Summer fun doesn’t have to include fast food!
By Daja, Contributing Writer
Summer vacation is right around the corner. Can I get a hootie-hoo?! School projects wrapping up, weather warming up and the excitement ramping up! Am I right? Many families are planning their Summer Vacations–heading to the mountains, the beach, the lake, visiting family in far-off places. Those long hours in the car or on buses or trains often means one thing: Fast Food. Even families who do their best to eat a natural, whole foods diet can find themselves consuming way too many fast food meals. It seems inevitable, right? I mean, it’s not like you continue your healthy lifestyle on the road. Or can you?
Can You Have A Fast Food Free Vacation?
Let’s bust a few fast food myths shall we?
Fast Food is Fast
Is it really? I mean, I have spent far too much of my life sitting in a hot car in a drive through watching my life pass before my eyes as my child screamed in the backseat. It just isn’t that fast.
Fast Food is Cheap
Even if you still to the barebones dollar menu, it’s expensive! And for my family of 11, we have to practically trade our first born before everyone actually gets full. And sure enough, 20 minutes later, everyone is on the brink of starvation again.
Kristina and I, over at The Provision Room, have busted both these myths in our ground-breaking, epic, classic, hard-hitting journalism, via too much time on a Saturday afternoon and You Tube.
Not one to recommend something that doesn’t work in real life, I have tried out these tips for myself. I have taken three (count ’em: THREE!) cross country trips from Los Angeles to Maine and back with my whole big ol’ family and didn’t stop for fast food even once! It is possible! And it can actually be fun! The bonus is that you won’t get to your destination feeling bloated and icky due to the MSG, hydrogenated fats, and artificiality of fast food.
5 Tips For Having A Fast Food Free Vacation
#1 Eat Before You Leave
Eat a hearty breakfast or have lunch before you leave home or hotel. Make sure it’s something with adequate protein and complex carbs (like whole grains!) so that you can go the long haul. If you’re leaving home start everyone off with a breakfast burrito, breakfast salads (here are three delicious and hearty options), oatmeal with extra nut butter and coconut oil stirred in, etc.
If you’re on the road, here are some great real food ideas that travel well:
yogurt (pack your own in little mason jars with fruit and chia seeds and keep in a little car cooler)
protein crackers and cheese
bacon jerky (yes, there is such a thing and it’s delicious!)
whole fruit (like bananas, apples, clementines, etc.)
#2 Plan Ahead for Snacks
Let’s not live in denial, shall we? The kids will be hollering for a snack about 15 miles down the road. So, be prepared. I’m the snack lady. I have a special bag and a little cooler that goes in the car. I don’t show the kids ahead of time what I’ve brought along. Otherwise I’d hear pleas for their favorite thing right away. So, at regular intervals I just pop out little surprises! Good travel snacks:
cheese (string or already sliced)
It’s also fun to use a half-pint mason jar with the bottom 1/2 inch or so filled with some delicious sort of dip (peanut butter, hummus, ranch dressing, etc.) and veggie sticks stuck in and filling the rest of the jar. YUM! (Are you pregnant? Check out these snack ideas!)
#3 Use the Grocery Store, Not The Drive Thru
When you’re ready to stop to refuel, consider stopping at a grocery store instead of going through the drive through. As seen in our video (above), the choices are better and it’s actually faster and cheaper! Grab bread, fruit, precooked meats or deli meats (you can find healthy options at a lot of places), even fun frozen treats like popsicles or gelato! If you have time to spare (and hey, you’re on vacation, so what’s your hurry???? SLOW DOWN!) head to a local park (your GPS will probably find a great one for you or just ask a local at the store) and enjoy a lovely picnic. Everyone can stretch their legs and the little ones can get their wiggles out!
#4 Keep a Car Picnic Basket With All The Essentials
We keep one of these in the car all the time, not just on vacation. It’s a life saver! A small duffle bag, market basket or even reusable canvas bag will do. Keep it stocked with all the necessary things for car or roadside picnics.
What you should include in a well prepared basket:
- Plates (I found some great BPA free, made in the USA plates at Whole Foods. They run $4.99 for a 10 pack.)
- Reusable Cups (Again a 10 pack at Whole Foods for $4.99)
- Re-usable Utensils (These ran $4.49 at Whole Foods or check thrift stores)
- A cutting board (I used a flexible board I had around the house and cut it in half to fit my basket.)
- At least one good sharp knife (Recycled from a knife set I already had.)
- Salt and pepper containers (Recycled extra from my kitchen.)
- Napkins (I prefer cloth, but you could use paper.)
- Tablecloth (Fact: Kids will always put their food down on the table. I hate germs! So instead of freaking out I just put a tablecloth down and then I don’t have to worry! Mommy is happy and not yelling at everyone.)
- Reusable metal, glass or Nalgene water bottles. These are optional but really nice to have around. Maybe you aren’t hungry, but feel you have a desert in your mouth. Buying one large bottle of water to fill your reusable ones is much less expensive than a case of individual water bottles. It’s easier on the environment because there isn’t as much waste. Additionally, we don’t recommend keeping plastic water bottles in the car, especially in the summer. Check out this great article over at Homemaking 2.0, on why you should avoid using food and beverages packaged in plastic.
#5 Plan on Cooking
It’s really not that difficult. If you’re camping or at the beach, nothing tastes better than something roasted over an open fire. If you’re staying at hotels, investing in a little hot plate and an Instant Pot can be invaluable. In our last cross-country trek, I was cooking for my mother-in-law who was fighting cancer. She had a very specific diet and we could not risk unknown ingredients at restaurants, unlike the Bozeman restaurants we stopped at and enjoyed. So, I prepped meals ahead of time in gallon-sized zipper bags, froze them and kept them in the cooler. Then at the hotel, I popped one in the Instant Pot and set it for 30 minutes. By the time we had unloaded the car and relaxed a bit, dinner was ready! Real food, real fast! Stews, soups, bone broths, rice dishes, etc. The possibilities are really endless.
Bonus Tip: If you keep away from fast food for two meals a day, you can afford to splurge and eat at a really decent place once a day. Sometimes we conserve our pennies on breakfast and lunch and eat from the grocery store, but at dinner we’ll find a place online that has real food, farm-to-table or local speciality and be able to really enjoy it without breaking the bank or our diet.
(Want to make being Fast Food Free a way of life? Check out my PDF to take the pledge as a family!)