6 tips for packing healthy meals for a trip

6 tips for healthy meals to bring on a vacation. Perfect for this time of year!
I was pretty quiet last week, but for good reason, it was our yearly family vacation to the beach! We had a wonderful time. Plus, we ate well for less because I had premade all of our dinners, and most of our lunches!

After a beautiful day on the beach, it was lovely to be able to reheat a homemade meal with little bother. We felt well nourished and fed, and it certainly saved us a lot of money too. We ate out for one lunch, and when I saw our bill, I was thankful again that I had made most of our meals!

And let’s face it, it can be really hard to find yummy food that is also allergy-friendly. As a family with gluten, dairy, and egg sensitivities, it can be a real chore to find food that we can eat.

I’m no expert on packing for trips, but I thought I’d share some of what I did as I know many of you have vacations planned as well. This plan works for those staying somewhere with a kitchen (or in my case; we borrowed the kitchen of my sister whose unit had one). I’d love to hear your ideas too!

(Some links may be affiliate. Thank you for supporting my blog!)

Stews and soups
Anyone who has read my blog for a while (or who has my cookbook, Ladled) knows that I’m a fan of soups. I brought a stew and a couple soups. I loved a couple things about specifically bringing them on a trip like this. First, they are super fast to reheat, so kitchen work is minimal. Secondly, soups tend to taste even better after a day or two of flavors melding together, which makes them the perfect food to pre-make for a trip. When much of the day is spent outdoors, I find that especially hearty stews and soups fill the bill.

My soups were from Ladled, but here are some similar soups:

Burritos 
We had “bean” burritos for several of our lunches. I made a big pot of Mexican lentils (one daughter can’t have many beans), and then brought along gluten-free tortillas and salsa for a simple lunch. They were hearty and filling and frugal too! You could also bring along freezer breakfast burritos!

Freeze meals in gallon bags if without a refrigerator
One thing that I wish I remembered to do was to freeze all of my premade meals. Once frozen and placed in a cooler, they act as their own ice packs. When I had gone on a camping trip with my family before I was married, my mom did this, and it was amazing how long the meals stayed frozen and chilled. In fact, the only thing you may need to do is to remember to defrost your frozen meal before meal time!

Cold cuts and produce
Meals don’t have to be fancy! Bring along some organic cold cuts and sausage to slice, or cheddar cheese, and serve with thick slabs of butter bread or crackers. Serve with sliced cucumber, carrots, and apples, or whatever produce you like! These types of meals are also great to bring along on picnic lunches – whether you are in a state park or at the beach.

Bring snacks
I don’t know what it is about vacations, but they just seem to make everyone hungry! We brought along plenty of snacks with us, and they saved us. Because I was already making so many meals ahead of time, we decided to bite the bullet and buy snacks during a good sale a local store had on gluten-free products. We were very thankful for that sale! But snacks are great to make as well. Here are some recipe ideas:

One nourishing spurge item we brought? These coconut oil sweet potato chips. SO good.

Slow cooker meals
Another great idea is to bring slow cooker meals. Last year, I brought several crockpot meals which meant just a little prep for me in the morning. You could make Slow Cooker Pot Roast (for three meals!), slow cooked whole chicken with vegetables, quinoa and chicken stew, or whatever else you fancy! Those eating a paleo diet will appreciate this Paleo Slow Cooking book too.

Finally, these are all ideas for those vacationing with a kitchen. But what about those camping? Katie from Kitchen Stewardship has a great eBook on nourishing camping food, The Family Camping Handbook. Check it out

15 Freezer Burrito Hacks for Nourishing Cooks + Goat Cheese-Green Chile Breakfast Burrito Recipe

15 Freezer Burrito Hacks for Nourishing Cooks: Wrap & Roll Tutorial (No Plastic!) + Hacks for Allergies, Budget, Speed, and MoreBy Alison Diven, Contributing Writer

Burritos just the way you like them whenever you like them, in minutes. No additives,no plastic, , no iffy oils—just nourishing goodness for no-brainer breakfasts or dinners. Can you tell I love homemade freezer burritos?!

Since I started experimenting with them, my husband has devoured a hot and hearty breakfast every morning with zero fuss, leaving him extra space for his 5 a.m. coffee ritual before work.  He just pops one into the toaster oven to heat while he dresses.

And I, queasy pregnant mama, have an easy lunch or snack for those days when nothing sound good, and I’ve already spent all my energy scrounging for food my toddler deigns to eat.

You know what I mean. Whether you’re tending to babies, stocking the freezer for postpartum life, carting teens around, or just plain busy, we all need convenience food sometimes. These knock the nutritional socks off Evol and Amy’s burritos, can meet your special dietary needs, and are far cheaper to boot.

Wanna know how I’m making it work? Here are 15 freezer burrito hacks to get you started—including ideas for allergy and budget needs—plus my favorite breakfast burrito recipe to inspire you: eggs, goat cheese, and green chiles. You’ve gotta try this killer combo!

Essential Success Hacks

1. Cool all fillings to room temperature or colder before filling burritos. Steam=soggy tortillas. (Thanks to TheKtchn for this tip!)

2. Warm tortillas to room temperature or until they’re pliable for less cracking and breaking, then roll like this:

Classic Burrito Rolling

3. Go easy on wet ingredients like salsa and sauces. Drain extra fluids off sautéed vegetables.

4. Wrap your burritos first in parchment paper, then in foil, then in gallon size freezer bags. They’ll last for months this way and are oven-safe, but you’ll never have questionable materials touching your food. Like so:

Wrapping Burritos for Freezer without Plastic Wrap.jpg

Time-Saving Hacks

5. Mix all filling ingredients together in a single bowl. Any sacrifice in presentation is worth the faster assembly. Plus, you won’t prematurely run out of an ingredient. (Hats off to Tammy’s Recipes for this awesome tip.)

6. Use store-bought tortillas, but check ingredient lists. In my current season of fatigue, this is my biggest shortcut. I’m fortunate to have locally-made organic wheat tortillas at my fingertips, and I’ve chosen Rudi’s Gluten Free Tortillas for my gluten, dairy, egg, and soy-free son.(Kimi notes: We are also a gluten-free family. Rudi’s probably has one of the nicest textures, but it does contain corn products in it for those sensitive. You could also use (affiliate links) these brown rice tortillas , or these these multi-grain gluten-free tortillas).

7. Bake your scrambled eggs in the oven if you’re making a giant batch of breakfast burritos. They can cook and then cool while you attend to other tasks. See this method.

8. Slow-cook chicken, beef roast, or pork roast the day before for hands-off shredded meat. I do it like this.

9. Make just one flavor variety per burrito prep day and keep it simple, only 2-4 components. You’ll dirty fewer dishes and streamline the whole process.

Allergy Hacks

10. Gluten-free or grain free? Don’t despair! GF people can choose non-GMO corn tortillas (blue corn or organic are sure bets), store-bought GF tortillas, or even better, homemade options like these nutrient-dense soaked buckwheat wraps or these egg-arrowroot paleo wraps. The last recipe is grain-free too, high protein, quick, and wraps beautifully with zero cracking.

11. Egg-free? Wheat tortillas, like Katie’s soaked ones, corn tortillas, or Rudi’s Gluten Free are good choices.

12. Dairy-free is a piece of cake. Almost any tortilla will meet this criterion, and then it’s up to you to leave dairy out of your fillings.

*NOTE: Many of these alternative tortillas are more prone to cracking (except the egg-arrowroot paleo wrap), so fold like this instead:

Folding Fragile Freezer Burritos.jpg

Frugal Hacks

13. Use thrifty ingredients like yard eggs, rice, home-cooked beans, or diced potatoes to stretch indulgent items like grass-fed beef, pastured pork sausage or bacon, and cheese.

14. Go pungent with your cheese—think sharp cheddar or goat cheese—so you can use less. Also, check out Costco.. We often get fabulous imported, grass-fed cheeses for much less there.

15. Make your own tortillas. Here’s a soaked whole wheat recipe, Natalia offers a gluten-free buckwheat wrap here, and I can heartily recommend this grain-free paleo wrap.

And now, on to my very favorite breakfast burrito, inspired by Albuquerque’s fabulous Grove Cafe & Market.

Goat Cheese-Green Chile Breakfast Burritos.jpg

Goat Cheese-Green Chile Breakfast Burritos
 
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: New Mexican
Serves: 6
 
These creamy dreamy Southwest burritos will spice up your mornings! Prepare them for a quick fresh treat or freeze a double batch for later (see blog post for details). Select tortillas according to your allergy or dietary needs (again, many ideas in the blog post). You can find New Mexico, or "Hatch," green chiles frozen in many grocery stores or fresh in late summer. Or, substitute sauteed poblano peppers. It'll still be spectacular! A little sausage wouldn't go amiss either.
Ingredients
  • 12 pasture-raised eggs
  • ¼ cup grass-fed butter (we love Kerrygold)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces soft goat cheese (chevre), separated into chunks
  • ¾ cup chopped roasted New Mexico green chiles, without seeds
  • 6-10 tortillas, depending on size
Instructions
  1. Heat butter in a large skillet on medium-low heat. Gently scramble eggs until soft set, sprinkling with salt and pepper.
  2. Gently warm tortillas.
  3. For a pretty presentation, layer scrambled eggs, goat cheese, and green chiles in tortillas and wrap.
  4. For speed, gently mix goat cheese and chiles in scrambled eggs and divide among tortillas.
  5. Enjoy!

 

My Favorite Gluten Free Noodle Brands

My favorite gluten-free noodles! Lots of good options here #glutenfree #noodles
We love noodles around here. We love noodles dishes inspired from Italy, Thailand, Japan, and many others as well. While not the most nutrient dense of all foods, they do provide an excellent platform for nourishing sauces, and provide extra motivation for eating soups (we love noodles soups, as those who have my book, Ladled, know!). I used to love making my own soaked whole wheat noodles, but I haven’t gotten my A game on yet for making gluten-free noodles, so the following brands are a real blessing.

Some links may be affiliate. Thanks for supporting this blog! 

As gluten-free people know, there is some limit to what noodles you can enjoy when you are gluten-free. We started our gluten-free journey with brown rice noodles, which we enjoy. I do have two problems with them, however. First, they are a bit heavy in the stomach. I think that’s because a lot of the brands add in extra rice fiber, making them quite dense. Half of my family gets a small stomachache after enjoying a large size serving of them because of this. The second is the possibility of higher arsenic in brown rice. For those wanting to use rice noodles, I’d recommend using white rice noodle (like in this Thai noodle soup) or using Jovial brown rice noodles; (they make sure that arsenic content isn’t high, and they produce really high-quality products). You can find the white rice noodles at Asian stores and many regular supermarkets. The Jovial ones can be ordered online and found at some stores.

Another delicious gluten-free noodle option that is just perfect for Italian dishes are these quinoa and corn noodles . They are very mild, and work well for light or rich sauces. We’ve found that even those not eating a gluten-free diet enjoy these noodles. Unfortunately, they aren’t an option for those with corn allergies.

Finally, my latest gluten-free noodle discovery that I am thrilled to pieces about are the following buckwheat noodles. I’ve always loved buckwheat noodles, but the organic, gluten-free ones are typically quite expensive. The brand pictured in my photos, King Soba, can also be spend-y (I’ve seen them in stores and on Amazon for about 5-6 dollars a bag), but on Vitacost they are less than $3 a package, which is a great deal for the quality. Buckwheat is high in protein, magnesium, and has a lovely pronounced flavor that works well with many Asian styled noodle dishes. The brand has 100% Buckwheat Soba Noodles, a buckwheat and sweet potato noodles, AND a buckwheat instant ramen noodles, to name just a few of the options (some of the other flavors use rice, so watch for that if you want the buckwheat ones).

You can’t believe how happy I am to find  gluten-free instant ramen noodles! We love a lot of Asian styled soups, and these are so fun to be able to boil up in a couple of minutes to add (they also help convince my children to eat more nourishing soup!).

I do recommend that you do larger orders on Vitacost to quality for the free shipping. I don’t find that hard to do, as I buy my iron there, and a lot of grocery items are cheaper as well, so I have a system worked out for what items to buy there for cheaper, and order about once a month.

If you are grain-free, I recommend checking out this comparison of 4 grain-free noodles. I have another favorite to add to the list, so watch for an upcoming post!

Do you have any other favorite gluten-free noodles to add to this list?

Cook Once, Eat Thrice with a Slow Cooker Beef Roast (GF & DF-Adaptable)

Cook Once, Eat Thrice.jpg

By Alison Diven, Contributing Author

Are you having one of those weeks? Do you need an action plan for a few days of no-stress, family-pleasing, yet healthful meals? After multiple rounds of illness in our household, I sure do! Picture this: cook (very) simply tomorrow night, then have the next two nights virtually off, while enjoying 3 different dinners—BBQ loaded baked potatoes, deluxe taco bowls, and portobello mushroom pizzas.

We’re following this plan ourselves right now, and it’s such a relief. The flavors are familiar, the cooking simple, and I know we’re all still eating healthy meat, nourishing fats, and even vegetables. For a pregnant mama coddling a sick toddler and exhausted husband, this is very good news, indeed.

It all starts with slow cooking a beef roast, then shredding the meat and seasoning it three simple ways. First, it gets smothered in BBQ sauce atop baked potatoes with all the fixings and a side salad. Then, it joins fresh vegetables, beans, and rice with salsa and sour cream for a Tex-Mex treat. Finally, it meets Italian herbs, portobello mushrooms, and cheese (if you like) for a quick broil, with leftover side salad. Simple and satisfying.

It’s a fabulous way to stretch an already affordable cut of beef, and without a single complaint about leftovers. I’ve written the instructions for a family of 4, but it would also work for a family of 6 without using a bigger roast; just scale up the other ingredients. For those on a no-dairy diet, it’s easy to leave out the cheese, sour cream, and butter.

Because I’m so intimately acquainted with the brain fog that comes with challenging seasons—first trimester, anyone?—I’ve made this plan as user friendly as possible. You’ll find a printable shopping list and explicit step-by-step instructions for each night. So just print and go, girl! You can do this.

Recipe Notes

  • Because my goal is ease, I call for store-bought BBQ sauce and salsa, canned beans, and an optional box of baby greens. You’ll want to look for ingredient lists that are free of GMOs, corn syrup, yucky food additives, and your family’s allergens. Of course, you’re welcome to make your own and save money that way! Kimi notes: I keep (affiliate link) Eden’s beans on hand for recipes such as this. It’s cooked with kombu, a nutritious seaweed that makes them digestible. 
  • The one condiment I do call for making at home is salad dressing. It’s just SO easy and far superior (and cheaper) to what’s available even in health food stores, especially the fats, which are important to me.
  • A whole chicken or pork shoulder would be excellent substitutes for the beef pot roast. The flavors will still work beautifully.
  • I always recommend grass-fed beef and dairy products, when possible. Not only are they healthier for you, the cow, and the planet, they often just taste better. You won’t believe the magic grass-fed beef, slow cooking, and salt and pepper make together! Be sure to save the bones and extra cooking liquids for your next batch of bone broth.
  • If you end up with leftover odds and ends, you can mix and match them to make a couple of fabulous breakfast frittatas or omelets.

Shopping List & Recipes

Click to download the Cook Once, Eat Thrice Shopping List PDF. You’ll also want to print all three step-by-step recipes below.

Cook Once, Eat Thrice Night #1: BBQ Loaded Baked Potatoes
 
Author:
Cuisine: American
Serves: 4
 
Cook once today and enjoy ultra easy meals for two more nights. The simple tasks for today include 1) slow cooking the beef roast, 2) baking potatoes, 3) cooking rice, 4) seasoning the beef, 5) preparing a simple salad and dressing, and 6) assembling tonight's dinner. Tasks 1-5 can be fit in at any time of day, as you have time. Total active time is less than 30 minutes!
Ingredients
For the Meat
  • 3 lbs bone-in beef pot roast, preferably grass-fed
  • 1½ to 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup BBQ sauce, plus more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
For the Rice
  • 1½ cups rice, white or brown
  • water or broth as directed by package or rice cooker
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
For the Salad (Nights 1 & 3)
  • 1-2 heads lettuce OR 1 large box baby greens
  • Your favorite salad vegetables, like carrots & celery or tomatoes & cucumbers
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ⅓ cup raw apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste
For Baked Potatoes
  • 4 large baking potatoes, preferably organic
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced
  • 4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (optional)
  • Butter for serving (optional)
  • Sour cream for serving (optional)
Instructions
  1. Cook meat. In the morning, place the roast in the slow cooker and sprinkle salt and pepper on top. Cover and cook on low for about 8 hours, until very tender and “shreddable.”
  2. Bake potatoes. 1-1/2 hours before dinner, turn the oven to 400. While pre-heating, scrub potatoes, pat dry, prick skin, and rub with olive oil. When oven is hot, place potatoes on a cookie sheet and bake for 50-60 minutes, turning over midway, or until the flesh is soft when tested with a fork.
  3. Cook Rice. Meanwhile, cook rice according to package or rice cooker directions, adding salt and chili powder before cooking. Place cooked rice in storage container and refrigerate.
  4. Flavor meat. When meat is done, remove meat to large bowl and shred with two forks. Spoon some of the cooking juices into the meat to moisten it. Put one third of the shredded meat into a small saucepan, one third into a storage container, and one third into another storage container. To the saucepan, add ½ cup BBQ sauce and set aside. To the first storage container, add ½ teaspoon cumin and combine. Cover and refrigerate. To the second storage container, add ¼ teaspoon oregano, ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, and 1 tablespoon tomato paste. Combine, adding more cooking juices as needed to incorporate tomato paste. Cover and refrigerate.
  5. Prepare salad and dressing. Wash and cut up vegetable toppings. Set aside. Combine 1 cup olive oil, ⅓ cup apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, etc and emulsify with whisk, blender, or immersion blender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  6. Assemble Meal. Warm BBQ sauce and meat reserved in saucepan. Slice green onions. Serve potatoes topped with butter, BBQ beef, sour cream, shredded cheese, and green onions. Serve ½ the salad greens topped with ½ the vegetable toppings with the homemade salad dressing.

Cook Once, Eat Thrice Night #2: Shredded Beef Taco Bowls
 
Author:
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 4
 
If you followed the plan for Night #1, you'll have dinner on the table in 15 minutes tonight! Be sure to save any leftover vegetables and toppings.
Ingredients
  • Prepared cumin-flavored beef from Night #1
  • Prepared rice from Night #1
  • 1 can black, pinto, or kidney beans
  • ½ cup frozen organic corn kernels
  • 1 large bell pepper
  • 2 medium tomatoes (if in season)
  • 1 large or 2 small avocados
  • 1 handful cilantro
  • ½ cup salsa
  • ½ cup sour cream (optional)
  • Leftover sliced green onions
Instructions
  1. Rinse and drain beans. Rinse frozen corn in warm water and set aside for a few minutes to thaw. Chop bell pepper, tomatoes (if using), and cilantro. Slice avocados.
  2. Meanwhile, gently warm shredded cumin beef and rice. You can use a single large skillet on low and place the beef on one half and the rice on the other half.
  3. Assemble taco bowls, layering rice, beans, beef, vegetables, avocado, sour cream, and salsa.

Cook Once, Eat Thrice Night #3: Portobello Mushroom Pizzas
 
Author:
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
 
Tonight's the last night of the 3-day plan. Enjoy another speedy, delicious dinner that requires only a quick broil to get on the table. Have leftover odds and ends after the 3 days? Most ingredients will go toward an absolutely killer breakfast frittata or omelet tomorrow morning. Have fun!
Ingredients
  • Prepared oregano-tomato shredded beef from Night #1
  • 4 large or 6-8 smaller portobello mushrooms
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces Italian melting cheese (like mozzarella), sheep-milk feta, or goat chevre
  • Leftover chopped bell pepper and/or tomato (optional)
  • Leftover green onions (optional)
  • Leftover salad greens from Night #1
  • Leftover salad vegetable toppings from Night #1
  • Leftover salad dressing from Night #1
Instructions
  1. Set oven to broil.
  2. Gently brush dirt off mushrooms. Cut out mushroom stems. Brush tops (smooth side) of mushrooms with olive oil and place top side up on baking sheet.
  3. Broil mushrooms for 3 minutes, watching carefully to prevent burning.
  4. Turn over mushrooms and spread shredded beef over the shallow cavity. If you have any left over, add chopped bell pepper and/or tomato. Top with cheese.
  5. Broil for 2-4 more minutes, watching very carefully to prevent burning.
  6. Serve immediately alongside salad greens, salad vegetable toppings, and salad dressing. Sprinkle green onions on top, if you have any leftover.

Looking for More Easy Family Dinners?

Check out these delicious slow-cooker, quick, and one-pot meals:
Shawarma Whole Chicken in the Slow Cooker
Easy Thai Curry Noodle Soup
14 Easy Dinner Recipes (That Are Healthy and Frugal Too!)
Cucumber Tuna Boats
3 Ingredient Teriyaki Pan Fried Chicken (Easiest Recipe Ever!)
Sriracha-Lime Salmon One-Pot Meal