Inside: A quick and easy guide to creating healthy meals for kids and parents alike, whether you’re on a trip or just on-the-go.
Let the car time begin!
Whether you’re prepping for a long road trip, or just trying to survive the day without hitting up a drive-thru, being prepared with a super fun, super easy car picnic will change your entire life for the better!
Okay…I may sound a bit dramatic by saying it will change your entire life for the better. But I’m not exaggerating. Here are a few reasons why car lunches are TOTALLY worth the extra 10-15 minutes of prep each day.
- It’s a time saver. Eating out takes time! Going though a drive-thru, or the rare, special occasion (for my kids) of actually getting to dine-in. It can easily tack on 30 minutes to an hour to a road trip or day out. And the ability to fill everyone’s bellies when hunger strikes, vs. when hanger mode strikes, is invaluable.
- You’ll be healthier. Yes, there are some healthy(ish) options available at restaurants…but bringing your own meal from home puts you in the driver’s seat of what you’re putting into your body. Less chemicals, fat, sodium, sugar, etc. Not to mention, one less chance that you’ll acquire an airborne illness! (The guy that made your burger? Yeah, he has the flu but came into work and coughed on your food before he realized he was sick…)
- It saves money. These days, I can’t get out of a restaurant without spending $20 for me and my kids. I’m working on ways around that…mostly just ordering kids meals for all three of us. But, one way to save a whole boat load of cash, is to stay away from restaurants to begin with!
- It’s truly delicious. Who better to determine the PERFECT car meal for each family member than you?! No one knows better what everyone likes and what they’ll eat. And it never ceases to amaze me how great homemade lunches taste!
What You’ll Need
1. Meal Prep Storage Containers
I have two types of containers on hand. Both of which I purchased from Amazon. You can view both of my selections below, or click the links to view them directly on Amazon. I’ve found that one works great for traditional sandwiches and two sides, the other is awesome for more of a bento-box style lunch, which my kids really seem to enjoy! Both styles stack nicely and fit into the small cooler that we carry with us.
2. Cooler Bag
Let’s face it, a warm sandwich just doesn’t have the same “yum-factor” as something that is chilled the way it should be. That’s why a great cooler bag is imperative for your healthy meals on-the-go! The one our family has been using, and loving, for over a year is the eBags Crew Cooler II. It’s the perfect size to fit lunches for our whole family.
I also love how there’s a deep storage pocket on top, and on the front of the cooler. I use this space for paper towels, wet wipes, utensils, mini packs of condiments and dry items…like little bags of Goldfish crackers or chips. The inside liner unzips, so you can remove it completely, for easy cleaning.
Click here to go to the eBags website and check this bag out for yourself! If this is your first introduction to eBags, you’re in for a treat. They offer GREAT value, and always seem to be running an awesome sale. They’re also very active with Ebates, which you can read more about here!
3. Ice Packs
There are a couple of ways to go about keeping your food fresh. First, you can take freezer storage bags, and fill them with ice. I find that gallon storage bags lay flat, to optimize space, and keep things very cold. This is a method that flight attendants swear by, since they are constantly on-the-go between airports and hotels.
The second way to keep your food items cold is with ice packs. These are great because they tend to be more stream-lined, saving space for the fun stuff…like more food. The ones shown below can be laid flat, or create a cube to keep your food cold.
Now comes the fun part, you actually get to fill your fun containers, and cooler with awesome, delicious meals of your choice!
The key is to fill your car lunch with nutritionally balanced options that aren’t too messy, and fun and easy for kids to eat. I like a good mix of healthy carbs and proteins. If you have a picky eater or two on your hands, be sure to check out this post on creating healthy meals and snacks your kids will love!
With this entire process, just remember to have fun with it. After you see how this relatively quick and easy prep idea can decrease stress and drama in a car full of kids, you’ll be in it for the long haul too!
Have other fun meal ideas that aren’t on my list? Please share in the comments section below!