Hi - I'm back!! Did you miss me? A couple weeks seems like a long time to be away from my blog but everyone's equally busy at this time of year so I doubt there was much blog-reading going on anyway, right?
As I think back on our big road trip out East, the one thing that sticks out is how darned HARD it is for a family of 4 to drive 2500+ miles without giving in to a bit of junk food and disposable packaging waste. OK, more than just a bit of junk food. Here's what happened....
We set off on our trip with a cooler full of healthy snacks, reusable water bottles and the best of intentions.....but before long we were buying potato chips, candy and bottled drinks at the truck stop just like the rest of America. Guess what? When you're driving across the country with 2 kids, you can't make the perfect, healthy, eco-decision every time. Still, we did our best to minimize the damage...both to our bodies and the planet.
Here are a few tricks that worked for us:Choose sit-down restaurants over fast food
When you're on a long road trip, you need a break. A real break, not just cramming hamburgers & fries in your mouth while you drive. There is more than one benefit here: first, you are more likely to find healthier choices in a restaurant; second, you get served on real plates and avoid the disposables and last but probably the most important: your antsy kids get to run around a bit before being strapped back into the car for 4 more hours!!Don't order too much food!
Restaurants are notorious for serving WAY to much food. Especially the chain type that you typically find on highway interchanges. When you're sitting on your butt for most of the day, you certainly don't need all those extra calories and it's hard to reuse leftovers so they usually end up going to waste. My husband and I often share a sandwich and a salad. We never order appetizers. Oh, and don't automatically assume that a 'kids' meal is the best option - they usually include a sugary drink and are often served with enough fries for the entire family.
Skip the Styrofoam!
When you do feel the need to stop at a fast-food establishment, look for meals with the least packaging waste. Sandwiches wrapped in paper are a big improvement over a styrofoam clamshell. Subway or other sub-shops are usually a good choice.
That said, we ended up using more than our fair share of styrofoam on this trip in an unexpected place...hotel breakfasts. We stayed at 3 hotels on our trip and each one offered a 'free' breakfast in the morning...served on styrofoam...OUCH!!! That one hurt...and I'm planning to write in a complaint to each of the 3 hotels. There's got to be a better way...
Water bottles are essential for a road trip and it helps to have a cooler with reusable cooling packs to store some healthy snacks like carrots and yogurt. Unfortunately we left the cooling packs in Delaware so we had to deal with melting ice on the way home. We also bring along a supply of dishtowels for cleaning up spills and to put on our laps when we do eat in the car. Our camping plates & utensils came in handy for a couple meals along the way and we used them exclusively when we were camping at the beach. Next time, I will bring some reusable containers - they would have come in handy more than once!
Some of you might go all out and pack everything you need for a roadside picnic everyday. That's what my Mom did when we were kids. She was superwoman! Alas, I am not. Plus the way-stations of today are quite different than they were when I was growing up. It seems picnic tables and playground equipment have given way to McDonald's and other fast-food joints. If you bring a picnic, you're probably going to be eating it in your car.Give in to reality
If you're a regular reader, you know that my mantra is mindful moderation. In my eyes, there's nothing wrong with a little junk food now and then. My kids are happy as clams to get stuff like soda and chips but they know it's not for everyday. We usually allow either a special drink (i.e. something other than milk or water) OR a dessert at a restaurant.
As for the packaging & food waste....sure we could have done better but I'm not going to sweat it. We recycled as much as possible and avoided trash when we could. Just gotta get those hotels to stop using styrofoam...
How do you try to stay green & healthy on a road trip? Any tips for eating out on the road? What works best for you?