Have you ever felt like it’s impossible to avoid fast food? Maybe you frequently find yourself caught in town in the middle of errands and hungry. I’ve started keeping some non-perishable food items in our car for those unforeseen times you find yourself hungry and without food! These have come in handy numerous times when we were traveling or running errands and didn’t want to take the time to stop for a nice meal (or didn’t want to spend the money – hello, cash envelope system).
I usually try to keep my everyday food minimally processed, but highly value a life of balance. And a balanced life for us includes tons of travel and spontaneity. While I try to plan ahead and pack a cooler, sometimes I find myself out longer than expected or hungry in the middle of nowhere. (Or maybe I just completely did not plan ahead.?) While some of these items may not be “the best” or what I usually purchase they offer a really good alternative to fast food. For example, I do realize the salmon pouches aren’t “wild alaskan” salmon which is what I always buy in salmon filets I cook at home. However, the pouches are very affordable and beat a McDonald’s fish filet any day! Read on below to check out my dietitian-approved car snack choices!
Emergency Car Stash Ideas
- Peanut butter – Buy packets or small cups of peanut butter to prevent leakage and storage issues. Make sure the brand you buy does not list any partially hydrogenated oils. At my store in a somewhat remote area of the country, Jiff Natural was the best option. There is unfortunately sugar in these, so I would not use these for everyday, but only for travel. A better (but pricer) option would be Justin’s classic peanut butter packets. For everyday eating, I recommend nut butters with only nuts and maybe salt.
- Jerky – I like to buy the Krave jerky because it a better ingredient list (no nitrites or MSG) and is one of the healthier options. I also love that the brand is easily available at any grocery store or Walmart.
- Tuna/Salmon Packets – You can buy the starkist tuna and salmon packets in a variety of flavors now which are good alone. You can spice up the regular flavors by mixing them with yogurt or cottage cheese if you want. (You can run into a grocery store to pick this up on the spot if needed.) You can also buy the packets that come with the crackers and fixings to make tuna salad on the go. While I haven’t bought mayonnaise in years (and this option includes mayonnaise) and do not buy regular crackers for everyday home use I still think this is a better option than eating fast food.
- Nuts – I usually keep a can of almonds in my car. I recommend buying nuts without any added ingredients. Therefore the ingredient label should look like this ‘Ingredients: Almonds’. The blue diamond whole natural almonds (pictured below) fit this description.
- Lara and Kind Bars – These (especially larabars) are my favorite bars to keep for on the go or in the car. Larabars especially have minimal ingredients of usually dates, nuts, and fruit. My favorite is this peanut butter cookie flavor. Kind bars have a little longer ingredient list, but are generally whole grains and another better option out there. Note: The varieties without chocolate withstand heat better.
- Triscuits – I love triscuits, which are a whole grain cracker. Even better is how easy they are to find, and they are completely affordable. The original flavor has only three ingredients!
- Applesauce – Always make sure it’s unsweetened with no sugar (or artificial sweeteners) added. Mott’s healthy harvest with no sugar added is a good option to keep in your car.
- Dried Fruit – Again, buy unsweetened and remember that the serving size for dried fruit is only 1/4 cup.
Other Tips to Avoid Fast Food:
- Find a grocery store. It’s a simple but often overlooked idea to run into a grocery store to grab something for a quick car picnic.
- Good choices include: Yogurt, cheese (such as cheese sticks), rotisserie chicken (for a spontaneous picnic), and precut fruit/veggies. Even places like Walmart have several options like these individual veggie trays.
- You can do this to supplement the food you keep in your car. Or, if you didn’t stock your car (like your dietitian told you ?), it’s an excellent option as well.
- Keep plastic ware (spoons, forks, knives) in your car as well as paper towels.
- Always bring a water bottle.
NOTE: If you know life will catch you away for a few hours (or a day) this completely changes the game and you can pack a cooler with your own cut veggies, fruit, and easily stick to the foods you normally eat. This will really open up your options, but we definitely don’t always think to plan ahead which is why I created the list above.
I hope that this will help you to avoid fast food while saving money. May you have lots of adventures on the road ahead!
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