I’m going to be candid here. Plain and simple, I don’t like freeze-dried food. Okay, now that it’s out there, lets talk menus. Of course
there is a time and place for freeze-dried meals. For example, on this epic trip next summer, there is just no way that we have enough room, nor can we carry the weight of “regular” food. There is also the problem of fresh foods going bad before we get a chance to consume them. As a general rule, we plan meals that will keep until the day that we need them. There is a strict menu, and every meal must be eaten on the preplanned day. We always have steaks, couscous and corn on the cob the first night. It’s a rewarding meal after a long paddle. The obvious drawback to meat is that it will spoil. If frozen before you leave, it is thawed and ready for the first night. The next morning, Fraser makes his traditional breakfast of croissants with cheddar cheese, bacon and fried eggs. Fabulous.
There are a ton of tasty foods that keep well for days, and there are a couple of tricks to keeping those not so ideal foods fresh for a couple of nights. In terms of bread products, look for dry pita (not that nice squishy pita that goes moldy), bagels and croissants. They can get a little squished if not protected in your pack (a food barrel is better for this) but taste great all the same. If you’re adventurous and have the time, you can also bake bread at the campsite. Bannock bread for example is a simple mix of flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and water. You stir it all up and put in your pan, flipping it when the bottom is browned. Try adding fruits for a breakfast bread. It’s always nice to have some stick to your gut warm food on trip. Or how about using an Outback Oven? This handy contraption turns your pan into a little oven to properly bake prepackaged foods. The cost of buying pre-packaged mixes can add up, but I have to admit that they make some really good ones. I’ve been known to bake up a batch of coffee cake in the backyard from time to time.
Breakfast time. After the luxury of fresh eggs for the first day, you can turn your attention to powdered eggs. These are good for making omelets or adding to other ingredients in recipes that call for eggs (pancakes anyone?). They are kinda gross on their own,
but throw some veggies and cheese in there and sandwich it in a croissant or a bagel, and you’ll hardly notice. Cereal is always good. Dried cereal without the milk (or powdered milk reconstituted), granola or hot cereals like oatmeal do the trick. There is a product we love to take on trip that came onto the market not that long ago. Ready Crisp is a precooked bacon that is flat packed and doesn’t require refrigeration. No, I don’t know how they manage it, and no, I don’t really want to know for fear it will scare me off. Suffice it to say, I’m pleased as punch that it exists because it is a luxury to have meat products that taste sorta fresh-ish two weeks into a trip!
On the topic of meats, there are also pepperoni and sausages that are cured and don’t require refrigeration. They are usually referred to as “European”. If you can find it on a shelf at the grocery store rather than in the cooler, you’re pretty safe. They are good just to chew on for snacks or lunch with a pita and some humus, or why not slice them up with some pasta for dinner? And of course jerky! We LOVE jerky at our house. You can get all sorts of jerky, not just beef. Try salmon and bison along with dozens of others. Cheese sprinkled on anything makes it better. Look for hard cheeses like parmesan that will keep. Oh! and here’s that tip for keeping cheddar for a couple of days…put it in a waterproof container (like a freezer bag) and put it and anything else you’d like to keep cold into a mesh stuff sac. Tie a cord to the sac and drop it into the lake. The water is always cooler than the air and helps preserve the perishables. Of course there are times when the water is bath warm and it won’t make a huge difference, but it’s better than nothing! Don’t forget to haul it in and add it to rest of the food when you hang it at night. You all hang your food in a tree at night right? I’ll get more into that in a later post.
Not big on meat? If you are vegetarian or concerned with meat spoiling, there are plenty of options. One of our go-to meals is penne with red pepper pesto, black olives and parmesan cheese. Mmmmm. It tastes like a restaurant meal. Pasta is a great food for the outdoors. While we love our mac and cheese, you don’t have to resort to that if you don’t want to. You can buy dried ravioli and tortellini in any local grocery store. The smaller the pasta, the faster it cooks, so angel hair and spaghettini are good choices. This will save time and fuel (if you are using a stove). Sundried tomatoes perk up pasta quite nicely, or you can use a dehydrator to
condense tomato sauce down to a fruit leather type consistency.
Stews, soups, chilli, casseroles…the sky is the limit. Don’t be intimidated by meal planning. A food dehydrator is a great investment and will save money, but you must plan ahead. It takes time to stockpile home dehydrated food, but properly dehydrated food should last upwards of a year in an air tight container. Buy prepackaged meals from a camping store if need be, and try not to keel over at the cash register. Troll the shelves at the grocery store. Ignore that advice that mom gave you about only buying food around the perimeter of the store (fresh fruits, veggies, cheeses and meats) and get inspiration from all the weird and wonderful stuff in the middle 🙂 Pick out a fruit that will travel/keep well like oranges. Oh yeah, as mentioned in an earlier post….SNACKS, SNACKS, SNACKS. You will power through snacks at an unbelievable rate. Stock up at the bulk food store.
Explore new recipes and test out all cooking equipment at home BEFORE you rely on them for sustenance in the field. And for goodness sake, have FUN! That’s why we get out there. Involve the kids in meal choices and prep so there is less complaining and more participation. So much of a trip revolves around making, eating and cleaning up food, so give it the attention that it deserves. . Yay food!