Many families enjoy taking food along on vacations and trips for picnics. Packing your own food can save you money and help you to eat better while traveling. However, improperly stored food could result in an unwanted vacation souvenir -- foodborne illness. Packing and storing food with food safety in mind can prevent this vacation disaster, and it is not that difficult. Just remember the "Five Rules of Traveling with Food."
A well-stocked cooler is a must! Have plenty of ice or frozen gel-packs on hand before you start packing.
What to take? Some foods don't require refrigeration -- peanut butter and jelly and some cheeses, for example. Perishable foods, like meat, poultry, eggs and fish do require refrigeration, so if you are taking summer salads, making sandwiches on the road, or bringing food to cook over the course of your vacation, plan to keep them on ice in your cooler throughout the trip.
Pitch the Warm
Pitch any foods that warm above refrigerator temperature (40°F). Food poisoning bacteria grow rapidly at warm temperatures. At the end of the day, if the ice has melted and the food feels warm, discard any meat or poultry left over. Non-perishables like fruits, vegetables, breads and drinks do not require refrigeration and should be okay.
Pack perishables directly from the refrigerator to the cooler. Pack meat and poultry while it is still frozen to extend its safety and shelf life.
A full cooler will maintain its cold temperature longer than one that is only partially filled.
Securely wrap or bag foods that may drip or leak, particularly raw meat, poultry or fish. Keep these from contact with ready-to-eat foods or beverages.
For longer trips take two coolers, one for the day's lunch and snacks, the other for perishables to be used later. Keep big and little hands out of perishables cooler.
Preserve the Cold
Put the cooler in the passenger section of the car instead of the hot trunk. Frequently opening the cooler will cause the inside temperature to decrease. Preserve the cold temperature of the cooler by replenishing the ice as soon as it starts melting.
Keep Hands and Utensils Clean
Protect your family from disease-causing bacteria by keeping hands and utensils clean. If soap and water will not be available, pack some moist towelettes. Bag and set aside dishes and utensils to wash with hot soapy water when you reach your destination.
Packing food for the trip is a money-and-time saver for today's road warriors. Resealable bottles of juice or sodas are more economical than individual cans or bottles. Bring a plastic cup for each member of the family. Store ice for drinks in a leak-proof, resealable container in the cooler. After lunch, repack the cooler with non-perishables to fill it up.
Using family-sized bags of chips and snacks help you save money and also cut down on your trash.
Offering a small snack every hour or two will prevent boredom during long car trips. Offer a snack before your children announce that they are hungry!
Some snacks are better than others in the car. Fresh and dried fruit, cheese and soft cookies are fairly easy for little hands to manage without making a mess.
Source: Clemson University Extension Service
Nancy's Favorite Trail Mix
1 (17.5 oz.) package honey nut cereal squares or O's
1 (6 oz.) package goldfish crackers
1 (15 oz.) package small pretzel twists
1 pound mixed nuts
1 (10.5 oz.) package mini cheese-filled sandwich crackers
1 large box raisins or dried fruit bits
1 bag of miniature marshmallows
In a large bag or bowl, combine cereal, goldfish crackers, pretzels, nuts, sandwich crackers, raisins and marshmallows. Serve or for traveling, place mix into easy to use, individual snack size bags.
For More Information Contact: _________________________
Nancy A. Freeman County Extension Director -Harrison County 228-865-4227 firstname.lastname@example.org