Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Ask the Internet: A Week of Portable Meals?

Today's question comes from reader Beth:

Q: I will be going to grown-up art camp soon and need to bring my own food for one week of breakfast and lunches, and something to take to share for snacks with the group.

From Wiki's Jennifer R.
There is a fridge and some cupboard space (shared with 10 people so not much space). Cooking will be limited to what I can do in a small saucepan (no actual cooking). I need ideas for things I can make ahead and take with me that can supplement instant oatmeal, single-serve soups and maybe a bag or two of baby carrots or some apples. I have a great granola bar recipe but am looking for other ideas that are healthy (high fiber, low cal, low sugar) and can keep for a week and not take up much space. Any ideas?

A: Wow. This one's a puzzle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in granola bar. Dried fruits and nuts would be my immediate go-to for snacking purposes, though homemade trail mix would also be lovely. If you can bring any cans, beans and tuna could make tasty, protein-heavy wraps. Of course, there's always good ol' PB&J, as well.

Readers, color me stumped. What do you suggest?

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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Anonymous said...

I realize it's around $3 a package but Meals-Ready-to-Eat from Tasty Bite or similar sound great for this situation.

Anonymous said...

1. Rice and Beans can be made ahead and reheated.
2. Hummus with baby carrots, sliced cukes, and pita chips
3. Pasta w/ veggies (from can, or frozen if there's a freezer) mixed with a foil pack of tuna is an easy and less fat-laden tuna casserole substitute. Or swap out the tuna for a foil pack of salmon.
4. Roasted chickpeas - need to be kept in the fridge, but are a good crunchy, snacky food with lots of fiber and protein, and mad easy to make.

I'd also skip putting things like soup in plastic bowls/containers, and freeze them flat in freezer-weight ziplocs. Takes up way less space in either freezer or fridge. Just take along a big mug if there won't be dishes.

Kim said...

Tortillas with cans of black or pinto beans. You can heat them up in a microwave or in the saucepan. Add cheese--instant burrito!

Or other canned vegetables you can use in a sauce pan--corn, green beans, peas, etc.

Pepperoni and crackers? Dry cereal? Ramen noodles? Lots of bananas and apples.

Ducks said...

If you've got electricity, take an immersion blender for pureeing soups!

Arthur said...

Low carb meals tend to be perishable so I would recommend making frozen meals if there is a freezer. Fridge space tends to get taken up quickly but you could freeze meals flat in ziploc bags and stack them in a small space in the freezer. You can heat in the microwave or in the skillet.
1. Chicken Curry
2. Hamburger Steaks
3. Beef Stew
4. Chicken & Bean Soup
5. Lentil Stew

Anna N said...

Some ideas:

- (If you'll have microwave access) you might want to take rolled oats instead of instant oatmeal. They're higher in fiber and can be cooked just as easily in the microwave. I think they have a better texture, but YMMV.
- If you want milk, you could take nonfat dry milk (powdered) to save space.
- Take some small amounts of oatmeal add-ins, which won't take up much space, won't need to be refrigerated, and will allow you to make a different kind of oatmeal every day for a week, like: raisins, dates, dried apricots, nuts, powdered ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon.
- Homemade larabars!
- Homemade black bean burgers with rolls or bread to eat them on

Happy art camp!

mollyjade said...

Sun-dried tomatoes (not the oil-packed kind).

You can find both bean dip and hummus in jars that don't need to be refrigerated until opened. Look near the chips. I've also seen individual hummus cups.

Unsweetened apple sauce cups with a mixture of ground flax and walnuts to sprinkle on top.

Sort of snacky and not for everyone, but soy crisps.

PBJ or PB and apple slices.

Abbey said...

I agree with others' comments about canned goods, granola bars, and trail mix. I also like dry roasted chickpeas and soy nuts to snack on at work, and always have frozen veggies and hot sauce on-hand for the 3pm slump.

I also ate peanut butter and banana sandwiches for about 6 months straight while working outside at job sites, and never got sick of them. Not to be underestimated.

Kris said...

From reader Jill:

I think this is such a great topic to discuss and have been thinking about it a lot lately. I just got back from a week long vacation in New Orleans. My “kitchen” consisted of an ice bucket and ice that I filled every morning, and a coffee maker that would boil water. I brought my own bowl and utensils. Here’s what I did:
From home, I brought homemade trail mix with popcorn and nuts. I also brought dry oatmeal.
As soon as I got in, I went to the grocery store and bought a bunch of bananas and a bag of apples, a loaf of bread, a container of hummus, and a bag of steam-ready veggies (broccoli and carrots).

From this supply, I made endless peanut butter and banana sandwiches, savory oatmeal (with broccoli, carrots, hummus), regular oatmeal with nuts and banana, veggie sandwich with broccoli, carrots, hummus. I had plenty of apples for snacks.
I’m really interested to hear other travel friendly healthy snacks. Thanks!


Kathleen said...

I take a brick of cheese, a large tub of hummus and/or white bean dip, a bag of carrots, a bag of tortilla chips...and a rubbermaid lunch cooler. That means I just have to keep refilling the cooler with ice every other day or so, the perishable food is sealed away, and I'm not taking up valuable fridge space. The other thing I took when I could eat wheat are 'fighter biscuits', which are high protein and high other stuff (they are good if you're doing a lot of physical activity and need protein, fat, and salt).
Traditional Batch process:
2 lb bisquick
2 lb sausage, thawed and uncooked (sage is traditional)
2 lb sharp cheddar
Enough milk to hold things together. (about 1 c.)

Mix all ingredients well, spoon onto cookie sheets in rough 1" balls, bake in 325 oven for 10 min or until they begin to brown. Eat. Makes: Lots. (~4 doz)

I shifted the recipe to turkey sausage and 1 lb sharp cheddar 1 lb swiss. 2-3 will substitute for a meal.

Cindy said...

You may want to look for some backpacking recipe websites. Meals are generally small, lightweight, nutritionally sound (though not always), cook with water and generally one pot or in a ziplock bag.

We did Thanksgiving dinner on the trail last year :)
I did dehydrated pototes, bread crumbs + seasoning for stuffing, canned turkey, dried cranberries w/orange zest soaked in a bit of boiling water for relish.

Other trail meals:
-wraps w/canned chicken and broccoli slaw and almonds. topped with a packet of french dressing.
-PB and J on WW tortillas.
-Rice Noodles with broccoli slaw mixed in and a purchased asian sauce pack

Quick grits (not instant!) are very good. Rice. Cous Cous. Millet. add any sort of "mix ins".

Tuna packets are great. As said before, canned beans, the rice and beans made ahead, Hummus is great, carrots, fruit etc.

Cheese will keep pretty well out of the fridge for up to 3 days max, if it is not scorching out.

Boiled eggs wouldn't take up too much fridge room.

I try to make what I can on the trail and not rely on purchased processed foods very much, but sometimes the sauces are very nice (just not for every night...woah sodium.)

I do also snag condiment packets places. Ketchup, Mustard, Mayo, Salt, pepper, Honey Mustard, BBQ, Hot mustard, soy, sweet and sour, salad dressings.

Hope that helps some.

Laura said...

I'm confused on the "saucepan but no actual cooking." Do you mean you get a saucepan to use as a bowl, or do you have a stove to cook it on?

Beth said...

Wow, thanks for posting my question I'm so honored! To add more monkey wrenches into the mix, I will be out of town on business until the day I need to be at camp...so I won't be able to make food ahead of time. Yikes!

I love all the comments so far, y'all have some some great ideas (hello Ramen noodles). Please keep ideas coming, I can use all the help I can get.

Dee Seiffer said...

I used to send CARE packages to my kids in college with shelf-stable food. Their favorites were the foil packs of Indian dishes - lentils, etc in really tasty sauces. I would get them at Trader Joe's or Costco. The convenience store at the nearby college carries them too.
The also liked the canned chili from Costco.
Being college students, they also liked ramen and Annie's organic version of Easy Mac.

Beth said...

@Laura, There is a stove, but in terms of cooking I'll be limited to heating up something if I can find a saucepan (a big if). Space is so limited there won't be room to actually chop, saute, bake, etc. The microwave is even used as a storage place rather than for cooking.

Imagine a NYC apartment-sized kitchen with ten people sharing the space (even the kitchen table is a workspace for campers). I'll be able to hit a local grocery on the way into town for some fruit and supplies.

I'm already inspired by oatmeal variants, couscous ideas, hummus. This will be very much like staying in a hotel w/ not many amenities so that's a good way to think about it. Thanks everyone, keep your thinking caps on for me!

Sassy Molassy said...

Things that taste good at room temp and can be transported in a Tupperware-type container, like pasta or grain salads. try replacing the pasta with cooked barley in your favorite pasta salad recipe. It's so good!

Amy said...

Not sure if this is possible considering your kitchen size constraints, but a great treat for sharing are "no bake cookies." They're done in a saucepan on the stove. A batch can make about 2 dozen. Allrecipes has a number of versions. They usually take oats, PB, milk (powdered so you don't have to take fridge space?), butter, and vanilla. Not too bad if you are already bringing PB and oats!

Maureen F said...

For later in the week, once the other campers have eaten the lunchables that crowded the fridge, I'd try this salad that I always make on vacation for lunches.
Can of chickpeas
Can of olives, chopped
Can of hearts of palm
Canned or frozen (if there's a freezer) corn (not creamed, the unsweetened kind)
red onion
You can make a basic vinaigrette with a packet of mustard, a little oil, a lemon and a little of the olive juice.
If you've got greens, carrots, a turnip or any other veggie, they're nice too.
Pack a tall, rectangular container to keep it in the fridge: they take up the least space.

Even better, find a buddy before your trip so you can share your salad concoction and avoid refrigerating leftovers entirely.

lelaynia said...

Have you thought about a propane camping stove? 2 burners = yay! Or alternatively, will you have an electrical outlet for a crockpot? Either of those would expand your cooking options, as would a small cooler with ice. I did the cooler for a long stay in a hotel room. It's good for lunch meat and cheese if you want a sandwich.

Beth said...

Reporting back from camp! I took some of your advice...took peanut butter, whole wheat crackers, whole wheat bread, instant oatmeal, granola bars and some baby carrots, apples and bananas. I carved enough space out of the fridge for some milk and blackberry jam.

I survived even though on a limited diet. I think some of these other ideas I'll implement on my next trip. Thanks again for all the ideas. You really did help me survive the week.