Author of What to Eat When You’re Broke and Bloom Where You’re Planted online course
Here on The Organic Prepper, most of us are fans of healthy food. But sometimes, you just need to keep yourself fed while on the move. As I travel, there are a few instant foods that I regularly use when going from one place to the next. These food items are also great for including in your bug-out bag or your at-work emergency bag.
You can run the gamut with these items, from clean and organic to the least expensive ones on the market. It all depends on your situation and your requirements.
As always, I must share this disclaimer: not all suggestions will work for all readers. If you are on a special diet, some of these foods may not be for you. This does not render the entire list useless for others.
Without further ado, here are the foods I always keep in my emergency stash for a quick meal when away from home. You can mix and match these to create a meal with some protein and some carbs. Some require boiling water, and others do not. All of these items can easily be found at just about any grocery store. While there are many fantastic options you can buy that are just for preppers or the military, they often cost a whole lot more and are not as quickly available as the items suggested here.
I have eaten instant oatmeal since I was a kid. Sure, the slow-cooked, steel-cut oats with creamy fresh milk and maple syrup taste better. But I’ve spent many a morning at a new Airbnb or hotel room dining on Quaker Maple Brown Sugar and a peanut butter sandwich.
You can get instant oatmeal in many different flavors – the choice is up to you. You may also want to dress it up with your nuts or trail mix, or add some apple sauce to it. You can go with the classic Quaker (or the generic version) or you can get a better quality brand like Nature’s Path or Better Oats. There are also high-protein oatmeal packets available out there in oatmeal-land that will give you a more powerful start to your day.
Peanut butter packs
I love PB right out of the package, and if you do too, you’ll enjoy having this addition of healthy fats and protein in your bag. You can get little tubs of peanut butter that are great for dipping, or you can also grab tubes of it that range anywhere from Skippy to Justin’s. (This honey-almond butter is also delish!)
Tuna is an easily portable, high-protein food. Due to mercury content, you don’t want to eat it all day, every day, but having it here and there isn’t generally considered to be harmful. I prefer my portable stash to be in pouches which are far lighter than cans.
Some pouches are just plain tuna packed in your choice of water or oil. Others have seasonings and even mayo in them but are still shelf-stable until opened. Honestly, I don’t like to get too crazy with the flavors. I’d rather just have some salt, pepper, and mayo from my condiment stash or eat it plain.
Starkist has some pouches called Smart Bowls that are tuna, quinoa, beans, and seasonings. I’ve only tried the Latin Citrus flavor but it was reasonably tasty and nutritious.
Salmon and chicken can also be found in pouches at varying price points.
Depending on the brand, some dry soup mixes are pretty darned good. If you get the cheap cup-a-soup types, don’t expect to be filled up. But if you can find one with beans, instant rice or pasta, and some veggies, this along with another snack can be reasonably satisfying. A lot of people really like Ramen packets – it’s not my favorite because it’s got SO MANY additives but this is your bag, not mine.
Tubes of instant bone broth are also growing in popularity as a nutritious addition to a meal. Some of the best soup mixes can be found in your ethnic food aisle at the grocery store.
I’m not a black coffee drinker. Give me the cream or barista oat milk. Give me the sugar. Make it like a rich, creamy dessert, and I’m all in. So, I always keep individual packets of instant cappuccino on hand.
Nescafe has a regular cappuccino that is widely available and foams up nicely, as well as a caramel latte. Starbucks has an instant brand called Via. There are also variety packs available if you like your drinks flavored.
For those who don’t care about the bells and whistles, packets of instant coffee can be a great addition.
Look, none of us coffee aficionados wants to be left without our caffeine fix. Shoving a few of these into your bag can really save your morning.
Apple sauce tubes
I like to have some fruits or veggies, but if you’re on the move, it’s not always that easy. That’s why I keep some lightweight tubes of unsweetened apple sauce on hand. Apple sauce is available in tubes, “squeeze packs,” pouches, and little plastic tubs.
The tubes and squeeze packs are a nice, utensil-free way to get your fruit fix. If you grab pouches or tubs, be sure you included a spoon in your bag.
Nuts, candy, or trail mix
Sometimes we just need a quick fix that we can eat on the move. Trail mix is called trail mix for a reason – it’s designed to nourish you while you are walking. If that’s your situation (or if it could be), it’s wise to include some single-serving packets of nuts or trail mix. I like the combo of some carbs with the fat/protein of nuts, so I prefer trail mix.
Or, you can pack some of my beloved peanut M&Ms. I know, not very organic, but they make an excellent bug-out snack. You can put some of those in your pocket and munch on carbs, fat, and protein while you’re walking through any setting. You’ll basically never find me without a packet of peanut M&Ms stashed away.
There are other things you may want to add to your on-the-go snack pack to go along with your instant foods.
I like to stash restaurant condiments with my food. Salt, pepper, mayo, ketchup, sugar, and soy sauce all help make the food items less boring.
A fork and spoon make a great addition. Again, I turn to a restaurant stash. When I order delivery, it inevitably comes with a little packet containing plastic flatware. Shove a couple of those in your bag too.
Some wet wipes are also nice to have for before and after you eat. Before so you don’t die of some dreadful illness because you had dirty hands, and after so that you don’t wander off with messy hands.
What are your favorite instant foods?
Do you have any other instant foods (or near-instant ones) that you include in your bug-out bag, office snack drawer, or day-to-day carry? Do you like or dislike the suggestions here? What additional things would you suggest?
Let’s talk about it in the comments section.
Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, adventure-seeking, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites. 1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty; 2) The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived; and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. Her work is widely republished across alternative media and she has appeared in many interviews.
Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books, 12 self-published books, and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses at SelfRelianceand Survival.com You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.
I don’t like instant coffee at all. I have never found any that didn’t have that “instant coffee” taste. I do like to use instant hot chocolate though. For coffee, we have a French press that we take on the road along with a can of coffee. We round that out with creamer packets for times we don’t have milk available. I do enjoy trail mix. When we were in Colorado my son’s in-laws introduced me to packets of flavored electrolytes that really helped me deal with the changes in altitude and tasted good too!
Uncle Bens rice. Many flavors and varieties.
if you’re a fan of salmon, there are salmon packets too, like tuna; also look for the spam packet if you like it – me I love it, the one piece in pack fits nicely on a slice of bread. these are great ideas Daisy, hadnt thought that far ahead but now I will, always carry water in vehicles, and munchies (granola bars, fig bars, dried fruit pks etc) but hadnt thought of the other stuff. luv your articles and suggestions, always hits the spot. be safe in your travels, wish I was with ya….God bless
I stuff my Stanley lidded cook mug with single serve coffee, herbal and green tea, instant hot chocolate, and instant miso soup packets. Along with an immersion coil, that will allow me to enjoy hot beverages at any time of day. There are always a couple of Mountain House meals in my go bag/hotel bag, and a few packets of oatmeal. You don’t always have time or space to cook though, so some packets of foods that can be eaten on the go right out of the package are a good idea. Trader Joes is a goldmine for healthy and more indulgent snacks that fit into that category. Among my favourites are cheddar cheese bites (freeze dried cheese – the only ingredient is cheese, but it has the mouth feel of a cracker), which pairs well with individually packaged seasoned nori seaweed snacks. I also enjoy their freeze dried blueberries, strawberries, and apples eaten right out of the package, small packets of mixed nuts, and mini packets of olives (around half a dozen olives per package.) Yogurt covered raisins are another semi-healthy indulgent snack to assuage that sweet tooth. I always have some small packages of mixed nuts, and individually wrapped Japanese rice crackers, which are perfect with the miso soup. And, of course, no travel food stash would be complete without the ubiquitous peanut M&Ms!
My favorites to add to the list are instant mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese.
You have some very good food items here, but in addition to items similar to those, I have a few more that I always have in my car and go-bag:
Zipfizz for on the go vitamins and energy (great in a crisis! I think the grapefruit is the best flavor, avoid the orange unless you like baby aspirin!)
Crunchy granola bars for calories.
Protein powder mixed with collagen in little vacuum sealed packs (I make these at home).
Tea bags in those little foil packs.
Jerky sticks (cycle them out at least 2x per year, especially if they are kept in the car) Sugar packets and other condiment packets (make sure not to crush, what a mess!)
You can also add freeze dried fruit.
Nuts go rancid, so does hot cocoa or anything with powdered milk. Especially in a hot car…
Funny story: When my kids were young, they always knew that I kept “car food”, which were snacks that I didn’t necessarily want to share. It was usually a box of granola bars, or a package of cookies or something like that. One time they were looking for a snack and asked me if I had anything snackable in my “car food” stash. I actually had half of a frosted cake behind the seat that someone at work had given me. It was wrapped in foil, and I had forgotten to bring it in the house on the previous day. That was the most “epic car food” they ever saw. We still laugh about that one…
I make my own oatmeal packets-via a vacuum sealer. Also small packets of honey comes in handy. Walmart has pulled pork with BBQ sauce in a pouch which isnt too bad. They also have chicken.
I quit sea food after Fukushima still polluting our ocean. I usually am feeding more than 1 person as well. My go to is Cous Cous a precooked pasta. It can be rehydrated in 5 mins with heat and 15 with a soak. I use canned chicken or ham and a can of veggies. The Cous Cous is about 2 1/4 to 1 ratio. So I count the water in the veggies bc that is where all the vitamins are in canned veggies! And make up the rest with broth or water. Stir, let sit and you have dinner quick. When you have tired hungry PPL it will always save the day for you. For a drink I like Bio trust’s electrolyte flavored additive for water. No sugar and GMO free. It is the only way I found to get my MR CP quad to drink water! And don’t forget the manual can opener. And a lot of PPL don’t know that Britton has been dumping their nuke waist in the Atlantic for decades unchallenged. So eat at your own risk.
I’m a big coffee drinker, but given the state of instant coffees, I’d rather use teabags.
I eat low carb, so meals/snacks are harder for me. I do like the no sugar Tillamook beef sticks and the 4505 big meaty ones and I can make a meal out of either. I also like to carry nuts, tea bags, LMNT, and water. If I’m going on a day trip, my thermos will have hot tea ready to go and I’ll have cherry tomatoes and cucumber slices for the day. There are a few no sugar candy bars I like and I can grab one. Lily’s even makes some chocolate covered peanuts that are hard to resist. When there’s time to plan, I make a not Chex mix from pork rinds and nuts that my friends snack on too.
Uncle Bens rice. Many flavors. You don’t have to heat it.
Just a helpful note about the packets of salmon compared to canned salmon. I like the packets because there are pretty much no bones to pick through compared to the salmon in cans. Since they came out with packets, I haven’t used the canned salmon for everyday use.
While hardly “additive free,” Carnation Instant Breakfast packs or their generic equivalents work well for me. They deliver about 50% of daily protein need per pack. Best if chilled, but drinkable any time of day or night. I load several packs in a BlenderBottle, insert in a MOLLE bottle carrier and attach to the PALS seat carrier on the back of the driver’s seat. I also purchase a BB accessory pack with different sizes of containers that attach to the bottom of the BB, mainly to hold powdered milk. It’s also a good place to stash water purification supplies. A BB is like an adult sippy cup. BB = eBay, Target Stores. MOLLE bottle carrier = eBay, AliExpress (get the type with an attached pouch for additional storage).
There are ground coffee single-serve bags like tea bags, for those that don’t like instant. Individually sealed so they stay fresh for a good while.
I was going to say instant mashy taters but someone beat me to it.
And for broth base, the Townsends (YT Channel) have instructions for making sheets of dehydrated broth like were used by Civil War soldiers. No chemicals. Preserved by salt and low moisture.