Shelf stable/ portable meals
I mostly cook from scratch at home, and use very few convenience foods, so i don't know the range, but i also find that I am sometimes stuck at a conference center or meeting and need to bring a meal which I can heat up in a microwave or hot water. I need to travel, so frozen meals don't work. Also, just to throw a wrench in (and why I just can't buy a sandwich), I am allergic to gluten.
So, what are decent shelf stable, portable foods i can pack in my suitcase and have on hand if I need to eat lunch and can't get to a restaurant - like an upcoming trip where there is NOTHING but sandwiches around. If you don't know if something is gluten-free, that is fine i can figure that part out.
Tasty Bite, Thai Kitchen noodle bowls - any of those decent?
HeatEatReview.com is mostly about frozen meals, but they also review shelf stable noodle kits and such.
I keep single servings of applesauce and fruit cups in my desk drawer at work. I also have packets of instant oatmeal and cans of soup. I used to like Campbell's Soup at Hand, although they're a little salty. Quaker's 100 calorie rice cracker snacks are pretty good, too. I prefer the chocolate and chocolate mint. Caramel is too sweet.
Can you find gluten free crackers? I'd pack those and pouches of cooked tuna into my bag. Maybe even start collecting mustard packets.
If you can get to a Trader Joe's, they have tons of shelf-stable foods, especially Indian dishes. I'd actually stay away from the heat-and-eat noodle boxes. The ones I've tried haven't been filling or worthwhile.
At my last conference, I ate clementines the entire day (the only vegetarian options were white bread and clementines) - so I can definitely relate and I promised myself I would always have a snack with me regardless of circumstances. Here are some ideas:
* Buckwheat groats (aka kasha) - combine with milk and nuke for a few minutes; add banana or other fruit and it makes a decent breakfast, even lunch.
* Tuna/Salmon pouches (or Trader Joe's smoked trout cans) + Trader Joe's polenta (the log is shelf-stable, but it may not be after you open it) + salad
* Trader Joe's lentils + nuts + salad
Trader Joe's also carries this shelf-stable pilaf that I haven't tried yet (and I don't know whether it's gluten-free or not).
I'm also gluten-free (and vegan). There is shelf-stable hummus available in some stores (in a glass jar). Trader Joe's has some good rice crackers. My husband is also vegan but not GF. In the past, he has taken healthy canned soup in his checked luggage (don't forget a can opener, he has a P-38 which also goes in checked luggage). We've also taken canned rice and beans on train trips and eaten it cold from the can. We've had Tasty Bite in a pinch.
These also travel well. We get the vegan, omega 3 and chocolate chip. They are expensive but TJ's seems to have the best price.
Some of those Indian ones are pretty good, I think I've had good experiences with Tasty Bite. There is a different brand here, and I like the channa masala (garbanzo beans) which is quite spicy and low fat, and the saag paneer, not low fat but delicious. I find the cauliflower and potato ones less good, because the cauliflower is mushy, and I can throw some garam masala on potatoes on my own.
I wonder if instant polenta would work in the microwave?