Life can get hectic, especially when juggling work, school, and family activities. On those busy evenings when you need to spend more time in the car than the kitchen, it can be easy to resort to a drive-through. But in true Shelf Cooking style, we're showing you how simple (and so much more affordable!) it can be to prep yourself meals that can come along for the ride!

Sports, extracurriculars and kids' activities all seem to take place right smack-dab in the middle of dinner time. This can be a tricky challenge when planning your dinner menu! Thankfully we have years of experience of putting together dinners that we take on-the-go. Here are some of our best tips and dinner ideas to help you stay nourished and avoid fast food during your busiest nights:

Tips For Dinners That Travel Well

  1. Plan Ahead: Take a few minutes each week to plan your meals. For those busy nights of running around and eating on-the-go, choose recipes that are easy to prepare, pack, and eat on the go. (We'll get to some great ideas in a minute!)
  2. Prep in Advance: Utilize weekends or free moments to prep ingredients in advance. Chop veggies, marinate proteins, and cook grains ahead of time for quicker assembly during the week.
  3. Invest in Containers: Invest in quality, portable – and most importantly LEAK-PROOF! – containers that keep your meals fresh and secure during transport. Mason jars, bento boxes, and insulated containers are great options.
  4. Keep Dressings and Sauces Separate: Pack dressings, sauces, and condiments in small, tightly sealed containers or individual packets. Add them to your meal just before eating to avoid soggy salads or wraps.
  5. Consider Temperature Control: For hot meals, use insulated containers or thermoses to keep food warm until mealtime. For cold meals, use ice packs or frozen water bottles to maintain a cool temperature.
  6. Pack Smartly: Layer ingredients strategically in your containers to prevent sogginess. For example, place wet ingredients like dressings or sauces at the bottom, followed by sturdier ingredients like grains and proteins, and delicate items like lettuce or herbs on top.
  7. Think Finger Foods: Choose foods that are easy to eat with your hands, like sandwiches, wraps, cut-up veggies with dip, fruit slices, cheese cubes, and nuts. This makes eating on the go more convenient.
  8. Clean-Up Essentials: Pack some wet wipes, napkins, or hand sanitizer for easy clean-up after eating on the go. It's always a great idea to keep a roll of paper towels in the car if you'll be eating on-the-go regularly.

Dinners To Bring With You On-The-Go

Here's a list of easy dinner ideas that package up and travel well, and can be eaten in the car for those busy nights running around!

  • Mason Jar Salads: Layer your favorite salad ingredients in a mason jar for a convenient and customizable meal. Start with dressing at the bottom, followed by grains, proteins, veggies, and greens on top. Shake and enjoy!
  • Wrap It Up: Fill whole-grain wraps or tortillas with grilled chicken or tofu, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, and a drizzle of dressing. Roll them up, slice into pinwheels, and pack for a portable dinner Or try this Copycat Red Robin BBQ Chicken Wrap recipe.
  • DIY Snack Boxes: Create snack-style dinner boxes with a variety of components like cheese cubes, deli meats, whole-grain crackers, veggies with hummus, and fruit slices. It's like a mini charcuterie board to go!
  • Pasta Salad: Prepare a cold pasta salad with whole-grain pasta, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, feta cheese, and a light vinaigrette. Pack in containers for a refreshing dinner option.
  • Quinoa Bowls: Cook quinoa and top it with black beans, corn, diced bell peppers, avocado slices, and a squeeze of lime juice. Pack in a container with a lid for a nutritious and filling meal on the go.
  • Soup in Thermos: Fill a thermos with your favorite soup, such as vegetable barley, chicken noodle, or lentil soup. Pair it with whole-grain crackers or a slice of crusty bread for a comforting dinner option.
  • Stir-Fry Madness: Whip up a quick stir-fry with lean protein (chicken, shrimp, tofu), colorful veggies, and a savory sauce. Serve over brown rice or cauliflower rice for a satisfying meal that's easy to transport.
  • Quesadilla Slices: Make quesadillas with whole-grain tortillas, cheese, cooked chicken or beans, and veggies like spinach or bell peppers. We also have a great steak quesadilla recipe here. Cut them into wedges for easy snacking in the car.

Let us know what your favorite on-the-go meals are in the comment section! You might like these other great blog posts: