Traveling the country with an RV offers a lifestyle that can be described in so many ways: adventurous, exciting, relaxing, spontaneous, surprising, awe-inspiring, rejuvenating, and so much more! Some of my favorite vacations have been crossing the country with our family’s travel trailer to visit spectacular national parks, like Acadia, Mammoth Caves, and the Grand Tetons. But roadtripping often presents the challenge of eating healthy. It’s all too easy to belly up to a fast food restaurant and order the combo with a side of indigestion and love handles. But if you make an effort to ditch the processed-foods-in-a-bag and replace them with fresh, healthy choices, you’ll realize that they’re surprisingly easy to find. And you don’t have to look far! When you’re traveling from city to city or state to state, bypass the drive-thru lanes and head to places that sell local foods that are grown right under your feet. Not only will your body thank you for it in so many ways, but you’ll be helping to support the farmers and businesses that sell local fare. Let’s explore how you can eat local to stay healthy while hitting the road with your RV!
Pull This Car Over!
Road trips give you the opportunity to travel down back country roads and into small towns you’d never encounter if your main objective was to get from Point A to Point B in record time. Like they say, RVing is just as much about the journey as it is the destination, so taking detours off of the main drag is a must! And when you do, you’ll happen upon cute little roadside stands selling local produce. Pull over! And if you missed it and have to turn around, do it! On our summer camping trip to Acadia last year we stopped at every roadside stand selling Maine blueberries—I think I was all blueberried-out by the end of our trip. This is the best way to buy and eat local fruits and veggies. Not only are they at the peak of freshness, often picked that morning, but they’re inexpensive too. The person selling them is usually the farmer who picked them or a family member, so they can tell you all about what you’re buying—when it was picked, its flavor, what variety it is, best ways to enjoy it (in a pie or right out of your hand), if it’s organic, etc. An added bonus of stopping at a roadside stand is that it gives you the opportunity to chat with the locals. Most likely the farmers have lived their all their life, so they can give you all kinds of local tips and information, and it’s fun to chat it up with other roadtrippers while you’re choosing your produce. “Where are you from?” “Michigan.” “Hey, me too!” Small world.
It’s not uncommon to be treated to a few freebies at a roadside stand either. Sure, the farmers are there to sell their goods, but these hardworking men and women are also friendly, down-to-earth people who like to put smiles on the faces of their patrons. They’re proud of the produce they grow and want you to enjoy it just as much as they do, so don’t be surprised if they throw in extra ears of corn or a sample of their sweet cherries just because. This is especially true if it’s nearing the end of the day and they’re sitting on produce that will start to go bad if not eaten. They’d rather have someone enjoy it than have it go to waste. And the chances are good that you’ll remember their generosity the next time you’re passing through. On our trip out east we stopped at a small stand late in the day before checking into our campsite on Lake Ontario (beautiful!). As we were buying fresh corn in the husks to grill that night we were surprised with a bag of free peaches that were going to sit another day if we didn’t take them. So we happily obliged—and devoured them!
In the Market for Local Flavors
Similar to a roadside stand, local farmer’s markets are the best place to go for fresh, ripe fruits and vegetables local to the area. And since farmer’s markets feature all (or many) of the farmers in the area, you hit the jackpot when you happen upon one of these! Think roadside stand on steroids! Booth after booth of seasonal treats grown just up the road. Think berries, cherries, apples, peaches, corn, asparagus, potatoes, lettuce, etc. Almost any produce you can buy at your grocery store can be found at a farmer’s market. But it doesn’t stop there! Many farmers go one step further and make homemade treats using their produce, like jams, jellies, soups, breads, cookies, pies, and more. Just imagine how nice it would be to relax by your campfire with a slice of homemade cherry pie.
While you’re there, grab a bunch of flowers too! You’ll always find vendors at farmer’s markets who sell their gorgeous flowers, so treat yourself so you can dress up your RV’s dinette or picnic table back at your campsite. We came upon a farmer’s market in Minnesota that had the most stunning sunflowers we’d ever seen (we bought a big bunch of them!). As we drove away and continued on toward our destination, we passed a sunflower field that literally stretched out for as far as the eye could see! We’re assuming that’s where they came from!
Instead of wandering around aimlessly from town to town with an RV in tow looking for a farmer’s market, do a quick Google search to find ones in your area. And if visiting farmer’s markets is one of your favorite RVing activities, don’t wait until you’re taking an exit off the highway to do this. Look them up the night (or week) before you’re going to be in the area so you can hopefully find some and time it right.
Down on the Farm
Often you’ll see signs along the highway advertising local farms that sell fresh eggs, cheese, meat, and other items. Take advantage of these opportunities to support the local farmers and eat fresh! It doesn’t get any fresher than right off the farm!
Is It Still Breathing?
Different regions of the country are known for certain cuisine, such as seafood or steak. If you have an RVing trip planned to the east coast, you’ll be surrounded by local businesses that sell fresh fish and shellfish just off the boat! Lucky you! Does it get any fresher than still alive? Nope! In Maine we actually followed a truck filled with lobsters right into the parking lot of where we were buying lobsters to boil over our campfire (the water splashing out of the truck as it made its turn into the lot was a dead giveaway that those suckers were alive and kickin’!). We handpicked the ones we wanted, they threw bands on their pinchers, and we tossed them in the trunk (gangster style!). That’s one camping meal we’ll never forget! A trip out west to Colorado, Texas, or Oklahoma may very well result in the best steak you’ve ever had, given that you’re in the heart of cattle country. A tender, juicy steak won’t have to travel far to end up on your plate. Most likely you can thank a local rancher for that meal.
From Farm To Table to Your Stomach
Cooking inside a small RV kitchen or over an open fire can get old. Never again will you take the modern conveniences of your home kitchen for granted, right!?! So treat yourself to a delicious meal out for a break! I find that food always tastes better when someone else has made it anyway. Look for farm-to-table restaurants so you can indulge in locally grown food and support the farmers who live there.
This is what it’s all about people—being healthy and helping our communities grow and thrive. Enough with imported and processed foods! We deserve better than GMO ingredients and pesticide-covered produce! Make it your goal to live healthy and eat local when RVing!