Have Food, Will Travel

Will you be traveling for your holiday meals this year? If so, you are not alone. This holiday season, nearly 98.6 million Americans are predicted to journey 50 miles or more from home. If your plans include an out-of-town trip, your time over the next couple of weeks will be spent wrapping up at work, collecting school assignments that your children might miss, boarding your pets, packing and finalizing your travel plans. You would also like to contribute to your host's holiday dinner, but there is no way you could possibly find anything that would travel well anyway, right? 

Wrong. With a little ingenuity and some planning ahead, you can create a healthy food contribution that will fare well on the road. Not only will your hosts will thank you for being so kind and generous, but you will also get to enjoy the healthy fruits of your labor at the holiday feasts.

If your trip is relatively quick, you will be able to bring more of a variety of fresh foods. Consider bringing:
  • A vegetable dish you can prepare on the big day, like this savory perfect roasted broccoli recipe, will be easy to pack and quickly cook.
  • Everyone loves a rice dish. Try this simple, protein-filled parmesan rice pilaf. You can make it the day before you travel, transport in a cooler and reheat it when needed.
  • These pumpkin chocolate chip cookies or diet soda brownies require so few ingredients and are so easy to make, they can either be made ahead of time or the day you need them. Keep them in an airtight container and out of the fridge to maintain freshness.
  • These incredible granola breakfast bars last up to a week in a sealed container or bag.
For a longer trip, frozen or refrigerated breads travel well and can be thawed on the road or the night before, depending on when you arrive. Other snack foods can also be made ahead of time and stored in an air-tight container. Consider bringing:
  • Dinner rolls that you can freeze and cook the day of are a good option if you like to bake. For best results, shape into rolls, toss in flour and freeze on a baking sheet. Once the rolls are frozen, put them in a plastic bag and return to the freezer. The day of your meal, let the rolls thaw and rise one last time, then bake according to recipe directions. For best results, use red star yeast.
  • These raspberry lemon scones are a great bake-ahead breakfast option.
  • If your hosts have dinner covered, consider bringing a light snack, such as low-fat Chex mix.
  • These sweet and spicy nuts make a satisfying snack and last for up to a week in an airtight container. Plus, you can even sneak a few handfuls on the road.
If you are going to be away from home for a while before the holiday, in addition to some of the aforementioned options that stay fresh for up to a week, also plan on packing packing store-bought items to ensure their freshness. Consider bringing:
  • Preserves, like this no-cook strawberry freezer jam, can be made ahead of time or purchased from your local farmers market.
  • Arrange an antipasto dish featuring a variety of canned or jarred items such as artichoke hearts, olives, pickled vegetable mix or peppers. Add bread, meats and cheeses if you have the time and availability.
  • You can offer your hosts fresh coffee or teas from one of your hometown's local vendors, or impress them with this frothy hot chocolate drink at breakfast or after dinner.
  • If all else fails, every host appreciates a good bottle of wine or a fancy non-alcoholic drink to sip while prepping the turkey.
If your travel takes you by plane this year, you can still contribute to the meal. Some packable items that won't trigger the TSA alarms include spices, coffee, tea or sampler sets of flavored olive oils or vinegars. Be sure to pack these items in your checked baggage or check with your airline if you are unsure of what you can safely pack in your carry-on bag.

AAA NewsRoom. "Traveling this Holiday Season, Four Percent More than Last Year," accessed November 2015. Newsroom.aaa.com.