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I'd like to prepare a few meals for a cousin who recently gave birth. She lives about an hour and a half away, and I will be walking and taking public transportation to get there.

Does anyone have any suggestions or tips for convenient ways to tranport the food? I am looking for sturdy, easy to carry bags that will keep the food from sliding around and will keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I think in general it is much safer to transport food cold (frozen, even) than hot. You can buy soft-sided insulated bags with straps - I see them in the grocery store - that should be ok for a trip of that length. I buy frozen food and then drive home for an hour with it, put it straight in the freezer, and would laugh at the thought of there being food-safety issues with that. So one approach is to make a lasagna, casserole, or the like in a disposable container, freeze it at home, take it to your relative's and put it in her freezer. Now she has a semi-quick (but at least easy) meal waiting for her.

(A side note from remembering my days with an infant: something that heats up FAST and can be eaten with one hand will be more useful than a serves-12-needs-a-fork-heats-for-an-hour option. In other words burritos (2 min in microwave, can eat while holding the baby) beat lasagna (60+ min in oven, you can forget and dry it out or burn it, then you need a plate and a knife and fork to eat it.) Samosas are good one-handers, too.)

If you want to take something that is ready-to-eat, you could use the same bag to keep hot food hot, but I would probably suggest heating it up again on arrival.

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Thanks! I did not consider freezing it all before traveling, which is ultimately more convenient for transportation and for eating over a few days. –  Hakan B. Dec 29 '11 at 20:57

First of all, starting with a critical info; since 2 hours and above is very critical, in case your trip takes more than 2 hours please refer to the table in the following link in order to see when to save / when to throw it out

http://www.fsis.usda.gov/factsheets/keeping_food_safe_during_an_emergency/index.asp

To keep cold foods cold; you need to create the same condition as your refrigerator by using cooler, ice/ice packs and thermometer. And you should check the temperature and renew the ice/icepacks when needed (especially during long trips). A quote from the below link may be helpful;

http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/foodsci/ext/pubs/picnic.html

Keep cold food cold. Keep cold food at 40°F or colder to prevent bacterial growth. To do so, pack cold foods in a sturdy, insulated cooler with plenty of ice or frozen gel packs. Freeze your own blocks of ice in milk cartons or plastic containers for use in the cooler. Put cold foods in water-proof containers or wrap in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and completely immerse in the ice inside the cooler. If using frozen gel packs or containers of homemade ice, place them between packages of food. Never just set containers of food on top of ice.

The trunk of your car can reach temperatures of 150°F so it is best to transport coolers in the passenger area of the car.

Keep hot food hot. Keep hot foods at 140°F or hotter to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. Take-out foods or foods cooked just before being transported to the picnic can be carried hot. Wrap hot food in towels, then newspaper, and place inside a box or heavy paper bag. Keep these foods warm on a lit grill or use within one hour."

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I'd also add that if you want to keep liquid-y foods (e.g., soup) hot, a thermos (or, "vacuum flask" as Wikipedia calls it) would keep a soup poured in at 180–212°F above 140°F for well more than two hours. You could use one on small-enough non-liquid dishes as well. –  derobert Dec 27 '11 at 13:32
    
Thanks for the information. This doesn't quite answer my question but is an important consideration for what does end up answering it, so +1. –  Hakan B. Dec 29 '11 at 20:56

Hmm.. First of all, if you're going to prepare "a few meals" why do they need to be kept cold/hot? Maybe the you'd like the first meal to be hot but couldn't the others be heated up? And if that's the case, couldn't you just heat them all up when you get there?

Basically, I'd solve the problem based on the tricky transportation. That is, I'd make things that are ok at room temperature and easy to take. Things like:

salads: green salads, grain salads, vegetable salads, fruit salads (combo salads) breads: most bread will last just fine for many hours at room temperature and you can make incredibly hearty breads (think pumpernickel)

and, of course, dessert-y type things like:

cookies, cakes, pies

Good luck!

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Welcome to Seasoned Advice. Unlike most forums, over here we expect responses to answer the question. If you want to offer tips or alternatives in addition to doing so, that's fine, but first and foremost, please try to stay on topic. –  Aaronut Dec 27 '11 at 1:48

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