It’s the time of year for swim meets, baseball tournaments, long days at the pool, and other summer activities. While summer can be a relaxing time, there are also many days spent away from home. On those days, it can be tempting to grab fast food for every meal. And as much as my family loves Chick-fil-A, my budget and waistline need some variety. With some planning and packing, it’s possible to put together some easy, frugal, and healthy meals that can be taken anywhere.
I know everyone has a different view of “easy, healthy, and frugal,” but these are some ideas that have worked for us. Everything can be adapted for each family’s needs and preferences.
1. Wrap it up.
Wraps are so easy and versatile, and probably the most common choice for us when we start heading out the door. We use whole wheat tortillas and create a variety of flavors. When we are on the go, I pack sauces in a small portable container to add right before we eat. If I have enough time, I will pack a reusable container for each person and include a wrap, fruit or raw veggies, and a small container of sauce. If we are short on time, I will put each wrap in plastic wrap, place in a Ziploc bag, and throw in the cooler. There are endless options, but some of our favorites include:
- Nut butter and banana (also great for breakfast!)
- Chicken, lettuce, tomato, and guacamole
- Marinara sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese (my children like the cheese melted ahead of time)
- Chicken Caesar wrap: chicken, romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, Parmesan (optional), and just enough Caesar dressing to add flavor
- Chicken, mixed greens, tomato, feta, olives, and cucumbers
- Turkey (or ham) and cheese
- Veggie wrap with spinach, mushrooms, olives, green peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, avocado, and any other raw veggies. This also tastes great spread with a little salsa or hummus.
- Or check out more ideas here.
2. Put it in a bowl.
Bowls are another great meal option that can be thrown together pretty quickly and easily. I pack these in reusable containers and stack them in the cooler with ice packs. Our favorite bowls include:
- Fruit and grains: chicken, strawberries, blueberries, quinoa, edamame, salad greens, balsamic vinaigrette
- Burrito bowl: chicken, brown rice (or quinoa), black beans, salsa, cheese, guacamole, plain Greek yogurt (optional)
- Pizza bowl: mixed greens, turkey pepperoni, chopped green peppers, sliced black olives, mushrooms, shredded cheese, drizzle of marinara sauce
- Mediterranean quinoa bowl.
3. Make a salad.
Salads are another favorite meal on the go and something I pack often when we need to head out the door. Some ideas include:
- Caprese Salad Kabobs: cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar
- Greek Salad: mixed greens, chicken, pitted Kalamata olives, tomato, cucumbers, chopped red onions, feta, Greek dressing on the side
- Taco Salad: mixed salad greens, meat of choice (chicken, ground beef or ground turkey), sliced tomatoes, shredded cheese, sliced black olives, crushed tortilla chips, taco seasoning to taste. This can be made in a larger batch ahead of time and portioned out into small containers. I also sometimes mix all ingredients except the chips and serve chips separately
- Pasta Salad: whole wheat rotini or bow tie pasta, chicken, spinach, feta, tomatoes, sliced black olives, basil pesto
- Fruit Salad: for summer, we like orange slices, grapes, strawberries, blackberries and kiwi. Any combination of fruit would be good.
- Chicken Salad: my favorite recipe includes grapes, celery, and Greek yogurt. This is wonderful served on lettuce, with crackers, or in a sliced whole wheat pita
4. Snacks for dinner.
When nothing sounds particularly appetizing, it’s nice to have several snacks on hand. This is my children’s favorite thing to eat for any meal, so I try to plan for it. Some family favorites are:
- DIY Lunchables with lunch meat or leftover chicken, string cheese, and Triscuits
- Snack Bento box with grapes or apples, pita slices, and nut butter or hummus
- Hard boiled eggs
- Homemade trail mix
- Hummus and veggies (I like to buy individual containers of hummus for easy packing)
- Chocolate hummus with fruit and pretzels
- Plain Greek yogurt mixed with fruit and granola and drizzled with honey
- Bananas or apples with natural peanut butter
5. Rotisserie chicken to the rescue.
If grilling and meal prep isn’t in the plan for the week, a rotisserie chicken can come through in a pinch. It can be thrown in a cooler whole with some fruit, raw veggies, or pasta salad, or shredded and used in most of the wraps, bowls, or salads mentioned above.
6. Last minute panic.
Sometimes there is just no time to even assemble, much less pack individual meals. Those are the days that I would prefer to go to Chick-fil-A, but honestly sometimes activities are scheduled in a way that there isn’t even time to go to a drive-thru. In those situations, I go to my trusty staples, throw them in the cooler with some ice packs, and head right on out the door.
These are the items I keep on hand:
- Loaf of bread or box of crackers
- Pack of lunch meat
- Bag of string cheese
- Bag of cuties, apples, grapes or sliced fruit
- Bag of baby carrots
- Individually packaged guacamole or hummus
- Unsweetened apple sauce packets or fruit strips