Having just returned from visiting my family in an adorable rural town nine hours from the nearest vegan restaurant or specialty store, I fondly remembered the distress of my first time visiting this picturesque place as a vegan.
Vegan living is both a lifestyle and a journey. Literally and figuratively speaking, that journey requires a few staples to pack in your suitcase and some “go-to” foods you can find almost anywhere. A happy vegan traveler is a full vegan traveler, so here are my tips to stay satisfied on the road:
Vegan Travel Essentials
Sometimes, I can find soy milk in rural grocery stores, but it is usually very close to its expiration date. If you are an almond, oat or cashew milk drinker, you might be able to find those as well, though chances are slim. While the ingredients to blend your own will be available in almost all grocery stores, it is probably easier to throw a carton or two in your suitcase instead of a high speed blender and nut milk bag.
Vegan Broth or Bouillon
“But there’s no chicken in it, it’s just broth,” an omni relative or friend might say. Because broths and gravies are flavored with chicken fat, there is chicken in it. For more on this, see “Annoying Things People Say to Vegans.” A small box of bouillon cubes takes up minimal space and goes a long way. Add a few cubes to a pot of water and you have vegetable broth for days!
Beans, Legumes and Grains
The basics are usually available in most grocery stores, but if you are looking to mix it up with fresh fava beans, einkorn, farro or quinoa, you may want to throw a box in your suitcase. Since they are dried, they are easy to transport. If you are really trying to save space, you can even move the legumes out of the box and into a resealable plastic bag that you can flatten atop your clothes.
I need my spicy miso kale chips and my Ziggy Marley Roasted Hemp Seeds fix; an unlikely find in the hidden gems of small town America. Throw a few packages in your suitcase to make sure you do not suffer from withdrawal. If all else fails, you will likely find Lay’s plain corn chips or Ritz Crackers at the local grocer.
If you have the time, you will be able to bake your own either before you leave or when you are in your new locale. If you have a jam-packed itinerary, however, you will want to pack a few vegan sweets just in case (mmm, cacao nibs and coconut bites). If you really need to satisfy your sweet tooth, you will likely find Oreos or Swedish Fish at most grocery or convenience stores.
Widely Available Vegan Foods
The ever satisfying dry side salad; available in almost every restaurant – do double check the ingredients (boiled eggs and cheese can be common side salad ingredients). Salad is also available at most grocery stores, no matter how far off the beaten path. Combine spring mix, spinach or even simple romaine with dried fruit, nuts, fresh fruit or other veggies of your choice. You could even buy balsamic vinaigrette, raspberry vinaigrette or a small bottle of olive oil to dress it up.
A loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter – a throwback to your childhood. If this starts to get boring, add banana, molasses, brown sugar or classic grape jelly to jazz it up. Step up your peanut butter sandwich game by toasting it. PB&J will never taste the same again. Just make sure to check for non-vegan bread ingredients if you are buying an unfamiliar brand.
Although there is controversy over what you should watch out for here (e.g., What kind of oil is used for frying? Is raw chicken fried in the same vat? Are the fries dipped in milk batter to give them an extra crunch?), french fries can still be a lifesaver at small town diners. Just make sure to politely ask the server any questions you may have about their french frying practices. Though the server might not know the answer to every question offhand, he or she will do their best to find out the answer for you.
Sometimes, there is nothing better than some good ol’ pasta with plain tomato sauce. It’s satisfying, filling and versatile. For example, you can add in some vegetables to make this simple dish even more delicious and nutritious. This meal is fast, easy and cheap.
While oatmeal may seem like only a breakfast food, it is a filling, fiber-luscious meal that can save a growling tummy at all hours of the day. A great source of whole grains, plain oatmeal can easily transform into the base for a savory dinner meal. Packing individual oatmeal packets, such as Quaker brand, are also great because they transport easily and are perfectly snack sized. Clearly, oatmeal is not only a superfood, it is a superhero.
Granola and Nuts
In this same spirit, I also recommend granola bars and nuts – the ultimate “fussy snack.” My friend coined this term when her boyfriend would get hangry and she started carrying snacks in her purse to keep him tranquil. While you may not be the hangry type, it is always good to have spare snacks in your pocket, purse or backpack because you never know what vegan options may (or may not) be available when you are traveling. It is best to be prepared because in a best case scenario, you do not need the granola bar or nuts and can save them for tomorrow.
With the proper planning, bags to keep your vegan snacks, and use of resources, vegans can travel virtually anywhere with happy hearts and full stomachs. Have any other vegan travel tips we should know about? Leave us a comment below!