What we pack in our cooler for an 8 hour drive + 4 day weekend

I connected my laptop to my phone’s hotspot wifi connection so I could type this on the road for you guys! We left this afternoon to head “back” to Chicagoland [we lived in the western suburbs from 2009-2014] to attend the wedding of a couple friends this weekend.

We are taking this long-drive opportunity to spend a couple extra days there to see old friends, play tennis with my former personal trainer, Keith, and also take one of my beautiful 1-on-1 client’s out to lunch and play at the beach! Holla @allison πŸ™‚

I want to share a sneak peak of how we prep and pack our coolers for a long road trip and weekend stay. We typically like to bring one large cooler for the “stay” and a small cooler to eat while we’re on the road.


  • Cold bean and veggie salad
  • Hummus x2 with raw vegetables
  • Stuff for tacos once we get to our destination
  • Frozen chili that doubles as an ice pack
  • FRUIT [fresh and dried]
  • Grab-n-go bars

The bars are a great find from Home Goods/TJ Maxx. If you have one of those stores near you, definitely check it out. They have balsamic vinegar without caramel color, bean and lentil pastas, flavored teas, and occasionally some other whole food, plant-based finds.

I got a box of 6 of these mini wrapped bars at Home Goods for only $2 on clearance. Because of the oats, they are more like a granola bar than a fruit and nut bar, like Lara Bars. I could make my own at home, but these ingredients are pretty good for a travel go-to: oats, dates, chicory fiber, cocoa butter, raisins, strawberries, and date syrup.

*time passes*

We stopped at Whole Foods on the way to our friends place [where we stayed for the weekend] and grabbed some corn on the cob. It was the first time I had any all season! It was soooooo delicious. We boiled and then added a bit of low sodium soy sauce, garlic powder, paprika, and black pepper. That’s it!

That was our dinner/supper since we had already filled up on salad and fruit and bars on the ride in. Water and off to bed… or couch πŸ˜‰

*time passes*

Friday was soooo amazing! I got to hang out in person [which doesn’t happen often!] with one of my 1:1 clients and Nutribabe Nation member @allison! We went to lunch at The Amazing Kale Burger, a vegan place in the city.

Our appetizers were medjool dates stuffed with smokey almond “cream/cheese” and fresh arugula [pictured]. Definitely need to replicate this recipe! Sweet and spicy and smokey all in one. OMG. <3

For the rest of the meal:Β 

  • Amazing Kale Burger on greens with chipotle plant-based mayo, tomato, and pickles
  • Amazing Kale Burger with tomato and seasoned onions + mushrooms on a whole wheat bun
  • Coconut collard greens — again, need to make a Nutribabe Nation version!
  • Cauliflower mac ‘n “cheese”

At lunch we opened gifts with each other. I love giving presents and Allison surprised me with some, too! Cactus water, dried jack fruit, homemade canned tomatoes, homemade salsa, cookbooks, and more were exchanged.

After lunch we went to the Lake Michigan beach… How refreshing! I’m a little bit obsessed with the water. We sat and talked along the shore and threw rocks into the lake.

It is SO AWESOME to meet “my people” in person. Should we get a Nutribabe Nation retreat weekend together? Someday! πŸ™‚

*time passes*

Friday evening was our friends’ wedding and it was fantastic!Β The groom is a chef, so the food was great. There was some salt and oil in the dishes, but I didn’t worry about that for just one meal. It was plant-based otherwise!

I had cooked asparagus, squash, and peppers and also a pea sprouts salad topped with a quinoa and eggplant salad. So good and filling!

Later they pulled out fresh fruit and veggies and I might have danced on the dance floor holding watermelon in both hands. πŸ˜‰

*time passes*

On Saturday we met with some friends for coffee and an early lunch at Panera. I fasted food-wise but did have some coffee with almond milk. Zane had a Mediterranean sandwich on wheat bread with tomatoes, cucumber, onions, sprouts, romaine, spinach, and vinegar.

In the late afternoon and into the evening we parked it at another friends house for a grilling BBQ. The weather and the day and the food… all so perfect! We stopped at a grocery store for some more corn and also brought food from our cooler that we had packed the day we left.

  • Corn on the cob — plain
  • Veggie burger courtesy of the host! So sweet of her. Topped with mustard, Nutritarian sour cream, and salsa.
  • Grapes and pineapple
  • Sugar snap peas and cucumbers
  • Cold bean and veggie salad topped with Nutritarian sour cream and salsa verde
  • Dessert was a cherry pie Lara Bar

*time passes*

The ride home was more from the cooler! We cleared everything out except the taco ingredients that we didn’t end up making.

We stopped at a grocery store in Missouri somewhere and grabbed an avocado to add to our salad. We got on the road and realized we didn’t have anything to open it with.

Oh, never mind… Insert Zane’s pocket knife. πŸ˜‰

What a crazy weekend filled with friends, laughs, good food, and travel. The 8 hour drive was kind of a killer… even though Zane drove the whole time… [Thanks @zane!].

Eating healthy on the road, especially with a cooler, is super easy to do… just gotta get in the groove and do it.

A lot of this lifestyle is implementation, staying a step or two ahead of yourself, and prep. Then if you fall a bit behind, you have some wiggle room AND can thank yourself from a few days ago for prepping πŸ˜‰

Love, hummus, and watermelon spears!

xoxo, Bethany



  1. Sherrie

    Thanks for this! Road trips usually result in me making a stop at a grocery store to grab lunch, Subway, Taco Bell, or overpriced side salad and baked potato somewhere.

  2. Brilee03

    I love this. Traveling (even for the day) is such a challenge sometimes. I stress so much about when/where to stop and what to get. It would be so much easier just to bring my own food and not worry about it! Thanks πŸ™‚

    1. Mr. Love Chard

      It was certainly one of the most frustrating/hard things for me starting out. We had a GREAT time! πŸ˜‰

  3. Terri

    Great ideas. I made the cold bean salad. It will definitely be on my next travel menu. I could eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

  4. Allison

    It looks like we are somewhere tropical! Great tips. It’s nice to actually see what you bring and how you use it when you get there. I used to always look forward to traveling because it was an excuse to eat whatever I wanted on a free pass….but it doesn’t actually work that way πŸ˜‰ Changing my mindset on that!!!

    1. Mr. Love Chard

      Good mindset change, @allison! I too, felt the same way about the “free pass”. Only to find out I wanted more and more junk to fill my increased cravings after I got home. It’s hard to get back into a healthy rhythm after a weekend of non-stop binging. Plus, if you remain healthy while on a trip… do you think you will be regretting what you did or didn’t do on Monday? Probably the complete opposite.

  5. SarahRose

    OMG that cold bean and veggie salad looks soo good! Is there a recipe for that somewhere? Also I thought that cookbook said “Master Pants!” hahaha

  6. Dee Dee

    I’m so glad you highlighted this! I do a mini cooler version of this for short trips to work or when I get caught out at lunch. You rock!

  7. AnnMarie

    I just love everything about this! The ideas and pictures are such a help. I just talked Mark into bringing food in a cooler when we go away in August! Love that you got to spend time with your family, friends and especially Allison and didn’t have to worry about food because you were prepared!! Prep is key!!❀️