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You just landed a job that requires you to travel for work. That means you need to prep food for yourself and your family staying behind. If you’re wondering how it will be manageable, I will share fun and easy ideas on meal prep when you travel for work.
- How to Meal Prep When You Travel for Work
- How Meal-Prepping Benefits Traveling Routines
- 7 Ways to Meal Prep When You Travel for Work
How to Meal Prep When You Travel for Work
You might think that traveling for work will hinder your ability to meal prep. Most people feel this way because they don’t understand that meal prepping has many layers and can be adapted to suit each person’s needs. I will share my experiences and ideas to help you determine what works for you, your routine, and your family.
How Meal-Prepping Benefits Traveling Routines
Here is why meal prep is so helpful for someone who travels for work:
- Having food on your travels means you spend less money buying takeout. You also get to eat healthier meals.
- You don’t have to think about rushing home or wonder what your family will eat.
- You know that there will be enough food for your family to enjoy in case of any emergency or extended stays.
- It saves you time on the travel days, and you won’t need to scramble trying to prepare food or throw snacks together.
Before I learned about meal prep, I would wake up 2 hours earlier than usual to make myself food for the journey and prepare food for my family’s lunches. Then I would stress about them eating takeout for dinners because there was no one to cook healthy homemade meals.
7 Ways to Meal Prep When You Travel for Work
If you travel for work or your job is about to require you to travel, food should be the last thing you worry about. Here are my favorite and most effective ideas and techniques on how to meal prep when you travel for work and how to navigate life around it.
1. Prepare Snack Foods
While buying a bunch of snacks would be simpler, preparing them yourself is cheaper and healthier.
The best part about preparing snacks is that you will have easy-to-reach and eat foods, and if you prep a few extras of each item, your family at home will also have accessible homemade snacks while you are away.
Some examples of snacks to carry when traveling are:
- Trail mixes
- Kale chips
- Cut up fruit
- Cut up veggies and hummus
- Homemade granola bars
- Energy balls
- Boiled eggs
Preparing these foods before my travels and packing them in little Ziploc bags works wonderfully. That way, I can slip them into my bag or cooler, and they are ready to go. Plus, they are mess free! Cut up fruit and veggies while staying home for the family, and go in little containers in the fridge!
2. Prepare No-Cook Meals
If you need a whole meal (besides snacks), you can prepare no-cook meals before your travels. These are typically easy to create, last well in a cooler, are mess-free to eat, taste great, and fill you up!
These foods can also be prepped for your family staying behind, and they will have ready-to-go meals without having to reheat, prep anything, or call you to ask what needs to be done.
Examples of no-cook meals are:
- Overnight oats
- Boiled eggs
- Tuna salad
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
- Chicken wraps
3. Plan Your Time Well
One of the best tips I have ever learned along the way with work that requires travel and someone who needs to meal prep to stay sane is that it is all in the planning. If I know I will be traveling, making a list of groceries to buy and meals to cook is crucial for finishing everything.
Additionally, planning out which days you can cook specific meals and how long ahead before your travels you can start the process helps prevent you from being overwhelmed at the last minute. If you have time on a weekend, try to get it all done over one day or schedule to do a few things over 2-3 days.
4. Use a Cooler When Traveling
You will need a cooler if you are meal-prepping and taking food along. Considering how long you will be gone and how much food you require, you can get one as small or as big as you need to fit all your food and beverages.
The cooler will help keep your items fresh, especially foods like salads, sandwiches, boiled eggs, and muffins. It will also keep your drinks cool, and if you have dairy items like cheese or chocolate, they won’t go bad.
5. Think About Each Family Member
If you are going to meal prep so your family can have food while you are away for work, you must consider each family member. Examples of who and what you should consider:
- A kid that has dietary restrictions like gluten or lactose allergies.
- An elderly parent who can’t eat spices.
- Kids who may need packed lunches for school.
- A spouse who needs packed lunches for work.
- A family member who is on a vegan diet and can’t eat meat or poultry.
While it can be challenging to cater to everyone individually, if it needs to be done, making separate meals for each need and labeling those foods can help prevent problems while you are away. It will also give you peace of mind.
I have a gluten-free family member. Anytime I needed to leave for work, I would prepare all the gluten-free meal preps for my time away. That way, there would be no slip-ups, and I never have to worry about them getting ill while I couldn’t be there to do anything about it.
6. Prepare Fully Cooked Meals
Making fully cooked meals are one of the best ways to have meals for your home when you travel for work. It makes your life easier, puts your mind at ease, and simplifies things for your family members back home while you are away.
Here is how meal prepping fully cooked meals benefit you when you travel for work:
- Your family will not have to prepare anything. They simply need to reheat the food.
- They can’t mess up any instructions unless they burn the food while reheating it.
- They won’t be disturbing you by repeatedly calling you about what to do.
- When meal prepping, you can cook and freeze a few fully cooked meals and freeze them or put them into the refrigerator and know that your work is done.
Examples of fully cooked meals:
- Roast chicken
- Baked veggies
7. Be Prepared for Emergencies
Always remember that meal prepping doesn’t only mean cooking food yourself. While it is more cost effective and healthier to do that, it’s better to prepare for any circumstance – especially if you are the primary cook in your home.
This means buying ready meals like frozen foods, rotisserie chicken, frozen pizza, or canned food can also be part of meal prep. If something burns, someone forgets to thaw the meal prep food, or a child is sick, and something quick is required, it will be easily accessible.
Thinking about meal prep when you travel for work doesn’t have to feel so daunting anymore. With the above ideas as techniques, you can easily get it done and always have food prepped for your journey and your family that stays home without you.
Nathaniel Lee is an avid cook, drawing on his decades of home cooking and fine dining experience. He is a contributing chef at Mashed, and his recipes and contributions have been featured in Tasting Table, Edible Arrangements, Insanely Good Recipes, and The Daily Meal.