I’m not sure where is the best place to post this question. But here goes: My daughter and I are preparing for a 3-week canoe trip in Alaska in August. In the next week I need to send boxes of food and/or gear to where we’re leaving from (Bettles). This has raised a lot of questions in my mind. First, I bought some #10 cans of Mountain House freeze dried food and intended to repackage it, either in vacuum-sealed bags or zip locks, for individual dinners. But now I worry that they’ll spoil by the time we’re on the river in August. Same with the food i dried myself, including about 5 pounds of jerky and a similar quantity of dried fruit. Is there any way to package and send this food ahead of time, or are we forced to keep it in the freezer, etc., and take it with us when we leave at the beginning of August? I’ll be grateful for any suggestions or advice.
Just repackage it
Vacuum bagging will keep out humidity for sure short term I use ziplocks sometimes
I don’t usually keep freeze dried in the freezer. It lasts fine year to year in the closet even repackaged.
Freeze dried Individual dinners
Is what I would plan with, if it were my trip. Perhaps more expensive that way, but my MH dinners are also my eating bowl and there is only the spoon to clean. That’s worth something and there is no repackaging effort involved.
Ration it out week by week
I'd divide it into 3 bundles or "rations" that would last about a week each, and package it up that way. Figure out how much food you need each day between breakfast, lunch and or snacks and dinner, and throw 7 days and a bit more in a zippered duffle bag lined with a trash compactor bag, easy to access and waterproof. Or use a dry bag or bear cannister if you're doing that. Portion the other two one week rations into whatever containers you are using, and mark them week 2 and 3. Put tasty treats in each ration period, so you have something to look forward to. Ditto with coffee or tea, sugar, chocolate, cooking oil if you need it. This way you're only handling a weeks worth of food at most and aren't overwhelmed by the sheer volume of 3 weeks worth of food. Trash compactor bags work great, use 2 to double line each bag of weeks 2 and 3 of food and they'll be waterproof and fairly low odor, and you can re-use the compactor bags for the trash you generate each week.
For the mountain house stuff I'd just use zip locks and portion a nights worth into each bag, and then maybe vacuum seal 7 nights worth together into 3 separate big bags to bust open when needed.
I got a food dehydrator and Vac-Sealer
I bought a few bags of frozen veggies, dehydrated them myself and add a handful to each meal.
Generally, I buy Knorr pasta meals at 87 cents per, toss the meal and instructions and label into a bag with dried veggies and vac-seal. Each bag is cheaper than a mountain home meal and once I add a few thing s as good with less space.
Now you can get all sorts of meat-in-a-bag that will last for a long time without refrigeration and will add to your meals. Tuna, salmon, spam, chicken, pepperoni, even sausage and Salami. Just remember to get the smaller bags so you open one per meal.
harry used to haul cans of beef stew, I haul the pasta meal, some veggies, garlic garni and lunch meat and I can have agood meal that fits into a pocket so can haul a months worth of meals easily.
a few mistakes i made
I vac-sealed tortillas and flat bread in 6-pack… they all stuck to each other so now I place a freezer sheet between each tortilla before I vac-seal it. Hard cheese and peanut butter wrapped in a tortilla is a SW hiking snack!
Flat breads carry easier than a real loaf as the flat bread already has the air squeezed out.
One company makes some really good peanut butter powder.
Go-Tubes are wonderful for Cannola oil for cooking.
Eggs fresh from the chicken WITHOUT being washed will last for a week or more but go bad if you wash the poop and ick off.
do NOT forget hot chocolate!!!
I would repackage the fz dr food out of the big cans into individual serving sizes, and put each serving in a pint size zip lock freezer bag. You can add boiling water right into the freezer bag and eat out of it also.
that is exactly what I do with some of the 2 serving packages of Mtn House, mainly because they don't have enough variety in the Pro-Pack sizes. It also helps me cut down on weight a little bit.
You REALLY SHOULD make up a couple of "cozys" to put the pint sized bags into after you add the boiling water, to keep them hot the longest. I made my own out of a bit of foam rubber material, that was some kind of carpet underlay - just an 1/8" thick. I just taped it into an envelope shape and fold the top down after I put the freezer bag in. You could do the same with bubble wrap, or maybe just get a couple of those bubble wrap mailing envelopes from the post office or wherever and use them.
Even if you wanted to use a pot to "cook" your fz dr meal, you should have some way to wrap the pot to keep it as hot as possible while the food is "cooking".
Note! - I always add a bit more water than the packages call for, usually adding an extra quarter cup of water per serving, and I use a stick to make sure I mix the stuff in the corners well, and I do wait a few minutes longer than the package calls for.
While you are waiting for your fz dr to finish "cooking", make yourself a package of Lipton Cup-A-Soup. I do that for all my meals - not only is the hot soup good, it helps to rehydrate you. I also like the little packets of Herb Ox Beef Broth bullion for the same purpose. I suppose you could just use some chicken bullion cubes as well.
I have always packaged my meals about a month in advance, and I have never had any issues with the fz dr meals, even the ones I have repackaged myself. You do need to double and triple package in plastic bags to be sure that moisture does not get in.
I do the same for my fz dr coffee, making up little baggies with a spoon of coffee, a bit of sugar, and a spoon of coffee mate - they have always stayed dry as well.
I would not package any more than a single meal in each bag - that way, you aren't exposing a future meal to moisture when you open up a package.
ZIP LOCK BAGS are your best friend for your project!
if you are looking for some food ideas, check out your local Wal Mart and look for "Nido" - a whole milk dry powder. I prepackage it to make up some milk for occasional Carnation Instant Breakfast mornings (called something essentials now), and also use teh Nido to make instant pudding. Just mix up the milk in a ziplock bag, add the instant pudding mix, and shake well for about 2 minutes. Then I put that bag into another ziplock, tie a string around it and toss it into the water to chill. Works great.
Just an added suggestion: there are numerous sources for dried de-fatted butter powder. It doesn’t reconstitute as true melted butter since the fat has been extracted (and hence it does not spoil and can be stored at room temp). But it is easy to carry and greatly enhances the flavors of camp foods. You can mix it with any prepared dinner or add it to dried eggs or pancake batter for a really rich flavor.
I took a bunch of it on a winter backpacking trip many years ago with a couple who were both Outward Bound instructors who had a very basic and minimalist food stash with them. At first they kind of scoffed at my powdered butter as a frivolous additive, but after I persuaded them to try it they were very enthused and asked to borrow some for every meal they made on the trip. When they got home they bought it for themselves and reported years later that it became a staple on all their outings.
If you need one, I’ll sell you mine. I quit vacuum sealing for two reasons. 1. Some dried food is sharp and punctures the bag, e.g. pasta. 2. Vacuum sealing produces a hard, non-pliable, lump of food. When you pack it, this means you have a lot of air space in the cracks between the hard bags. If I pack the food in zip locks, it is more pliable and all the zip locks nest together in a more compact configuration.
vacuum sealing tips
I have been doing meals for groups for along time now. I freeze dry lots of meals and have a few tips for the vacuum sealing process.
Use the rolls of bags so that you can customize each bag, less waste.
Don’t bother trying to reuse the bags that you take on a trip - it isn’t worth trying to reuse them - they end up with pinholes.
Buy parchment paper and cut lots of small pieces to size and line the inside of your vacuum bags with parchment paper. Dried food is sharp and will puncture the bags -either right away or eventually.
When packaging things like tortillas, flat bread and such - use a piece of parchment in between each piece - it allows you to take apart the slices after sealing.
When making up your bags - be generous with your bags - just a tiny bit of waste but better than a bag that doesn’t seal right.
Freeze liquid things prior to vacuum sealing.
Freeze baked goods prior to sealing. I have made cookies, frozen them and then vacuum sealed and then eaten 3 weeks later and they taste fresh.
If planning on vacuum sealing - make square cookies instead of round, no wasted space. (google it - making round cookies square - easy to do using a wax paper box)
Package things up so that they are good sizes for packing in your boat.
Package all things you will need in a meal together - spices or extras too - even your directions and just put in the vacuum bag. Wrap in plastic if you are concerned about ink on paper infiltrating food.
Zip locks are your friends - they are relatively cheap and allow you to group things together and with a sharpie write on the outside what is inside.
If you vacuum seal your food, then put in a zip lock, it barely needs a dry bag if you are careful in your boat and have dry hatches. If you have to pack/unpack a lot and move around, better to use a dry bag to protect the plastic.
variety and choices for meals
I have finally gotten to a point that the variety isn't that important. Better to have good food, many times than not so good less frequently.
For 2 weeks, I plan for:
breakfast rotation - 4 - hot breakfast that I make ahead and dry - mixed cereal with groats, red spring wheat, quinoa. Vary what you put in such as one day it is raisins, coconut and walnuts/ cherries and almonds/ blueberry and pecans and lastly all in. I factor 1 cup cooked cereal per person and 1 ounce nuts and 1 ounce fruit. I package the fruit and nuts and cereal each separately and then rehydrate each as needed.
Lunch - soup - Lentil Soup, Ginger Squash, Split Pea - factor about 1.5 cups each person. One flat bread per person and one ounce of cheese. (lunch fresh - carrots, celery, green apples)
Dinner - 3 rotations
Meal 1 - Homemade Pasta sauce - chopped dried eggplant, zucchini. I make a homemade seitan that I cook then run through food processor and then dry - bit of work but really good in the pasta. Barilla has a new pasta called PRONTO - you cook in just enough water and it doesn't get gummy. I buy on Amazon. The whole meal gets vacuum sealed in the separate parts and gets rehydrated as it needs it.
Meal 2 - Black beans, brown rice, salsa, corn, onions, red peppers - prep/cook dehydrate each separately then bag up.
Meal 3 - Lentil Rice Stew with carrots - indian spiced - make and then dehydrate.
Dessert - always a cookie or bar homemade and frozen then vacuum sealed and kept frozen til we leave.
Personally I never use the premade dehydrated meals as they are very high in sodium/fat and usually fairly low in fiber. I like to keep to foods that I would eat at home and that I know will not upset my stomach.
Cozies are KEY
Most of my meal prep is for groups - usually 6 or 8 or sometimes 4. So rehydration is in a pot ( I use stainless steel round bains from a restaurant supply store). I bring two and can either use on a burner or just as a vessel for rehydration.
My cozies are made to surround the pot and then be placed on a square of the material and the cover is lined with another cut piece. The cozie material is from Home Depot - it is for insulation and has metal on the outside and you buy it like yardage. Just cut it to fit and duct tape it together. I think it was this: http://www.homedepot.com/p/Reflectix-16-in-x-25-ft-Double-Reflective-Insulation-with-Staple-Tab-ST16025/100012574
Mostly I use a jet boil to heat the water and a stove for final heating. I find that rehydrating over 20 minutes and then adding a final bit of hot water is usually the best way to prepare your rehydrated foods.
My gas consumption has gone to almost nothing. For a group of 7 for 12 days we used 3 large jet boil canisters and 1 liter of white gas.