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Tour Food Can Be Soooo Rough, Here’s What You Should Be Eating on the Road

Seattle band Childbirth exemplifying the joy of eating healthy!

Let’s cut to the chase: The goal of this article is to make your tour as pleasant and profitable as possible by making sure you’re eating healthy and cheaply. Fast food, gas-station garbage, and pizza will always be an option, but after a few days, it’ll start to take its toll on your body and wallet.

Below are a few food tips to help you feel healthy and strong for the long haul, and here’s a video we grabbed from Soundfly’s free Touring on a Shoestring course offering a more general overview of things you can do to keep your mind and body in shape.

Unrefrigerated and Unafraid

If you’re going to bring food with you, it’ll most likely need to be able to survive a while in a hot car without being refrigerated. Coolers are a good idea, but you probably won’t be able to keep things totally cool 24/7. Luckily, there are a few options. Here are some food stuffs I never forget to take along with me when my band hits the road.

Granola

Granola is easy to make, and after you do it a few times, you’ll be able to start making your own recipe based on what you like. A basic ratio to follow is six parts dry to one part wet. Check out this link for more details on how to make your granola. I recommend putting some nuts (walnuts and almonds are usually pretty cheap) in there for the extra protein and a mix of sweet and savory.

Trail Mix

Honestly, I don’t know the difference between trail mix and granola, but it seems like trail mix just has more “stuff” in it. I would break down the extra ingredients into four categories: nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and fun stuff. Go wild!

Hummus

Hummus has gone beyond a food trend in America. It’s now just as American as pizza, General Tso’s chicken, and burritos. Now, I will say that you should refrigerate hummus when you can, but it can survive several days out of the fridge or cooler. Buy it for cheap, or make your own! If you want garlic hummus, you can wrap a garlic bulb in tin foil and put it in the oven at 400º for an hour to an hour and a half. Remove it from the oven, let it cool, and then you have roasted garlic for your hummus! Here’s Bittman’s recipe.

Crudite

This is just a fancy way of saying chopped up raw veggies like carrots, cucumbers, radishes, etc. They’re great to eat with hummus or tzatziki, and they won’t spoil if you keep them out of the fridge for a while. If you’re feeling confident, you can just add this to your rider and make the venue buy it for you!

Multivitamins and Water

Even on the best tours, you’ll be meeting tons of new people, sleeping in unfamiliar places, and drinking and eating all sorts of wild stuff. It’s important to stay healthy, because getting a cold or the flu can be a miserable experience. Multivitamins are a cheap way to hedge your bets against getting sick.

You’re probably like, water’s not a food, and that’s fair. But water is deeply important. When you’re on tour drinking almost every night, getting little sleep, it’s extremely important to stay hydrated. It will keep your blood flow and oxygen circulating, help to prevent head and body aches, and keep up your immune system so that you don’t get sick.

Honey and Lemon

Where are my singers at? If you’re a singer, you probably have your own throat care regimen, but even if you aren’t a singer, you’ll probably need some nice tea to soothe your throat after a night of yelling over the music. Honey and lemon are natural holistic healers.

Tools of the Trade

I know that space is often pretty limited when touring, but I’m going to recommend that you make room for these items, even if it means leaving that quadruple Marshall stack at home.

Car Outlet Adapter

These nifty little devices plug into your car’s electric charging port and give you a few plugs you can use to power your phones, run other devices, and do anything else you might need power for. Just use them sparingly because there’s nothing worse than having to deal with a dead car battery.

George Foreman Grill

Now, this was a game changer for me. You get a car outlet adapter, a little extension cable, and a George Forman, and you’re a walking tailgate party. It’s phenomenal. Cook chicken, zucchini, veggie burgers, bacon, it can do (almost) anything! It’s really the easiest and most reliable way to make hot food on the road.

Tupperware, Plates, Silverware, Cutting Board, Kitchen Knife

Bring things to cook basic meals. After a while, stuffing handfuls of granola in your mouth and pounding hummus won’t be enough. You’ll eventually want to cook something more substantial. When you’re done cooking, throw all your dirty dishes in a bag or something and wash them when you get to wherever you’ll be sleeping.

Electric Kettle

Most of the time, you’ll be able to stop at gas stations to get your coffees, teas, and, if you’re lucky, hot chocolate, but it’s good to keep one of these around in case you ever get a little bit off the beaten path. Even better if you get one that plugs into your car!

Go Foragin’

Don’t be afraid to go shopping for fresh food while on the road. It won’t take longer than going to a restaurant and will help you save some money. Trader Joe’s is a favorite of a lot of bands. If that’s too expensive, then just head to a local grocery store. You can make a basic salad out of tomatoes, cucumbers, avocados, carrots, and whatever else you want. Use that George Foreman to cook up some chicken breasts and BAM, you’ve got yourself a meal.

Whatever you bring, keep in mind that the road can be a lonely, strange place, and you should bring things that you know will make you comfortable. A lot of what happens on the road is out of your control. You’ll be playing new venues in front of people who probably aren’t there to see you specifically and staying in places where you’re a guest. Making your own food is a great way to gain back some of that control, save some money, and stay healthy while on tour.

Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way, where’s the pizza??

Don’t forget to check out our free course on how to book, manage, and promote a DIY tour across the country and across the world, Touring on a Shoestring!

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Evan Zwisler
Evan Zwisler

Evan Zwisler is a NYC-based musician who is most notably known for his work with The Values as a songwriter and guitarist. He is an active member of the Brooklyn music scene, throwing fundraisers and organizing compilations for Planned Parenthood and the Anti-Violence Project. He started playing music in the underground punk scene of Shanghai with various local bands when he was in high school before going to California for college and finally moving to New York in 2012.