{Today’s Lunchbox} Return from Travel

by Valerie on August 24, 2011 · 4 comments

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The irony! The day I plan to write about how to not let  things like travel and changes in your schedule get in the way of packing a lunchbox that meets your standard of health/allergy-friendliness, we all encounter a semi-major disruption in the form of an earthquake.  I say semi-major in that it sounds like the damage for people was small, and while there was the feeling of having a shared scary experience it was a far more positive feeling than post-9/11 (though the gridlock of traffic in the Washington, DC area as people were leaving town reminded me of the post-9/11 gridlock).

Today I wanted to touch on re-entering your life and routine after travel, considering I had to do just that after returning from Philadelphia and HLS.  Unlike my fellow DC blogger, the District Chocoholic, who gave us brilliant insights on maintaining a healthy lifestyle while travelling in her presentation at HLS, I do not travel much for work, or even generally.  At an earlier point in my life though, my husband and I were a commuter couple – I was in New York, he was in Washington – and I travelled almost every other weekend,sometimes two weekends in a row, so my routine was consistently changing. 

That said, whether you travel a lot or not, the nature of it is that it disrupts your schedule. One of the things I have heard often is always “I am so good about packing my lunch, but then I travel, and my fridge is empty, and I eat take-out the entire week I get back.”  Had that been my approach when my husband and I were shuttling back and forth on Amtrak/Boltbus/DCNY/Greyhound between two cities, I would have had a homecooked meal maybe one or two weeks a month, if that.  The strategies I applied then still apply now, even though my diet is obviously quite different:

  • Incorporate meal planning for the days you return in your planning for your trip – This is easiest for weekend trips but can be done generally. For example, on Thursday, before leaving for Philadelphia, I took 20 minutes to chop some peppers that would not survive the weekend.  I froze them raw, and come today, they were incorporated into some quinoa and lentils for a quick lunch (you will see the details on that lunchbox tomorrow). 
  • Freeze a meal or two ahead of time – This makes the most sense if you are going to be away for more than a weekend. I know some people freeze tons of leftovers regularly, whether or not they travel. My freezer (stuffed with 2 cup containers of beans (cooked in the rice cooker), nuts, seeds, spices, gluten-free flours including a 5 pound bag of almond flour) cannot accommodate that as a rule, though I freeze a container of leftovers here or there.  This past Thursday, my husband sauteed some of the peppers I mentioned above along with a zucchini and the last of our kale, and I froze that with some leftover quinoa and lentils, which is the UFO meal you see in yesterdays lunchbox.  I froze the rest of the quinoa and lentils (which were plain, cooked in the rice cooker) in a separate container for bulking up some meals without having to cook. 
  • Get some convenience food help – In my case that means buying some kale chips and crackers and buying juice.  When I rely on convenience, it is to make the same choices I make in my home-cooking/food preparation, but choosing to pay for someone else to do it. This is different than relying on convenience foods I would not usually buy.
  • Make some quick go-to recipes upon return for variety- For me that was the Cheezy Red Pepper Hemp Dressing, which I made Sunday night. I had some atop a big salad for dinner that night, and it gives me a way to
  • Make grocery shopping a priority – That can include going to the grocery store as soon as you get home, or even on your way home, or before you get on the plane/train/car to come home.  I find making grocery shopping a priority to get produce back into my life ASAP.
  • Prioritize as works best for you – My suitcase is still not completely unpacked and will not be until Wednesday night at the earliest, but it is more important to me to stay on top of my eating, especially as after travel I always feel rundown from cross-contamination of gluten and dairy (I think I got nailed at Marathon Grill early on Sunday morning) so cannot afford to eat out from a health standpoint when I return from travel.  I also prioritize working out and yoga as much as possible when returning from a trip, and went to 7am yoga both yesterday and today.

And speaking of, I want to do so tomorrow morning as well  so must get sleep.

What are your tips for getting back  into your routine after travel?

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Keelie Sheridan August 24, 2011 at 1:28 pm

I go 100% all in when trying to re-adjust after travel- exercise, diet, water consumption- I do a complete overhaul when I get home, and I find it easier than re-incorporating the things I wasn't so good about while traveling.

Thanks for the recap- I missed this session at HLS! :)


2 Victoria (The District Chocoholic) August 24, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Drats! Can't believe I didn't address what to do when you return from travel. Your idea to use your freezer proactively is brilliant, and I do a lot of that. Frozen vegetables are wonderful. Canned beans, applesauce, and the like may not be optimal, but they can work.

If travel involves a time zone change, I feel better upon return if I try to stay in my native time zone. This may mean waking up at 3 am or so to work, but it is worth it.


3 Farty Girl August 24, 2011 at 4:54 pm

THANK YOU for the freezing tips! Every time I have produce that's about to go, I wonder: Can I just throw this in the freezer? Good to know that I CAN. This will save some dinero.

I wholeheartedly agree with letting the budget slide and purchasing pre-prepared foods – like Kale chips or date bars – during these times. Conquering stress is just as important as eating healthy. Not having to think about cooking really helps lower the stress!

Great post!


4 gfe--gluten free easily August 25, 2011 at 12:48 am

Really great post, Valerie! I kind of fall into this trap before and after traveling. Thanks for sharing strategies on what I can do differently! :-)



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