, cheese, good bread, roasted peppers, pickles, artichoke hearts. If you have places to prepare food just no way to cook you can do things like different types of slaw salads or cold bean salads. if possible purchase a cheap camp or backpacking stove ($30+ depending)or even small charcoal grill if you can use one , which could save you from eating out as much. good luck.

Ducks said...

Think sammiches, but think creatively. A package of tortillas, a packet of spinach leaves, and hummus makes several wonderful "wraps" with pretty good nutritional profile.

Carrots are the best road snacks. And kumquats, if you are feeling sleepy -- they're really energizing little bursts of flavor! Cold from an ice chest, they are wonderful.

I suggest visiting local diners/restaurants on stops once a day or so, rather than pizzerias & chains. You'll be building memories and eating specialties you may not find elsewhere... and it'll probably be cheaper.

Good luck!

dyan f. said...

During the actual cross-country trek, a cooler will be your best friend! You can buy small quantities of lunch meats/cheeses or deli salads and keep them on ice in the cooler. (Or if you're particularly resourceful, you can use frozen water bottles as ice packs!)

hillary said...

We're almost two months into a kitchen remodel so I've been cooking-without-cooking for a few weeks now and feel like I can offer some strategies.

- Choose veggies and fruits that don't need much preparation. Pea pods, baby carrots, wee tomatoes, grapes, strawberries, bananas, pre-washed salad greens (when you have a fridge).

- Sandwiches. In your car you can pack a cooler with sandwich fixings and make them up as you go on the road. You can go pretty gourmet with this, like fresh mozz with tomato and pesto on focaccia, or you can do a basic ham and cheese with pickles. Cream cheese and bagels also fall into this category. Nut butters don't even require the cooler. I've been loving almond butter plus bananas lately.

- If you have access to boiling water (electric kettle or microwave), lots of things can be made. Think couscous, instant oatmeal, miso soup.

- If you have access to a kitchen (before you leave, or a friend's once you get there), cook in bulk. For example, I went over to my sister's house and boiled a big pot of potatoes and a dozen eggs. Then I turned those into a variety of meals (potato salad, egg salad, salad nicoise, breakfast burritos, etc). It's also a good time to prep veggies that are more difficult to prepare without kitchen facilities: think roasted cauliflower, steamed green beans, etc. These hold up surprisingly well in a fridge or cooler, are great on sandwiches and in salads, etc.

- One of the most economical prepared foods available at grocery store delis are the rotisserie chickens. They are good for a few meals usually, and can transform into all kinds of meals. Another prepared food we've come to love in the last few weeks is pre-cooked rice, both the frozen and the self-stable pouch versions. The brown rice especially! Not cheap, but healthy and good.

- Once you arrive at your new place, you may want to invest in some small appliances (if you are not already bring the with you). Things like a rice cooker, a blender, and a toaster oven can almost compensate for the lack of a regular kitchen. The rice cooker can steam vegetables in addition to cooking rice, the blender makes quick cold soups and smoothies, the toaster oven can bake everything from enchiladas to cookies. Heck, we've even broken out the "quesadilla maker" my husband got at a workplace white elephant exchange.

Julianne said...

Salsa, kidney beans, sour cream, and whole grain tortilla chips= yum.

Michelle said...

We're a military family. Moving is our life. We seldom eat at restaurants during a move or when we arrive. Here's how we survive:

1. Pack a kitchen essentials box and keep it easily accessible. Include a slow cooker, collander, slotted spoon, whisk, plates, forks, bowlx, spoons, knives, can opener, small pot, and anything else you rely on regularly for your daily cooking. Open it first when you arrive at your destination. Hit the grocery store for a cut-up chicken, some carrots, celery, onion, potato, and spices. Cook it in your crock pot for your first dinner in your new home. :)


2. Ice chests are your friend. Pack grapes, bananas, apples, carrots, cucumber slices, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cooked, sliced meats and sliced cheeses. Pack a couple loaves of bread and you have a deli-style meal. Add crackers/pretzles or other munchies. Granola bars are good and you can make them from scratch ahead of time if you like. Pack lots to drink. Water in reuseable bottles is a good chioce and can be refilled for free almost anywhere.

3. Have two coolers: one for the kids and one for the adults. Pack kid snacks in individual containers. Teddy grahams, cubes of cheese, crackers, carot sticks, dry cereal, you name it.

4. Pack more than you think you'll need. Because you can still use it at your new house, and that way, you won't be tempted to buy food on the road.

5. Stop and picnic for meals. Give yourselves the chance to get out of the car and stretch. Let kids run around. Lots of rest stops have picnic benches. If not, spread out a blanket.

6. Splurge on good food, though. If you're going through a place known for its cuisine, get some. In Georgia? Peaches in the summer. In New York City? Get some street food. It's an experience you shouldn't miss if you have the chance.

IronMo said...

Hey Holly,
I did this on a SF to NC move two years ago. If you can swing a small cooler, that will be a lifesaver. Breakfasts were easy, as I stayed at hotels where b'fast was included - I usually snagged a few pieces of fruit for the road. My mom drove with me, and we generally stopped at Subway for lunch. We did a grocery run for pretzels, carrots, etc. We also bought a 2.5 gal jug of water to keep in the backseat and refill our bottles. With the cooler we bought a rotisserie chicken and made burritos one night; there was plenty leftover for the next day's lunch.

I'd pack some basic utensils - forks, knives, etc (Even if they're plastic!) and a small thing of dishsoap, as well as a small pot/pan and some ziploc baggies. These will serve you well both on the road, and again when you arrive in Seattle. If you're really pressed for space you could even ship a small box of kitchen supplies ahead of time so it's waiting for you. Good luck!

Dana said...

Dried fruit and nuts make a great snack, and aren't too expensive if you buy in bulk. We always do almonds and raisins on long drives.

Laura said...


If you have a fridge, and I really hope you will, you can have everything you need to make delicious sandwiches on hand all the time. All you'll really need are napkins and a knife. Meats (or tofurky), cheeses, and breads all come pre-sliced. Lettuces can be torn by hand, and condiments either come in a squeeze bottle or can be spread with the knife. That one utensil also lets you slice veggies to go on the sandwich or on the side. Plus if you include flatbreads, tortillas, and hummus you can create a huge variety of dishes.

Em said...

how about salads: green salads, bean salads, tuna salad, etc. you can probably travel with a bowl, some canned beans, tuna, veg, and some ingredients for dressing.

Harper said...

A 1-2 week roadtrip sounds like heaven to me! Although they are a little more expensive I recommend getting individual juice and soup boxes so you don't need to worry about keeping leftovers cold. Some soups taste great at room temp. I second the bagel suggestion, they hold together better than bread slices. Pitas and tortillas work as well. Hardy crunchy food like apples, carrots, pickled vegetables, romaine lettuce, and celery travel well. Bring olive oil, vinegar, and herbs/spices so you can make your own salad dressing. Small cans of olives, salmon, etc. Don't forget - there are grocery stores all over so you can stop and restock as needed.
Keep some items out of the packing boxes to use on the road and once you arrive - bowls, mugs, flatware, some storage containers including a jar for mixing, a good sharp knife and a small cutting board. One item that I find very useful is an electric water kettle or hot pot - If it has a smooth interior [rather than a visible heating coil] you can cook things like soup, pasta, or rice directly in it. Having something warm in the evening can be so comforting, even in the summer, but it is also nice for making tea, coffee in a french press, bouillon with fresh vegetables added. Cous cous, grits, and noodles that cook in 3 minutes can be made by mixing with boiling water in a storage container and letting it sit covered for a few minutes. If you don't have a electric kettle, consider buying a small heating coil although you can find a Hot Pot for under $15.
Good lucj and have fun!

lisa said...

We did a cross country move a few years ago, and arrived a week before our stuff. We flew, and packed one box with one pot, a cutting board, a good knife, a spatula, and a few forks, plates, etc.
As soon as we arrived we were able to cook, although certainly it was a limited menu. This was before it cost a lot to bring an extra box on the airlines but if you are driving it's worth it. For the drive I'd look for hotel chains that have kitchens and a free breakfast.

LSR said...

I'd go with a cooler in your car for things like fruit, yogurt, cheese, bread, etc. There will be McD's all along your way but grocery stores too. And maybe friends along the way will load you up with leftovers!

My last move I was glad I remembered to bring in the car a pot, a big bowl, a big spoon, and a set of dishes so in those days before my stuff arrived I could at least make a pot of pasta with store-bought sauce.

Allie said...

Congrats on your move! This past summer my husband and I (and our dog) moved from Chicago to LA and did the road trip thing for a month. We only ate fast food twice (subway, both times).

A cooler is key. We got one that plugged into our car, so we didn't have to always worry about having ice. Also, some basic utensils, a plate, a bowl, camping pots if you'll be camping, paper towel, several water bottles, etc will be necessary.

Breakfast was always oatmeal. We split up a tub of old fashioned oats into baggies and threw in some craisins, cinnamon, and brown sugar, and boiled water when we were camping to cook the oats. When we weren't camping, gas stations usually have hot water spigots on the coffee machines. Instant oatmeal would also work.

Whenever we stopped for food, we looked for grocery stores and stocked up on bananas, apples, and veggies. We'd also get a loaf of bread, some deli meat and sliced cheese, and I'd make sandwiches while hubby drove.

Dinners were usually made on the camping stove - chicken with the one generic seasoning we brought along cooked in a camping pot and slapped on a bun, hotdogs over the campfire, potatoes in foil packets, easy stuff like that. One day while we were camping my husband caught some fish, so we made that.

It was actually really fun to be creative, and it made me really appreciate my stove when we finally reached our destination! Good luck!

lagne said...

When I moved across the country, I packed a box of 2-3 pots/pans, basic utensils, a sheet pan, and pot holders. I kept this box with me in the car instead of shipping it, so I had means to cook when I arrived at my new abode.

Alternately, if the question-asker has already shipped her stuff, she could always snag an inexpensive pot/skillet/baking sheet or two from discount stores like Big Lots or Dollar General, Goodwill or The Salvation Army. That would tide her over until her stuff arrived, and wouldn't cost much. That might be the best solution, particularly if money's tight - a months' worth of restaurant meals can really add up, moneywise!

Anonymous said...

I did the cross country move about two years ago. The two things that saved me:

1. Take a cooler in the car. Fill it up with yogurt, string cheese, bread, jam, peanut butter, lunch meat, ect. Also pack a bag with instant oatmeal packets, trail mix, granola bars, bagels, instant soup mixes, ect and one or two favorite junk foods like potato chips or fruit snacks. You will inevitably crave these while driving for hours on end and it's cheaper to buy at a grocery store than a convenience store. All this food should cover breakfast and lunch every day, and some dinners.

2. Pack a small box or bag with all your essential kitchen supplies. For me, this was a cutting board, pairing knife, real forks, spoons, butter knives, plates and bowls. I picked up these at a thrift store for cheap,so I wouldn't have to use my good plates or silverware. I also brought along a few wooden spoons, a frying pan, an egg turner, and a can opener for when we were waiting for our boxes to arrive. This way I could make easy meals like salads and stirfry until our boxes arrived.
A last tip: use your in-room coffee maker to make hot water for things like instant oatmeal and instant soup. If you can, bring a small bottle of white vinegar with you to clean it out before using. It should get rid of the coffee taste.

Val said...

I agree with lots of these comments-- bring some cooking supplies with you or buy some cheapies when you arrive and oatmeal and pbj will help get you through. Also having some tupperware and plastic baggies on hand is good for taking leftovers. Now let me tell you a bit about cheapy Seattle food. There is Asian food and tons of it. For the most part, portions are huge and can easily be stretched for 3 meals. Chicken teriyaki is a local specialty and you can find it in every neighborhood. Pho is vietnamese soup that comes in gigantic bowls, the smallest of which is about $4 and comes with a tasty little cream puff for dessert (go to one of the dozen Than Brothers around the city). Likewise, vietnamese sandwiches are pretty common and ring in at about $3.50. Buying produce and seafood in the International District will also save you money over the mainstream grocery stores. The cheapest eating, or at least the most choices for the budgeteer, is probably found in the University District. Please go to Thai Tom! I am more homesick for that restaurant than anything else (sorry mom...)

Holly said...

I *knew* I was asking the right crowd! I'm so glad you all have such great ideas!

I feel daft for not even considering bringing a box of kitchen essentials in the car with me. That actually solves so many problems.

I'm also looking over these and thinking that it's a good thing I don't eat a meat-heavy diet. Although, I'm pretty sure my cat will love me forever if I bring a few cans of tuna fish to share.

Note to self: Pack a can-opener.

Marcia said...

So many great ideas. I will re-iterate:

1. Pack a few cooking essentials. Cutting board, knife. What else do you eat? Rice cooker, microwave, toaster oven, electric griddle, George Foreman (choose which one fits your eating style).

2. On the road: fruit, veggies, sandwiches. Pack a cooler.

3. Grocery store. My very first boss used to buy his lunch at the grocery store every day. Yogurt and a banana. On the road, remember you can get cheap healthy food much easier at a store than at a restaurant.

Jennifer said...

Definitely bring your basic kitchen equipment with you in your car: 1 non-stick skillet, 1 saucepan, wooden spoon, can opener, spatula, etc. Also food basics like olive oil, salt & pepper, etc. You don't want to re-buy things you already have. I only had a 3 day wait for my stuff to arrive but I was traveling by plane so I couldn't bring as much with me. Definitely pack a cooler with you for sandwich supplies & pre-assembled snacks. If I didn't have an 18 month old at the time I would have loved to do the cross-country drive.

Ali said...

Also: if you use use a small rubbermaid (or other resealable plastic) box as your 'kitchen box', you can use the inside of the lid as a cutting board. Saves a bit of space, and hey, bonus cutting board! If you're camping you can get away with a smaller 'kitchen box' by pouring smaller amounts of dishsoap, oil, salt, or whatever, into smaller leak-proof containers. Have a great trip!

Liz of Cthuliz said...

How weird! I just moved from Boston to Seattle, too. Also, I'm 100% broke with built-in frugality.

We brought a large crockpot, two small square bread pans, and a griddle pan with us, and they have been /immensely/ helpful. The crockpot was used for making salsa in 1.5 gallon lots (crazy, I know, but you can do a lot with salsa) using this trusty recipe: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Salsa-II/Detail.aspx

Once you have the salsa, you can easily make tortillas with cheap ingredients: notably, oil and all-purpose flour. Then make quesadillas, lunch wraps, and so on. Even salsa burgers! I blogged a bit about this here, and have an easy recipe for burger buns: http://cthuliz.com/blog/?p=378

I'm a fan of baking bread, solely because it's cheap and delicious. You can make two nice bread loaves for less than $1. It's extremely cost-effective, especially given the bakery prices in Seattle. I have a recipe for simple white bread here: http://cthuliz.com/blog/?p=196

Be on the lookout for savings from QFC, Safeway, and other grocery chains stores. If you join in on their clubs, the savings are significant. I've heard good things about WinCo Foods (where good things = extremely cheap prices), but that's a 20 minute drive from downtown.

That said, if you need an emergency place to dine on the cheap, I'd recommend Mama's Mexican Kitchen on 2nd Avenue in Belltown. One $9 meal will fill two people and usually leave you with leftovers. They also provide free chips and salsa before your meal. Buffalo Subs, which I believe is on 1st Ave in Belltown, is also pretty cheap. Plus, the coffee is free.

If you need any Seattle-specific tips, please let me know! I have a feeling we're in the same boat.