I have memories of traveling to Alaska, south Mexico, California and many more places [by car] with my family when I was a child. Now, granted, there were not the fast food choices that there are today, but in all our travels I think I can count on one hand the lunches we ate at a restaurant.
Mom always made sandwiches.
She kept the sandwich ingredients in an old blue steel case. I suppose it was an old draftsman case, but I am not sure. She kept bread, peanut butter, mustard, ketchup and lunch meat in there. What? Lunch meat?
Yes, that was back in the days where you weren't allowed to get food poisoning. Everyone at tuna sandwiches that had been in steel lunchboxes for hours and no one thought anything of it. We did not have frozen packs or insulated lunch kits--I guess we were made a stronger stuff back then.
I think she took the meat out of the fridge in the Airstream trailer we pulled in the morning and put it in the blue lunch case for later. I think she did this so that they wouldn't have to open the fridge when we were on the road because that would let out all the cold and since it wasn't plugged in while we drove, we didn't want that to happen.
At any rate, I hate bologna to this day because of being forced to eat a bologna sandwich with ketchup [I am not too crazy about ketchup either] for lunch on one of our trips. Maybe I was whiny, I don't know, but I wanted a PB&J instead, but I had to eat the bologna because Mom already made it for me and I shouldn't be so fussy. As a parent I understand that, but I never liked bologna and could eat PB&J every day for my whole life, so why did she make it for me?
When Bob and I traveled with young kids I vowed NEVER to have salmonella-in-a-box and to eat either peanut butter and crackers, cheese sticks [from a cooler], granola bars and that type of thing--or just stop at fast food. But, that can get expensive. So we found a solution that might help any of you who travel with children.
I would get a LOT of dollar bills and then when we stopped at a fast food place I would give each child $2.00 or if I had 5 dollar bills, I would give one to every two children. Then, they had to order for themselves and spend wisely. Since they always had some vacation money saved up they could spend over that amount if they wanted to supplement with their money, or if they ate cheap they could pocket the excess. The rule being, you must get full and eat something healthy--and no complaining about being hungry later.
It worked great. Basically everyone got water to drink, ordered off the cheap menu, shared fries and so on. Some splurged and got a shake occasionally, some pocketed spare change after every meal. It kept our costs down to a manageable amount and taught smart shopping and thriftiness as well. Plus, I didn't have to remember 7 different orders and then have to pray that the teen workers got it all right.
So, if you travel, you may want to use the suitcase method, or the $2.00 method [maybe up it to $3.00 now], or maybe stop at a rest stop and do some cooking [we have done that too]--but at least you have some options.
And, if I ever come to your house, please don't make me a bologna sandwich. UGH!