Saturday, January 7, 2012

Better Meals on Trips

One part of long-distance touring that bothers me is meals. After about a week of eating in restaurants, McDonalds, dives, stands and greasy spoons, I miss 'real' food and in the smaller, healthier quantities I usually consume.

So, since I camp most of the time on the road anyhow, I am toying with the idea of cooking most of my meals. Which means I have to tote all the requisite gear and food.

I worked with a guy once who cooked his own lunches all the time with just one hot plate. I learned the value of waste right then and how you can eat better and cheaper in most cases. I am going to try to tap into that mode during this experiment.

For food, I could bring some instant oatmeal for breakfast. All I have to do is boil water. For lunch, I usually just east some fruit, gorp and a drink and I'm pretty good - especially in hot weather.

Dinner would be my most complex meal I would have to prepare. For that, some planning is in order. I would either stop at a market before finding a campground, or set up camp and then venture out to shop. All I need is a protein and a side....but the trick is enough food to satisfy without having left-overs which I have no room to store and no refrigeration to store safely.

My aforementioned friend just walked down to the grocery store, picked up a small chop, steak or piece of chicken breast and a frozen bag of his vegetable of choice. He had about $4 or less invested in that meal I figured. He would only use one pan: he cut some garlic in the pan, added a few drops of oil, cooked and ate the protein, then stir fried the veggies and ate them after....all in one pan. Cool. I think I can borrow that system.

Now then, what kind of cooking kit should I bring? I have two choices in my current stock of camping supplies. Here's the first set up:

The box contains a Coleman burner and base that attach to a small, disposable propane bottle. I am a little nervous about transporting fuel - just because I never have. This is a sure-fire setup that would efficiently do the job I require. A knife/fork, small bottle of dish soap, tiny spatula and a small towel for drying shouldn't add considerably to the size of the set-up.

This is my other set-up I have in inventory and is really a backpackers rig:

My Westwind alcohol stove is a much, much smaller bit of kit. It's pretty cool too; the stand comes apart in 3 pieces and lies flat. You pour some alcohol in the burner and light it. When your done, rotate the sealing lid to cover the opening and that kills the flame. Then you can screw the lid on and the un-burned alcohol is saved and stored inside the burner with the gasketed screw top. But I would need a transporting vessel for the denatured alcohol. I think REI makes a small container for transporting fuels that might work. I am leaning to this set-up for the sheer space savings.

More work to be sure, but I would be eating better and saving a bit of money. I also like the idea of being self-sufficient.

1 comment:

  1. Jeff:
    Take a look at plastic bag cooking. I started doing this when camping with the Boy Scouts. Find a mixture of stuff...orzo with flavorings and dried veggies...and add hot water.

    I used to do this by pouring near-boiling water into Zip-Loc bags with the mixture, but that's now suspicious about releasing carcinogens at water-boiling temperatures.

    An "MSR" bottle can be used to transport fuel.