The Traveling Casserole

When we travel, I always pack quite a bit of food. This takes some effort when you’re getting ready to go on a trip, but we find the work is worth it as we save a lot of money on eating out. Plus, it’s a lot easier on our systems. (Don’t even get me started.)

Aside from good ol’ sandwiches, here are some other food items that we have found travel well:

In January, after our 3,800 mile road trip, you could say that we were just a little bit tired of traveling and eating in the car. We’d eaten packed food, fast food, snack food and well…a few too many beans. Vegetable soup and salad from the comfort of our own kitchen had never sounded better.

And yet, just three days after our return home, we needed to make a two hour (one way) trip to one of Asa’s basketball games. Matt and I tried not to groan as we discussed our food plan for the day. The idea of eating out or eating concession food made us turn green. Packing sandwiches didn’t appeal to us in the slightest. Nothing sounded good. Even the kids, who normally think eating out or having sandwiches and chips is a big treat, curled their upper lips at us.

What to do…what to do…because we did need food.

Enter….The Traveling Casserole:

I’ve gotta say…I’d never thought of this idea before. (I didn’t think of it this time either…it was Matt’s brilliant idea.)  He dug out the very cool Pyrex Dish with Insulated Carrier that someone had given us as a gift. Why couldn’t we just make a “real meal” and keep it warm in this until we were ready to eat?

Did I mention that my husband is brilliant?

One of the boys suggested Cheesy Beef and Ricealso brilliant.   Cheesy Beef and Rice is not messy or runny or gooey or likely to cause stains on basketball uniforms.

I made it, baked it and packed it up just before time to leave. I grabbed a serving spoon, some paper plates and plastic forks….tossed in some yogurt and fruit and we were good to go.

When we were ready to eat, I just served up paper plates and passed them to the back of the van. Not one bit of casserole was left at the end of the night…and not one of us was whining about having a stomach ache or about having to eat a sandwich…again.

So…all that to say…think outside the box just a little bit when packing food for trips. There is no limit to the traveling food ideas.

Except for I don’t think I’d ever want to pack spaghetti. Or anything you’d have to eat with chop sticks.

Like we ever even eat with chop sticks when we’re at home at the table?

I have no idea why I just said that.

What are  your favorite travel foods?


  1. Holly in Virginia says

    Well, my grandma always made fried chicken. REAL, nice fried chicken. And potato salad, coleslaw, baked beans (delicious served cold btw) when we had picnics and the like. I have done this on occasion, especially when we take a special day trip to the mountains.


  2. angie says

    I just take whatever I’ve cooked! I usually take dinner to soccer and baseball practices. I have a couple of containers that have seperate sections and a lid I make the boys their meal put it in the container, and then wrap it up in a kitchen towel. I put it in our little cooler and it stays warm until they are done and they get to eat a warm meal on the way home!


  3. Kori Kauffman says

    I have 2 of these in different sizes(casserole and large bowl)-they are great! The versatility of using for hot or cold can’t be beat. This same idea can be done with an insulated cooler for a larger size meal. Most people don’t realize that coolers will not only keep foods cold, but can be used to keep hot foods hot. I usually put a bath towel over the top of the foods, then put the lid on to catch any condensation from the heat of the foods.


  4. says

    For the last trip we went on, I made a sort of hot pocket thing. I used some homemade bread dough, shaped it into rectangles, put ham and cheese inside, folded them over and then baked. We actually ate them cold, so they were just similar to sandwiches but much less messy and so much tastier!

    Also, we packed dinner before we went to a Halloween parade this year (which was super fun)! We didn’t want the kids to beg us for the expensive concessions that were being sold there, plus packing a dinner was cheaper and much healthier! I wrapped sausage in homemade pretzel dough and then baked them just before leaving the house. Wrapped everything in aluminum foil so they were still warm when we got there! Threw in some carrot sticks and called it a meal!


  5. Diane says

    We live 2 hours from major shopping, drs. and the like and make the trip about once a month so I tend to pack a lot of portable food. My favorite is to take my homemade bread dough, divide it into roll sized hunks, flatten them and then stuff them with whatever is on hand. Some of our favorites are salmon, pesto, cream cheese and veggies; all natural hot dogs and cheese; beef and veggies; meat, veggies and cheese. I’m pretty much only limited by my imagination. :-) Add fruit and some finger veggies if there are none in the rolls and we are good to go.


    Diane Reply:

    I forgot to list the spinach in bacon, ranch, cream cheese ones.


  6. Bernadette says

    Thanks so much for affirming that we are not the only people in the world who do not like (or end up feeling awful after) fast food! I love the portable cassarole dish with cover idea… and will totally be using the cooler tid-bit! Thanks ladies!


  7. Rhonda says

    During the winter, my daughter has week night basketball games the same nights my boys have swim lessons, so we travel straight from her games to the local swimming pool. I pack our dinners in personal sized thermos containers to keep dinner warm or I pack our dinners in a small cooler. For the cooler dinner, I pack our dinners in pyrex bowls (2 cup capacity) and cover them with a bit of foil and place them in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes. For the 15 minutes dinner is in the oven, I put about 3 cups of boiling water in a small cooler, place the lid on it and allow the cooler to warm up. I wrap the dinners in a hand towel, drain the water from the cooler, and place the dinners in the cooler. It keeps dinner really warm, the hand towel acts as a lap protector/napkin/placemat and we all enjoy dinner on the go.


  8. amy stout says

    We usually got pretty simple when we are traveling or eating at football games (Both my boys play so my 6 yr old daughter and I are always eatting dinner “out” on Friday nights) She usually choses string cheese, pretzels, grapes and a pickle) We also take our own popcorn to reduce the fat and salt. We pop the popcorn, let it cool then put it in ziplock bags. Frozen water bottles go with us when it’s hot out. We tuck them in the cooler and they keep the food cold and then thaw fast to drink. When it’s cold we take a thermos of hot chocolate.


  9. Kathy says

    I haven’t tried this yet, but . . . . we have one of those power inverters that hooks up to the accessory power (cigarette lighter) in the car. Why not hook up the crock pot on a trip to either keep something warm or finish cooking it? We away for the weekend frequently in the warmer weather, and we’re driving during the time I would usually be cooking. So we either eat late, or eat out, which gets costly. I’m going to try this on the next Friday night drive and see how it works. If someone tries it before I do, please let me know how it works out!


    DreamingofSpring Reply:

    I would be sure to use a crock pot with the clamps to keep the lid on or else tape a regular lid down. I think it would work great! You could even freeze the item to go in the crockpot and use it in your cooler for the stuff that needs to stay cold and then pop it in the crockpot–esp if you are gone all day and are doing cold sandwich lunches and want a hot supper.


    Karen Reply:

    I was going to suggest this very idea! We also have such a gadget that
    enables us to plug in our crock-pot in the car, and yes, we have a lid
    that locks! The only problem with this system is that the yummy smells
    it produces as we drives somewhere can make us all hungry!


  10. Susan Alexander says

    How in the world do you travel long-distance with something like pizza?!!

    I need good “on the go” ideas for our next road trip across country (moving again). 90% of time we’ll be staying in hotels, driving 5 hours a day (the most I can expect out of a 3 year old and a 1 year old). Usually when we do these trips, we just grab hotel breakfasts, fast food lunches, gas station snacks, and sit-down restaurant dinners.

    But, this time I’d like to save a little money AND eat healthier. But it’s a challenge – we won’t have much time for shopping on the move and we’ll be living out of a big cooler and microwaves… I’m sure we’ll do our share of eating out, but… I’d like to have at least a handful of breakfasts/lunches/dinners/snacks that are healthier than what we get on the go usually. It’s made even more challenging because my youngest currently has several food allergies. I’m hopeful she outgrows these by the end of the summer (when we’re moving), but I’m currently trying to imagine traveling with all these food restrictions and my blood pressure is going up! LOL


    Laura Reply:

    We just eat the pizza cold. I bake it the night before, slice it, let it cool and put it in ziplock bags. The kids just eat it in the van right out of the baggies. Not the most appetizing for Matt and me, but it’s food and it’s cheaper than eating out. Saves time stopping for food too!

    Blessings on your move this summer!


    Susan Alexander Reply:

    Thanks! Trying to figure out what’s doable – I will have a very limited kitchen both immediately before and after the move – I tend to pack a few basics (a pan and pot for the stove, something to go in the oven, some cooking utensils, a knife and small cutting board, etc) and meal plan super simple meals for the beginning and end of our trip… This time I will also be thinking about what I can make ahead to make the trip itself better. Whew, this is tricky! LOL

    Thanks so much, first move with two kiddos! It’ll be interesting as our family grows to see how these moves change!


  11. Angela says

    Laura, I love all your ideas and everyone else has such great ideas also. But I have a question, do you eat all the foods cold or do you reheat them some how? I always try to take healthier snacks, but my husband feels a meal has to be hot so I never tried taking them with us before. I really like the ideas for shorter trips of taking a hot meal in a cooler. Thanks for everything.


    Laura Reply:

    If we’re going to be traveling all day, I heat our breakfast and lunch and pack them in insulated lunch bags to stay warm. I save sandwiches for that evening, since it would be tough to keep food warm all the way until dinner time.

    The Insulated Carrier for my pyrex dish kept our casserole hot for about three hours before we opened it up to eat it!


  12. Teresa says

    My kiddos go to public school and I am needing ideas for food to pack in their lunches…their food is not warm by the time lunch time rolls around and they are tired of sandwiches.Any ideas ladies?


    Heather Reply:

    We have these little containers to put food in. You put boiling water in them and let them sit for about 5 minutes. Then you drain the water and add the hot food (i.e. pasta, soup, etc.). We do this with leftovers sometimes and my daughters say that while the food isn’t “hot” when lunch comes around, it is still pretty warm. Nice way to mix things up. I’d be interested if anyone else has good ideas. The girls also like “parfaits” – layer plain yogurt w/honey, and mixed berries, granola separate. They add the granola right before eating. A good protein/fiber combo. Also, my one daughter likes guacamole (I keep it super healthy) with a multi-grain chip. I’ve also heard hummus and veggies is a good idea.


  13. says

    You know I once did pack up Oriental food (needing chopsticks) for a car ride. That was before we had kids. I have to say, chopsticks clean up easier, and look prettier in my hair.


  14. says

    House renovations have us reaching for fast food more than I would like. Now don’t get me wrong, I do like a good junky burger every now and then…but frankly, I and my system are getting quite tired of it. So yesterday I hit up one of the two grocery stores I go to for our weekly shopping and to combat some of the ickies I was feeling, got kombucha and kefir and plan to go to the other store for some yogurt. Replenishing and thriving the probiotics is helping me feel back to normal. These darn house renovations have me working with hubby til late at night and then exhausted the next day, so I don’t do much of anything. I think its partially laziness…shhhhh…don’t tell anyone. But I am tired of junk food and ready to get back to eating right.


  15. Wendy says

    We are packing up to drive 3 hours to family and eat with them, then the next morning up at 5am on the road by 6am and at the SAC museum for a robotics competition, lunch is on our own, until 5pm. Afterward, off to more family, supper on our own, then home the next day. How do I pack for this, oh and we are remodeling so time and space in the kitchen are limited? I have the worst time coming up with ideas for quick, cold, on the go foods, maybe this could be a new ebook for you. The crockpot sounds intriguing, but what to put in it?


    Lish Reply:

    Put potatoes to bake in the crock pot, and put broccoli ham and cheese sauce in a thermos. Stuffed baked potatoes! We have actually done this, and it worked well in the car. Cold foods my kids like are just some crackers, cheese chunks, grapes, cut up veggies, or I make peanut butter and fruit stuffed whole wheat rolls. They are good because they keep at room temperature really well. Also homemade trail mix, maybe with some milk or yogurt in the cooler. I also love making muffins to travel for breakfast with an apple.


  16. Deniseathome says

    O.K. I kind of understand how to do this for the first meal but how do you deal with the meals after that? My husband and I are going on a 2 week road trip. I have made sure that the motels I’ve book either serve a full breakfast, or provide a microwave and a refrigerator in the room. The first place we are stopping at has a BBQ so it’s steaks from the freezer for the first night. I also can so I can bring some canned meats. We will eat out some and I don’t want to spend my entire vacation food shopping and cooking. Any suggestions will be helpful. We will of course be bringing coolers. Thanks


    Laura Reply:

    Here’s a post with my suggestions – and lots of suggestions from others!


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