Weve been getting some thought-provoking e-mails lately. Sometimes we pick the questions to turn them into posts, and sometimes we just write back and forth with our readers. I recently got the following e-mail about traveling with kids while still trying to maintain an organic diet. I immediately responded. When I got an e-mail back, I felt this was definitely a topic to open up to a broader audience. The exchange follows. My final response is one Im posting here instead of sending back to Penny in the hopes that other moms with situations similar to hers might weigh in. In fact, all organic moms who have ideas I havent considered, please post them in comments!
How can I travel without carrying all our food along? We have a 15-hour trip to take with an infant and a 2-year-old ... We will be on turnpikes with few exits. HELP, our car will be packed with all the supplies necessary to survive. No room for real food except for snacks. How can you find organic food on the road?
Where in the country are you? And how old is your infant? I have spent trips taking it all with me, and I've also found ways to find enough organic on the way there, knowing there would be an organic house I'd be winding up in. They're still pretty small at that age that traveling with it "all" doesn't take up that much room, unless you mean taking enough for a week, not just 15 hours. If you need to take enough for a week (or whatever), I usually can get away with a bag of oatmeal, some whole wheat pasta, a bag of lentils, fruit that travels well (oranges/apples), the snacks you do have room for, and then supplementing where I go. (More and more places do have organic milk/yogurt/cheese.) As for trips on the road, I have been finding places lately that do offer something organic. The chain Panera, for example, has a kiddie meal of organic grilled cheese, Horizon (not my producer of choice) milk and (very sugary!) yogurt. It's not exactly what I'd feed her at home, but it's an option.
We will be flying to the Lancaster, PA, area, spending two days there in a motel, then driving to Philly and a few days there ... but the return CAR TRIP ... will be from northeast of Philly to Indiana: 1750 miles. So we will be flying all the "stuff" that we CAN CARRY AND NEED, and returning home in a car. The infant will be 8 weeks old. Not worried about her. The 2-year-old is a particular eater and only eats a few foods and only certain brands. He can tell which hummus is the one he likes and it is consistent. Also have the nursing vegan mom, who needs protein and organic foods to make good milk for the bambino. I need to know "ways to find enough organic on the way there," and there is great-grandma's house who does NOT understand organic or even vegan. It's good to know about Panera, but we do have to be careful about the dairy part for the nursing mama.
1750 miles! Im impressed. Ive decided to post all of this online, particularly because Im not a vegan; Im not even a vegetarian. Im hoping other vegans will chime in with ideas for you. Though when I travel, I tend to eat vegetarian, as organic meat consistently proves to be one of the most difficult things to locate on the go.
I believe youll be able to find much of what you need in Lancaster and absolutely in Philadelphia. So, my thoughts: Pack as little as you can for everyone (maybe you dont need the toys, or there is a washing machine where you are going so you can take less clothes, or you can leave the port-a-crib behind and pile into a family bed together; do you need a stroller or will a carrier suffice? Etc., etc.), which will free up a bit more room for the dry staples I mentioned above. Pasta and beans dont take up too much room and can even be taken in carry-on (not so, obviously, for liquid items anymore). Next, stock up while youre in Philly. Buy a freezer bag and some ice packs there (it sounds like you wont have enough room to fly them) and head to a Whole Foods or other local store and get everything you want and need. Great-grandma will be so relieved she wont have to do extra shopping for you, shell gladly give you the fridge space (trust me!). Or: Enlist her as your ally. Even if great-grandma doesnt understand organic or vegan, she might very well understand and be empathetic about a particular eater great-grandson. Nicely ask her (or another family member who lives where she does) if it would be possible to locate the brands he is willing to eat; explain youre concerned about him not eating. If you find a willing body to do this shopping, sneak a few of your own vegan needs on the list. Im sure they wont be checking to make sure what you asked for is for him only! Besides, I have found the most unlikely candidates will bend over backwards to feed a nursing mother what she needs and craves.
Another good thing to do is look for motels with kitchens. A place to boil water for noodles and a mini fridge to store them in has made a big difference to us. As for groceries once youre out of Philly, do a Yellow Pages search for health food stores in the areas youre going to. Get their numbers, call them, find out what they have. Knowing youll be able to find some/all of what youll need will make this less anxiety-producing. You never know what store might be right around the corner. I did some Internet trolling last summer and found an amazing organic store near our family beach house that has been there for years and I cant believe I never knew it existed. We went from carrying six bags of groceries at all times to just the snacks we needed for the car ride there. Very, very freeing.
I understand your apprehension. I dont like not being able to eat the way I want to eat, and to feed Aili what she wants to eat/what I want to feed her. But all of the above being said, part of why we eat the way we do is to minimize exposure to toxins, pesticides and the like. We eat so well at home that I dont sweat it too much when we cant away from home. Its only a short period of time. Yes, I seek out farmers markets wherever my destination is to support local agriculture and also so I can ask the farmers questions if I feel the need. Im sure to keep in mind what the most and least contaminated conventional fruits and vegetables are when shopping grocery stores that dont stock organic or eating in restaurants. And, like I said, I order low on the food chain (i.e., I pretty much never eat meat outside our apartment). But if regular old pizza is what there is, pizza is what well eat.
I hope the trip goes smoothly and you find some of what you want along the way. And Im sure youll have a great meal when you return home. Happy eating!
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