Family gatherings, holiday parties, school days, office work and picnics often require the planning of a portable meal. Meals that must travel to other locations need to be convenient, contained and as ready to eat as possible. The ideal meal would require little preparation, fit into one disposable dish, and need no continuing source of heat or cold in transport. Of course, that is not always possible or preferable for a meal, but there are many choices that meet some of those elements and make a good portable meal choice.
Since keeping food at the correct temperature to prevent bacteria growth is so important, and at times difficult, always take temperature maintenance into account when planning portable meals. One-dish casseroles such as fried rice, lasagna or shepherd's pie make convenient portable meals. They do not spill easily and tend to maintain their heat, especially if made in a large batch. Slow-cooker meals such as pulled pork or sloppy joes transport well because you can take them with you in the slow cooker. Provide a variety of whole-grain breads and sliced vegetables with creamy dressings or dips to accompany these types of main dishes.
Adult Lunch Meals
Whole-grain wraps provide a suitable adult lunch meal and transport well. Add meat, cheese, vegetables and condiments such as mustard, light ranch dressing or mayo to the wrap to create an all-in-one meal that meets many daily requirements. Whole-grain crackers, hard cheese, vegetable sticks with creamy dressing and fresh fruit also make an easily transportable lunch meal for adults. A bean salad packed in a stay-cool container transports easily and provides many nutrients in a single dish.
Kids Lunch Meals
For easy packing, carrying and eating, sandwiches may offer the best choice for kids. To keep meats from spoiling, freeze sandwiches, without any garnish or condiment, the night before. For variety, use bread alternatives such as whole-grain rolls, tortillas, pita or crackers. Make kids an easy-to-carry pasta salad in an insulated container. With meat, vegetables, pasta and creamy salad dressing all in one container, pasta salad is easy, nourishing and delicious.
Family Picnic Meals
For summer picnics, place sandwich fixings of meat, cheese, vegetables and condiments such as mayonnaise, mustard and creamy dressing in a cooler. Add a bag of fresh fruit for dessert and snacks. Bring whole-grain rolls or deli breads and pretzels with you. Once at your destination, everyone can create their own sandwiches right from the cooler. Another easily portable picnic meal is classic fried chicken, eaten hot or cold. Add bags of other finger foods, such as vegetable sticks, fresh fruit, breadsticks and oatmeal cookies to accompany the chicken.