Have Basket…Will Travel

The last two years have brought about great changes in my family’s diet. We have been introduced to Bountiful Baskets which has helped us make living fruits and veggies the base of each meal. We have had three out of six of us diagnosed with celiac disease requiring a gluten-free lifestyle. Additionally we have one member of our family recently diagnosed with severe allergies to many (OK most) foods further limiting diet options. I have had moments of frustration but, for the most part, the new menus have been a fun challenge. I enjoy getting creative in the kitchen (BB certainly helps there) and we have all seen health benefits from a diet increasingly free of processed foods.

Just when I was really beginning to feel I had a handle on all the new “kitchen restrictions” it was time to start planning a family vacation. While this usually fills me with excitement and high expectations- this year I was filled mostly with dread. How was I going to keep my family (particularly my allergy-laden 7-year-old) healthy while living in a hotel and visiting theme parks? How could I prepare fresh meals each day and still feel like I got a vacation? We were used to eating out for two meals a day on vacations- once at the hotel breakfast and once for dinner. Keeping everyone feeling good meant we could not rely on fast foods, restaurants, or hotel freebies. It also meant that our traditional peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, granola bars, and fruit cups would not work for lunches in the parks.

As I began to plan I realized two things. First, my goal had to be no restaurants or fast food for the whole trip. Second, the keys to meeting my goal would be: a well-equipped hotel room; lots of preparation before we left home; and Bountiful Baskets. Here’s what I did to make a four-day adventure for a family of six completely HOME-MADE!

Well Equipped Hotel– This was important to my goal. I knew I had to have a full-size refrigerator to keep all of our prepped meals fresh (no regular hotel mini-fridge was going to work). I wanted an oven, needed a stove, and would be happy with a micro-wave. Hubby seriously considered just renting an RV but that put the vacation total way out of budget- so that was out (this time). We did find an all-suite hotel that included full-size fridges, a two burner stove, a microwave, a dishwasher and a sink (no oven but they had me at “full-size fridge”…when you find true love sometimes you have to give up part of the fantasy). While this was not the cheapest room we could find, we figured the money we would save by not eating out would balance out the price of the room- plus we have to do what we have to do to keep everyone healthy. To further equip our room I packed our large “Forman Grill” and our air-popper for popcorn (dishes, utensils, bowls, etc. were all included in the room)

The Preparation- I did not want to spend my vacation shopping, cooking, and cleaning (let’s face it that is my daily life) so I wanted to have as much prepared ahead of time as possible. I started with menu plans making them as detailed as possible. Once I had four days of meal plans (3 meals and 2 snacks for each day) I determined what could be prepared ahead of time and went to work.

Four days before we left:
• Made LOTS of sweet potato chips for the drives

Three days before we left:
• Diced some home-canned peaches and mangoes (BB of course) into cubes and put them in the dehydrator. I LOVE dehydrating my canned fruits because they come out kind of squishy and puffy like boxed fruit-snacks. They are great on their own or in homemade granola.

Two days before we left:
• Mixed up the flours required for gluten-free and paleo pancakes and separated into baggies portioned for the day. This way all I needed to do was dump the baggy out and add the wet ingredients.
• Purchased the food items and the containers that I would need for the remainder of the meals.
• Made Pumpkin Granola in the Crockpot.  I used GF oats, pumpkin seeds in place of nuts, and my dehydrated fruit bits.
• Made a big batch of coconut brownies  and sealed them up tight (hiding them from everyone especially hubby)

The day before the trip (BB Saturday):
• Made my own fruit cups using my home-canned peaches and plums from the basket the week before. I used “Glad” 4 oz containers and lids. I put slices of peach and plum in each container, then filled it with a bit of the sugar syrup in the peaches and sealed them up. They were a HUGE hit each day.
• Cut celery and Carrot sticks and put them into individual Ziplocs for snacking.
• Riced cauliflower and stored it in Ziploc bags
• Prepared 6 salad-in-jars for lunches each day of the trip (yep- 24 salad in jars). As the parks and zoo do not allow glass I purchased Ziploc containers for these and they worked great!
• Organized all items into the cooler labeled with the day they would be eaten and what additional foods would need to be purchased or prepped. (We need to purchase meats fresh each day for my daughter)

During the trip:
• Cooked breakfast in the room using the pancakes mixes, eggs from home, and fruit from the basket
• Made gluten-free sandwiches for the littlest one’s lunches.
• Packed backpacks with granola (now fondly known as Monkey Chow), salads, sandwiches, fruit cups, etc. for lunches and snacks while out.
• Cooked dinner in the room using the Forman Grill for meats and the little stove for sweet potatoes or cauli-rice. The extra two salads each day were opened and tossed together in a big bowl for a side dish at dinner.
• Popped popcorn and served brownies for movie nights.

Results- I am considering this “little” project a big success. I didn’t feel totally stuck in the kitchen. Everyone ate well, had a great time, and most importantly stayed healthy. There are a few things I will remember for next time. I need to plan more snacks for long car rides (man- my kids can go through home-made chips fast) and, it would be nice to try to find a way to make a cold treat that we can all enjoy on hot days. The only time any of us really felt deprived was when we were walking through the zoo in the middle of the hot afternoon watching everyone else enjoy Minute Maid frozen lemonades.

One thing I loved about this trip is that we were focused on the activity not the fried, sugary, junk foods that surrounded us. A couple of times the kiddos even mentioned how good they felt and how they were glad they weren’t slowed down by greasy treats. It was fun to sit down, pull out our lunch and start shaking away. We got a lot of “what kind of crazy family is that” looks but we got just as many people sincerely interested in our choices. It was a lot of work but, in the end, I honestly think I would travel this way even if I didn’t have to. Now that we’ve survived our first eating-out-free trip I am totally ready to sign up for our next adventure. Have basket…will travel!

Spinach Strawberry Layered Salad


  • Raspberry Vinaigrette
  • Spinach
  • Diced Strawberries
  • Feta Cheese


  1. Put 2-4 Tbls of dressing in the bottom of the jar
  2. Drop in a layer of diced strawberries
  3. Fill the jar with washed, dried, chopped spinach leaves
  4. Top with sprinkling of Feta Cheese

Chicken Ranch Layered Salad


  • Ranch Dressing
  • Heavy Diced Veggies (we used broccoli, celery, red bell pepper)
  • Diced Grilled Chicken
  • Green Leaf Lettuce- washed, well dried, and chopped
  • Diced tomatoes


  1. Pour 2-4 Tbls of Ranch dressing in bottom of jar
  2. Drop in a layer of heavy veggies
  3. Top with a layer of chicken
  4. Fill with Lettuce
  5. Top with diced tomatoes


  1. JoAnn Williams

    Diane- The $1.50 is added to your contribution total EACH TIME you check out. The $3.00 is a ONE TIME charge added ONLY the first time you contribute for a basket and you do not need to add it again if you contribute at a different site. In the future, your questions will be answered quickest via the bountiful baskets facebook page. Hope this Helps!

  2. JoAnn Williams

    Diane- Basket contents are determined ahead of time and participants do not find out what is in them until the morning of distribution. If you volunteer you will help distribute the produce evenly into the baskets under the direction of your site coordinator. If you just pick up you will transfer the predetermined items from our basket to your bags/boxes.

  3. Diane Sower

    Do we get fresh fruit year round? Are the baskets pre-prepared? Is the one dollar fifty and three dollars added in each week as one site said, or, just once, as another said. Sorry to ask on this site, but I’ve spent a month trying to find out these things, and in shape to join.

  4. Diane Sower

    I”ve spent a month in confusion. Are the baskets pre-prepared, or do we do our own, as we wish? And, the added $1.50 plus $3.00 is stated to be taken out every week with the fifteen dollars. One email reading stated this was done once, while another said every week. Which one? And, are we to have access to fresh fruit all year round? sorry to be a pest, but I’ve been ready to sign up, yet gotten no answers for weeks.

  5. JoAnn Williams

    Sorry Gayla- the notice to your second question just popped up. Due to my daughter’s extreme sensitivity to yeast and molds she must have very fresh foods. Even leftovers from lunch eaten the same day at dinner cause her problems so I knew that packing meats would not be an option. Fortunately we were in an area with great health food markets that had fresh butcher counters with the high quality meats she requires.

  6. JoAnn Williams

    Gerry- Thank you for sharing with others- I hope some of my ideas will help inspire your students (and their parents)

  7. Gerry Tookey

    What a great story. I work with kids who have numerous food allergies. I hope to share this site and your awesome organizational abilities and sucessful planning.

  8. JoAnn Williams

    For the sweet potato chips I use the slicer attachment on my Kitchenaid to slice the potatoes very thin (a food processor or knife would work as well). Once they are sliced toss them in oil (we use coconut due to allergies) and put them on a foil lined baking sheet in a single layer in a 325 degree oven and watch them closely turning once. Careful they go from browned to burned quickly. When brown and crisp sprinkle with sea salt- enjoy

  9. JoAnn Williams

    J. Smith- Cut the cauliflower into pieces and put into the food processor (I use my Ninja machine) and pulse until finely grated. If you do not have an appliance to do it the large side of a box grater works nicely. Put a little oil in a hot pot and saute the “riced” cauliflower. I season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder- for an Asian fried rice add some soy sauce as you cook.

  10. JoAnn Williams

    Kim- The “Monkey Chow” was not actually BB’s as that is not certified gluten free and has nuts and fruits that are allergies for my daughter (sad because it is delish!). I used the “Crockpot Pumpkin Granola” recipe that is linked in the post.
    Angie- Those are real water chestnuts- peel and use just like you would use the canned ones (though you will enjoy them much more because they are FABULOUS!

  11. What did you put in your monkey chow besides the BB granola? Thanks:)

  12. What a great idea for healthy traveling! I’ll have to incorporate some of those ideas someday.

    I have a question about my basket…I bought the extra Asian vegetable basket. There are about 10 small purplish/brownish bulbish things in there. What are they? What do I do with them? Thanks!

  13. My son has severe allergies. We have been afraid of planning a vacation. This is a great idea!
    Would you share your recipe for riced cauliflower and sweet potato chips?

  14. Thanks for sharing. What brand hotel did you use that had the full-size fridge? We have a large family and it’s nice to know what other options are out there.

  15. JoAnn Williams

    Nope Cody you are definitely NOT alone. I am glad that you enjoyed the post.

  16. Yay. I am not the only one who can’t eat alot of things. I am also not the only one who eats out of a fridge while on vacation. This post really inspires me.

    Thanks for sharing.

  17. Oops, I also meant to ask, provided you don’t mind sharing, why did you need to buy your meat fresh every day instead of buying once and keeping it in the frig?

  18. Good for you! And, great post!

  19. JoAnn Williams

    Hi Elsi- they are 1 qt (32 oz) containers by Ziploc. Totally reusable!

  20. What sized plastic jars did you use for the salads?

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