Tiff's Tips #2: 5 Tips for Road Trip Foods

Introducing a new monthly series by NRRI’s Tiffany SpragueSustainability Program CoordinatorSustainability at NRRI: Tiff's Tips for Eco-Living.

After last month’s Tiff’s Tips I imagine you are now bursting with eco-friendly BBQ tips. Maybe so many tips you are exploding at your organic cotton seams (the bursting sensation may also be the result of a few too many carrot hot dogs, but #SelfLove, my friends). Perhaps so many tips, you just have to share your newfound wisdom with your friends and family. Unfortunately, not everyone you know lives nearby... 

So honey, pack up the car -- it’s time for a road trip!

After you do all the boring adult things -- filled the gas tank, topped off the windshield wiper fluid, checked your tire pressure -- comes the #1 car trip priority: the snacks. Tiny humans in tow or not (thank gosh for third row seating, amiright? Shove them as far back there as possible), car snacks can make or break a successful trip. 

Cut the Plastic-Wrapped Car Snacks

After the allowable store-bought goods of cheesy crackers and gummy worms, consider what you can prep in advance, store those items, and reduce single-use plastic as you sing Wilson Phillips’ “Hold On” for the 300th time (wait, we’re only an hour from the house? Well, what else are we going to listen to?!). 

We all have our guilty (fast food and convenience store) pleasures (#SelfLove), but it actually isn’t our only option. I know this may sound bananas (which, btw, is a great snack to pack for your trip), but the food currently in your fridge and pantry can exit your property and be placed into your vehicle!

It’s not about the quality or “healthiness” of the food I am harping on here, but rather the packaging. Beverages in plastic bottles, or in throw-away cups with plastic straws; burgers wrapped in throw-away film paper; sandwiches packaged in those odd little single-use triangular containers; string cheese in single-use plastic wrap (freakin’ string cheese).

Okay, calm down, Tiff, they get it; now give them some helpful hints. Whew! Sorry. I just get a bit riled up about single-use plastics. 

  1. Pack as many meals as you realistically can.
  • The trusty PBJ
  • Mason jar salads (all the cool kids are eating them)
  • Cut and peel a regular ol’ carrot; put in a container with a bit of water
  • Straight-up apple, not pre-sliced
  • Block of cheese, not plastic wrapped string cheese

Face it,  you’re all going to make just as big of a mess if the snack was in a tiny single-use bag or in a reusable container. You can even make your own granola bars! If that feels terrifying, here’s Tiff’s favorite recipe for an introduction to granola bar making: Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars.  

  1. Pack your meals and snacks in recycled containers. 
  • Reuse sour cream and yogurt containers (not making homemade yogurt? Then you’re buying it in a gigantic container, not tiny single-use containers… correct?). 
  • Mason jars work great for snacks you buy in bulk (because of course you're buying all your snacks in bulk).
  • Plastic peanut butter jars also make great storage containers.
  1. Containers too bulky? Use the plastic zip-top bag. But…
  • Re-use those bags as much as possible. Rinse ‘em out, let them dry, and use them again and again. 
  • Recycle! Cut off the zip-top and discard, and put the clean bag in your plastic bag recycling (most grocery retailers collect plastic bags). 
  • Do not put in your plastic bags in your mixed curbside recycling. 
  • Can’t bother to clean them out, let them dry and cut off their zip-top? Well, then unfortunately, toss ‘em. Just know you had choices. 
  1. Napkins and silverware (no travel kits required).
  • Pack what you use at home or thrift some neat-o secondhand forks. Wipe them off when you’re done, spritz with some alcohol (if germs are a thing for you) and you’re ready to go. 
  • Cloth napkins travel just as well...well...as your clothing. Throw them in your towel load when you get back from your trip and they’re ready for your next adventure! 
  • Bring a tiny cutting board and a knife (wrapped up in a towel or sporting a blade cover, of course).
  1. Water supply - fill the containers!
  • Fill up the orange Igloo and throw it in the trunk.
  • Refill individual reusable water bottles, kept on hand.
  • Travel-sized orange Igloo?! Yep. It is epically adorable. Like its big brother, our travel one is 2.5 gallons and stows away perfectly next to our first aid kit and jumper cables. 

Small effort. Big impact.

Remember, the convenience of single-use bottled beverages does not outweigh the expense -- both to your wallet and to our environment. 

Yep, this requires pulling over to cut up the apple and big ole block of cheese, and filling up reusable water bottles from the adorable travel-sized orange Igloo. Break at a rest stop! Many of them are quite wonderful and feature playgrounds, picnic tables, bird feeders, walking trails and dog areas. Picnic at a scenic overlook or historical marker. You might be surprised by what you see and learn along the way. Don’t get so hung up on what you are going to do once you reach your destination that you don’t enjoy the process of getting there.  

Well, until next month, the environment thanks you for dealing with some minor inconveniences and minimizing your consumption of foods wrapped in single-use packaging.