This is the fourth part in our Road Trip Food Packing series. Today we’ll cover foods you can pack along and then microwave to delicious perfection. How can you save the most money on road trip snacks? What are the most popular road trip snacks? How can you keep your road trip snacks fresh? This article includes photos, examples and explanations.
In this article we’re going to cover mostly microwaveable foods you can take with you on your highway journey, though there are plenty of items we’re surly missing.
Here are some of our top picks, pictured below, left to right: (click to enlarge)
Broken down details on these microwaveable meals, from left to right:
- Instant Cup-a-Soup: All you need to make this mini-meal happen is near-boiling hot water. You can find a hot-water spigot at any gas station (and they’ll let you take it, it costs them virtually nothing) or dump some H20 in there and toss it in a microwave (also available from gas stations, or in the lobby of any motel you would stay at.) There are a few places like Motel-6 that don’t have a microwave, but you can find a gas station next door to heat it up, and there you’ve got your meal.
- Easy Mac: It’s Mac & Cheese, except better than you’ve probably ever made at home, and all it takes is 3-minutes of tap water in a microwave or boiling hot water. These are cheap when you buy them at a big supermarket, but not so much on the road. Just get the water added and call it a day. If you can’t find hot water, tell the clerk you need it for your kid’s Mac & Cheese, even if you don’t have kids (they’re sleeping in the car.) Grace is grace, so don’t feel bad about taking advantage of 4-cents of hot water or electricity if it saves you $5 in food budget.
- Chow Mein: There are a number of different Asian rice or pasta dishes you can buy in shelf-stable, microwave-ready fashion. They cost a good $2-3 each, but it may still be less expensive than eating fast food (but maybe not!)
- Del Monte Meals: These are very similar to the Hormel Compleats I’ll talk about later, but a bit more expensive, and by some measures, more premium. These are good, but I put my money down on the Hormel Compleats, because they’re just awesome.
- Asian Soups: You may have to find an Asian grocer or at least an Asia-centric Wal-Mart to find a good variety of these. If you’ve never tried them before, don’t experiment with them on the road. If you already know some “premium” cup-a-soup type bowls you like, you should take them on the road with you. They weigh almost nothing (so you won’t waste any gas) and they are more fulfilling than a traditional (cheaper) cup-o-soup.
- Campbell’s Soups (chunky or original) : These come in different varieties, but almost all of them are good. The clam chowder is absolute garbage, so unless you think your intestines need a solid sand-blasting skip this over-priced bucket of sand-chowder. Everything else, however, is simply amazing. They offer old-school flavors like tomato and chicken noodle, as well as “hearty” flavors like Chicken Corn Chowder (my favorite) and a variety of sirloin recipes. Just look at it in terms of what YOU like and buy accordingly, but they’re all pretty damn good, and the nutrition is clearly marked on the label.
- Chef Boyardee Mac & Cheese: This isn’t exactly a cup of hearty soup, but if you’re under the age of ten, it’s even better. You’ve got some microwave-ready options here (you don’t need a can opener or bowl, though you do need a spoon) so you can microwave it and feast on a fine mini-meal. If it’s a really hot day, you could technically leave it on the hood for a few hours (if your car is dark enough) and then eat it. They’re already safe to eat at any temperature (they don’t have to be cooked to a particular temperature) so you can just eat them cool or cold, if you (or your kids) are up for that. These come in many varieties, such as Ravioli, Mini-Ravioli with Meatballs, etc.
- Chef Boyardee Mini-Cups: These are just like the bigger cups, and they’re still fairly priced, but they are smaller (about half the size) so you can make single-portion cups for each of the kids to have their own, provided you have a spoon or fork for (each of) them to use to eat it.
- Hormel Compleats: This is my favorite by a mile. These meals promise to be ready in the microwave in 90-seconds, and it’s actually true. The noodles or stuffing is already soft – it doesn’t need to be cooked – it just needs to be heated to your personal taste. They make them in maybe 15-varieties, and I have yet to taste one yet that didn’t pleasantly surprise me with how good it was. They aren’t too expensive (under $2 each at Wal-Mart) and they are remarkably tasty and filling. I do recommend them highly, and I don’t even have a connection with the Hormel folks in journalistic ways going back to forever… they’re just that good.
Check out the rest of our Road Trip Packing series:
- Road Trip Food Packing Advice Summary
- Best Road Trip Beverages
- Best Road Trip Snack Foods
- Best Road Trip Cup o’ Foods
- Best Road Trip Microwaveable Foods
- Comprehensive Road Trip Packing Checklist
- Smart Things to Pack Before Your Road Trip