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 Post subject: Going to a conference....need emergency food ideas!
PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2013 3:06 pm 
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Tofu Pup
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Hey all,

Got a challenge for you. I'm going to a conference this week - I'm tied to the hotel and meals for 3 days ie I won't be able to go out and find my own food as attendance to the meals is mandatory. I have informed them of my veganism, but I trust no-one - especially hotel caterers.

So what I'm looking for is some ideas for things I can take with me - it needs to be able to get through security as my flight ticket doesn't include checked in bags and I'm poor. I was thinking of taking some crisps (potato chips), baking some flapjacks and trying to get hold of a carton of soy milk when I arrive. I'm wary of having tubs of food confiscated at the airport. I'm on a really tight budget can you help?

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 Post subject: Re: Going to a conference....need emergency food ideas!
PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2013 3:17 pm 
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Can you get a fridge at the hotel? I always do.

I also usually hit a grocery store, buy bread, peanut butter, hummus, fruit, etc.

Otherwise bread, peanut butter, fruit, etc will keep without a fridge.

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 Post subject: Re: Going to a conference....need emergency food ideas!
PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2013 3:25 pm 
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Chard Martyr
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Definitely see if there is a grocery store nearby-ish, and I'd do what linanil said. PB & J, or I take Luna/Lara bars.


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 Post subject: Re: Going to a conference....need emergency food ideas!
PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2013 3:28 pm 
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Dry soup cups! Like McDougall's. They're light and since there's no liquid there shouldn't be an issue with airport security. Also, you might be able to buy some stuff at the airport (at jacked up prices, sigh)... a lot of airport cafes sell hummus cups and soy milk boxes and stuff like that nowadays.


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 Post subject: Re: Going to a conference....need emergency food ideas!
PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2013 3:30 pm 
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Mediocre Tart
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Where are you based, vegetablah, and which airport are you travelling to? That might inform some ideas. I've taken things like pasta salad and cupcakes in my hand luggage on flights (in the UK and Europe) in the past few years with no bother at all, and in many airports there are branches of supermarkets and similar that you can stock up on goods in if you wont have a chance to shop locally in whichever city you're going to before attending the conference.

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 Post subject: Re: Going to a conference....need emergency food ideas!
PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2013 3:35 pm 
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Calls "cavemen" on that
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I travel a lot, and go to lots of conferences.

Generally, you will get your first meal and it will be meaty and cheesy. Find a hotel catering staff person, like a manager and be very nice to them and explain your diet. They will usually be really nice back and make sure you have stuff for the rest of the conference! Make sure to ask them about soy milk. Lots of times they will bring you special stuff! Even if it is just bread, and you can make a peanut butter sandwich (collect jelly from the breakfast basket for later use!)

Here is stuff I bring with me:
Little packets of almond butter/peanut butter (Justins brand - they have them at whole foods) or a whole jar if I am checking a bag
LOTS of Trail mix/Nuts
Luna/lara bars
Oatmeal packets
Vegan Jerky
packets or baggies of protein powder like Vega

If you are working, I would advise stocking up on stuff at the airport like fruit, bars and chips, and expensing it.

I have survived 5+ days basically eating that kind of stuff, with an occasional sandwich here and there. But honestly, if you are really friendly to the banquet staff, they will make sure you have food. It is very rare that I don't get anything to eat, except maybe at breakfast. Those oatmeal packets come in handy in the mornings!


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 Post subject: Re: Going to a conference....need emergency food ideas!
PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2013 3:36 pm 
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The Real Hamburger Helper
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Will peanut butter get through security in europe? I had mine confiscated flying out of Boston to Costa Rica.

other than that? luna bars, fruit, crackers are all I can think of.

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 Post subject: Re: Going to a conference....need emergency food ideas!
PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2013 3:37 pm 
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Calls "cavemen" on that
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I forgot to add, I think vega is icky and dont use it at home, but it's good to try and drink one a day at conferences and stuff, just to make sure you get your nutrients and a bit of protein. You are going to be eating a lot of pasta and grilled veggies most likely :)


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 Post subject: Re: Going to a conference....need emergency food ideas!
PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2013 3:40 pm 
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Chard Martyr
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I think the US has more strict regulations about stuff like PB. Like 'bang?! said, she is able to bring meals with her on planes.


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 Post subject: Re: Going to a conference....need emergency food ideas!
PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2013 4:21 pm 
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Yeah, if the OP is outside the US it'd be helpful to know (I'm only assuming they are due to the mentioning of crisps and flapjacks; totally could be wrong!)- like, those wee mini packets of Justin's pb etc aren't available here, nor really are luna bars and such.

I've never tried to take PB thru security here, but I doubt it'd be allowed. I have, on the other hand, taken whatever that pasta salad with radishes and peas and mayo in it that I can't remember the name of but is in one of Isa's books. And jelly-doughnut cupcakes.

Have you contacted the hotel directly, or just through the conference people? For what it's worth, I stayed in a wee hotel way out of the way in rural-ish Scotland last year and they were super accommodating regards getting vegan options in. Don't lose hope :)

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 Post subject: Re: Going to a conference....need emergency food ideas!
PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2013 4:28 pm 
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Yeah, PB won't get through security, that is why I'd suggest buying it at your destination, if possible. I never bring food with me, I always buy it at my destination (well other than bars). I don't know about PB availability outside the US though. Here, we can get 20 different kinds of PB in a single store, even dinky convenience stores here should have PB.

Even before I check in at my hotel, I usually go from airport->grocery store->hotel.

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Last edited by linanil on Mon Feb 11, 2013 4:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Going to a conference....need emergency food ideas!
PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2013 4:30 pm 
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Tofu Pup
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Thanks guys

I'm from London, England, but right now I'm based in College Station, Texas (I'm flying from Houston) and since I don't live in Austin and I don't have time to drive there before I leave, my options are limited.

I pray I will have time to find a shop before the conference starts. I have about a 2 hours window to get to the hotel before we leave for dinner. I'd rather avoid spending money on stuff I'll have to leave behind.

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 Post subject: Re: Going to a conference....need emergency food ideas!
PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2013 4:33 pm 
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I know it may be wasteful, but even if you have to leave something behind (like peanut butter), it is still cheaper than if you had to buy meals or what not. Hopefully you'd have time to go to the grocery store or if not, go to the grocery store after dinner if possible.

Oh and I forgot, nuts are generally good too and they are something you can take on the plane (as they aren't a liquid or gel).

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 Post subject: Re: Going to a conference....need emergency food ideas!
PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2013 4:36 pm 
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Calls "cavemen" on that
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If you get the single serving PB/Almond butter, you wont have a problem going through security. Put it in your stuff with your liquids if you are worried. I just stick em in my suitcase (carry on that goes through TSA - i hate checking bags)

I love those little things. Often my lunch is jelly that I grabbed from breakfast, then I ask the banquet staff for some bread and I make a nice sandwich (if they don't provide something I can eat!)

honestly, a few bars, some PB, some trail mix and packets of oatmeal do not take up a whole lot of room in your bag, and it can get you through a few days. I've done it many a time.


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 Post subject: Re: Going to a conference....need emergency food ideas!
PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2013 5:27 pm 
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I've been to my fair share of conferences and you can usually count on salad, a plain steamed veg and sometimes pasta or rolls at lunch and dinner and fruit and bagels at breakfast. So, I'd reiterate the peanut/nut butter idea (little packs, or the pb2 powder to reconstitute), plus some protein bars and nuts for snacks. I've been at conference hotels that will provide vegan food happily if asked and others that outright lied to me about non-vegan food being vegan (in the same east coast city!).

Do you get a per diem from work when you travel even if the conference "provides meals"? If you do, I'd definitely use some of it running out during conference breaks to buy snacks. Conference hotels usually have or are near a starbucks, which will get you soy milk and oatmeal and sometimes cookies, and will often be near business lunch places that offer build your own salads.

If you're in a major city, you can probably also find decent food options near your hotel for after the conference day ends and restaurants will deliver to hotels, so you don't have to go out to eat after a long day. I'd be surprised if you couldn't find an inexpensive Chinese delivery place near your hotel if it's not totally in the middle of nowhere.


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 Post subject: Re: Going to a conference....need emergency food ideas!
PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2013 7:12 pm 
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What Chicki said. I also go to a lot of conferences. Sometimes they are even in great cities for vegan food, but I can't get away and am often not anywhere near a grocery store. I always pack a bag with tea, oatmeal packets, my own spoon and fork, dried fruit, nuts, nut butter in single serve packets, cliff/lara bars, and soup mixes/cups. Doesn't take up a lot of room (soup cups can be emptied ahead of travel into plastic bags, and rehydrated using mugs from the hotel). Honestly, I've eaten nothing but the above, punctuated by fruit and other things from hotel breakfasts/snack areas, for three to four days. I always come home and eat a whole pile of kale, but the prepacked things can get me through. I always pray that the hotel has soy milk and salads....

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 Post subject: Re: Going to a conference....need emergency food ideas!
PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2013 7:23 pm 
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Level 7 Vegan
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Limone wrote:
Dry soup cups! Like McDougall's. They're light and since there's no liquid there shouldn't be an issue with airport security. Also, you might be able to buy some stuff at the airport (at jacked up prices, sigh)... a lot of airport cafes sell hummus cups and soy milk boxes and stuff like that nowadays.


yeah, also, I take the contents of the dry soup cups, dump them into little ziplock sandwich baggies, and then eat them out of a proper mug at the hotel.

also, dehydrated soup mixes are sometimes in the bulk bin at the health food store. and dehydrated refries.

I also usually bring along a little jar of tabasco to make sure my food is not flavorless.

hummus packets from WildGarden are great, and don't require refrigeration... but they do cost about $.99 each. Not sure if that's too much.

definitely bars and instant oatmeals. Nuts. Justins has those little nut butter packets you can find at Whole Foods or other health food stores.

Plus some fruit like oranges and apples that you can find around the hotel probably.

You will be fine!

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 Post subject: Re: Going to a conference....need emergency food ideas!
PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2013 8:58 pm 
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Tofu Pup
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OK cool. I haven't had much time to get to know vegan snack items over here in the USA! Plus, like, Texas and stuff.

Unfortunately, I'm a PhD student going to a paid for conference (my sponsor is paying for travel/hotel/meals) which is great except the lack of options regarding food. Any extras come straight out of my pocket. I'm sure some of you are like hey! everything's being paid for and you can't afford to buy food? - but seriously, I live on $300/month for food and petrol. It sucks.

Anyway, some sound ideas, I'm sure I'll be fine, just thought I'd seek out any pearls of wisdom for future poverty stricken student tiems ;)

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 Post subject: Re: Going to a conference....need emergency food ideas!
PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2013 9:10 pm 
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Vegetablah--I go to a ton of all inclusive academic conferences too. Call the conference hotel ahead of time, and ask if they can help you accommodate your dietary restrictions; ask if they have vegan options for the conference meals, and soy milk. It is likely they may be able to help you. The food may not be stellar (I was recently served one giant portobello, plain, on a plate, at a conference lunch), but it's always worth a try. I've also had pretty decent meals put together at different centers and hotels. Some hotels will get soy milk for you. It's always worth a try!

Congratulations on your conference!

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 Post subject: Re: Going to a conference....need emergency food ideas!
PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2013 9:21 pm 
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Tofu Pup
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Thanks Jane! I'll give the hotel a call tomorrow. It's a swanky looking affair, so hopefully I can get them to accommodate. I was served a garden salad with no dressing once at a conference in Poland - it was basically icing over outside. Man cannot live on lettuce alone. It's funny how they see vegan and forget that you need carbohydrates with your single vegetable ;) What I'm really afraid of is the two dinners they have planned - one of them is a home hospitality dinner (no I don't know either) and the main event dinner is at a steakhouse >.< Perhaps I can call the steakhouse and see if they'll do me a mushroom burger or something.....

I really want to eat a giant portobello now. Cooked though.

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 Post subject: Re: Going to a conference....need emergency food ideas!
PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2013 9:27 pm 
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vegetablah wrote:
Thanks Jane! I'll give the hotel a call tomorrow. It's a swanky looking affair, so hopefully I can get them to accommodate. I was served a garden salad with no dressing once at a conference in Poland - it was basically icing over outside. Man cannot live on lettuce alone. It's funny how they see vegan and forget that you need carbohydrates with your single vegetable ;) What I'm really afraid of is the two dinners they have planned - one of them is a home hospitality dinner (no I don't know either) and the main event dinner is at a steakhouse >.< Perhaps I can call the steakhouse and see if they'll do me a mushroom burger or something.....

I really want to eat a giant portobello now. Cooked though.


Yes call them! The restaurants are being paid big $$$ to accommodate these conferences, so remember *you* are the consumer here (even if someone else is paying, and even if you are a grad. student). You can be polite and still gently insist that they get you some food!

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 Post subject: Re: Going to a conference....need emergency food ideas!
PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2013 11:32 pm 
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Yeah, call ahead, but be prepared for disappointment. My vegan meal at the last conference I attended was cheese ravioli. Yeah. I'm going to one next month, and they're serving a boxed lunch. I'm not even going to try with that. How many Clif bars can I eat in a day without wanting to die? I'll find out!


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 Post subject: Re: Going to a conference....need emergency food ideas!
PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2013 1:46 am 
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Tofu Pup
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I always find it incredible that a chef - a person who's job it is to cook and prepare food - cannot cater for someone who doesn't eat animal products. It's utterly astonishing.

I often get my own way by telling people I'm allergic to dairy. I know it's a bit of a fib, but it's a good fib. And it totally works.

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 Post subject: Re: Going to a conference....need emergency food ideas!
PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2013 2:30 am 
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You might be surprised about the steakhouse options! Really. I have had a lot of luck calling ahead and them saying "oh yeah, we know what vegan is, we'll make you something" and then getting an awesome plate of grilled and actually seasoned veggies. I once called Medieval Times and got the best vegan meal ever. Everyone was eating turkey legs by hand around me, but I had an awesome meal. And it was kebabs, so I could eat with my hands, too!

Hotel conferences are hit or miss. I had an amazing time in Brussels with so much awesome vegan food, but then in London it was terrible. My breakfasts consisted of Heinz baked beans and hash browns and ketchup. I looked like an 8 year old dining there.

All the advice you've gotten here is good. Bring dried soup mixes, oatmeals and bars. When you get there you can buy a loaf of bread and PB. I wouldn't buy too much before I speak to the hotel catering staff, though, in case they surprise you with awesomeness. The PB and bread is good snacking, though, so I would probably get that anyway.


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 Post subject: Re: Going to a conference....need emergency food ideas!
PostPosted: Tue Feb 12, 2013 2:28 pm 
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Dinners are usually the best! Why? because lunches are usually time-constrained at conferences. If there is nothing for you when served, you can be SOL. Which is where bars and peanut butter comes in handy. Dinner, usually it is more relaxed, and you can go to one of the servers and explain to them your dietary restrictions.

And yes, sometimes steakhouses have good vegan options. Pasta, or potatos and steamed/grilled veggie platters. I have had some of the best veggie platters EVER from steak houses at events.

I hear ya though on not being able to afford it. My company gives me a certain amount to spend per day, but if I am at an event and they provide food, that amount goes down to $0.00 And I am super cheap (i.e. POOR), so on my travel day, I stock up at the airport if I can. Or get stuff at home. I have a box in my pantry that is set aside as just 'travel' food. I buy stuff on sale and stick it in there for future use

Good luck with the conference! Which one is it if you don't mind me asking? I am going to a medical conference at the beginning of March. Wouldn't it be funny if it was the same one? It's in New Orleans.


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