It’s an age-old problem. Truck drivers spend days, sometimes weeks out on the road, and while there is adventure and freedom in seeing the country, the kitchen amenities are not quite like home.
Sure, there is plenty of fast food and diner options at truck stops along the way, but constantly eating out can put a financial strain on your paycheck and be harmful to your diet. So how do you get a home-cooked meal 1,000 miles from home?
We asked our Fort Worth dedicated driver, Brandon, to share some of his tips and tricks for having a great meal on the road. It all starts with how you stock your “kitchen”.
Start with the right equipment
Brandon has a fridge/freezer unit in his truck, as well as a microwave, a slow cooker, and a small George Foreman grill. His microwave mostly serves the purpose of reheating prepped meals on the road.
“When I’m home, I get about four days’ worth of meals to take with me. I prep those meals at home and cook as much of it at home as I can. Then just heat it in the microwave on the road. Today I’m smoking ribs and grilling pork chops at home. I’ll freeze up some of that and take it with me,” says Brandon.
The grill and slow cooker assist in making meals fresh on the road. If you are just starting, remember the cost of these items or any other gadget is an investment! They ultimately will help you save money down the road.
Truck drivers are no strangers to making a plan: checking the weather, traffic, or contacting shippers and receivers. Planning for a week (or weeks) of meals on the road is no different. For Brandon, the process generally involves making a plan to buy groceries and prepping them ahead of a trip.
“There is a little grocery store in Dove Creek, Colorado with a couple of truck parking spots. I usually stop in there when I go by. I try to do three or four days’ worth at a time then mix in some eating out or sandwiches so it goes about a week. Then, I cut everything up at home and freeze it in freezer bags to make throwing it together quicker and less messy out here.”
Consider your goal before and while planning. Are you trying to eat healthier or save money? For Brandon, he wants to eat as he does at home, but keep travel light! He keeps that in mind in his shopping and stops him from over-buying.
Find your essential staples
While you should cook and eat what you enjoy on the road, groceries can be expensive and take up valuable room in the truck. Brandon, for example, usually keeps smoked or Polish sausage in his fridge. The staple is versatile, as it can be incorporated into his breakfast, but also accompany potatoes and cabbage for dinner. Hard-boiled eggs also keep well and can be boiled, peeled, and cut at home for a quick breakfast or lunch.
Other good staples to stock up on are frozen vegetables in the microwavable steam-and-serve bag. They generally last longer than fresh vegetables, are already cut bite-sized and only take a few minutes to warm up in the microwave. The same goes for frozen fruit that can thaw out in the fridge overnight to be eaten plain or with yogurt or be blended frozen into a smoothie.
Perhaps the most limiting part of an on-the-go-kitchen is the after-meal clean-up. In a small space, staying clean and organized is important (especially as a team or with a passenger, when space can feel even smaller).
“Anything grilled on the George Forman is easy and the cleanup is easy. Pork chops, boneless chicken breast, steaks. I use the steam in the bag vegetables so there is no prep,” Brandon explains
He also has a routine for washing dishes. Brandon uses the slow cooker’s ceramic pot as a “sink”. He then runs clean, hot water through his Keurig coffee machine and fills his “sink” with the water. After, the water is just poured outside. Although Brandon’s dishwashing method is quite clever, he does note disposable items are easiest. When cooking in the slow cooker, he buys a box of disposable liners so no scrubbing is required.
Finding equipment, making a game plan, understanding pantry and fridge staples, and considering clean-up are all great tips for cooking and dining on the road. Ultimately, each driver has unique tastes and eating schedules and will find what works best for them over time.
Thank you, Brandon, for sharing your tips with the rest of our fleet!