Inexpensive Foods to Keep in the Car? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 16 Old 10-18-2012, 08:30 PM - Thread Starter
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I am a social worker, and am in the car a good portion of the day. The gist is that I can't eat out any longer.  It is undoing the whole reason that I am out in the car working and making money to be spending it on food.

The other thing is that I usually have clients with me in the car as well, and they are very often low-income (living on nothing but social security), and are usually hungry by the time I pick them up.  I often wind up buying lunch for me and them as well.  I do try to stick to dollar menu if I can though it is crazy unhealthy and still a waste of money when I know I can be packing healthy snacks that don't cost much instead.


I don't feel I can stop feeding my clients, even though it isn't required.  I can't eat in front of them if I don't have something for them, but I have to eat regularly (I get low blood sugar easily), so that usually means I feed them too. 


On top of it, hubby is a driver for a living, so he is in the car all the time too.  Both of us really need to change our eating habits when we're not home.


So - the only solution I can think of is bringing a cooler with drinks (bottled water, thermoses with drinks from home, etc), and snacks that will still be good regardless of how long they're in the car, or what the weather is like (heat/cold/etc). 


Any ideas? I would really love any suggestions you may have for non-perishables to keep in the car that taste good and don't cost a fortune.  Thank you!

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#2 of 16 Old 10-18-2012, 09:00 PM
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Nuts and dried fruit keep really well. Both can be obtained at reasonable prices if you buy bulk.

Home-made energy bars can be low cost as well.

Pretzels make a good cheap healthy snack.

Some sandwiches will keep well in a car for a day. For example, peanut butter and jelly is cheap and doesn't need a cooler.

If you can use a cooler:
Bean salads
Pasta salads
Green salads
Fresh fruit
Veggies and dip

In a thermos:
Pea soup
Beans and rice
Vegetable soup
Curried potatoes
Lentil soup... All of the above are inexpensive healthy options
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#3 of 16 Old 10-18-2012, 09:39 PM
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I would look into the liability of feeding clients.  You can not know the allergies etc.  I would make it a point to eat before/after seeing clients.  I would never expect my social worker to provide snacks nor would I accept snacks from them.

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#4 of 16 Old 10-18-2012, 09:47 PM
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Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, nuts, dried fruit, dry cereal (Chex mix maybe), trail mix, crackers (saltines or graham crackers), pretzels, granola bars, beef jerky


A little less long lived:

homemade oatmeal cookies, muffins, popcorn, roasted or unroasted chickpeas, carrots and celery with peanut butter or hummus


You can bake tortillas or pita bread to make your own chips.

Kim ~mom to one awesome dd (12)

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#5 of 16 Old 10-19-2012, 07:15 AM
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I live in texas so I can't keep squat in the car most of the year. Even baby wipes! Cds have a nasty habit of boiling up and's


I normally don't eat until dinner (bad habit I know, but it's one ive had since a teenager) but lately between ADD meds and migraines I am needing to snack on something at work to buffer and cause meds to digest quicker.


I'm stopping off at TJs to buy some cereal bars and maybe a few granola bars. But i'm not normally *hungry* so I just need something a little bready to do the trick.


I'd setup like a bankers box and stock it with cereal/granola bars, dried fruits, nuts, bread items (rolls, eng muffins, pita, etc), if cool enough weather maybe some string cheese (added that day), pretzels, etc.

I'd keep it near the front door so it's sitting inside and toss in stuff that is perishable but can handle being in car all day (such as string cheese, breads, and fresh fruits)

I'd also add in the mini boxes of uber sugary cereals, and fruit snacks, etc.....

I'm not a huge fan of stuffing kids with sugar, but growing up poor we got the generic malt o meal cereals bought by the metric ton....and pretty generic flavors.....I know any one of my sibs would have been in awe of a name brand cereal or fruit snacks which was a treat.


Long as you can avoid eating them!


and also instant oatmeal/creamofwheat/grits. throw some paper bowls and plastic spoons (or actual if you prefer) and some boxes into your car. most gas stations or fast food places you should be able to get hot water from.....and it'll fill you up a bit and help with blood sugar.

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#6 of 16 Old 10-19-2012, 07:26 AM
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I've often kept fruit leathers, individual pouches or cans of nuts, sometimes dried fruit in the car indefinitely.  Dh keeps beef jerky in his too.  I also often keep juice boxes for our kiddos (like apple, which we don't find gross if it's not cold) and a bag of crackers.  A loaf of bread and peanut butter or some other spread wouldn't be a bad idea either, or granola.


I'll grab a few apples or bananas or carrot sticks for outings and keep somewhere where I remember to bring them back inside.

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#7 of 16 Old 10-19-2012, 11:52 AM
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I think you should reframe your problem and address it in two parts; feeding yourself nutrtious food and supply snacks to your clients when you feel moved/required/obligated. You don't both need to eat the same thing and it isn't healthy for you to eat shelf stable snacking food all day.


So...pack a healthy nutritious meal or meals for the time you need to be in the car and have some inexpensive, nutrtious snacks that you can eat when you need a pick up or share when you want or need to. Also, having things are more clearly "my lunch" will make it easier to offer a distinctly snack-like item to your client.


Clients: bags of popcorn, small packages of nuts, trail mix, inexpensive cereal bars, an extra thermos of water or even a 5 gallon bottle of water and some cups  (not bottled water, adds up); in season cut up fruit or veg in a small cup added that day, string cheese


You: healthy and nutritious meal foods, perhaps in a thermos, cut up fresh fruit or veggies, packed with an ice pack, thermos of water

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#8 of 16 Old 10-19-2012, 12:37 PM
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My DS has anaphylactic food allergies so we have to pack lunches any time we're out running errands or have activities around lunch ... 2-3 days/week. A good small lunch cooler and a couple ice packs keeps most foods good all day (and I live in the South where it gets quite hot in the summers). I pack yogurt (in a container from a larger container at home that I mix a bit of plain yogurt with a bit of jelly for sweetness), sandwiches, salads with tuna or chicken, cheese slices, pretzels with cream cheese, hummus with carrots, pepper slices, cottage cheese with some peach slices or pineapple chunks, apple/pear/orange/banana, whatever you would normally pack in a lunch will work fine! As for feeding clients, keep some granola bars or some trail mix in the car and keep away from the drive thru! Snack on your lunch throughout the day when clients aren't in the car with you and then you won't feel guilty about eating in front of them.

Laura, Troy, Seth 6.24.06 , and Aaron 7.13.09
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#9 of 16 Old 10-19-2012, 12:55 PM
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Just want to throw in that I am a social worker too, am in my car all day like the OP, and often feed my clients! I appreciate all the good suggestions above. I will be putting together a box of snacks to keep in the car. My agency keeps a pantry full of snacks for kids who come into the office - I never thought of taking some to go!  Now, if I could only stop myself from getting expensive lattes for the clients and me!winky.gif

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#10 of 16 Old 10-19-2012, 01:23 PM
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Can you keep a small cooler in your car for things like string cheese, hardboiled eggs, etc?

Midwife (CPM, LDM) and homeschooling mama to:
13yo ds   10yo dd  8yo ds and 6yo ds and 1yo ds  
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#11 of 16 Old 10-19-2012, 01:59 PM - Thread Starter
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I knew I could count on you guys for awesome suggestions!!!  Really, you've given me SO many wonderful ideas!  It is also helpful to get some feedback on feeding my clients. 


First, it is good to know that I'm not alone in doing this, mamarhu!  I got to thinking about the coffee thing, and I totally get it.  One of the things I am thinking of doing is making up my own DIY "Frappucinos" at home and bringing one for my first client of the day, and one for me, when I can start drinking coffee again. 

Second, you guys are right that allergies to foods can be a liability/problem!  I will try to stick with things that I can be very clear with my clients on the ingredients to make sure that everyone is safe.


Third, regarding lunch for me, and snacks for the clients, while I totally agree that this would be ideal, the fact is that I am usually with one client for more than half the day (sometimes 6+ hours depending on their needs that day), so I just don't feel right eating a meal in front of them when they don't have one as well.


To answer some questions, yes, I can have a small cooler in the car, and also a box for dry-snacks.  I love to bake, and can make up a batch of muffins or granola bars on the weekend for the week ahead to bring with me. 


The weather here isn't AWFUL, but we're in AZ, and so we do get extremes in the middle of the seasons, which can make it hard to keep food hot/cold the way it should.  The containers I got were mostly Thermos brand, because I've had such good experience with them keeping foods at the temperature you want.  Yay for thrift store finds!  I am keeping my eyes out for a few more too, just in case.  They're such good quality, and last forever.


I do agree that bringing bottled water can become expensive - I have reusable water bottles, but I'm not sure my clients would like something I bottled up at home, and it is nice that water bottles can seal, so I may still go that route.  We'll see - I'll try both ways and see what works best!

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#12 of 16 Old 10-20-2012, 04:12 AM
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So glad to see you're getting some great ideas and inspiration! joy.gif

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#13 of 16 Old 10-21-2012, 01:55 PM
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You got enough suggestions, certainly more than I could think of, but I thought I'd mention you seem like a really sweet person :)

Tracey, mama of 5 beloved children here with me on Earth and one precious son I will meet again in Heaven 6/17/09 - 9/6/09.

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#14 of 16 Old 10-21-2012, 02:02 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you very, very much. luxlove.gif


I'm starting to get excited about taking my lunch now, and it allows me to be a little more creative. I've been trying to save ideas on Pinterest too, so I can refer back to specific recipes. :) 

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#15 of 16 Old 10-21-2012, 02:16 PM
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I get dried fruits and nuts from trader joes and keep them in a bag in the car all the time in case I get hungry. It's not a meal, but they make for great healthy snacks. 

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#16 of 16 Old 10-21-2012, 09:14 PM - Thread Starter
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I picked up 10 individual sized bags of nuts today for $2 to store in the car for quick protein snacks. :)

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