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Travel Food

December 28, 2009

The boy and I just got back from his parents’ last night (about a 3 hour drive) and tomorrow morning at the crack of dawn we make the 11 hour trek to visit my relatives and family in Ohio. I’m becoming increasingly frugal because I can’t start work again until January (when both the hours and the paychecks will hopefully be rolling in) and Christmas presents have not been cheap. My larder is getting perilously empty, though I still have quite a few clementine oranges and Ida Red apples and carrots with a couple lemons, some softish celery, wrinkled green beans, and a lonely grapefruit all that’s left of my fresh larder. Oh, and a small head of cabbage.

So, we have pretty much no money to eat out on our long trip tomorrow, so I’m going to do as my mother always did: pack a lunch.

And not just a “lunch” in the sense of a noon meal, but a “lunch” like my great-grandmothers used to call it – an informal meal usually consisting of sandwiches, cookies, and other finger foods. I’ve already chopped up some carrots and the still-crisp stalks of celery. A third of a tub of sour cream got mixed with an eighth of a bottle of ranch dressing to make dip. I’m baking gingerbread cake (Betty Crocker – from a box! Horrors!) that you actually mix IN the pan, which is pretty much the most awesome idea ever. The cake can be cut into squares, will keep well, and doesn’t require frosting (or a fork). Tonight I’ll make sandwiches as I always try to keep deli meat and cheese on hand. We’ll take some clementines with and some of our Christmas chocolate. I’ll probably turn the last of the Idas into apple sauce and pack that up, too. The tag end of a bag of corn chips will get tossed in for a little extra salty crunch and so we’ll eat it up. That sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

Mom would always try to do the same, make sure we had fresh fruit & vegetables to go with our sandwiches and chips. We often had sparkling mineral water (raspberry was my sister’s favorite, mine was lime) instead of soda. And a little something sweet at the end: chocolate or cookies, usually.

I’ve traveled a lot in my life, by plane and by car mostly. And I can attest to the fact that having to eat nothing but fast food on trips longer than four hours is hellish on your body. I feel bloated, sluggish, tired, and often a little sick. Especially with plane travel (I tend to get mildly air sick – just nausea, no vomiting, thank goodness), I find that I positively crave fresh vegetables and fruit and fresh bread. And no, not the sad little navel oranges and red delicious apples they sell for $3 a pop in airports. I mean real fruit.

When you face $6 turkey and swiss sandwiches on sad wheat sandwich bread with wilted lettuce as the only “fresh” food for miles in airports or gas stations, it’s a wonder that more people don’t pack their own. A loaf of good sliced bread is $2-4. A half pound of deli meat is around $3. A block of cheese can be had for $2.50. And a head of lettuce is around a $1. Throw in some apples, carrots & celery, and dip and you’ve added maybe $10 to the mix. So for around $20 you could feed a family of four at least two meals and still have leftovers. Going out to eat at most chain restaurants will cost you $20 for a single meal for two people. It takes a little extra time, but in my mind it is totally worth it to pack yourself some real food on a long trip.

With all this eating up everything in the house, I actually have no idea what I’m going to eat for lunch. : ) Maybe I’ll make myself some mashed potatoes or scrambled eggs. Hmmm… yes, cheesy scrambled eggs, maybe with a little onion, some peanut butter & jam on an english muffin. That sounds like a good lunch. I’m saving the leftover chickpea, tomato, onion, and now collard green soup for dinner tonight. I’ll probably toast the rest of the biscuits (now stale) into little crunchy crumbles for topping, especially since I’ve got the oven on.

However, I’m DEFINITELY going to have to go grocery shopping when we get back from Ohio on the first.

I kind of like being this frugal. It forces you to be creative, to use what you’ve got, to think about things you might ordinarily throw away (stale biscuits) in new ways. Makes me wonder what else I could make from scratch or use up!

I’m starting work again the first week in January, both at the museum and my consulting work. School starts again on the 20th. I’m going to be a busy bee until April (when the consulting project ends), so I don’t know how much time I’ll have to cook, but I hope I do!

Wish us good weather for our long drive tomorrow and again on Friday. You won’t hear from me until the new year, I’m afraid. 2009 has been good to me, though and I can’t wait to see what 2010 brings. Safe travels!

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